International Students

Canada’s International Student Program Faces Integrity Crisis: Senators Unveil Urgent Reforms

Published on: October 3rd, 2023
Last updated: October 5th, 2023

A recent report, co-authored by Senators Sabi Marwah, Ratna Omidvar, Yuen Pau Woo, and Hassan Yussuff, sheds light on the challenges confronting Canada’s international student program. The report is titled “Enhancing Canada’s International Student Program Integrity”. The report emphasizes the need for federal, provincial, and territorial governments to address integrity issues within the program.


International students play a significant role in Canada’s economy, society, and culture, showcasing Canada’s global appeal and bringing substantial benefits to the nation. However, the report highlights the urgent need to address challenges that undermine the program’s integrity, such as the mistreatment and exploitation of students.


Addressing Integrity Challenges in the International Student Program

Senator Ratna Omidvar noted, “The International Student Program has encountered challenges despite its success. International students have a strong desire to study in Canada, but they encounter various obstacles, including high tuition fees and mistreatment. In many cases, they lack the necessary support to overcome these challenges. We must reform the program to ensure it benefits both Canada and the dedicated students who contribute significantly to our nation.”


The challenges associated with Canada’s international student program involve various stakeholders, including Designated learning institutions (DLIs) that impose high tuition fees, education consultants, landlords, employers, and government entities. These issues encompass inadequate housing, limited employment opportunities, and the regulation of education agents and private educational institutions.


Senator Yuen-Pau Woo emphasized, “The program’s integrity challenges stem from Canada’s post-secondary sector’s financial constraints, which, in turn, affect broader issues like student neglect, housing unaffordability, and criticism of the program itself. The fact that these problems involve multiple levels of government and private entities underscores the urgency of addressing them.”


Recommendations for Strengthening Canada’s International Student Program

To enhance the integrity of Canada’s international student program, the report offers recommendations for federal, provincial, and territorial governments:

  • National Review of Financial Sustainability: Proposing a national discussion to ensure the financial stability of DLIs, thereby reducing their reliance on international student tuition fees.
  • Greater Oversight on DLIs and Agents: Suggesting stricter criteria for DLIs to provide enhanced support for international students, encompassing housing, legal rights, employment, and mental health.
  • Improved Awareness of PGWP Ineligibility: Recommending better information dissemination to international students enrolling in ineligible programs for Post-Graduation Work Permits (PGWPs).
  • Housing Supply: Advocating for active federal participation in ensuring an adequate supply of student accommodation through data collection and infrastructure funding.
  • Informing International Students: Encouraging federal and provincial governments to better educate international students on their legal rights, housing, employment opportunities, and protection from fraud and scams.
  • Develop National Policy Strategy on TR to PR Pathways: Addressing the gap between international student numbers and available permanent residency spots through a national strategy.
  • National Policy Strategy on Settlement Supports: Proposing a national settlement support strategy to provide better care for international students and assist them in transitioning to permanent residency.
  • National Language Standard: Exploring the introduction of a national language standard for DLI admission criteria to mitigate issues arising from insufficient language skills.
  • Strengthen LOA Verification: Advocating for improved verification processes for Letters of Admission to prevent fraud and misuse.
  • Reform Education Agent Regulation: Introducing federal oversight measures to regulate education agents, impose penalties for misconduct, and establish a centralized agent information system.

At the provincial and territorial levels, the report suggests exploring further regulations on international student tuition and introducing regulations on education agents, akin to Manitoba’s International Education Act.


International students significantly contribute to Canada; however, the integrity of the international student program demands immediate attention. The report’s recommendations aim to cultivate a healthier international student program. This could ensure that Canada continues to reap the benefits of this invaluable demographic while upholding its reputation for excellence in international education.


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