Canada tightens student immigration

A photo of a classroom with a number of empty chairs.
Tuition needs to go up because each student in class is also paying for the empty chairs.  aniset via Pixabay

Unintended consequences of immigration reform could harm Canadian schools

by pratheeksha r naik, contributor

With prestigious institutions spread across the nation, a universal health care system, coupled with low cost of living compared to other Western countries, Canada has been an attractive and popular choice for international students to pursue their higher education.  

According to Statistics Canada, 2023 saw an alarming influx in international students, with the numbers being just over a million. To ease pressure on housing and other facilities, the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship – Marc Miller –recently announced a limit on study permit applications.  

Further, to keep things fair, the cap will be divided throughout the different provinces.   
Possible Changes to Canadian Institutions 

The immediate and most obvious change will be seen in lower enrolment numbers across Canadian institutions. This will further result in increased competitiveness of application across different parameters such as International English Language Testing System score, academic portfolio, scholarships, and so on. 

Additionally, foreign applicants will now have to submit an attestation letter provided by the universities to the Federal government for the issue of a study permit. The government has set a deadline of Mar 15 for the universities to establish a process to issue attestation letters.   

Future applicants will apply to Canadian institutions with a sense of caution, as new regulations can be introduced almost immediately with little to no notice.  

International students are a robust source of income for universities, as they pay higher fees compared to domestic students. Thus, reduction in intake would mean incorporating certain measures to lower costs for the university.  

Some associate and sessional professors from universities in Ontario and British Columbia, where the international student population is at its peak, took to news channels and social media to express concerns about their job security.  

As it currently stands, some associate professors go out of contract in the summer months. With fewer intake, university administrations across Canada may consider making changes to their program offerings. Thus, if popular courses are stopped, some professors may go out of contract for longer terms or even be laid off.   

Senior, experienced professors in these institutions may be required to teach more courses as a result. Further, universities would also have to spare a thought on their reputation, which is impacted by international student enrolment, and focus on increasing domestic student applications.  

Aside from the aforementioned short term consequences of the intake limit, Miller announced additional sets of measures which will result in long-term consequences like post-graduation work permit and spousal visas.  

Miller mentioned that from fall 2024, international students studying in a public-private partnership model colleges, i.e. a private college that has been licensed to deliver the curriculum of an associated public college, will not be eligible for a post-graduation work permit.  

Furthermore, only spouses of international students in Masters and PhD programs will have open work permits. This would result in a huge setback in the life of couples who take shorter term courses like diplomas or certificate courses.  

Overall, economists and housing societies approve these measures because it would ease the strain on facilities. On the other hand, Colleges and Institutes Canada, which represents publicly funded colleges and polytechnics, warned that the move will result in program closings and a need to increase tuition fees, things that will hurt domestic and international students alike.  

They also expressed concern as to how institutions across provinces will scramble for their share of applicants in the reduced intake. Navigating these changes will require collaboration from stakeholders across the higher education sector.  

If these changes are dealt with thoughtfully and strategically, Canada can continue to uphold its reputation as a destination of choice for students seeking high-quality education and enriching academic experiences. Only time will tell if this move will have the desired impact on the economy or be a bad decision. 


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