Canadian colleges shift academic calendar to attract international students amid visa changes

Social media platforms are inundated with reminders urging students to secure admissions before September.

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Private colleges across Canada are implementing a strategic shift, aiming to attract more international students by moving up their academic calendars to commence in August 2024 instead of the traditional September start.

While this move seeks to offer greater flexibility and align with global education trends, the colleges have also called for vigilance, advising students to remain cautious amid evolving health measures. 

In January, Marc Miller, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship of Canada (IRCC), made a significant announcement regarding work permit eligibility for international students studying in public-private colleges in the country. Effective September 1, 2024, students enrolled in these institutions will no longer be eligible for post-graduation work permits (PGWP). This change, however, does not affect students already enrolled in such programs, but only applies to those commencing their academic session on or after the specified date.

Immigration consultants in India and student organizations in Canada have advised prospective applicants to exercise caution when considering admission to such colleges.

Nitin Chawla, from Ludhiana-based Kapri Education and Immigration Services Inc, highlighted the importance of informed decision-making for students. He emphasized that while studying alone may suffice for some, many students pursue education in Canada with the aim of working and earning money alongside their studies. Chawla underscored the significance of proper information gathering before making any commitments.

“We are regularly getting messages from private colleges that their session will be advanced to August as they aim to fill the seats for this session ahead of public colleges and universities where the session is to start in September 2024,” he said, urging caution even if students get college admission as “work permits could be a big issue.”

He also revealed that by the end of March, the Canadian government will allocate seats to each province based on various factors such as the existing population of international students and housing arrangements, which will then be distributed to colleges and universities.

Social media platforms are inundated with reminders urging students to secure admissions before September.

Traditionally, academic sessions in Canadian universities commence in September and January annually. Diploma courses, particularly popular among Punjabi students, typically span one year and eight months. 

However, Chawla noted a shift in the usual pattern, with some seats remaining vacant for the January session, indicating a potentially altered landscape for the upcoming September intake.

The IRCC’s announcement on January 22, imposing a cap on the number of international students, coincided with public-private colleges extending application deadlines for the January intake until January 24, as informed by immigration consultants in Punjab.

Khushpal Grewal, a volunteer with the Montreal Youth Students’ Organisation (MYSO), cautioned students to conduct thorough research despite assurances from colleges regarding PGWP. Grewal emphasized the need for quality education over mere admissions, echoing concerns raised by university heads regarding the impact of visa restrictions on the education sector.

“Though many colleges are trying to advance their sessions with assurances regarding the post-graduation work permit (PGWP), students should do proper research,” said Grewal, citing that many university heads have called on the Canadian government not to restrict visas even if PGWPs for studying in public-private colleges are prohibited. 

MYSO convenor Mandeep pointed out the importance of addressing broader issues such as housing and inflation, alongside educational quality, to ensure a conducive environment for international students.

Grewal also noted the increased complexity of the visa process due to the requirement for provincial attestation, which may deter students from succumbing to allurements from private colleges. He warned against falling prey to unscrupulous immigration agents who might misguide or misinform students.

Statistics reveal a steady rise in the issuance of study permits to international students in Canada, with the intake for 2024 expected to reach pre-pandemic levels. However, there is no cap for master’s and doctoral programs.

Information provided by immigration consultants in Punjab indicates the presence of approximately 16 public-private colleges in Canada, with the majority located in Ontario, including North York, Toronto, and Brampton, along with one each in Alberta and Manitoba.

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