‘Unexpected’ visa approvals from Canada pushes one Ontario college to cancel admissions of many international students

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Hundreds of international students have been informed by Ontario’s Northern College that their admission offers for this coming school year have been revoked.

According to a CBC news article, “some 500 international students recently received an email informing them that their admission offers for this coming school year had been revoked, according to Northern CollegeSome were already in Canada when they were informed their offers had been withdrawn.”

The email from the college was shared by a student in Punjab to CBC. The email states, “Due to overwhelming demand and higher than anticipated visa approval rates, we must take the unfortunate step of withdrawing and refunding your offer of admission to the Fall 2023 intake of Northern College at Pures College. Your full refund will be processed immediately.”

In a statement to CBC Toronto, Northern College said the problem was caused by Canada approving more visas for international students than expected. 

David Francis, director of strategic initiatives for Northern College, said it’s the responsibility of Northern College to estimate how many visas will be approved ahead of each semester. That means the school gives out more acceptance letters than it can accommodate under the assumption that some of the applicants will have their visas denied.

“As we look at program capacities, they are moving targets,” Francis said.  Additionally, Francis said many students apply to multiple schools. As part of its estimations ahead of each semester, Northern College assumes some of the students

they accepted will choose to enrol in different institutions, CBC reported.

The isn’t the first time international students have been left in limbo by a Toronto school. Last May, hundreds of students said their enrolment was unilaterally suspended by Alpha College of Business and Technology, an affiliate of St. Lawrence College.

Tejinder Singh Sidhu, President, of World Sikh Organization of Canada has written a letter to President of Northern College.

The letter states, “It has come to our attention that hundreds of international students have been informed by your college that their admission has been withdrawn for the September semester.  As a result, these students, including a large number of Sikh students from Punjab have had their lives thrown into chaos.”

For students living in India, a withdrawal of admission means students can no longer legally enter Canada, as their student visas have been issued on the basis of their admission to your college.   Students in India end up also losing thousands of dollars in airfare. Many families have had to sell property or take out large loans to pay for all the costs associated with attending school abroad.  The withdrawal of admission results in the risk of losing the validity of required certifications, such as medical examinations and IELTS, as these documents also carry an expiry date, WSO president said.

“We understand that students who are currently in Canada have been told that their courses will be delivered online.  This is of course less than optimal, given that students pay for the experience of in-person learning and online alternatives are not equivalent.  

The impact of Northern College issuing and then withdrawing admission is nothing short of catastrophic for the impacted students. The options currently being offered by the college to address the situation are inadequate.  We understand that students are being offered courses that are not PGWP-eligible.  This will not be acceptable to the vast majority of students.  Students in such desperate circumstances are also vulnerable to exploitation by predatory private colleges and agents.  

We are writing to ask that Northern College recognize the impact on affected international students and find a way to accommodate these students without cancelling their admission.  The decisions made by the College have weighed heavily on the mental, physical, and financial health of the students. Students who have paid tuition must be enrolled and receive the education they paid for.  This means PGWP-eligible courses that meet the needs of students. The College needs to demonstrate that it is committed to educating its students and not simply driven by the tuition fees they bring. “