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British Columbia places 2-year ban on new colleges enrolling international students

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The Province is Set to Introduce Minimum Language Requirements, Announces the Minister of Post-Secondary Education

British Columbia is implementing a two-year prohibition on new post-secondary institutions seeking to enroll international students. The decision comes as the province addresses concerns about “exploitative practices” within the system.

Post-Secondary Education Minister Selina Robinson emphasized the necessity of this freeze to rectify shortcomings in an international education system that has not functioned optimally. The province initiated a review of the system in March, revealing issues such as “poor-quality education,” insufficient instructors, and instances where certain private institutions discouraged students from filing formal complaints.

According to Robinson, a student shared her experience, revealing that her family in India had saved money to provide her with a “quality education” in British Columbia. However, upon arriving, she found herself placed in online classes contrary to the promised in-class instruction.

Robinson recounted, “She arrived here expecting in-class instruction, only to discover on her first day of class that the entire course would be taught online. She couldn’t comprehend why she had spent all that money for an online program. We must put an end to misleading practices by certain entities and address these issues for the benefit of the students.”

  • B.C., Ontario vow to crack down on diploma mill schools exploiting international students

Additionally, Robinson revealed that the province will establish minimum language requirements for international students at private institutions to ensure they are “better prepared” before arriving in British Columbia.

Further information regarding the specifics of the language requirement will be disclosed in March, as ongoing efforts are being made in this regard.

Out of the 175,000 international post-secondary students from over 150 countries in British Columbia, approximately 54 percent are currently enrolled in private institutions. The province is home to 280 of these private schools, with 80 percent of them located in the Lower Mainland.

International students reluctant to complain

Robinson emphasized that the province is intensifying inspections of schools to ensure compliance with standards, acknowledging that many students are vulnerable to exploitation.

“There’s a concern among students that lodging complaints might jeopardize their student visas and undermine the considerable efforts their families have made to secure a quality education for them,” she explained. “In response to this, we are working on implementing a system where we will conduct on-site, proactive evaluations of programs.”

Robinson highlighted that the two-year hiatus allows the province time to evaluate the impact of recent changes, including the federal government’s decision to cap approved study permits over the next two years.

B.C. minister announces measures to help reduce exploitation of international students

Federal Immigration Minister Marc Miller announced that the imposed limit would result in a 35 percent reduction in new student visas for the current year.

The student program has experienced substantial growth, witnessing a 31 percent increase to over 800,000 students in 2022 compared to the previous year. This surge has contributed to added pressure on Canada’s housing market.

Some schools ‘not meeting our expectations’

B.C. Premier David Eby emphasized the critical need for the province to address issues within the international education system, highlighting its pivotal role as a “cornerstone” in the social and economic fabric of British Columbia.

Speaking at a media availability in Ottawa, Eby stressed, “In our province, there is a diverse range of private institutions, varying in size, but regardless of their size, our expectations for the level of quality remain consistent. Currently, there are institutions that are not meeting our expectations.”

The B.C. Federation of Students, representing over 170,000 individuals enrolled in universities, colleges, and institutes, welcomed the changes as a “good first step” and an acknowledgment of concerns the group has raised for several years.

The federation characterized the issue of “exploitative international recruitment” as a “dire” situation, emphasizing that the provincial review should also address the “overreliance” on tuition from foreign students by public post-secondary institutions.

Melissa Chirino, the chairperson of the federation, stated, “Our priority is to center students’ needs as the next steps are taken. We aim to ensure the protection of international students, prevent tuition fees from being perceived as a solution to potential institutional budget shortfalls, and safeguard essential services that students rely on from being compromised.”

Robinson declared that public post-secondary institutions in British Columbia are now required to openly disclose the comprehensive tuition fees for the entire duration of an international student’s academic program.

Additionally, the province is working in partnership with public schools to define explicit expectations concerning the upper limits of international student enrollment. Robinson emphasized that this initiative is crafted to bring benefits to both foreign and Canadian students.

“I’ve encountered instances in certain institutions where the entire class comprises students from a single province in India,” she remarked. “This scenario doesn’t facilitate integration or foster an understanding of Canadian culture. It’s not beneficial for anyone.”

The updated standards for institutions would involve “elevated assessment criteria for degree quality, a demonstrated labor-market demand for graduates, and adequate resources and student support,” according to the provincial announcement.

Robinson specified that the moratorium on new institutions would extend until February 2026.

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