'There is no reason to anticipate a drastic change in Canada's attitude towards Indian students.'
The rapidly souring diplomatic ties between Canada and India have put Indian students flying to the North American nation for their higher studies in a fix.
Jaspreet Singh Sodhi (name changed on request), a native of Ludhiana who recently joined the Vancouver Film School, says the general attitude towards Indian students has been fast changing.
"Many students from the Sikh community have landed in a tense atmosphere.
"We are under suspicion for our alleged political ties among Indian students as well as our Canadian schoolmates," he points out.
"Canadian universities were on the top of my list for graduate courses, but the recent incidents of violence and the subsequent diplomatic standoff between the two governments have made me jittery," says Amrit Koul (name changed), who was planning to apply to some of the top schools in Canada for her masters' degree.
According to her, for the large number of Indian students flying to Canada, the lower cost of living vis à vis the US, UK, or Australia, the considerably cheaper tuition fees, a large Indian community, and the lack of a language barrier were some of the major motivations for her choice.
Koul isn't the only one with Canada as the top choice for her study-abroad plans. Canada has seen a consistent rise in the influx of Indian students.
According to the data shared by the ministry of external affairs in February this year, there were over 220,000 Indian study-permit holders in Canadian colleges in 2019.
Indian students account for 34 per cent of Canada's foreign student population.
In 2022, Canada welcomed 226,450 Indian students, making the subcontinent the top source of international students entering the North American country.
While this is significantly less than the 466,000 students who opted for it, the number of Indians immigrating to Canada has more than trebled since 2013.
According to data from the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), the number of Indians becoming permanent residents in Canada rose from 32,828 in 2013 to 118,095 in 2022 -- a 260 per cent increase.
The increasing interest in Canadian education has also caused Indian aspirants to fall prey to visa scams, with one agent defrauding more than 700 Indian students with invalid visas.
The current diplomatic tension, as well as the violent protests for Khalistan, have added to these ongoing struggles for the Indian students in Canada.
Experts and education consultants, however, advise patience.
"Canada has a long-term strategy for leveraging Indian talent to support its own growth and development. Indian students need not be unduly concerned," says Aadarsh Khandelwal, CEO, and founder of Collegify, a Gurugram-based education service that has emerged as one of the more prominent consultants for foreign education plans in Canada.
"Both countries are likely to handle the situation with sensitivity to their citizens' needs. There is no significant reason to anticipate a drastic change in Canada's attitude towards Indian students," Khandelwal added
Moreover, though the Canadian government has contemplated limiting work visas, there hasn't been any concrete action on this front yet.
"Additionally, even amid the rising tension, both nations have reassured that trade relations will remain unaffected. As long as the North American nation is in need of a skilled workforce, for Indian students aiming for reputable institutions and carrying relevant skills, Canada still holds immense potential," says Shreekala Kurup, co-founder of Crackverbal, a Bengaluru-based admissions and test-prep services firm.
Another Mumbai-based education consultancy firm who have helped students with Canadian student visas for nearly 15 years also asserts that "Canada cannot afford to lose its Indian students and therefore, will desist from taking any radical decision in terms of imposing visa restrictions. Students should not be worried."
However, this Mumbai-based firm, as well as others like Collegify emphasise that students must establish a strong community once they arrive on their university campuses "in case conditions continue to sour".
Nonetheless, most education consultants Business Standard spoke to also insisted that it is too early in the day, and students must not give up on their Canadian dreams just yet.
Feature Presentation: Ashish Narsale/Rediff.com