Monday, May 27, 2024

Manitoba ‘collateral damage’ under Ottawa’s international student cap, minister says | CBC News

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Manitoba’s minister of advanced education and training says Ottawa’s countrywide cap of international students for post-secondary institutions has hurt the province.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada previously said it’s expecting to approve 291,914 international study permits across the country — 28 per cent fewer than the 404,668 permits issued in 2023.

Under the new changes, Manitoba is projected to see its number of international students drop from 10,155 last year to 9,140.

“It’s unfortunate that we, in some ways, were a bit of collateral damage in the federal government using a very blunt tool to apply a policy nationwide, [when] we really didn’t have the same sort of circumstances as in every province,” Advanced Education and Training Minister Renée Cable told CBC News in an interview Monday.

“We want international students here. We want to open the doors for them, but we’ll continue to work with the federal government to make sure that that system is as sustainable as possible.”

The federal government has largely blamed the private sector for a spike in the number of international students, though data obtained by CBC News shows public institutions account for the largest share of the growth.

Study permits issued are projected to drop by 41 per cent in Ontario and 18 per cent in B.C. under the cap, but are also expected to rise by 10 per cent in Saskatchewan, Quebec and Alberta.

New cap on letters issued

Cable says the changes also include a new cap on the number of students who receive a provincial attestation letter, which confirms Manitoba’s approval for a student to attend one of the province’s post-secondary institutions but does not mean a guaranteed spot.

“There’s often a difference between the number of letters of offer that go out and the number of folks who are accepted,” she said.

“The federal government came in and said they are both going to cap the number of letters and the number of people who can come.”

The University of Manitoba will get approximately 7,500 attestation letters, which is the largest number for any single school from the roughly 18,500 letters the federal government allotted for the province. (Bryce Hoye/CBC)

Ottawa initially set a cap of about 15,000 attestation letters for Manitoba, but Cable says the province was able to negotiate for that to be increased to about 18,500.

The province said it received just under 21,000 international student applications in 2023. The final acceptance rate, determined by IRCC, was about half.

Hopes for 2023 levels

While the federal government sets the cap of international students, it’s up to the province to decide how many students each designated school can receive.

“I am very hopeful that when this all shakes out … it would be in a very comparable situation to what we were in in 2023,” Cable said.

A chart provided to CBC News by the Department of Advanced Education and Training shows how the province has decided to share its allotted number of attestation letters with schools this upcoming school year.

Universities, colleges and the Manitoba Institute of Trades and Technology will receive more than 16,000 of the approximately 18,500 attestation letters, according to the chart.

While the University of Manitoba says it has just under 7,000 international students that represent about 22 per cent of the student population and 121 countries worldwide, the province says the university will receive about 7,500 attestation letters under the cap.

The University of Winnipeg says it had 1,600 international students as of November, representing 18 per cent of its student population. The province says it has set aside about 2,300 attestation letters for the school.

RRC Polytech says there were 3,100 international students among the 18,000 students it welcomed this past academic year. The province says the college will get 2,700 attestation letters.

Assiniboine Community College, which currently has 9,000 students, previously said it expects upwards of 2,000 international students this year. That school will get just under 1,200 letters, according to the province.

Smaller schools will receive smaller pieces of the pie: Canadian Mennonite University will get 44 attestation letters, and the Royal Winnipeg Ballet School will get nine.

Three pilot training schools — Air Andrew, Brandon Flying Club and Winnipeg Aviation — will get 30 letters altogether.

‘Disappointing’

Cable says the number of international students that will ultimately be accepted to each school will be based on Manitoba’s market needs, as well as specific criteria laid out by the federal government that determines whether an institution is “offering the best possible education.”

“Our public institutions will be as close to whole as possible, as close to their 2023 levels as possible,” she said.

She added the province will work with smaller, private institutions to find solutions.

Cable also says the province will always push to have more international students in Manitoba.

“We know that we have room for them, and frankly we want international students here and we want them to stay and build a life here in Manitoba,” she said.

“While it was disappointing, I think that we can say proudly that we worked hard to ensure that we got our fair share.”

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