ApplyInsights: The Most Popular Schools in Canada for Indian Students in 2020

For today’s edition of ApplyInsights, I’m sharing my observations on the top schools in Canada for Indian students in 2020. India remains the number one source country for Canadian post-secondary institutions, despite pandemic-related declines.

Here’s what this blog post will cover:

  • Brief snapshots of some of the top and colleges and universities in Canada by new study permits issued to Indian nationals in 2020
  • The full list of the top 30 schools for new study permits issued to Indian students in Canada in 20201
  • My thoughts on the future of Indian enrollment in Canada in 2021 and beyond

Previously, we covered the most popular Canadian schools for Indian students in 2019. Indian students accounted for more than a third of study permits issued in 2019, and in 2020, they accounted for almost half (49%). Despite a 74.5% decline in new study permits issued to post-secondary students due to COVID-19, new Indian student populations fared better than many other source markets, declining only 66.9%.
25 of the top 30 schools in Canada for Indian students in 2020 are ApplyBoard partner schools. In the face of a difficult year for post-secondary education, it’s incredible to see so many institutions still educating the world!
Congratulations to all of our partner schools who made the top 30 list of Canadian schools for Indian students in 2020!

Top Colleges in Canada for Indian Students

In 2020, two-thirds (66.6%) of all study permits issued to Indian students were for Canadian college programs. Indian students were nearly twice as likely to attend college compared to the all source market average (36.2%). It’s not surprising, then, that 25 of the top 30 schools for Indian students in Canada were colleges. As in 2019, the majority of these top colleges were based in Ontario. Let’s take a look at the top five:

  1. Lambton College: Sarnia, Ontario-based Lambton College moved up one rank overall to become the top public college for Indian students in 2020. Study permits were issued to 2,017 new Lambton students from India last year, down 56.6% from 2019. Lambton was also the top destination for new international students enrolled in business programs in 2020.
  2. Conestoga College: Though Conestoga College fell from first to third among all post-secondary schools in 2020, it remains a very popular destination for students from India. In fact, 88.0% of the new study permits issued to Conestoga students in 2020 went to Indian nationals. In total, 1,794 new study permits were issued to Indian students to attend Conestoga in 2020, a decline of 76.3% from 2019.
  3. Northern College: Northern College’s smaller student population hasn’t stopped it from being a perennial top destination for Indian nationals. Study permits were issued to 1,513 new Indian students for studies at this Northeastern Ontario school in 2020. That’s a drop of only 59.8% from 2019, buoyed by Northern’s strong focus on international recruitment.
  4. St. Clair College: Indian nationals received 97.3% of all new study permits issued to St. Clair College students in 2020, despite its close proximity to the US-Canada border,. Though this was a 76.8% decline from 2019 for the Windsor, Ontario-based college, St. Clair has been a top 5 destination for Indian students every year since 2017.
  5. Canadore College: Canadore College is based in North Bay, Ontario, but it also has smaller campuses throughout the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). Canadore attracted 995 new Indian nationals in 2020, down from 2,531 in 2019. Indian students accounted for 93.0% of the new study permits issued to Canadore students last year.

Top Private Colleges in Canada for Indian Students

Canada’s private colleges outpaced their public counterparts in 2020, with some even achieving study permit growth over 2019. This is largely due to the spike in Quebec’s share of Canada’s Indian student market. As graduates from Quebec private colleges are eligible for the Post-Graduate Work Permit Program (PGWPP), those schools have become increasingly popular for students looking to settle in Canada after their studies.

Though only three private colleges made the top 30 list in 2019, seven made the list in 2020.
All three of the private colleges in the top 10 are ApplyBoard partner schools, including the top institution, CDI College.
We’ll look a little closer at the top three:

  1. CDI College: CDI College’s Indian student population continued to grow in 2020 in spite of the pandemic. The small bump of 0.1% growth in 2020 was part of a longer trend which has seen the number of new study permits issued to Indian students at CDI grow by 445% since 2018. Much of this growth has occurred at CDI’s Quebec campuses.
  2. Canada College: Against the odds, Montréal-based Canada College saw explosive growth in their Indian student population in 2020. 1,215 new Indian nationals were issued study permits for Canada College studies in 2020, 80.5% more than were issued in 2019. This helped Canada College achieve the largest new Indian student growth among all Canadian schools in 2020.
  3. Matrix College: 2020 was not quite as kind to Matrix College as it was to CDI and Canada College. But this Montréal school still jumped up 20 spots to make its way into the top 10 schools for new study permits issued to Indian students in 2020. 783 new study permits went to Indian nationals in 2020 for Matrix programs, down 27.6% from 2019.

Top Universities in Canada for Indian Students

Even though the Indian student market is skewed towards college studies, five of the top 30 schools for Indian students in 2020 were universities. A mix of public and private institutions, these five universities continued to be popular destinations for Indian nationals.
Working with schools to educate the world is what we do! All five universities in the top 30 schools in Canada for Indian students in 2020 are ApplyBoard partner schools.
Here’s a little more detail about each university:

  1. Kwantlen Polytechnic University (KPU): Breaking into the top 10 for the first time since 2017, Kwantlen Polytechnic University was the most popular university for Indian students in 2020. 720 new study permits were issued to Indian nationals to attend KPU in 2020. Though that represented a drop of 45.2% over 2019 for the Vancouver-based school, it was nearly 30% better than the all-school average.
  2. University Canada West (UCW): Another institution in the Metro Vancouver area, UCW had never been ranked within the top 15 schools for Indian students before 2020. With 593 new Indian students issued study permits, UCW had a year-over-year decline of only 58.2%.
  3. University of Windsor: Few schools retained their rankings from 2019, but the University of Windsor managed to hold on at 18th overall. That relative stability was accompanied by a 77.8% decline in new study permits issued to Indian students from 2019 to 2020, in line with the all-schools average.
  4. Yorkville University: Yorkville University has campuses in Vancouver, Toronto, and Fredericton and has an affiliate as well, the Toronto Film School. Between all of these locations, 364 new study permits were issued to Indian students in 2020. Though this marked an 86.5% decline from 2019, Yorkville achieved a 230% increase from 2018 to 2019. Yorkville’s history of strong growth means they are well positioned for recovery post-pandemic.
  5. York University: 2020 was the first year that York University ranked within the top 30 schools for new study permits issued to Indian nationals. 244 new study permits represented a 73.4% drop from 2019. But this decline came after 25% growth in 2019, 113% growth in 2018, and 47% growth in 2017.

Top 30 Schools in Canada for Indian Students

The top colleges and universities for Indian students in 2020 were much more resilient than their peers. The average decline from 2019 to 2020 among the top 30 schools for new study permits issued to Indian students was 66.1%. The average drop for all other post-secondary schools was 86.5%.

Here’s the full top 30:

Top 30 Canadian Post-Secondary Institutions by New Study Permits Issued to Indian Students, 2020
Rank 2020 Rank 2019 Designated
Institution (DLI)
 # of New Study Permits Issued, 2020  Change in # of Study Permits Issued, 2019–2020
1 12 CDI College 2,287 +0.1%
2 3 Lambton College 2,017 -56.6%
3 1 Conestoga College 1,794 -76.3%
4 4 Northern College 1,513 -59.8%
5 50 Canada College 1,215 +80.5%
6 2 St. Clair College 1,199 -76.8%
7 10 Canadore College 995 -60.7%
8 28 Matrix College 783 -27.6%
9 8 Fanshawe College 747 -74.2%
10 23 Kwantlen Polytechnic University 720 -45.2%
11 7 Seneca College 665 -77.5%
12 19 Langara Colllege 615 -61.4%
13 16 St. Lawrence College 595 -66.7%
14 20 University Canada West 593 -58.2%
15 5 Centennial College 535 -85.7%
16 26 Niagara College 516 -57.1%
17 32 Cégep de la Gaspésie et des Îles 508 -47.1%
18 18 University of Windsor 380 -77.8%
19 13 Georgian College 372 -81.9%
20 9 Yorkville University 364 -86.5%
21 14 Cambrian College 358 -81.7%
22t 51 Institut supérior d’informatique 332 -49.9%
22t 78 CDE Collège 332 +9.2%
24 15 Herzing College 288 -84.7%
25 134 M College of Canada 283 +349.2%
26t 11 Humber College 266 -88.6%
26t 30 Sault College 266 -74.2%
28 43 Alexander College 252 -66.8%
29 33 York University 244 -73.4%
30 53 Coquitlam College 217 -66.8%
t Denotes a tie

Looking Forward

Canada remains a top destination for Indian students looking to study abroad. In 2019, more than 110,000 new study permits were issued to Indian post-secondary students. Despite COVID-19 limitations, almost 28,000 Indian nationals were issued new study permits in 2020. That many study permits have never been issued to any other post-secondary source market in a single year, even pre-pandemic.

The Canadian government has also taken action to support international education in Canada, announcing that international students who complete their studies online are still eligible for the PGWPP. The PGWPP is a strong draw for Indian students, and support for online learning strengthens Canada’s position as a top destination. Canada’s COVID-19 response has also been lauded by international students looking to study abroad during and after the pandemic.

I’m very optimistic that the Indian student market for Canadian institutions will recover quickly post-pandemic. I’m looking forward to seeing a top 30 list once again full of ApplyBoard partner schools in 2021!

Published: March 10, 2021

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Meti BasiriMeti Basiri
Co-Founder and Chief Marketing Officer (CMO)
Meti is driven by the belief that education is a right, not a privilege. He leads the International Recruitment, Partner Relations, and Marketing teams at ApplyBoard, working to make education accessible to people around the world. Meti has been instrumental in building partnerships with 1,500+ educational institutions across Canada, the United, the United Kingdom, and Australia. Working with over 5,000 international recruitment partners, ApplyBoard has assisted over 150,000 students in their study abroad journey. Follow Meti on LinkedIn for more access to ApplyInsights and key industry trends.


1. All data courtesy of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC).