PPP colleges in Canada to bear the brunt of new government measures

PPP-run campuses are a good opportunity to increase the capacity of Canadian institutions – if the quality was enforced and it was not exploited, say two leading education and immigration consultants.

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Starting September 2024, international students taking a course at public-private partnership (PPP)-run institutions can no longer access post-study work opportunities via a post-graduate work permit (PGWP). 

As Canada’s federal government announced, those starting a study program considered part of a curriculum licensing arrangement will no longer be eligible for the PGWP.

Under such curriculum licensing agreements, students physically attend a private college licensed to teach the curriculum of an associated public college. These programs, deemed having less oversight than private colleges, have become attractive to international students in recent years.

Lack of holistic approach to recruitment

Toronto-based education consultant Gautham Kolluri, founder and managing director of CIP STUDYABROAD, said PPP-run campuses are a good opportunity to increase the capacity of Canadian institutions

“It was a very good opportunity if the quality was enforced and it was not exploited. There are some colleges, to be honest, where they do not have the facilities and classrooms, and all the students are there,” said Kolluri, who previously recruited in South Asia for Mohawk College in Ontario. “It’s more like a training center in India; it doesn’t reflect the reason why students come here for quality education in a Canadian setting with the campus experience.” 

Removing PGWP eligibility – the “main lure” for colleges with these types of programs – would “kill two birds with one stone,” Earl Blaney, an immigration consultant and founder of edtech platform Study2Stay, told MSM Reporter. 

“[The new measure] saves students from being drawn into a sub-standard student experience, and it puts significant relief on the political issue of housing affordability in and around the Greater Toronto Area,” Blaney said, pointing out problems around the student experience, labor market outcomes, and “the burden on housing post-secondary institutions have caused – often without any degree of reasonable coordination with municipalities” when it comes to these institutions. 

“Without PGWP access, no consumer with any degree of awareness or any competent education agent should be targeting these offerings,” Blaney added. 

Citing information retrieved from a Freedom of Information Act request obtained in 2023, Blaney noted that by fall of 2021, public college-private partnerships (PCPPs) – an alternative term used to refer to PPPs – made up 26 percent of full-time enrollment in Ontario’s college sector.

Of the temporary two-year cap imposed on study visa issuance, Kolluri said he did not see it coming. 

“The two-year cap was definitely a shock – it was not anticipated. It really shook the entire industry; it was something that has never happened before,” he said. 

“But why we have this as the current situation is because of the lack of holistic approach to international student recruitment by both colleges and universities and the international education consultants.” 

Blanket approach

Kolluri also dubbed the new measures of the federal government a “blanket approach” affecting even good players and international students themselves. He cited as an example the required attestation letter, rendering some students unable to submit their applications. 

“It’s surprising because three months ago, IRCC [Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada] lowered the English proficiency requirements and removed the cap for off-campus work eligibility for the students. Just three or four months after, students are a scapegoat for the housing crisis,” he said. 

“This is a double-edged knife: you stop immigration, which is very important for the Canadian economy, because of the housing crisis, which happened because of the mismanagement of the government. If we are letting in a million people, it’s a basic understanding that the government is thinking about building additional housing.” 

Kolluri reminded industry stakeholders of their supposed focus when dealing with international students. 

“The primary role of an agency and the colleges is to focus on quality and to ensure that it’s not just about bringing international students, but also having the moral responsibility to provide them with the support services to ensure that they are successful here,” he said.  

Blaney echoed similar sentiments. “Churning out huge volumes of Indian graduates, crammed into rented facilities under Highway 401 overpasses, has been compared by some as more akin to factory production than to a legitimate student experience,” he said.

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