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New ISP rules in Canada; co-op programmes curtailed

New regulations have been published in Canada confirming changes to the International Student Program (ISP) which mean language teaching institutions will no longer be able to offer “co-op” programmes offering language tuition and professional internships.

Language schools will no longer be able to offer a Co-op programme, offering hospitality experience for example. Photo: Destination BC/Andrea Johnson

All provinces will be required to "designate" education institutions from June too

The new rules, coming into force in June, could have a significant impact on the language training industry in the country, although a number of operators are repositioning their business to offer careers programmes which do enable part-time work.

Other key changes are more positive, including automatic work rights for many longer-term international students, enabling them to work off-campus for up to 20 hours per week in term-time and full-time in holidays.

All provinces will be required to “designate” education institutions from June too, sanctioning their quality provision. So far, just British Columbia has clarified that it will award designation via its EQA scheme.

Previously, students could apply to study at any educational institution, whether it had quality credentials or not.

The aim of the new ISP is to strengthen the quality of provision and limit the opportunity for exploiting loopholes in the system, bringing Canada’s policy in line with other major study destinations.

“Students are seeking to sharpen their English skills for a specific purpose”

“Strengthening aspects of the programme that could be abused by fraudulent schools or non-genuine study permit applicants is vitally important to protect Canada’s reputation abroad and to ensure that Canada continues to enjoy the tremendous economic and social benefits that the ISP provides,” said a spokesperson at CIC.

New rules such as requiring students to actually enrol and study, rather than show intent to study in Canada, simply bring Canada in line with minimum standards policy elsewhere.

The rule clarifications have been a long time coming, since Canada announced at the end of 2012 that it would be making regulatory changes to enhance quality.

As regards the new co-op ruling, CIC indicated that it had considered feedback from the language teaching sector about rules for this area of programming, following an advocacy strategy from Languages Canada, as reported in The PIE News.

“CIC has seriously considered feedback received from this sector,” it said, “however, access to the Canadian labour market by international students should be refocused to align with their eligibility to remain as potential immigrants once educational credentials have been completed.”

Tamsin Plaxton of Tamwood, a successful English language school with three campuses, said that the sector would have to innovate to accommodate the changes, observing that “students are seeking to sharpen their English skills for a specific purpose”.

“The government has opened the door for international students at vocational and professional training institutions to work off campus (if taking courses of 6+ months) and this is new,” she said.

“We are developing a career college that will provide students with coop career training programs and will offer programs of 6 months or more so students will also be able to work off campus (up to 20 hours a week) while studying.”

Richard Novek, director of operations ILSC education group, told The PIE News that his company would also be re-directing students towards careers programmes.

He said some smaller schools may disappear because of the forthcoming regulations but “most schools shouldn’t have any difficulty meeting the new rules”.

Nevertheless Languages Canada CEO, Gonzalo Peralta, blasted the decision as “an insult” at the organisation’s annual conference.

The new ISP rules are “a net benefit” for the high school sector

Other new rule changes include a 90-day maximum stay following completion of studies and the ability for foreign nationals already on-shore to apply for a study permit.

Sam Blyth, Chair of private high school Blyth Education, said the new ISP rules are “a net benefit” for the high school sector.

“In the future private school students will find it relatively easier to get students visas and the rights that come with them,” he said. “And with most high school graduates staying in Canada for university, international students will find this an effective route to residency permits and eventually Canadian citizenship.”

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