New cap on international students a ‘blunt instrument,’ says Royal Roads president


As anxiety over the housing shortfall threatens the Canadian consensus on immigration, Ottawa is attempting a solution.

Canada will be reducing the number of international study permits for the next two years. The feds are hoping the temporary two-year cap on foreign enrollment will alleviate some pressure on housing demands.

The federal government will issue 364,000 new international student permits this year, a roughly 35 per cent reduction from 2023. For reference, more than 800,000 visas were issued in 2022.

And beyond trying to address the housing crunch, the new cap also targets what Ottawa calls ‘bad actor’ educational institutions.

“It’s unacceptable that some private institutions have taken advantage of international students by operating under-resourced campuses, lacking supports for students and charging high tuition fees, all the while increasing their intake of international students,” said Marc Miller, minister of federal immigration, refugees and citizenship.

READ ALSO: Federal government announces two-year cap on international student admissions

The new rules do not apply to anyone currently studying in Canada or looking to extend their studies, and students at the elementary and secondary school levels will be exempt.

The feds will distribute the visas to the provinces based on population. Then, it’ll be up to the provinces to determine how those licenses are distributed between the schools in their region.

“The cap does not include graduate students. So most of the international students at Royal Roads, in excess of 70-75 per cent, are graduate students,” said Phillip Steenkamp, president of Royal Roads University in Colwood.

“So relatively, the impact is going to be lower here.”

Steenkamp calls the cap a “blunt instrument” both for targeting greedy post-secondary institutions and solving the housing crisis.

“The federal government’s working on what they’re calling a recognized institution framework, who have a good track record of providing quality supports and services for students. I think they’ve come to realize that’s going to take a bit longer to put into place, so they’ve put this cap in place temporarily as they work out the details of that framework,” said Steenkamp.

“We do know that because of the big increase in numbers, there have been some pressures on housing in some markets, and this cap will certainly help address that. But more generally, the housing crisis has more causes than simply international students.”

Steenkamp’s main concern is the messaging this sends to potential foreign students.

“The message has to be external, that Canada is open for business for international students. That’s hugely important,” said Steenkamp.

“There is still a commitment to bring a significant amount of international students. They make an enormous contribution to our economy and society, and we’ll continue to welcome them here.”

For other institutions, it’s a waiting game to find out more, like at Camosun College where staff say they’re “digesting the news.”

Vancouver Island University, the University of Victoria (UVic), the University Canada West and Global Village English Schools tell CHEK News they’re waiting for the province’s rollout to find out just exactly how this new cap will affect them.

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Rob Shaw: B.C. wrestles with impact of international student cap

On Friday, the province tried to get out in front of this by pitching its own plan to Minister Miller to crack down on shady private post-secondary colleges and universities, with the hopes that Ottawa would be so impressed that B.C. may have a bigger share of the cap.

“What Minister Miller did say is he was prepared to work with us. Their starting place is population,” said Selina Robinson, B.C.’s minister of post-secondary education.

“But they also recognize we need people who are in early childhood education. We need people working in healthcare, who are prepared to work with us here in British Columbia because we have a plan going forward that will reduce or eliminate the bad actors. And we have a system we’re putting in place to make sure international students get quality education, they get the support that they need.”

International students have spiked since the end of the pandemic.

Almost 20 per cent of students at B.C.’s public colleges and universities, including UVic and the University of B.C., are on international study permits.

At B.C.’s 250 private sector universities, such as University Canada West, Trinity Western or Sprott Shaw, it’s three out of every four students.

-with files from CHEK’s Rob Shaw

Kori SidawayKori Sidaway

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