The Impact of COVID-19 on Canada’s Higher Education Sector


Canada’s higher education represents $52 billion, 2.6% of the Canadian economy in 2020. The sector comprises 96 universities and more than 200 community colleges, including over 50 Indigenous institutions. There were an estimated 2.1 million post-secondary students in 2017-18, of which 197,000 were international university students and 100,00 international college students.

The pandemic brought on key issues for the higher education sector to consider, including

  • A potential reduction in public funding and pressure of budgets
  • Organizational restructuring to respond to changing student needs
  • Potential reduction of fee income from international students
  • Students taking control of their own learning yet losing benefits of campus-based education
  • Possible decreases in federal R&D support as austerity measures kick in
  • An increase in the federal need for R&D to meet “national” priorities

Global Advantage’s briefing deck “The Impact of COVID-19 on Canada’s Higher Education Sector” provides background on the sector, issues affecting the sector, short- and long-term impacts and responses, and scenario planning with steps to long-term recovery.