Canada slashes international student visas – with a crackdown on franchising in the mix

On Monday Marc Miller, Canada’s Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, announced a cap on international students over the next two years.

Jim is an Associate Editor at Wonkhe

The federal government says it will approve around 360,000 undergraduate study permits for 2024 – representing a 35 per cent reduction from 2023.

Miller said that the rapid increase in international students is putting pressure on housing, healthcare and other services – arguing that fewer numbers would primarily help lower prices for rent.

Each province and territory will be allotted a portion of the total, distributed according to population. The government says this will result in much more significant decreases in provinces where the international student population has seen “the most unsustainable growth”.

In some provinces, Miller said the total reduction in permits will be approximately 50 per cent.

Mike Moffatt, an assistant professor at the Ivey Business School at Western University, said last year that while the impact of a surge in international students varies across housing markets, in some cities it is making a “massive” difference:

On the rental side, you have a lot of low-income renters, all battling each other for a low number of spots. And on the ownership side, what we’re seeing is investors buying large quantities of single-family homes and turning them into student rentals, making it nearly impossible for first-time home buyers to find a place to live.

Puppy farms

They’re not the only changes. Last month Miller announced that he would double the funds that students would have to prove they have to access to for maintenance – $20,635 instead of the $10,000 requirement that has been in place for two decades. The amount will now be adjusted yearly based on a Statistics Canada benchmark for living costs.

He also took aim at private colleges specialising in business and management programmes:

There are, in provinces, the diploma equivalent of puppy mills that are just churning out diplomas, and this is not a legitimate student experience…There is fraud and abuse and it needs to end.

Now he has announced that as of September, the government will no longer issue visas to students studying under “curriculum licensing” arrangements – not dissimilar to the franchising that we see in the UK:

These programs are notorious for lacking oversight and do not provide the quality academic experience that Canada is renowned for.

The crackdown comes amid the numbers of both colleges and enrolments “exploding” in recent years:

It’s unacceptable that some private institutions have taken advantage of international students by operating under-resourced campuses, lacking supports for students and charging high tuition fees all the while significantly increasing their intake of international students.

In an interview with CBC’s Power & Politics on Monday, Miller spoke of “degree-granting institutions that are giving fake business degrees” to students who hope to stay in Canada. The minister said there could be “hundreds” of such schools operating in Canada.

Miller said that the changes are aimed at ensuring that future students will:

…receive the quality of education that they signed up for and the hope that they were provided in their home countries.

Post-study work

He also announced changes to the post-graduation work permit program. As of September, international students who start a programme delivered through a “curriculum licensing arrangement” will no longer be eligible for the visa.

Meanwhile graduates of master’s and other “short graduate-level programs” will “soon” be able to apply for a three-year work permit – and work permits will also be made available to the spouses of international students in master’s and doctoral programs.

Miller argued that the federal government would have preferred that provincial governments take action – given that tertiary education is principally a provincial responsibility in Canada.

The problem is that while the rules are mainly aimed at private colleges, the changes will put pressure on provinces, where public funding is provided to universities and colleges who depend on the income.

There are a number of differences between the UK and Canadian higher education sectors – but Westminster officials and politicians of both political parties will be looking closely at the nature and impact of the measures – and their framing.

Protecting international students from abuse, easing housing pressures, and maintaining quality in the system are all objectives that it’s pretty hard to argue with on the political topline – in Canada as in the UK, the subsequent impact on university budgets appears to be a lower order issue.

One response to “Canada slashes international student visas – with a crackdown on franchising in the mix

  1. Having friends working in Canadian Universities there are huge issues with over representation from certain countries, to the point Canadians and even more so ‘First Nations’ Canadians are excluded from attending University in some areas, so the limiting of overseas students, ostensibly due to the lack of housing in many University towns and cities may actually benefit those living locally who couldn’t get a place before. In many ways the situation in Canada does resemble the UK situation, with the focus on higher fee’s and greater profits achievable from overseas students in may Universities.

    Thankfully our VC and senior management have realised the current highest overseas cohort country is waning, and is starting to reduce numbers coming, so they are targeting other countries for future recruitment, lets hope the long term over reliance on overseas students money doesn’t cause more Universities to financially collapse!

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