The Canadian government has announced new steps to tighten college standards in response to concerns that Canada’s education industry is bringing in too many international students, putting strain on housing and the labor market.
According to Bloomberg, Canada’s Immigration Minister Marc Miller has established a framework that would require universities and colleges to set greater standards for international students’ services, support, and outcomes beginning with the fall 2024 semester.
Miller stated that schools that fulfill the higher standard will be given precedence in the processing of student visas, and suitable housing will be one of the requirements.
Beginning December 1, institutions will also be required to confirm each applicant’s acceptance letter directly with the Canadian government.
Miller’s department will also assess the post-graduate work permit program and implement modifications to ensure it fulfills labor market needs.
Bloomberg said that the move comes amid rising criticism that Canadian educational institutions rely too heavily on international students for funding.
international students pay five times as much as Canadian students, and institutions catering to international students have sprung up in strip malls and temporary structures, most notably in the Toronto suburb of Brampton, Ontario, where Miller made his statement on Friday.
“We know that there has been consistent underfunding of post-secondary education, particularly by provinces, depending on the province, over the years – and institutions are smart and have adapted to that,” Miller said at a news conference.
“That has gone through at times opportunistic fees that have been charged to international students to close a gap that is really an unnatural one and shouldn’t be the case in a country like Canada.”
Tuition fees have become increasingly important for postsecondary schools as provincial financing as a share of income has fallen from 42% in 2001 to 35% last year. For the previous three years, Ontario, the country’s largest province, has likewise frozen tuition fees that can be charged to Canadians.
Foreign students paid 37% of tuition at Canadian universities from 2019 to 2020, and a projected 68% of tuition at Ontario institutions in 2021.
In the previous decade, the number of international students in Canada has more than tripled, reaching over 800,000 last year.
Many international students utilize admission to college as a means of obtaining permanent residency in Canada.
There have been reports that Cananian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government could introduce a cap on international student visas, but Miller rejected the idea over the weekend.
“The experiences of international students are too complex for the federal government to stomp in and pretend that it has all the solutions” in establishing a visa cap, Miller said.
Provinces have a primary role in accrediting learning institutions, he said.
“The federal government is coming forward and opening its arms to our provincial partners, territorial partners, to make sure we all do our jobs properly,” he said. “If that job can’t be done, the federal government is prepared to do it.”
According to Miller’s office, foreign education contributes more than C$22 billion ($16 billion) to the Canadian economy each year – more than auto parts, lumber, or aircraft exports combined – and supports more than 200,000 employment.