Most international students to be allocated to public institutions under new Ontario rules

The Ford government has announced it will be allocating almost every international student to public universities and colleges, with private career colleges set to receive no international student places at all.

The new policy — which will see 96 per cent of international students going to public post-secondary institutions — is Ontario’s response to a federal cap on the number of international students coming to Canada, introduced at the start of the year.

The remaining four per cent will go to language schools, private universities and other select institutions. The government said no international students will attend private career colleges.

Other rules are also being introduced to keep the number of international students in check at some colleges and universities.

The number of international students enrolled in 2023 will act as a high water mark for non-domestic enrolment, with institutions not allowed to have more international students than they did that year. The ratio of international students will also not be able to exceed 55 per cent of 2023’s first-year domestic enrolment rate, with exceptions for “high-demand” programs.

“We are protecting the integrity of our province’s postsecondary education system by attracting the best and brightest international students to Ontario to study in areas that are critical to our economy,” Jill Dunlop, Minister of Colleges and Universities, said. “We have been working with postsecondary institutions to ensure international students are enrolled in the programs to support a pipeline of graduates for in-demand jobs.”

A cap on international students was introduced early in the year by the federal government, with Ontario set to lose roughly 50 per cent of its international students.

Universities and colleges have relied heavily on fees from international students to cover the falling revenue from domestic tuition, which has been frozen since it was cut in 2019. Officials with the Ministry of Finance expect colleges and universities to lose roughly $3 billion over two years because of the cap.

Speaking on Tuesday, Finance Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy vowed he would not “allow colleges to fail” but did not say a financial rescue package is on the horizon for the sector.

On Wednesday, the government announced it would be spreading the reduced number of international students mainly between public institutions.

The now-limited number of international students will be prioritized in high-demand areas, the province said, citing healthcare, STEM, hospitality and child care.

Universities and colleges will also be required to “have a guarantee that housing options” are available for international students.

The province said 22 of 23 universities will keep study permit applications at 2023 levels, but fewer will be allocated to Algoma University. And 11 of 24 colleges will keep the allotment of applications at the 2023 level. Conestoga College and colleges with public-private partnerships will see the largest decline, the province said.

Colleges Ontario CEO Marketa Evans said colleges are pleased their institutions will receive the bulk of the international study permit applications, but they are still left in the lurch.

Universities are being responsible in their recruitment and management of international students, said Steve Orsini, president of the Council of Ontario Universities.

“The decision to cap international undergraduate allocations at 2023 levels will restrict the ability for universities to modestly increase enrolment, which will exacerbate financial pressures on the sector,” Orsini said in a statement.

Clarity on how the province will allocate international students follows a $1.3 billion package announced for the sector earlier in the year, well below the $2.5 billion recommended by an expert panel.

In late January, the province also announced new measures including a review of some programs with a focus on pipelines from education to work, a pause on public-private college partnerships and the requirement for housing to be provided to international students.


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