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International student cap: CAUT urges overhaul of strategy

(Ottawa – January 22, 2023) In response to today’s announcement that the federal government will be capping the number of international student visas, the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) says Ottawa and the provinces need a comprehensive overhaul of their international student strategy.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Minister Marc Miller announced that the number of new international study permits will be reduced to 35% below 2023 levels for the next two years, with some provinces seeing their numbers cut in half.

“The government deserves credit for trying to crack down on the unethical recruitment and abuse of international students by some actors, including poor quality private schools,” says CAUT Executive Director David Robinson. “However, a cap is a blunt instrument on its own. If the goal is to crack down on the bad actors, then they should be directly targeted.”

Robinson says Canada has increasingly viewed international students simply as revenue streams to make up for stagnating and falling public funding. Provinces have allowed institutions to charge international students on average five times more than domestic students, the federal government has eased student visa and work restrictions, and recruiters have promised potential students pathways to permanent residency.

“We’ve created a marketized system of international recruitment driven almost entirely by financial interests, rather than guided by educational values,” says Robinson. “It is a failed strategy, and it is time for a serious discussion about how both the federal and provincial governments should be better supporting public universities and colleges.”

CAUT has made a series of recommendations for renewal of public funding for post-secondary education and on Canada’s International Education Strategy.