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Thursday, June 13th, 2013

Canada makes a mess of it.

There is nothing like spending a week talking to students in India’s Punjab to bring a focus to what a mess Canada has made in a market that has spilled over to international recruiting around the globe.

Prospective students in Punjab are like sheep in how easily they follow advice on study abroad, whether from a sincere expert or from a charlatan. For those education agents who are smooth and slick – it’s relatively easy to sell a student on the most lucrative destination – for the agent.

When the Canadian government introduced the Student Partner Program (SPP) a few years ago, to smooth the way for thousands of foreign students (and particularly those living in the Indian state of Punjab) to enter Canadian colleges via their contracted overseas agents, they invited the mediocre en masse. Now Canada has taken over from Australia as the patsy who sucks in low-end students from this Indian state, where how to “get out of the country” is a passion and a pastime.

Thousands of students who lack basic academic skills, and scoring in the 40 and 50 percentile are now flooding Canadian colleges in Toronto and Vancouver. That’s established the new baseline now, as the academic standards are so low, it brings huge numbers of weak students under the umbrella of admissibility to Canada. A focus on attracting weak students is legitimate, but commonly excellent students who should be targetting strong university programs, are manipulated and convinced to go to a college, where agents can collect commissions where they might not otherwise.

All of this in the last couple of years comes at a period when the UK is turning back foreign students, Indians are still fearful of racism in Australia, and they are wary of an American society often in the news for violence on campuses and schools.

So as Canada has mushroomed in attractiveness as a study destination, education agents have had a field day in Punjab. Facts and fictions flow freely in terms of the preparation of applications for studies and visas. So what is Canada’s response to cap an overflow of the accompanying growth of visa abuse? To throw out the baby with the dirty bath water.

The recent Bill C-35 appears to limit well meaning individuals at schools, colleges and universities from providing any direction on immigration matters for Canada – which simply can not be cut off from academic counseling, as they go hand in hand for a prospective foreign student. While I laud Canada’s efforts to try and rein in visa abuse which its own policies (SPP) has added to the morass, it might better focus on institutions’ relationships with unscrupulous agents, rather than on the very personnel most trusted to give free, earnest and largely expert advice.


#1Prabhjot NanreyJune 14, 2013, 4:10 am

It is true about Punjab that everyone wants to move towards Canada. I believe there are many many good students as well, those wants to get an international education and explore their culture.
Thing is that Punjab is one of the rich state in India. To study abroad there is need of bunch of money. Punjab people have that as well.
If we talk about academics, Yes there is bit problem as Indian teaching system is bit different from other countries (Some of the boards – which have yearly exam system). This arise problem for Punjab’s students to understand international teaching system. Some of them survive and rest faces.

#2ISAJune 14, 2013, 1:48 pm

I love your article! You hit the nail on the head. I hope Jason Kenney reads this. As an international student advisor in a Canadian university, I have nothing to do with swaying students’ decision. My time is occupied by supporting them in their applications to extend their status in Canada once they have already arrived here. I have nothing to gain by convincing them of anything, because I get paid the same salary every two weeks regardless. My job is to support them in what they actually have already decided to do.

#3Study-International Ltd UKJuly 5, 2013, 8:35 am

This is an interesting article but why does it blame Canada for the inferred malpractice in India?
I believe that is something you should govern onshore.

Your article informs us that “excellent students” are manipulated in to college and not university.
That can only be as a result of lack of knowledge(of study in Canada), trust or stupidity. We know it is not stupidity – you tell us that these students are excellent. So it must be one of the other two and either way the student’s decision is made on trust. In many cases, resulting from the advice given.

You pretty much confirm that fact in your second paragraph. That is of course , unless you ARE saying these students are woolly creatures that roam about on the rough Punjabi terrain

Clearly this is where it falls apart – in India , not in Canada.
That brings me back to onshore governance, again.This is what must be addressed. in order to create a better world fro students receiving advice.

In my opinion, the lack of local governance of agents across the globe is the singular cause of the difficulties faced in this sector by genuine ethical agents. The results of which are nothing more than symptoms.

It is not a mess created by Canada.

Dan Billington
(Adviser Coach) , Founder of Study-International Ltd , United Kingdom

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About Mel

Mel has consulted universities, colleges, governmental and non-governmental organizations in the field of international education since 1997. He is co-founder of Higher-Edge, the parent of Overseas, Overwhelmed, and a director of the Canadian University Application Centre. He is a former award-winning CBC reporter and holds a Masters degree from Columbia's Graduate School of Journalism.

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