Canada: Quebec closes immigration route for graduates of unsubsidized private colleges – ICEF Monitor


Short on time ? Here are the highlights:

  • As of September 2023, only graduates of public universities and colleges in Quebec will be able to obtain a post-study work permit
  • The move follows earlier findings by the Quebec government of questionable recruiting and business practices by some unsubsidized private colleges in the province.

A joint announcement by the Canadian government and the provincial government of Quebec will effectively end post-graduate work opportunities for foreign graduates from certain private colleges in the province of Quebec.

On June 7, 2022, the Quebec Ministry of Labour, Employment and Social Solidarity and the federal Department of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) announced a new permit eligibility limit post-graduation work. Under this new provision, only graduates of state-subsidized institutions, including universities as well as public and private colleges, will be able to obtain a work permit.

This effectively means that graduates of unsubsidized private colleges will no longer be able to work in Canada after their studies. The new measure comes into force on September 1, 2023.

“Canada recognizes the enormous social, cultural and economic benefits that international students bring to this country,” said Sean Fraser, Canada’s Immigration Minister. “Making the Quebec-requested change to post-graduation work permit eligibility will improve program integrity, bring private institutions in Quebec closer to those in other provinces, and protect our well-deserved reputation as a destination of choice for international students.” . ”

A popular route for Indian students

The number of Indian students enrolled in Quebec institutions had particularly increased in the years preceding the pandemic, rising from less than 3,000 in 2017/18 to nearly 15,000 in 2019/20. As the following graph from CBC News illustrates, most of this growth was centered in the province’s private unsubsidized colleges, that is, private post-secondary institutes operating without any public funding.

Enrollment of Indian students in post-secondary studies in Quebec, 2017/18–2019/20. Source: CBC News

Issues Raised

This decision follows persistent questions about the management of some private colleges in the province. A 2021 investigation by Quebec’s Ministry of Higher Education found significant issues with “some unsubsidized private colleges.” These audits, Higher Education Minister Danielle McCann said at the time, revealed “questionable practices in terms of recruitment, business practices, governance and teaching conditions”.

The minister added that the province would take steps to strengthen oversight of private colleges in Quebec, and the joint Quebec/IRCC announcement this week appears to be a general approach to limit postgraduate work opportunities for students leaving colleges not subsidized – the idea being that the prospect of a post-graduate work permit has been a major attraction for the recruitment of international students in these establishments.

“It is important to act to protect the integrity of our immigration programs, which must promote lasting integration into Quebec society,” said Quebec Minister of Employment and Social Solidarity Jean Boulet this week. . “These adjustments will make it possible to attract international students to come and study in all regions of Quebec and to ensure that Quebec is not used as a gateway to settle in other provinces.

Minister McCann added, “A number of incidents related to the recruitment of international students have occurred in the past that have caused us great concern. I am convinced that these adjustments will facilitate the integration of the international student community into our society.

In a high-profile case in the industry, three private colleges in Quebec filed for protection from their creditors earlier this year. The three – College M (Montreal), College CDE (Sherbrooke) and CCSQ (Longueuil and Sherbrooke) – were held jointly. Two of the three, M College and CDE, were among ten colleges that had previously been temporarily banned from admitting international students for parts of 2020 and 2021, due to questionable recruitment practices in India.

Call for transparency

Industry stakeholders were quick to point out that the decision to limit access to post-study work permits for all unfunded colleges, while timely, has the effect of unnecessarily targeting all colleges in the sector.

A statement from the National Association of Career Colleges (ANCC) calls on the Quebec government to be more transparent and to engage with the college sector to develop more effective and targeted quality controls.

“The ANCC and our member institutions in Quebec are very disappointed with today’s announcement by the Government of Quebec and the Government of Canada,” said Michael Sangster, CEO of the ANCC.

“Regulated career colleges play an important role in the Quebec and Canadian economies, which desperately need skilled workers to fill labor shortages in critical industries. This measure is a step backwards in the policy of international students and the economic recovery of our country.

Our industry has, for many months, tried to engage the Government of Quebec to understand their questions or concerns regarding the post-graduation work permit and find workable solutions together, but they have not responded to our calls or shared any information. on their investigation and the substance of their report. Now, this report is the basis for a sweeping policy change that will have a serious impact on and unfairly target our international learners, our highly skilled graduates and the employers who rely on them.

A more effective measure to protect the integrity of the International Student Program in Quebec would be to transparently publish the Government of Quebec’s report on this matter and to consult with regulated career colleges and all stakeholders, including the industry, who will be affected by this decision.

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