Canada’s reputation for tolerance and inclusion is increasingly being tested on campuses in the wake of the country’s international student boom, a conference heard.
The number of international students at Canadian universities increased by 11 per cent last year, with learners thought to be increasingly shifting their attentions north from a US perceived to be more hostile under Donald Trump.
But this year’s conference of the Canadian Bureau for International Education heard that celebration over increasing revenues and diversity was being accompanied by mounting doses of anxiety.
Barbara Old, director of international education at the College of New Caledonia, a 5,000-student institution in British Columbia that offers university access courses, said that 30 per cent of enrolment was now from abroad, nearly all from India.
This shift was strong enough to provoke disquiet on campus, Ms Old warned. “I’m getting kickback from the classroom, kickback from the cafeteria, kickback from the library, the community,” she said.
“There are allegations, and some of them are true, of sexual misconduct from some of the male students, there are rumours of rape of the girls, and being threatened or blackmailed that this is going to be on the internet,” Ms Old claimed. At a recent campus celebration of Diwali, the college “had to hire extra security, just in case”, she said.
The expansion of the foreign cohort has also led to a greater focus on the risk of plagiarism in the classroom, the conference heard.
Martha White, assistant manager for international marketing and recruitment at Algonquin College of Applied Arts and Technology, an 18,000-student institution offering bachelor’s courses in Ontario, described the amount of “pushback” from academics complaining about problems such as plagiarism as “terrible”.
Many of the concerns about plagiarism seemed to reflect an unfair standard not applied to Canadian students, Ms White said.
“I feel personally that international students are in fact targeted for plagiarism,” she explained. “I think that a lot of instructors are looking for it, they’re dying to find it…it’s just terrible to say it, because I love my college.”
However, Sandeep Rane, an international services manager at 23,000-student Sheridan College in Ontario, acknowledged that plagiarism was a “very foreign” concept to many Indian students who were taught to complete examinations by repeating back as accurately as possible what their instructor said. Both he and Ms White described aggressive efforts on campus to teach foreign students about the expectations of Canadian institutions.