The students involved were due to take up places at Pures College of Technology, in Scarborough, Ontario – the subject of a public-private partnership with Northern College.
The decision was made after Northern College saw “too many visa applications” had been accepted, leading courses to be oversubscribed.
“We did not make [the decision] lightly or in haste, and [we are aware] that it is causing much concern and inconvenience for those students and their families,” president and CEO of Northern College Audrey J. Penner told The PIE News in a statement.
“When we learned that the programs at Pures College of Technology had exceeded capacity, we made the difficult decision to revoke admission for 503 students,” she explained.
Current directives in place in Ontario state that a college’s “total partnership international student enrolment” across all partnership campuses must not exceed 7,500 students.
Northern College has likely exceeded this number through its partnership with Pures College of Technology, according to Earl Blaney, an agent and immigration consultant based in Canada.
The total number of study permit applications that were submitted to IRCC in 2021 by Northern College was 5,210 – 3,597 of those were approved. In 2022, 10,544 were made with 5,768 approved.
“97% of SP applicants headed to Northern College were Indian in 2022. The 2023 data set [is still not available] for 2023 but a safe bet is the numbers will show a further steep intake increase,” Blaney noted in a LinkedIn post discussing the issue.
A spokesperson from Pures has told The PIE that international student numbers at Pures has “never exceeded the ministry directive”.
“The total number of international students is well below that ceiling and Pures College always had the capacity to accommodate these students whose admissions were revoked,” they claimed.
“We continue to work with students impacted by this decision to find options for them to pursue their studies, and remain committed to operating within the directives set by the Ministry of Colleges and Universities.”
Blaney added that “Northern College and their overseas agent network have been dumping study permit applications at IRCC missions like nobody’s business”.
In a conversation with The PIE, he said that Pures had a particular history of oversubscription – the usual ratio permitted for admitting students through the partnership is 2:1, but on his last revision, they were 9:1.
“It seems to me Northern College exceeded even that 7,500 figure, which was thousands more than they had even when they were violating the 2:1 ratio,” Blaney said.
“If that’s what happened, it’s shocking because it seems like the Ministry of Colleges and Universities is very serious about administering that directive now. In the past they’ve published directives and done nothing.
“It’s an encouraging sign, but it’s really bad for the student,” he said.
One student, who talked to CBC Toronto, said her place on an healthcare administration course at Pures place had been revoked in early August, just a month before she was due to start her studies, despite receiving an acceptance letter in February.
“The Ministry of Colleges and Universities is very serious about administering this directive”
The student said the move was “heartbreaking” for her, especially considering she had already paid registration fees, quit her day job in healthcare and booked her $2,200 flights from India.
Chris Busch, assistant VP of enrolment management at the University of Windsor, said on LinkedIn that it is a stark warning to institutions about how they enrol students.
“[It] serves a poignant reminder about the profound impact of flawed international strategic enrolment strategies and the need for constant vigilance and improvement in this critical area,” he said.
Penner argued in her statement that the program wouldn’t be able to move forward with the level of students that were originally subscribed. “A program that is stretched beyond capacity will not provide the quality of educational experience that our students deserve,” she said.
“Over 50% have either selected refunds or were not continuing. Some applicants had either not secured visas, not yet paid their fees or [had] already withdrawn their applications,” she said.
“For the remaining students, we are working diligently with them to find alternative solutions”
Pures put the blame on its public partner affiliate for the issue, saying Northern College made the decision and that Pures was ready to “accept all international students who received letters of admission”.
The private college had also “scheduled the Fall semester students for study” before the acceptances were revoked.
“For the remaining students, we are working diligently with them to find alternative solutions.
“[This includes] transferring to another of Northern College’s multiple campuses; deferring their admission; transferring their acceptance to another post-secondary institution; or providing a full or partial refund for any tuition fees already paid,” Penner insisted.
It was not mentioned by Northern College which post-secondary institutions may be partaking in accepting those students.
“Northern College is committed to providing a high-quality, post-graduate work permit-eligible education. This has been and remains our top priority,” she added.
Update August 22, 16:25 GMT: Story updated with a comment from Pures.