Expert opinion mixed on changes to N.S. student immigration program

One small point in this article struck me: “He says familiarity with the local economy allows greater success opening businesses such as restaurants and grocers stores.”

Highlights that for some, study is mainly an immigration pathway to relatively lower skilled jobs, rather than building an innovation economy:

Immigration experts in Nova Scotia have mixed views about how changes to a fast-track program for international students will affect over-all immigration.

Last week, the province disqualified students who studied outside the province from applying to the Nova Scotia Experience: Express Entry (NSEEE) immigration stream.

It was a shock to hundreds of foreign students who had already moved to Nova Scotia and worked for months toward the program’s one-year employment target. It offered the chance to apply for permanent residency after 12 months rather than the usual two years.

People have come here on the understanding that this program is available to them,” said Elizabeth Wozniak of North Star Immigration Law in Halifax, “To have that program pulled out from under them midway through doesn’t seem fair at all.”

On Thursday Labour, Skills and Immigration Minister Jill Balser announced a record boost in Nova Scotia’s immigration allocation from the federal government — 400 new spots for the provincial nominee program, and an extra 1,173 spaces under the Atlantic Immigration Program.

Wozniak thinks restricting the NSEEE could make it more challenging to fill those new spots.

Still a draw for students

“The changes to this program … really are going to make it the least attractive of the immigration programs, whereas in the past it was one of the ones that was the most popular,” she said.

But an immigration lawyer in Bridgewater believes Nova Scotia officials will still be able to fill the province’s expanded allocation.

“I don’t recall them ever falling below their quotas or allocations, so I expect that they will meet that,” said David Nurse of McInnes Cooper.

Nurse says the top tiers of Canadian student immigrants are graduating with master’s and PhD degrees, and usually find work right away in their chosen fields.

He says students in Nova Scotia’s immigration streams play an important role in local labour markets while upgrading their language and employment skills.

“They are adding to the labour market. They’re contributing here in Nova Scotia,” he said.

Support from a former student worker

Samual Shaji came to Nova Scotia from southern India to study.

He graduated from Cape Breton University in 2020 with a degree in environmental science.

Then he secured a job managing a McDonald’s restaurant in Bedford, and was able to apply for permanent residency after 12-months thanks to the NSEEE.

But Shaji says many international students in Nova Scotia aren’t so fortunate.

He says it’s difficult to get restaurant jobs in smaller communities such as Sydney and Antigonish, and that lack of experience means students from elsewhere often get hired first after graduation.

“There is a McDonalds and a Tim Horton’s in every street in Toronto or Edmonton, so they have more experience in that job,” Shaji said, “Employers tend to hire them.”

‘They know the market of Nova Scotia’

“A lot of international students are moving from county to county because they cannot get into any job that will help them in immigration,” he said.

While Shaji sympathizes with the struggle of all international students in Canada, he thinks focusing the fast track on Nova Scotia students will lead to more graduates sticking around.

He says familiarity with the local economy allows greater success opening businesses such as restaurants and grocers stores.

Source: Expert opinion mixed on changes to N.S. student immigration program

The UK has a new open-door immigration policy – as long as you went to Harvard

Sharp and witty critique (and it is a lazy policy approach by the UK government):

Ever hoped that one day a government body would develop a way for you to measure your self-worth and quantify your potential once and for all? Well, you’re in luck!

The UK recently launched a “High Potential Individual” (HPI) visa aimed at attracting the “brightest and best” from around the world to its soggy shores. If you qualify under the scheme you are welcomed into the country for at least two years, even if you don’t have a job offer.

So who counts as the brightest and best? According to the British government, an HPI is someone who has graduated from a top-50 ranked university outside of the UK in the past five years. You can see the list of the 37 eligible universities here. Twenty-four of the universities listed are in North America, and include institutions like Yale, Harvard, and MIT. None of the eligible universities are in Africa, India, or Latin America. It seems there are officially no bright people in any of those places, then!

Source: The UK has a new open-door immigration policy – as long as you went to Harvard

Quebec closes immigration pathway offered by unsubsidized private colleges

Overdue. Federal government should consider same given similar abuse occurring elsewhere in Canada:

Quebec is planning to close a pathway to immigration available to international students who attend unsubsidized private colleges.

The new rules, announced Tuesday by the provincial government in collaboration with Ottawa, will go into effect for those enrolling after September 2023. 

Only those who have completed a study program in a public or subsidized private college will be able to get a work permit. 

The possibility of a work permit was a major selling point for unsubsidized colleges, which charge as much as $25,000 annually in tuition. 

In Quebec, the number of students from India in particular has skyrocketed, from 2,686 in 2017-2018 to 14,712 two years later. Most of them attend private, non-subsidized colleges.

Reporting by CBC News has shed light on poor management at some of the colleges. In the case of three colleges that suddenly shut down last year, many students have still not had their tuition reimbursed and others were left in legal limbo.

A 2021 report by Quebec’s Ministry of Higher Education revealed shortcomings around recruitment, commercial practices, governance and teaching conditions at 10 private colleges.

Changes meant to address ‘integrity issues’

Quebec Labour Minister Jean Boulet and Ottawa Immigration Minister Sean Fraser said in a joint statement the change aimed to “address gaps brought to light” by the investigation regarding “certain unsubsidized private colleges.”

According to the statement, it will “ensure that Quebec is not used as a gateway for settling permanently in Canada. In the other provinces, international students who have followed an unsubsidized program of study generally do not have access to this work permit.”

In an interview, Boulet said there were issues with the “integrity” of the system.

“We will harmonize with what is done everywhere else in Canada,” he said. 

“Unsubsidized private schools used this post-graduation work permit to recruit [and] attract people who benefited from our school system, then went elsewhere in Canada,” he said.

He added that “international students are a tremendous assets socially, culturally and economically for Quebec society as a whole.”

‘We did nothing wrong,’ college head says

Private colleges were quick to denounce the decision. The National Association of Career Colleges issued a statement saying it was disappointed by the decision, arguing such colleges play an important role in the province and the country as a whole.

“Our industry has, for many months, tried to engage the Quebec government to understand their questions or concerns pertaining to the post-graduate work permit and find workable solutions together,” said Michael Sangster, the CEO of the association.

Michael McAllister, director general of Herzing College in Montreal, said his institution, which was founded in 1968, is among those being punished for the problems at a select number of colleges. 

“We did nothing wrong and we’re getting penalized,” he said. McAllister would have liked to work with the provincial government to come up with a plan that helps meet the province’s labour shortage and recruit more international students who speak French.

Harleen Kaur, who is originally from India, has been advocating on behalf of students and said she feels international students are also being blamed for the poorly run colleges. 

She said the province could have instead made sure colleges are better regulated instead.

“I think the government needs to communicate with the colleges and look deeper into this,” she said.

The change comes more than a year after the release of the province’s report on the private colleges and only days before the National Assembly session wraps up for the summer ahead of the Oct. 3 election.  

Martin Maltais, an expert in higher education policy and a professor at Université du Québec à Rimouski, said the move was a simpler, quicker way to address the problems with unsubsidized private colleges, in lieu of more complicated legislative reforms.

“That’s probably the fastest way to act and and have results,” he said. 

Source: Quebec closes immigration pathway offered by unsubsidized private colleges

And in Le Devoir, with more emphasis on the hardship of students:

Plus de 500 étudiants originaires de l’Inde, qui ont payé jusqu’à 15 000 $ pour faire des études au Québec, affirment avoir été floués à cause de la « négligence » des gouvernements du Québec et du Canada. Ayant épuisé leurs recours juridiques et politiques, leurs avocats tentent désormais d’alerter l’opinion publique sur cette situation qu’ils estiment révoltante.

Ces 502 jeunes Indiens regrettent amèrement d’avoir fait confiance aux publicités décrivant le Canada comme un paradis pour les étudiants étrangers. Ils ont payé à l’avance leur première année de scolarisation au Québec, comme l’exige Ottawa — même si cela contrevient à la Loi québécoise sur l’enseignement privé —, mais le gouvernement fédéral a refusé de leur accorder un permis d’études.

Pour comble d’insulte, il leur est impossible d’obtenir un remboursement : trois collèges privés où ils s’étaient inscrits n’ont plus aucune liquidité et se sont placés sous la protection de la Loi sur les arrangements avec les créanciers des compagnies.

« Immigration Canada a détruit mon avenir. Je me demande pourquoi j’ai choisi le Canada pour faire mes études », dit en soupirant Nisha Jindal, une étudiante de 28 ans qui s’était inscrite en éducation à la petite enfance au Collège M, ayant pignon sur rue à Montréal.

Elle a accordé une entrevue au Devoir depuis la ville de Badhni Kalan, au Pendjab, dans le nord de l’Inde. Cette dynamique jeune femme affirme que son rêve d’étudier et de s’établir au Québec a viré au cauchemar dans des circonstances obscures.

En novembre 2020, Nisha Jindal a commencé ses études en ligne après avoir payé à l’avance la somme de 14 852 $. Il s’agit d’une facture considérable pour une famille indienne : son frère a réhypothéqué l’appartement familial pour permettre à la jeune femme de venir étudier à Montréal.

Dix mois plus tard, en août 2021, un gros nuage a assombri l’avenir de Mme Jindal : Immigration, Réfugiés et Citoyenneté Canada a refusé de lui accorder le visa qui devait lui permettre de venir faire à Montréal son stage d’éducatrice à la petite enfance.

Raison invoquée : son parcours scolaire en Inde ne lui permettrait pas de mener des études collégiales au Québec. En vertu d’un système mis en place par le Canada en raison de la pandémie, la jeune femme avait pourtant eu l’autorisation de commencer ses études à distance — ce qu’elle a fait avec assiduité, tous les jours de 15 h à 2 h, à cause du décalage horaire entre l’Inde et Montréal. Elle avait aussi obtenu son certificat d’acceptation du Québec.

« J’ai accepté de payer à l’avance ma scolarité parce que je faisais confiance aux gouvernements du Québec et du Canada. Je le regrette tellement ! Tout le monde nous a abandonnés », laisse tomber Nisha Jindal. Elle reproche à Québec de l’avoir mise en lien avec un établissement qui n’a pas livré les services pour lesquels elle avait payé.

Elle et 501 autres étudiants ne peuvent ni terminer leurs études ni se faire rembourser les milliers de dollars payés à l’avance. L’entreprise Rising Phoenix International, qui possède le Collège M, le Collège de l’Estrie et le Collège de comptabilité et de secrétariat du Québec, à Longueuil et à Sherbrooke, s’est placée sous la protection de la Loi sur les arrangements avec les créanciers des compagnies.

Les dirigeants de Rising Phoenix font face à des accusations de fraude et d’abus de confiance en lien avec le recrutement d’étudiants étrangers.

Une entreprise de Toronto, Cestar, a offert de racheter les collèges de Rising Phoenix, non sans controverse. Selon nos sources, une décision du ministère de l’Enseignement supérieur du Québec est attendue d’ici la fin du mois de juin.

Alain N. Tardif, avocat chez McCarthy Tétrault, estime que cette histoire entache la réputation du Canada dans le monde. « Le gouvernement oblige les étudiants étrangers à payer une année de scolarité à l’avance et, quand tout s’écroule, il ne répond pas », dit-il.

La firme d’avocats a eu le mandat de représenter les étudiants indiens touchés par la restructuration de Rising Phoenix International en vertu de la Loi sur les arrangements avec les créanciers. Les avocats ont tenté en vain de forcer Ottawa et Québec à prolonger les visas ou les certificats d’acceptation pour des centaines d’étudiants indiens inscrits dans les collèges de Rising Phoenix. La Cour supérieure du Québec a refusé cette demande.

À défaut d’accorder ou de prolonger les permis d’études, les gouvernements devraient rembourser les étudiants indiens pour des cours qu’ils n’ont pas obtenus, fait valoir Alain N. Tardif. « Pour les étudiants indiens et leurs familles, c’est une tragédie de perdre 15 000 $. Ils vivent beaucoup de détresse », dit-il.

La facture totale réclamée par les 502 étudiants s’élève à 7,5 millions de dollars. Une somme considérable pour les étudiants de l’Inde — où le salaire annuel moyen est estimé à 2434 $ —, mais plutôt anecdotique pour le gouvernement d’un pays riche comme le Canada, fait valoir l’avocat.

Plus de permis de travail postdiplôme

Interrogé sur le sort de ces 500 étudiants laissés à eux-mêmes, Immigration, Réfugiés et Citoyenneté Canada n’a pas répondu aux questions du Devoir. Sans commenter l’octroi des permis d’études, qui est une compétence fédérale, le ministre de l’Immigration, Jean Boulet, a toutefois donné plus de détails sur une nouvelle mesure négociée avec son homologue fédéral, Sean Fraser, qui coupera l’herbe sous le pied aux 49 collèges privés non subventionnés du Québec.

En date du 1er septembre 2023, le permis de travail postdiplôme ne sera désormais octroyé qu’aux étudiants issus des collèges subventionnés. Jusqu’ici, les étudiants de collèges privés non subventionnés avaient droit à ce permis de travail après avoir effectué de très courtes formations d’environ 900 heures, comme des attestations d’études collégiales (AEC) ou des diplômes d’études professionnelles (DEP), pouvant coûter jusqu’à 25 000 $.

Des médias, dont Le Devoir, avaient d’ailleurs révélé les nombreux problèmes liés à la piètre qualité des formations dans ces collèges de même que leurs stratagèmes douteux concernant le recrutement, ce qu’avait confirmé le ministère de l’Enseignement supérieur au terme d’une enquête qui avait mis au ban dix collèges, en majorité anglophones.

En entrevue, le ministre Boulet n’a pas nié l’impact de sa décision sur ces collèges. Mais il estime que « ça s’imposait ». « On ne pouvait pas tolérer ce type de stratagème permettant à une personne d’arriver au Québec et, après une formation de courte durée, d’avoir un accès automatique à un permis de travail », a soutenu le ministre, en soulignant que bon nombre de ces étudiants s’en allaient en Ontario ou ailleurs au Canada. Selon lui, il ne s’agit pas de punir les collèges anglophones. « C’est le stratagème qui est visé. » Il a par ailleurs rappelé que le Québec est la seule province canadienne qui permet l’accès au permis de travail postdiplôme au terme d’un programme non subventionné.

Source: «Tout le monde nous a abandonnés»

U.K.’s ‘Brightest and Best’ Visa Plan Faces Charges of Elitism

The English “public school” insularity! No surprise that Canada’s big three (UBC, McGill Toronto) are on the list:

When Britain started a program this week offering a two-year visa to graduates from some top global universities, Nikhil Mane, an Indian computer science student at New York University, welcomed the news.

“I was happy,” said Mr. Mane, 23, whose university was on the list. “It’s a good way to pursue our dreams.”

More than 5,000 miles away, Adeola Adepoju, 22, a biochemistry student at Olabisi Onabanjo University in Nigeria, also read the announcement with great interest. But he had the opposite reaction.

“I couldn’t believe my eyes,” Mr. Adepoju said. “No university from the third world is ranked.”

Britain’s “High Potential Individual” visa program allows graduates from 37 top-rated world universities in Australia, Canada, China, Europe, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore and the United States to come to the country for two years even if they do not have a job offer.

A majority of universities on the list are in the United States, including Harvard University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of California, San Diego.

The government said the plan would attract the world’s “brightest and best” and benefit the British economy. Critics, however, say the plan nurtures global inequalities and discriminates against most developing countries.

The purpose of the policy is to create “a highly desirable and able pool of mobile talent from which U.K. employers can recruit” and drive economic growth and technological advances, the government said in its announcement. It did not put a cap on the number of applicants who would be accepted, and said that graduates with Ph.D.s would be allowed to stay for three years.

“We want the businesses of tomorrow to be built here today,” Rishi Sunak, the British chancellor of the Exchequer, said in a statement. “Come and join in!”

The program is in line with Britain’s post-Brexit visa policy, which has made entry easier for high-skilled workers and harder for those considered low-skilled ones, as well as asylum seekers. Visa pathways include a skilled worker visa for people who have received a job offer in Britain, a visa for people considered a “leader or potential leader” in certain fields, and a program to allow international students who graduated from British universities to stay for at least two years.

Mr. Mane, the New York University student, said that after he graduates with a master’s degree, he will be allowed to stay in the United States for three years. After that, his prospects of getting another visa are uncertain.

The opportunity to go to Britain “opens more options,” he said.

The new British visa has been praised in some academic circles in the United States as one to emulate. But many academics, students and politicians in Britain, Africa and India have spoken out against it, saying that the universities that students attend are largely influenced by their social and geographical circumstances, and that the new scheme rewards those who are already more privileged.

“I would not be eligible,” said Deepti Gurdasani, a clinical epidemiologist and a senior lecturer in machine learning at Queen Mary University of London, who went to a university in India that is not on the list. “It is very hurtful to find that you’re devalued and that people within your community are devalued because of arbitrary thresholds.”

Dr. Gurdasani said that as a student, she got one of seven spots to study medicine at Christian Medical College in Vellore, India, for which thousands of students competed. There, she received what she said was rigorous training, seeing patients with very complex illnesses, including infectious diseases, and building expertise that she then brought to Britain.

“We’ve seen the lack of this in the U.K. during the Covid pandemic,” she said, “It’s very, very shocking to see that after that we are seeing the same sort of names, the same universities pop up, which will favor obviously a particular kind of privileged white person.”

Madeleine Sumption, the director of the University of Oxford’s Migration Observatory, which tracks immigration patterns, said the new policy was an innovative idea, but with drawbacks.

“How do you decide who the highly skilled people are?” she asked, adding that the current policy would admit someone who just scraped through Harvard but not the highest achieving students at a top Indian university.

Introducing other criteria for assessing applicants, such as grades, would be fair, she said, but much harder to enforce“It’s very convenient for the government to just have an institution be on the list or not.”

Britain’s Home Office said the list had been compiled from leading global university ranking lists, and that new international institutions could move up the ranks and later join the list.

However, university rankings are widely criticized in many quarters, with critics saying they often fail to grasp the quality of teaching and often overemphasize research over instruction.

Phil Baty, who is responsible for developing the methodology of the Times Higher Education World University Rankings, which is among those the British government used, said in a post on LinkedIn that “this isn’t what we had in mind when creating the rankings.”

Zubaida Haque, the executive director of Equality Trust, a British charity, said that in offering the new visa, the British government failed to grasp that race, class and financial barriers prevented many deserving students from reaching top universities.

2017 study of Ivy League colleges, as well as institutions like the University of Chicago, Stanford, MIT and Duke, most of which are on the British visa list, showed that more students came from families in the top 1 percent of income distribution in the United States than the bottom half.

“This scheme shows that the government does not understand the systemic racial and class inequality in this country and they clearly do not understand it anywhere else,” Ms. Haque said. “It’s an elitist visa scheme.”

She added that the program gave an unfair advantage to those who needed it the least. “There is likely to be a good pipeline for these graduates anyway,” she said.

Christopher Trisos, a senior researcher at the African Climate and Development Initiative at the University of Cape Town, said that the program was also detrimental to Britain itself.

“If U.K. businesses and governments want to play a role in addressing the biggest challenges of this century — energy access, fighting climate change and pandemics — they need to be including skills and knowledge from developing countries,” he said.

Mr. Adepoju, the student from Nigeria, said he hoped to become a researcher in molecular oncology.

“I might not get a degree in the 50 top universities but I have high potential and I want to achieve great things,” he said. But, he added, “It’s their loss, not mine.”

Source: U.K.’s ‘Brightest and Best’ Visa Plan Faces Charges of Elitism

Canada’s exploitation of Punjabi international students is history repeating itself

Governments should crack down on private college student international student recruitment given a number of articles and investigations highlighting the exploitation and abuse, and the minimum benefit to the economy and society:

Canada has a decades-old tradition of exploiting Punjab’s working class. The latest example of this comes by way of international students.

Canadian schools, partnering with a shady recruitment industry, allure youth from working-class farming families. Demand has been cultivated by urban centres and television littered with advertisements to go abroad via a study visa.

As a community volunteer, I have seen the result of such perverse marketing where many come to Canada with no understanding of what awaits and hope it will work out. Sadly, many face grave hardships and encounter shameless people aiming to exploit their vulnerability.

The problems include an unscrupulous and untrustworthy private college industry swindling foreign students across Canada. Rampant labour exploitation of international students. Sex traffickers preying on female international students aware they are financially vulnerable. A concerning number of international student suicides with deaths occurring monthly. Finally, a Statistics Canada studyfound international student graduates have relatively worse economic outcomes.

While volunteers try to help as much as possible, we cannot match the volume of students being churned through the system.

We receive messages from students stating they don’t want to live anymore, and while we feel compelled to take action, it is discouraging that politicians feel no such obligation.

In fact, politicians like MP Sukh Dhaliwal and minister Marco Mendicino do not seem to think anything is wrong with the international student program.

Politicians do not feel compelled to fix this mess because international education is very lucrative. International students are charged nearly five times higher tuition, bring in over $20 billion, and have allowed provincial governments to decreasetheir proportion of higher education funding.

In one honest conversation, an elected official acknowledged to me the unwillingness to fix this problem is because the economy and many jobs are dependent on the status quo.

What does this say about those in power? I interpret inaction to mean that in order to generate wealth for Canada, politicians tacitly accept migrant suicides and Punjabi migrant women being trafficked.

Adding to my frustration is this exploitation follows a similar pattern from over a century ago.

After British colonization of Punjab in 1858, Punjab’s fertile lands were used to produce cash crops for export. In the succeeding decades, British management of agriculture to increase production also led to land values, prices of basic goods, and taxes all increasing. It also resulted in repeated famines and many modest Punjabi farmers accumulating debt.

For many struggling farmers emigration was the best option to improve economic fortunes.

At the same time, newspapers were filled with job ads from Canadian companies and labour contractors who were recruiting in Punjab.

In the 1900s Punjabi migrant workers started arriving in Canada and would experience significant hardships. They were paid less for equal work and often victims of abuse and discrimination. This easy to exploit labour was lucrative for the lumber industry.

Fast forward to the 1960s green revolution, which was initiated to boost global agricultural production. Decades later, many found the green revolution benefitted multinational corporations pushing chemical pesticides more than farmers in places like Punjab.

In Punjab, long-term pesticide use has led to environmental degradation resulting in stagnating agricultural production. This disproportionately affects modest farmers who are accumulating debt to stay afloat. For these struggling families emigration is the best option to improve economic fortunes, and a student visa is the best path to emigrate.

Sadly, like their predecessors, this generation of Punjabi migrants also face serious hardships and exploitation in Canada.

Throughout the last century Punjabi Canadians have mobilized and began a tradition of activism. Prominent fights include advocating for equal pay in the 1940s and farm workers advocating for better work conditions in the 1980s. And today, community advocates and students are fighting against the economic exploitation of international students.

Ironically, Canadian politicians will celebrate Punjabi migrants who struggled for equality and dignity in the past, but neglect the indignity Punjabi migrants experience today.

Municipal, provincial, and federal politicians showed concern for farmers during India’s farmer protest, but they have no concern for the children of these farmers suffering in Canada.

It seems that in politics the profits made off the vulnerable count, while the pain experienced by them does not.

Balraj S. Kahlon is a member of One Voice Canada and the author of The Realities of International Students: Evidenced Challenges.

Source: Canada’s exploitation of Punjabi international students is history repeating itself

The Reckoning: International Student Enrolment

Another possible indicator that housing may prove to be the canary in the coal mine with respect to current high levels of immigration, with Alex Usher’s take on international students:

I am calling it now: Canadian post-secondary institutions are very close to the end of the road on international student number growth.  It’s not because demand is going to dry up or anything like that.  There is still room for hundreds of thousands more international students if we wanted them, and probably demand to match as well.  It is simply that too many institutions have become too greedy, and they are imposing intolerable externalities on their surrounding communities.  A backlash is building.

I want to be clear about what’s not going to drive the backlash.  First, it’s not going to be about foreign students “taking spots from deserving Canadian students”.  This is a talking point in some places, but there are no post-secondary institutes and only a very few faculties nationally where one can genuinely point to domestic student numbers falling for any reasons other than demographics.  The spaces being taken up by international students are all spaces that exist only because international students are there, paying full freight for them.  The counter-factual to spots taken up by international students is – given current government funding practices – no spots at all, not spots taken up by domestic students.

Nor is it going to be from all those recent stories in outlets like The Walrus, the Toronto Starthe Globe and Mail etc.  about the exploitation faced by international students in the local labour market, about the incredible hardship many endure since tuition fees here are sometimes many times their parents annual income back in their home country (which, in these stories, is usually India, most often Punjab).  Clearly, we all decided in that very passive-aggressive Canadian way of ours – which is to say, we never had a discussion and agreed to a thing, we all went around self-interestedly and created a situation, then called it a consensus – that we were OK with creating a new class of immigrants who could evade the whole points-based immigration system simply by coming to Canada, paying some money to support our post-secondary system and gutting it out in low-wage jobs for a few years.   Exploitation?  Maybe.  But many ethnic groups who have immigrated to Canada over the past 150-odd years followed similar, gruelling, dues-paying periods in their history, so not many people are too fussed about it.  

No, the blowback is going to be about housing, and the way that some institutions have been packing in students without regard to local housing supply, which contributes to the steep rise in housing costs not just for international students but for all renters and first-time home buyers.  I discussed this a few weeks ago in the context of some new reports from my colleague Mike Moffatt at the Institute for Smart Prosperity: we are letting in hundreds of thousands of students, and not building any new housing.  Combined with a variety of other factors that are taking low-income housing off the market, it does not take a degree in economics to realize that there will be a shortage of spaces for anyone looking for low-rent housing.  This is, in effect, an externality that institutions are imposing on their neighbours: universities and colleges gain from tuitions, while local tenants are effectively paying a tax through higher housing costs.  

I suppose one could argue that the pros of having a thriving post-secondary institution in the neighbourhood outweighs the cons of these kinds of externalities, and on aggregate that’s true.  But rents aren’t paid on aggregate: they are paid by a very specific sector of the population – one which has a large overlap with the most vulnerable sector.  It is becoming an issue that politicians are hearing on doorsteps when they talk to voters.  In some communities, politicians are starting to relay those concerns to university and college leaders.  

Now, you might ask why opprobrium would rain on universities and colleges when they are far from the only culprits here. Long-term NIMBY-ism run amok leading to a catastrophic failure to build, the financialization of the housing market, the accumulated 30-year impact of the federal government leaving the affordable housing market and provinces failing to pick up the baton: there are indeed all sorts of supply-side issues that we can and should worry about at least as much as educational institutions juicing demand.  

But here’s the difference: none of the other players in this field spend their time shouting at the top of their lungs about how much they benefit the community.  And not just in financial terms; institutions are increasingly using communications tools like the UN Sustainable Development Goals to articulate not just how research and its dissemination helps to improve the world, but also how their local community benefits directly through more concrete actions (purchasing) and co-creation of knowledge.  Colleges have always anchored their value-proposition in terms of their value to local communities, but for many universities this is a more recent shift, one accelerated by COVID but in a larger sense driven by the dawning realization that all the money and research invested in higher education (worldwide, not just in Canada) isn’t exactly leading to the paradise of economic prosperity we all thought it would 30 years ago and that alternative ways of explaining value propositions to voters are needed.

This “good neighbour” policy makes eminent sense; it’s also why the international student/rental housing policy nexus is so deadly. Some institutions – and there’s no way to put this politely – are clearly acting as “bad neighbours”.  And once they get that labelled with that tag, it’s going to be hard to shed.  There are, of course, many institutions who are doing their best to get housing efforts started in their communities – though universities in Nova Scotia seem significantly more seized of this issue than those anywhere else – but new housing takes time to come on-stream.  It can take years, decades even, given the inanities of planning and land-use in this country’s big cities.   But those international students are showing up now, and in growing numbers, year after year.   Institutions that continue to pile pressure on local housing markets by adding more students are playing with fire.

So here’s my call: the international student market is not headed for a “bust” of any kind – remember, demand is still strong – but institutions will stop growing if they wish to maintain good community relations.  That’s a big problem, because international student dollars have essentially been the sole source of increased funding in Canadian post-secondary education since about 2015, and I don’t see governments lining up to backfill.  To some extent, institutions can mitigate this by upgrading services and charging higher fees to international students, but increasingly aggressive cost-containment strategies will need to be part of the solution as well.  At some institutions at least, this will come as a shock.

But this is the path we have been on since at least 2008 when provinces stopped increasing funding in real terms, but institutions kept on increasing spending by 2% per year after inflation.  For a long time, we used international students as a get-out-of-jail free card.  No more.  The reckoning is at hand.   

Source: The Reckoning

Working long hours. Earning meagre wages. Fainting from exhaustion. What some international students face in Canada

The Globe also did a similar analysis with respect to Brampton (Canada’s international student recruiting machine is broken). More a cheap labour program than an education one.

So much abuse, so little action by governments:

Each year, thousands of international students come to Canada. Despite the fact that many are from modest backgrounds, they pay hefty tuition fees for the chance not just to study in this country but, potentially, to start a life here. Yet the realities of their decision can stand in stark contrast to the dream. They face difficult challenges, unforgiving timelines and social isolation, and are often prone to exploitation by employers and others. In a new series, Hard Lessons, we look at whether Canada is living up to its bargain with these students.

After being let go from her part-time job at Walmart, Satinder Kaur Grewal says she felt lucky to be hired at a local restaurant in June 2020, working as server, cook, cleaner and cashier. She needed money for food and rent, and many other international students had lost their jobs during the pandemic.

The deal, according to a complaint she filed with the Ministry of Labour, was she would be paid $60 a day by the Brampton restaurant regardless of the hours she worked. After six weeks, she got a raise to $80 for a 10-hour day, $100 for 12 hours and $116 for 14 hours, but the hourly rate would still be much lower than the $14 Ontario legal minimum wage.

Grewal said she would start at 9 or 10 a.m. and sometimes worked until midnight, without a day off. Twice, she said, she fainted from exhaustion — once in the washroom and another time, behind the counter — during her six months working there.

“I got home from work and slept on my bed. I did nothing else. Just sleep, shower and work. No cooking. No cleaning. My body was dead. I wasn’t able to do anything else,” said the 22-year-old Brampton woman, who came to Canada in 2018 and graduated from CDI College in December 2020 with a diploma in web design.

“I called my family in India many times. I told them, ‘I can’t survive like this here.’ And my family said this is a stage of life and just to tolerate it a bit longer and the future will be better.”

Sarom Rho of Migrant Students United said international students have become the largest group of temporary migrant workers in Canada, with 778,560 study-permit holders and postgraduate-work permit holders in the country in 2021 alone.

Many of them are stocking shelves in grocery stores, handling packages at warehouses, cleaning offices and buildings, working in food service and making deliveries.

International students pay three, four times more in tuition fees than their domestic peers and contribute $22 billion a year to the Canadian economy. With the tuition fees skyrocketing across Canada, she said Ottawa needs to at least remove the 20-hour work limit for international students, to ease the risk of them being taken advantage of by employers.

“This is a cash grab, where people are called to show up with the promise of permanent residency. And when they come here, they find that it’s a landmine filled with exploitation and abuse and really lack of dignity,” said Rho. “So many workers will say that this has been such a humiliating experience. The way to reclaim that dignity is to come together and organize to fight for the necessary changes to the rules that cause these conditions in the first place.”

When Grewal finally quit her job at Chat Hut on Christmas Day in 2020, she said she would’ve worked a total of 1,844 hours. Based on the legal minimum wage, she should have earned a total of $32,782.82 in regular pay plus overtime, public holiday and vacation pay. However, she only got paid $14,356.40.

The Star reached out to Chat Hut’s owners, who declined to comment on Grewal’s complaint when reached by phone or respond to the Star’s email request about the allegations.

In Chat Hut’s response to the provincial government’s employment standards officer in charge of the case, the employer said Grewal worked 1,704.50 hours for the employer, including 576.75 hours of overtime. 

The restaurant said Grewal “consistently confirmed that she wanted to work the hours she did work” and she was given time off whenever she required a break, according to the labour ministry’s reasons for decision dated Feb. 10, 2022. 

In February, Chat Hut agreed to pay Grewal $16,495.29.

Grewal’s experience might not have come to light if not for an Instagram post she came across last year about the launch of Naujawan Support Network, a support group to help international students and workers facing workplace exploitation.

She reached out to the organizers, who assisted her in trying to recoup her owed wages and filing a complaint against the employer with the Ontario labour ministry. 

Naujawan, a Brampton-based advocacy group, was formed in 2021 initially to support farmers’ protests in India last year, but organizers began to shift its focus after hearing from participating international students and workers about incidents of alleged exploitation by employers right in their own backyard.

“When students and workers know that they need permanent residence, they are at the mercy of their employers. Not only do many not know about their rights, but those rights are often actively denied to them,” said Simran Dhunna, of Naujawan.

“There are obviously a whole range of barriers that are related to not knowing about your rights, about the language and about being new to the country. The biggest, most critical factor that makes international students vulnerable is their immigration status.”

Dhunna said many international students are forced to work for cash only and under minimum wage because of restrictive immigration rules — the rules that stipulate students may work no more than 20 hours off-campus during school and limit access to permanent residence (PR) with stringent criteria and timelines.

“The employer could simply be like, well, ‘You’re working (extra hours) illegally, so if you actually work for $8 an hour, we won’t report you and we’ll give you an employment reference letter for your PR,’” she explained, speaking generally about the concerns she sees.

“So all sorts of rights from the minimum wage, overtime, vacation pay, employment reference letters for PR and just basic respect and dignity are denied to international students because of this.”

Grewal, whose father is a bus driver, said her parents helped cover her tuition — more than $23,000 over two years — but she had to make money for other necessities.

While she expected to work hard in Canada to support herself, she didn’t anticipate it to be this hard.

“When I was in India, when our relatives came to visit from Canada, they are showing their clothes and pictures in their mobile phones of their cars, the fancy restaurants and malls and everything. So we thought like, oh, it’s so easy there,” Grewal said.

“When I came to here and found out my auntie was working as a cleaner at a hotel, I was shocked. I was like ‘you guys showed me all these pictures but you never told me you were a cleaner.’ People back home only see our lifestyle. They don’t see our struggles.”

Grewal said she knew about Ontario’s minimum wage but said she realized the stakes would have been even higher for her if she didn’t have a job, given her precarious status.

“It’s like there’s a noose around our necks, whether we work or whether we don’t work. There’s no financial support,” she said. “I needed money and I didn’t have money to hire a lawyer to help me.”

Naujawan Support Network worked with Grewal and helped her draft a letter to Chat Hut’s owners in November to urge them to return the owed wages in November. Instead, her former employer threatened to take legal action against her, they alleged.

Chat Hut said its lawyer only sent a letter to Naujawan Support Network to ask them to stop “harassing” the owner after they were “vexatiously” calling the restaurant and the owners as well as other employees and people linked to the company.

“None of the employer’s actions form reprisal,” said the ministry’s reason of decision, citing Chat Hut’s position.

“The Company did not intend to intimidate, dismiss or otherwise penalize or threaten to intimidate, dismiss or otherwise penalize the employee. The employer took the claimant’s representative’s actions as harassment and intended for that harassment to stop. However, it was willing to listen to the claimant.”

Despite an order against Chat Hut to pay back Grewal’s owed wages, the ministry sided with the employer in denying the complainant’s claim of reprisal.

Source: Working long hours. Earning meagre wages. Fainting from exhaustion. What some international students face in Canada

Qadeer: Student immigration visas are a money-making business

More and more articles on the questionable practices and policies with respect to international students. Given the public and private interests at play, hard to see any major reform being possible:

Both Canada and the U.S. have a paradoxical history of immigration. They depend on immigrants to people Indigenous lands and fuel economic growth but simultaneously discriminate against new arrivals by treating them as racially and ethnically inferior. Civil rights and human rights movements, as well as economic imperatives, have helped reduce overt discrimination, but treating immigrants unequally always courses just below the surface.

In the 21st century, immigration has been turned into a money-making business in Canada. It has been put on sale, though the rhetoric remains of economic growth and humanitarian interests. The use of immigration as a source of financial gain has permeated into business, the labour force, housing and now education.

Canadian colleges and universities are increasingly dependent on international student fees as a major source of tuition revenue. A Statistic Canada study prior to COVID shows that in 2017-18, almost 24 per cent of new enrolments in universities were by international students. In colleges, it was slightly more than 16 per cent.

In eight years, the enrolment of international students in universities has nearly doubled. At the college level, it’s about tripled. The revenue from international student fees in universities and degree-granting colleges was $12.7 billion in 2019-20. According to Global Affairs Canada, international students spent $22.3 billion in 2018 on tuition, accommodation and discretionary expenditures. China is the leading source of international students in universities while India dominates college enrolees.

In Ontario, with about 280,000 international students, the situation has been alarming enough to come to the notice of the provincial auditor general, whose 2021 audit report observed that Ontario colleges were more and more reliant on tuition revenue from international students – 68 per cent of fee revenue for colleges. Should enrolment drop for any reason, these institutions would be in a precarious position.

The Globe and Mail has published several investigative reportsabout the malpractices and consequences of what it calls the “international student recruiting machine.” An industry of recruiting students abroad has coalesced. It includes immigrant and educational consultants (sometimes working on commission for private colleges), tuition centres to help potential students cram to qualify for the English test and post-secondary admission offices.

The Globe reports that in Indian Punjab, billboards advertise “study in Canada,” and notices are posted on electric poles advertising “settle abroad.” An international student can work for up to 20 hours a week and they can earn even more by working off the books.

This opens the possibility to turn college study into an investment toward the Canadian immigrant visa and a route for earning money. This lure has drawn thousands from Punjab alone. Many families borrow money or sell properties to pursue the dream of riches in Canada.

The prospect of an immigration visa as an incentive to send children to study in Canada has not drawn only the fortune-seekers. It also motivates many well-off families in China, India and other countries to send their youth to Canadian universities and colleges as a way of establishing a foothold in Canada for opportunities, security and freedom.

Undoubtedly, many international students come with genuine educational motives but are being tarred by the practices of those primarily using enrolment as a route to immigration. The associated malfeasance is corrupting the educational system, and is also blighting local housing situations and promoting dubious business practices.

Cutbacks in provincial funding over many years drove universities and colleges to rely on international students’ high fees to fill the financial shortfall. The international students coming to seek employment and settlement in Canada work long hours and have little time, energy and motivation to meet the educational requirements. Though tutored to qualify for the language test, many do not have the proficiency in English or French to keep up with the demands of classwork. The outcome of these conflicting pressures is that the educational standards are being compromised. Occasional letters to the editors, social media postings and teachers privately point out that academic compromises are made in classes, where a large number of students are linguistically and academically unprepared.

The student immigrants are themselves often victims. The City of Brampton in Ontario is a prime exhibit of these complex issues. International students from Punjab converge there because it has a large Punjabi population. Scores of students live together in squalid illegal basements. In 2019, the city registered 1,600 complaints of illegal secondary units. The callers to Punjabi radio programmes often bring up problems of crowded neighbourhoods and the financial ruination of families in villages across Punjab.

International students often find that the well-paying work they were promised by recruiters does not exist. They struggle at schools and are often entreating their not-so-well-off families back home to send them money to live. Businesses come to rely on them as cheap labour. Mental health problems affect many. The Globe quotes the director of the Lotus Funeral Home in Toronto as saying he handles four to five international students’ deaths – suspected to be suicides or overdoses – every month.

The student visa channel and its misuses are widespread. The Indian family that recently froze to death illegally crossing from Manitoba to the U.S. had entered Canada on a student visa. The president of the Indian Association of Manitoba has characterized international student recruitment as full of “rampant fraud and exploitation.” In December 2020, the Quebec government barred 10 private colleges from issuing admission certificates for such visas.

The federal and provincial governments are ignoring the misuse of student visas for immigration. The Ontario government had a cavalier response to the auditor general’s observations, saying, “Ontarians should be proud that local colleges attract students from all over the world.”

Both levels of government need to detach immigration eligibility from enrolment in Canadian colleges and universities. The graduates of these programmes maybe should get extra points for their Canadian education, but they should be put in line with the applicants for immigration from their homelands. Also, the non-educational employment of international students should be more strictly monitored.

Most importantly, these governments should appropriately fund educational institutions, reducing their dependence on international student fees.

A good society in Canada will not be built if those coming to settle here experience it as a land of illegal and immoral practices. Canadian governments should prioritize social development as much as economic growth.

Source: Student immigration visas are a money-making business

U.S. International Student Enrollment Dropped As Canada’s Soared

Striking comparison and highlighting of Canada’s advantage in post-graduate employment and pathway to permanent residency:

The number of international students enrolled at U.S. universities dropped prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, but enrollment soared at Canadian colleges and universities. A new analysis finds Indian graduate students in science and engineering have been the most likely to choose Canada over the United States because Canada makes it much easier to work in temporary status and gain permanent residence. The findings carry serious ramifications for the future competitiveness of U.S. companies and American universities.

“International student enrollment at U.S. universities declined 7.2% between the 2016-17 and 2019-20 academic years, before the start of the Covid-19 pandemic,” according a new analysis from the National Foundation for American Policy (NFAP). “At the same time, international student enrollment at Canadian colleges and universities increased 52% between the 2016-17 and 2019-20 academic years, illustrating the increasing attractiveness of Canadian schools due to more friendly immigration laws in Canada, particularly rules enabling international students in Canada to gain temporary work visas and permanent residence.”

The pandemic lowered U.S. enrollment further. The enrollment of international students at U.S. universities dropped 22.7% between the 2019-20 and 2020-21 academic years. Canada has not yet released comparable 2020-21 data but NFAP found other indicators that Canada also experienced lower enrollment in 2020-21 because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Talented individuals possess a range of choices on where to live, study and work, and the findings are a stark reminder that immigration policies matter. The latest U.S. statistics analyzed are from a National Science Foundation tabulation of Department of Homeland Security international student data and exclude individuals on Optional Practical Training (OPT). The Canadian data are from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada.

“The number of international students from India studying at Canadian colleges and universities increased 182% between 2016 and 2019 while at the same time, the enrollment of Indian students in master’s level science and engineering programs at U.S. universities fell almost 40%,” according to the NFAP analysis. “Indian student enrollment at Canadian colleges and universities increased nearly 300% between the 2015-16 and 2019-20 academic years.”

The more restrictive U.S. immigration system has affected the choices of Indian students. “Canada is benefiting from a diversion of young Indian tech workers from U.S. destinations, largely because of the challenges of obtaining and renewing H-1B visas and finding a reliable route to U.S. permanent residence,” according to Toronto-based immigration lawyer Peter Rekai.

While international students in Canada can gain permanent residence within one or two years, the Congressional Research Service (CRS)estimates it could take up to 195 years for Indian immigrants to get a green card in the United States in the employment-based second preference (EB-2). Canada has no per-country limit or low annual limits for employment-based immigrants as in the United States.

Canadian statistics on Indian immigrants are eye-opening. “The number of Indians who became permanent residents in Canada increased 115% between 2016 and 2020 and 2021,” noted the NFAP analysis. (The analysis took the average of 2020 and 2021 due to processing issues in Canada.) 

Other troubling findings for America’s tech future: “The enrollment of international students in master’s level computer sciences at U.S. universities has declined sharply over the past four to five years, fueled largely by the decline in graduate students from India in technical fields,” according to the NFAP report. “Between the fall 2016 and 2019, international students enrolled in master’s level programs in computer sciences at U.S. universities fell 20%, from 62,270 to 49,900. Between fall 2016 and 2020, the number of international students enrolled in master’s level programs in computer sciences at U.S. universities declined 39% or 24,040. 

“The story is similar in U.S. engineering programs. Between the fall 2016 and 2019, international students enrolled in master’s level programs in computer sciences at U.S. universities fell 29%, from 60,130 to 42,890. Between fall 2016 and 2020, the number of international students enrolled in master’s level programs in engineering at U.S. universities declined 52% or 31,070.”

Congress can change U.S. immigration laws in a positive direction and see more international students choose the United States as the place to study and make their careers. Maintaining the status quo is a recipe for stagnant or falling international student enrollment and less innovation and prosperity in the U.S. economy.

Source: U.S. International Student Enrollment Dropped As Canada’s Soared

Australia: gov plans could discourage int’l cohorts [students]

Indian and Chinese students also form about 50 percent of international students in Canada, although the share has shifted considerably: from 29.7 percent Indian and 2.3 percent Chinese in 2018 to 37.6 percent and 12.7 percent respectively in 2021:

The Australian government’s department of Education, Skills and Employment has proposed the establishment and publication of a diversification index which it describes as “an easy-to-understand measure… to improve transparency of diversity of international students at public universities”.

This would include a breakdown of domestic and international student enrolment data by country of origin. 

In 2020, 57% of Australian international students were from China and India, up from 46% in 2010. 

In a discussion paper released at the beginning of February, the Australian government warned of the need to manage “potential overexposure to particular markets”.

But the Group of Eight, which represents Australia’s leading research-intensive universities, said that while it welcomes the diversification of the sector, a different approach needs to be taken. 

“The risk is that Indian and Chinese students interpret an index as a sign that they are not welcome in Australia”

Vicki Thomson, chief executive of Go8, said, “Diversification should be a medium to long term strategy, and the risk is that Indian and Chinese students interpret an index as a sign that they are not welcome in Australia. The loss of these two large student cohorts would not only impact higher education and research, but also the broader bilateral relationships with these countries.”

Group of Eight universities, which include the University of Melbourne, the Australian National University, and the University of Sydney, enrol 38% of all international students across Australia. 

Thomson added that “international education is highly competitive and has become more so during the pandemic. Our closed borders have impacted our attractiveness as a higher education destination and this has been to the advantage of our competitors – UK, US and Canada.”

Go8 also called on the government to instead “support universities to rebuild and reshape the international education industry… through policy measures designed to promote the quality of Australia’s offerings to existing and new markets” including changes to scholarships and visas.  

The Australian government announced this week an investment of $10 million towards an International Education Fund.

Source: Australia: gov plans could discourage int’l cohorts