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Futureproofing international student recruitment in Canada

In the recent tumultuous weeks within the Canadian international education sector, the federal government’s announcement of caps on international study permit applications has left the industry grappling with unprecedented challenges.

"Despite limited availability in Ontario and BC in the coming years, Canada remains appealing to international students"

While some changes are deemed necessary to moderate demand and create a sustainable environment, there are significant missed opportunities and a lack of clarity, placing the plans of future international students in jeopardy.

Despite the disruptive methods and a lack of stakeholder consultation, we must discern the underlying message – it’s time for change. Institutions must remember that some of this is important to improve the student experience that has started to suffer in the last few years.

While the government’s intent to take a breather is understandable, the fragmented announcements create ambiguity. A more effective approach would have been a comprehensive overhaul announced in one go.

Opportunities to reward students in programs aligned with industry needs are missed, and the current focus on exemptions for PhD and masters does not cover the entire spectrum of industry needs.

Canadian institutions were just beginning to diversify their student body, now the restricted numbers of study permits and hence the provincial attestations will force institutions to rely on countries with higher visa approval rates and demand like India and impact enrolment from markets like Africa where approval rates are much lower than other markets.

Looking ahead, the international education industry faces uncertainty, but we must plan beyond the short term. The temporary measures will impact institution budgets, potentially leading to program and workforce cuts, and a dent in Canada’s reputation.

However, these challenges don’t have to be permanent.

The demand is likely to move from PPPs to Public and from other programs to masters.

Despite limited availability in Ontario and BC in the coming years, Canada remains appealing to international students. Institutions must prioritise attracting students aligned with industry needs, emphasising the crucial match between the labor market and program offerings.

This strategic alignment, practiced by many, requires universal recognition of its heightened importance.

Most importantly, student recruitment practices need a paradigm shift. While tech platforms in this industry have made processes for intermediaries more efficient and use of data more prevalent, most haven’t solved problems or pain points in the industry. Technology works best when it creates value for the end user – students and institutions.

As the international student numbers have grown, the gap between institutions and students has widened.

Many institutions have relied exclusively on agents and tech platforms for student recruitment, inadvertently severing the direct line of communication.

Significantly, the authenticity and accuracy of information used in promotional activities to potential students have come under intense questioning. The growing gap has exacerbated this challenge.

“It is essential for institutions to have a direct line of communication with applicants”

If institutions aim to attract well-informed, right-fit students in a market where Canada isn’t the necessarily the first choice for agents and students, it is essential for institutions to have a direct line of communication with applicants and complete control over the content and the message being shared.

The cost of student recruitment in this industry is already high, ranging between 20-30% for most institutions.

Institutions will face budget constraints on one hand and even higher costs on the other hand due to significant compliance demands from IRCC and provincial governments agents will also be seeking higher compensation in a more competitive market, and institutions without direct recruitment channels may have no option but to spend more.

Institutions must explore more efficient recruitment strategies, recognising that reliance exclusively on agents cannot be the solution. It’s time for institutions to reassess their student recruitment channels and strategies, moving away from outsourcing towards insourcing student recruitment.

About the author: This is a sponsored post by Saurabh Malhotra, Founder and CEO of Student Direct. Saurabh is an international education professional with over 14 years of expertise. He has built dynamic teams and innovative channels to attract students from over 100 countries to Canadian institutions. Saurabh’s commitment to revolutionising student recruitment has driven the creation of Student Direct, empowering institutions to establish direct connections with international students and building a direct recruitment channel.


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