Canada's New International Education Strategy to Review Agents' Roles
|18 May, 2023
As talks start on the new and updated version of Canada’s international education strategy, Global Affairs Canada noted how education agents are a “key vulnerability” to the country.
The new, modified, and updated strategy, which is set to launch in 2024, should include agent regulation as a priority, as suggested by new discussion papers.
“The unethical practices of some education agents used by certain Canadian education institutions pose a direct risk to Canada’s reputation as a provider of high-quality education services,” the papers read.
They go on to add, “The issue has risen to prominence recently and is regarded as a key vulnerability to Canada’s international education sector,”
In October 2022, a TV documentary aired in Canada that showed how education agents in India were promising students easy access to permanent residency in Canada after their graduation.
In its upcoming discussions with education organisations and institutions, GAC is expected to ask about the possibility of agents being self-regulated by the sector or the possibility that an entity like the College of Immigration and Citizenship Consultants of Canada should be given responsibility for doing so.
The role of aggregators will also be looked into to consider whether or not they should take accountability for the actions of the sub-agents they work with.
According to Graham Barber, the assistant director of international relations at Universities Canada, agents are an “important” part of the global education landscape, providing “valuable services” but “there are bad actors and disreputable agencies that can threaten the integrity of Canada’s system”.
“We welcome closer consultation with Global Affairs Canada to help protect international students from fraudulent agents while still allowing licenced, professional agencies to provide valuable overseas representation,” Barber said.
Another comment on the issue at hand was made by Alain Roy, the vice president of international partnerships at Colleges and Institutes Canada, who said the organisation would work with GAC to “champion solutions that increase equity and quality of educational experiences for international students and create well-defined and transparent pathways to employment and permanent residence to support Canada’s immigration objectives”.
“We are exploring how colleges can strengthen recruitment practices while also enhancing the integrity of Canada’s immigration processes through better sharing of information and more targeted promotional efforts in new markets,” Roy continued.
Another noteworthy and important theme, as well as an addition to Canada’s next international education strategy, is diversification. This is set to include diversification of programmes, destinations within Canada, study levels, and regional diversification within source countries.
Increasing the range of study locations within Canada, according to GAC, will eventually “spread the burden on services... while spreading the economic benefits of international students more equitably”.
411,985 students, which is approximately over half of all international students in Canada, held permits linked to Ontario institutions in 2022.
Widening source countries is yet another focus that will be added to the strategy’s roster as countries like India and China continue to make up the bulk of Canada’s international student population.
GAC wrote, “The high reliance on international student enrolments from India, particularly in the Ontario college sector, poses the risks of significant revenue fluctuations if external or geopolitical factors cause a decline from this source country,” They also added that cohorts have become less diverse since 2015.
It was also stated, however, that there were “enormous” opportunities for Canada to diversify within India, as most current students come from the northern region.
Despite diversification being a priority in Canada’s previous international education strategy, the department said at the time that it had “limited success”. This was, in part, due to the pandemic, whose events as well as its aftermath prevented institutions from attempting to branch out and reach new markets.
Countries like Vietnam, the Philippines, Colombia, Senegal, Morocco, Ghana, and Kenya are included in the current focus list of Universities Canada.
The government plans to consult with stakeholder organisations and provincial governments over the next year. The discussions they’re set to have are expected to also cover other topics, including digital marketing, scholarships, alumni relations, sustainability, and indigenous partnerships.
“We welcome the opportunity to provide feedback on the new IES and hope that together our institutions and Global Affairs Canada can build a Team Canada approach to international education.” Barber said.