International Student Survey Terms of Reference

This longitudinal surveying initiative supports the international education sector’s capacity to drive informed, innovative practices through an increased understanding of the stories, motivations, and perceptions of the international students who choose to study in Canada. CBIE, as a member-serving organization, leads the coordination of the survey and shares the data with participating institutions. In turn, institutions can generate insights to understand the experience of international students on their campuses. The benchmarking report allows institutions to compare their performance to similar institutions across Canada and the national average. Participating institutions contribute to building a robust longitudinal national dataset that can inform policy at provincial/territorial and federal levels.

CBIE Responsibilities

  • Manage the development, implementation, reporting and evaluation of the survey.
  • Provides the survey terms of reference to participating institutions.  
  • Provides a promotional toolkit to participating institutions, which includes targeted communications to encourage students to complete the survey. 
  • Assists institutions with their internal review processes, which may include an ethics review or other relevant internal due diligence. 
  • Responds to student queries about the survey. 
  • Collects, cleans, analyzes and presents the survey data.  
  • Circulates the anonymized institution-specific and national datasets and reports to all participating institutions.  
  • Publish a National Survey Report recognizing participating institutions as contributors to benefit the Canadian international education sector. 

Institutional Responsibilities

  • Complete and submit the survey participation agreement. 
  • Reads through the survey terms of reference. 
  • Conduct an internal survey review through an ethics review or other relevant internal due diligence, as required by the institution. 
  • Launch the online survey with the custom link provided by CBIE. 
  • Promotes the survey via emails and social media, encouraging student participation. 

Ethical Review


The 2023 International Student Survey has been reviewed and approved by the Community Research Ethics Office (CREO), a Research Ethics Board (REB) that services Canadian not-for-profit organizations, governments, independent consultants, community organizations, community researchers, and others that want to maximize the ethical conduct of their research. CREO’s work aligns with the Tri-Council Policy Statement: Ethical Conduct for Research Involving Humans (TCPS 2, 2018). The ethics approval letter and other supporting documents will be provided to institutions that have completed the participation agreement and are registered to join this surveying initiative.

Participating Institutions

Many institutions have research ethics boards (REB) that assess research involving human subjects. REBs ensure compliance with ethical standards and protect the dignity, rights and welfare of research participants. Review your institution’s ethics approval procedure. If an internal ethical review is required to complete this project at your institution, we highly recommend beginning this process as soon as possible to ensure the survey can be launched at the beginning of October 2023.

Communications with Students

The survey is designed to study international students’ experiences in Canada. Therefore, only students enrolled in post-secondary institutions studying for their full degree/diploma in Canada are invited to complete the survey. This includes international students studying in Canada with a student study permit, visitor’s visa, or undertaking research on a work permit. International exchange students are not meant to be included in this survey sample.

CBIE provides each institution with a customized survey link. Participating institutions must add this custom link to the suggested emails and social media posts, templated by CBIE, to promote the survey to their respective international students, per the suggested communication timeline. Institutions can modify the survey email invitation and reminders to suit their branding and ethics requirements (i.e., institutional logo, electronic signature, institution-specific ethics statement, etc.). These features may help students understand that the survey is genuine; however, some students’ email programs may not properly display embedded graphics, rich text, or HTML formatting. Institutions are responsible for ensuring that the emails are formatted so that they will pass the spam filters of your institution. The promotional toolkit and other supporting documents will be provided to institutions that have completed the participation agreement and are registered to join this surveying initiative.


To encourage students to participate in the survey, CBIE is offering three prizes of $ 1,000.  Winners will be randomly selected from the pool of students who complete the survey. To be eligible, students must complete the survey, agree to participate in the draw and give permission to CBIE to contact them if they are one of the winners. Participants can skip through the survey on a question-by-question basis by selecting the “prefer not to answer” option that has been included on all potentially sensitive questions. Partial surveys and duplicates will be automatically deleted.

At the end of the questionnaire, respondents will be asked if they want to add their email to the draw for a chance to win $1,000. If participants opt-in, they will be instructed to regularly verify their inbox (and spam/junk mail) between December 4 and 22, 2023, for an email from [email protected]. The three winners must claim their prize within 14 days of the email notification and validate their identity. Email addresses will not be associated with any of the data provided in the questionnaire. Direct deposit information will be required to transfer the $1,000 prize. The institutional representative will be copied on the message to validate the legitimacy of CBIE’s communication and to ensure the email is not treated as spam or junk mail.

Institutions can further incentivize the survey specifically for their respective student population.  In this instance, institutions must notify their students accordingly via their communications, select the winners and coordinate the prize logistics. At the end of the questionnaire, respondents will be asked if they want to add their email to the draw for a chance to win an institutional prize. If they opt-in, their email address will be shared with the institutional representative. Email addresses will not be associated with any of the data provided in the questionnaire.

Informed Consent

Participating students agree to complete the survey to provide anonymized data to support this national research initiative. CBIE will retain the data for 25 years and use it for longitudinal studies.

Students may withdraw from the survey at any time by closing their browser. Incomplete questionnaires will not be included in the anonymized dataset. Participants can request the removal of their data before November 30, 2023 by sending their request to [email protected].

A copy of the online consent form that participating students must agree to before beginning the survey is available here.

Data Security

CBIE uses the professional Alchemer business account to collect participant data. The web-based method is designed to accommodate a large sample.

Alchemer offers Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) encryption, which works through a cryptographic system to ensure a secure connection between the client (student) and the server (where the responses are saved). SSL is commonly used for online banking sites to transmit secured information. A link with SSL encryption shows the ‘s’ in the ‘HTTP’ address.

Finally, Alchemer complies with Canadian privacy (all data resides on Canadian servers) and accessibility standards (W3C).