Student enrolment down at UVic, delays processing international students at Immigration Canada to blame

UVic says low students numbers are due to inflation, ongoing impacts of COVID-19, and federal delays in processing international study permits.

Lower enrolment at UVic is due to inflation, ongoing impacts of COVID-19, and federal delays in processing international study permits, according to a school spokesperson.

At first glance the University of Victoria’s campus looks busy, you wouldn’t know that the university is actually facing a drop in enrolment.

“Student recruitment and enrolment is being affected by the ongoing societal and global impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, along with inflation and federal delays with Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) in processing international study permits,” said Kirsten Lauvaas, UVIC associate director of public affairs.

It’s a problem, post-secondary institutions are facing across the country.

“Before the pandemic, we used to get their decisions in one week, two weeks and in many instances, we actually used to get them within 48 to 72 hours, but now it’s taking four to six months,” said Gautham Kolluri, an international student recruiter from Cambridge, Ontario on Aug. 29.

Kolluri says he has more than 100 clients in India whose study plans have been disrupted by delays.

The Canadian Alliance of Student Associations (CASA) says continued visa processing delays are an area of growing concern.

“Course drop deadlines are fast approaching, and international students will soon have to decide if they will take the chance to wait if their visa gets approved at the risk of losing their pre-paid tuition, or defer their studies for an additional year and try again in 2023,” said Mackenzy Metcalfe, executive director of CASA.

The federal government says they are doing everything they can.

“There has been an absolute explosion and demand when it comes to Canada’s international student program in recent years,” said Federal Minister of Immigration Sean Fraser on Aug. 29.

As of August 18, Immigration, Refugee and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) says they have processed 163,600 study permit applications.

“64 per cent of which are currently within IRCC’s service standard of 60 days,” a spokesperson told CHEK News.

“The IRCC finalized almost 560,000 study permit applications in 2021, beating its previous record in 2019 by 31%. IRCC is already outpacing that amount in 2022, with almost 360,000 study permits finalized between January 1 and July 31, 2022, compared to about 306,000 finalized in the same period in 2021 (January 1 to July 31, 2021).”

The backlog of student visas is just one of several problems the feds are currently facing. A task force of federal ministers says they’ve made progress on delays, passport applications, and hiring airport screening staff.

“I just want to reemphasize that our government is focused on doing everything we can on working with our partners to ease the situation,” said the Minister of Transport Omar Alghabra on Wednesday.

Immigration Canada says they’re in the middle of a hiring blitz to increase their processing capacity and tackle the backlogs.

Meanwhile, post-secondary institutions across Canada are left scrambling with a drop in revenue.

At UVic that means hiring is now being restricted while they try to find other ways to reduce their expenses for the 2022/23 school year.

Kori SidawayKori Sidaway

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