The State of Indian Student Populations in Canada, the US, and the UK in 2022

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Indian student populations continued to reach record highs in destination countries across the world in 2022. And there’s no signs of the growth slowing. India is projected to remain the world’s leading student-age population (18-24) through 2030.1

The question for destination countries like Canada, the US, and the UK is not a matter of if, but rather how much, their Indian student population grew. Today, we’re diving into how the Indian student market shifted in 2022 for each destination country. We check in on overall growth, where Indian students choose to study, and what they pursue in these destination markets.

Key Insights at a Glance

  • Canada processed 55% more applications from Indian students in 2022 than the previous year.2
  • Nearly 131,000 Indian students were enrolled in the US in 2021/22.3
  • First-year students accounted for 69% of all Indian students enrolled in the UK, up 10 percentage points from 2016/17.4
  • Destination countries have aging populations, and Indian students will be key to filling skill gaps.

Stark Rise in Canadian Student Visa Applications Contributes to Approval Rate Drop

Indian applications for a Canadian student visa5 reached a record high in 2022:

Canada processed over 360,000 study permit applications from Indian students last year. This record high was 55% more than in 2021. It led to 195,000 Indian students being approved to study in Canada in 2022.

But the approval rate for Indian students fell to 54% in 2022. This was a decline of 12 percentage points from 2018. However, the total number of approvals grew by 130% over this period.

The drop is not wholly unsurprising given the stark rise of applications. While rising applications don’t cause approval rate declines, there is a correlation between the two. From 2018 to 2022, the approval rate for Indian students trended downward in nearly a straight line (discounting the outlier of 2020) coinciding with applications skyrocketing. Which makes sense: as the applicant pool grows, destination countries will have a wider selection of talented students to choose from and will need to make sure their limited resources go toward students most likely to succeed.

Students who leverage Canada’s Student Direct Stream (SDS) see an approval rate advantage over non-SDS applicants.

Ontario Colleges Approve Over Half of All Indian Students for Second Straight Year

In 2021, colleges in the province of Ontario accounted for over half of all Canadian student visa approvals for Indian students for the first time since 2017. One of the sector’s biggest questions heading into 2022 was whether this was a new trend or the result of a double cohort effect from pandemic-related deferrals.

We now have the answer:

For the second straight year, Ontario colleges accounted for 55% of all Canadian student visa approvals for Indian students. It’s a reverse of the pre-pandemic’s diversification trend. From 2016 to 2019, Ontario’s colleges’ percentage of all approvals dropped from 59% to 44%.

The prominence of colleges in Ontario raises the question: how significant is their impact on the overall approval rate for Indian students? Are other Canadian provinces well above or below Ontario’s rate, or are they all consistent with each other?

The map below highlights the evolution of approval rates for Indian students across Canada since 2018:

Approval rates dropped for both college and university in every Canadian province in 2022 compared to the previous year. As with the general approval rate, application growth likely contributed to this drop. Applications were up at least 42% in every province except for Newfoundland and Labrador (+13%), New Brunswick (+7%), and Quebec (-35%).

Indian students generally gravitate towards college programs in Canada. Colleges accounted for 43% of all Indian approvals in every province outside of Atlantic Canada, which generally has a smaller proportion of public colleges.

The table below shows the share of approvals for both colleges and universities in each province, as well as the approval rate for both study levels:

Nova Scotia (+75%), British Columbia (+56%), and Ontario (+41%) saw the largest total approval growth percentage last year. Universities had a higher approval rate than colleges in every province in 2022.

Indian Student Enrollment Reaches New Heights in the US

After trending downward for four consecutive years, Indian student enrollment in the US rebounded and hit a new record high in 2021/22:

Nearly 131,000 Indian students were enrolled in the US in 2021/22. That’s a growth of 39% compared to the previous year. Indian enrollment increased in undergraduate, graduate, and non-degree studies over this period, including a whopping 48% growth in graduate programs.

Note that enrollment data does not include students in OPT. The US hosted an additional 68,000 Indian students in OPT last year, which was a decline of 7.4% from 2020/21.

In total, the US hosted nearly the same number of Indian students in 2021/22 as it did in 2018/19, falling just 3,000 shy of the pre-pandemic total. But with an increased percentage of students in the undergraduate and graduate pipeline—two of every three hosted Indian students were enrolled in studies in 2021/22—the sector’s future looks bright.

Graduate studies accounted for 53% of all Indian students enrolled in the US in 2021/22.

Where Do Indian Students Study in the US?

In Canada, Ontario colleges made up the majority of Indian student visa approvals. Is there a similar attractive location in the US, or are students more spread out stateside? The map below details the evolution of Indian students in the top 20 most popular US states from the 2018/19 academic year to 2021/22:6

No individual state reigns supreme when it comes to hosting Indian students. New York, California, and Texas are routinely the three most popular states among Indian students, but none account for over 12% of all hosted students. On the aggregate, the 20 most popular US states accounted for 86% of all Indian students in the US in 2021/22. This was an increase of five percentage points over 2018/19.

Michigan (-1%) was the only top 20 state to host fewer Indian students in 2021/22 compared to the previous year. 16 of these states grew by more than 10% over this period. Half of these states surpassed their number of hosted Indian students from the pre-pandemic academic year 2018/19, while another six states are within 10% of their pre-pandemic total.

Will India Become the Top Student Population in the US by 2030?

In 2020/21, the US hosted nearly twice as many Chinese students as Indian students. This changed significantly in 2021/22, as the Chinese lead dropped to less than a third. Enrollment from Chinese students dropped by 5% in 2021/22 compared to the previous year. While China’s zero-COVID policy likely played a role in this swift change, Chinese enrollment in the US had been downtrending pre-pandemic as well.

China accounted for 35% of all enrolled international students in the US in 2020/21, 22 percentage points more than India. This difference narrowed to 14 percentage points in 2021/22, with the two countries accounting for 31% and 17% of all international enrollment in the US.

India was behind China for the top student population in 16 of the 20 most populous US states in 2021/22. Indian students were the top student population in Texas, Arizona, Indiana, and Connecticut. This is a major shift from 2018/19, when India was top in only Texas.

In short, India’s quickly closing the gap. Don’t be surprised to see India overtake China in the US within the next five years.

76% of all Indian students in the US in 2021/22 were studying or working in STEM.

Indian Enrollment in the UK Skyrocketing

The 2021/22 academic year was another record-breaking year for the UK’s international education sector, and Indian students played a major role. The chart below shows Indian enrollment in the UK since 2016/17:

The UK hosted more than 126,500 Indian students in 2021/22. First-year students accounted for 69% of all enrolled Indian students, 10 percentage points more than in 2016/17. Total enrollment grew 50% compared to 2020/21, while the number of first-year students was up by 64% over the same period.

Unsurprisingly, the growth of Indian students over the past few years coincides with the UK’s announcement of the Graduate Route. Post-graduation work opportunities are a top student concern. But students should be aware that the Graduate Route has been used by only 3% of employers.7 This will likely improve as employers gain more knowledge about the visa’s benefits.

Where Do Indian Students Study in the UK?

Indian students are mostly centralized in Canada, but more spread out across the US. How does the UK compare? The map below shows enrolled Indian students in the UK from 2018/19 to 2021/22:

Indian enrollment in the UK sits between the trends we saw for Canada and the US: more diversified than the former, but more centralized than the latter. London has consistently accounted for about 27% of Indian students in the UK, including in 2021/22.

Every region in the UK grew considerably in 2021/22, up at least 18% over the previous year. The largest growth over this period came from Yorkshire and the Humber, as well as East Midlands. Both regions were up over 80%. In Yorkshire and the Humber, Sheffield Hallam University nearly tripled over this period.

Compared to 2018/19, every region’s Indian enrollment at least tripled. Enrollment in Northern Ireland was up an astounding 15 times over this time frame. Ulster University was recognized as Northern Ireland’s first age-friendly university in May 2019.8 By reducing age-related barriers for mature students, they’ve been a major contributor to the country’s massive growth.

Postgraduate Programs Reign Supreme in the UK

Postgraduate programs are on the upswing in the UK, accounting for the bulk of Indian students in 2021/22. Postgraduate enrollment of Indian students has grown by over 60% in each of the past three academic years. And growth in the postgraduate level has surprassed that of the undergraduate level in each of the past five academic years.

More than 101,700 Indian students pursued postgraduate studies in 2021/22, representing 80% of the student population. This was up 15 percentage points from 2017/18, and the largest percentage in postgraduate studies among the big four destination markets.

The UK’s strongest competition for attracting postgraduate Indian students comes from the US, which was the only other destination country with over 100,000 enrollments in the study level in 2021/22.

Looking Forward—A Need for Skilled Workers

The percentage of Canadians age 65 or older increased from 14.1% in 2010 to 19% in 2022, and is projected to reach 22.5% by 2030.9 And the ratio of working-age Canadians to those over 65 is expected to fall below 3.0 by 2028.

In the US, adults over 65 accounted for one in six Americans in 2020.10 The number of older adults was up 38% over 2010, and is expected to grow another 45% by 2040. And in the UK, this demographic accounted for 18.6% of the total population in 2021, up more than two percentage points from 2011.11

These destination countries will need to look to talented students from around the world to fill skills gaps. As the world’s leading student-aged population, India is poised to be a critical player in helping fill those needs. On the ApplyBoard Platform, the top program keywords that Indian students search for are management, business, health, computer, and project management.

There are potential recruitment roadblocks. Institutions have limited seating capacity, and there’s a need to develop more student housing resources. Also, diversification is always beneficial for destination countries. Diversification broadens the perspective of the overall student body, and also reduces the risk of an inflow downturn. But if destination countries can alleviate or account for these roadblocks, Indian students have shown a tremendous drive for accessing education and entering skilled positions.

At ApplyBoard, we’re extremely excited to continue to work with our partner institutions and dedicated recruitment partners in India to continue helping students access high-quality education across the globe.


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About the ApplyInsights Team

Led by ApplyBoard Co-Founder and CEO Meti Basiri, the ApplyInsights Team analyzes the latest government, third-party, and ApplyBoard internal data, to provide a complete picture of trends in the international education industry. They also work with industry experts and ApplyBoard team members to gather local insights across key source and destination countries, where ApplyBoard has helped more than 600,000 students around the world.



1. United Nations, World Population Prospects 2022.

2. Canadian data courtesy of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC).

3. US data courtesy of the Institute of International Education (IIE).

4. UK data courtesy of the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA).

5. The terms student visa and study permit are generally used interchangeably for Canadian international students. Rather than student visas, Canada provides accepted international students with study permits, which allow those students to enroll in classes at Canadian institutions. When a student is accepted for a study permit, they are also usually provided with a visitor visa, which allows that student to enter Canada for their studies. For the purposes of this article, we’ll use the terms interchangeably.

6. This map includes both enrolled students and students in OPT.

7. Higher Education Policy Institute, ‘Not heard of this’: Employers’ perceptions of the UK’s Graduate Route visa. January 2023.

8. Ulster University, Ulster University becomes Northern Ireland’s first age-friendly University. May 2019.

9. The Fraser Institute, Canada’s aging population—what does it mean for government finances? July 5, 2022.

10. Washington Post, More than 1 in 6 Americans no 65 or older as U.S. continues graying. February 14, 2023.

11. Office for National Statistics, Voices of our ageing population: Living longer lives. November 2, 2022.


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