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New Canada rules see Indian agents, students switch gears

After a tumultuous 2023 for India-Canada relations, from deportation cases against Indian students to a diplomatic row over the alleged killing of a Canadian citizen, the two-year international study permit cap starting in January 2024 has been met with bated breath.

The cap could also lead to coveted Canadian uni becoming difficult to get into, one agent said. Photo: Unsplash

Canada’s restrictions on public-private partnership institutions also poses problems for students

The temporary intake cap, which is expected to result in approximately 360,000 approved study permits at undergraduate level per year, was introduced in light of increased pressure on housing, healthcare, and other services across Canada, according to immigration minister Marc Miller.

“The headlines did create some panic initially, but there’s still a lot of interest to study in Canada among students, especially for the Fall (September) intake and Winter (January/February) intake,” said Hitesh Sharma, founder and CEO of Edupeer.

“Many of the students going to Canada are applying for Master’s programs, and since the cap or rules regarding provincial attestation letters don’t apply to them they are safe. But it’s not clear why they decided on having undergraduate and diploma students under the ambit.”

As per data released by CBIE, there were at least 319,130 Indian students in Canada in 2022.

Some 209,930 were studying at College level, 80,270 at university, 10,865 at secondary level and 8,085 at primary, IRCC data shows.

Megha Bohra, a Mumbai-based consultant working with a top education consultancy focused on Canada, told The PIE that in recent months most of the inquiries have been about postgraduate courses.

“Only 30-35% of the inquiries we are receiving now are about undergraduate courses or diploma programs. The cap has left students and parents worried, with many of them looking at countries such as the UK and Ireland as alternative options,” said Bohra.

The increase in the cost of living requirement from CAD $10,000 to $20,635, which is over 12,00,000 Indian rupees, and Canada’s restrictions on public-private partnership institutions also poses problems for students, she detailed.

“The cap’s introduction coupled with students under PPP institutions not being eligible for post-graduate work permits, starting September 1, could make it difficult for some undergraduate students from India.

“Earlier they used to enrol in PPP institutions such as Lambton College and Loyalist College because it was much easier to get admissions into but now these colleges have been delisted,” added Bohra.

It’s no surprise that colleges in Ontario are popular among Indian students. With its access to cities like Ottawa, Toronto, and Mississauga and familiarity found in Brampton, which houses a huge Indian-origin population, many aim to pursue academic and work opportunities in the province at any cost.

Rhythm Singh, a 17-year-old Punjab resident who is planning to study in Canada this year, has set his eyes on a public college – Niagara College of Applied Arts and Technology which has a campus in Toronto.

“The cap limit does scare me, but I won’t make the mistake my friends have made. Instead, I will do my research and apply at a public institution which could increase my chances of attaining a study permit,” Singh said, who has family and friends based in Ontario.

The current cap could also lead to coveted Canadian universities becoming difficult to get admissions into, predicted Karan Gupta, founder of the Karan Gupta Education Foundation.

“After Canada issued the student visa cap, it will now become tougher to get admission to the previously coveted colleges such as the University of Toronto. Students are being asked to look at universities and colleges in lesser known areas, something which highly qualified candidates will refrain from doing,” said Gupta.

With students also needing an attestation letter from the province they plan to study in – a rule put in place in January – the IRCC will soon allocate a portion of the cap to each province and territory, which will then distribute the allocation between their designated learning institutions.

Meti Basiri, CEO of ApplyBoard, believes Indian and international students will increasingly apply to diverse locations across Canada.

“Instead of Ontario and British Columbia, there will be increased interest in studying in provinces with more cap allocation room, such as Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and New Brunswick,” Basiri told The PIE.

Data curated by ApplyBoard says each province could receive caps as follows: Alberta could receive a cap of 71,149 applications; British Columbia – 83,486 applications; Manitoba – 21,921 applications; Newfoundland and Labrador – 8084 applications; Ontario – 236,373 applications; and Quebec – 133,858 applications.

Though the numbers are estimates only calculated with available 2023 IRCC data and Statistics Canada Q4 population figures and contain underlying assumptions due to lack of further data, it gives an insight into other provinces emerging as alternatives.

“The cap limit does scare me, but I won’t make the mistake my friends have made”

“Conversations with our recruitment partners on the ground have said a high percentage of students are already considering looking elsewhere.

“These changes have caused an as-yet-unknown level of damage to Canada’s global reputation as a preferred study destination that will have impacts for years. Australia, the US, and the UK have experienced a similar fate in the past few years, with many still in the process of recovering,” added Basiri.

Some students, who were earlier planning to pursue Arts and Humanities courses in Canada, are now looking at other Western countries or near to home.

“I had thought of doing a Design course from the University of Alberta earlier but I might apply to colleges in Germany and Singapore considering how complicated the process in Canada has become,” said Natasha Gandhi, a Mumbai-based student.

In contrast, stakeholders such as Piyush Kumar, regional director for South Asia and Mauritius at IDP Education, believe the recent dip in students going to Canada will be short-lived.

“Study-abroad aspirants and their families initially could not interpret the student visa cap announcement appropriately and had concerns about their future potential in Canada,” said Kumar, speaking with The PIE.

“Eventually, further clarifications made students clear about the possibilities. Canada is still popular among Indians because of the attractive work permits, job opportunities, world-class education, safety, and permanent settlement options so I believe Indian students should continue to look at the country as a study destination,” he added.

Update February 27, GMT 17:30, the CBIE data referenced in this report has been corrected.

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2 Responses to New Canada rules see Indian agents, students switch gears

  1. “But it’s not clear why they decided on having undergraduate and diploma students under the ambit.”
    – Main reason being that Post Secondary institutions ( after Grade 12 & 11 in Quebec) are Funded by The Provinces. But the Provinces did not want to increase their share of the high cost associated with this; so Colleges n Provinces made A Deal to Bring in foreign Student( who pay 3 times the fee+ Get cheap labour and More Daily consumer product sales!); Now it Backfired …
    The Provinces backtracking on #’s of students allowed and will Fund greater share to the Colleges.[ of course still Allowing some #’s of Foreign students]

  2. There’s a massive shortage in housing in Canada. In Ontario, that’s led to situations like 25 students sharing a basement apartment, students living in their cars parked on the drive way of homes. To add to this, students are unable to find work to support the high cost of living and have resorted to going to food banks as they don’t have other options. Canada is not the place to come to if you don’t have a lot of money, and need to work to afford to live. Don’t go if you can’t afford the $2500 in rent for a 1 Bedroom apartment, and the costs of food, travel and other living costs.

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