At the Languages Canada conference in Vancouver this week, there was considerable talk about the issue, but no official sessions to address concerns.
A representative from the University of Waterloo told a workshop on IELTS testing that student enrolments in their English-language programs are "quite depleted" due to the outbreak in China.
IELTS Stakeholder Relations and Business Development Manager Monica Aguirre advised attendees that testing in China has been cancelled for March. At this point, IELTS does not know when testing will resume.
"We're taking all relevant measures to protect the health of our customers and staff in affected areas," she said.
Aguirre encouraged colleges and universities to allow students to submit partial applications, with English-language scores to follow once testing restarts. Students can still enroll for the fall - provided the virus outbreak ends soon. And that's a big if.
Languages Canada's trade mission next week to Thailand and Vietnam is going ahead despite concerns. Thailand has reported 40 cases of the coronavirus and Vietnam 16. A few Canadian educational institutions have dropped out of the trip, citing the need to protect the health of staff.
Mainland China application centres closed
The Canadian government has temporarily closed all 11 visa application centres in mainland China. "We can't speculate on the potential impact of the novel coronavirus on the number of Chinese nationals coming to study in Canada," Peter Liang, a spokesman for Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada told the International Education Times. "Typically, the peak period for study permit applications is in late summer."
In the K-12 sector, some short-term groups have abandoned plans to come to Canada. A few school districts were expecting Japanese students here this spring and planning to send Canadian students to Japan in the summer as part of a reciprocal exchange. With 171 coronavirus cases being reported in that country, the Japanese school partner has decided to defer it to 2021.
K-12 programs are hoping the outbreak peters out soon. "There's still time for September enrolments if students apply in May or June, as long as they can get a study permit in time," says Bonnie McKie, Executive Director of the Canadian Association of Public Schools - International (CAPS-I).
While Languages Canada did not have a session specifically devoted to the impact of the coronavirus, CAPS-I is planning to address the issue at its April 26-28 meeting in Vancouver. McKie is hoping that it will be a session about lessons learned from an outbreak that has ended - rather than discussing next steps in an ongoing situation.
Meanwhile, individual international students are coping as best as they can. Some Chinese students who traveled home over Christmas or the Chinese New Year decided to self-isolate for a couple of weeks when they returned to Canada.
Several incidents of racism have been reported on university campuses. Gary Kachanoski, President of Memorial University of Newfoundland, issued a statement urging students and faculty to be tolerant.