Migrants blamed for drain on coffers

January 15, 1999

Canadian universities are blaming some of their financial problems on a newly recognised category of student, the immigrant.

About 2,000 overseas students a year are claiming landed immigrant status.

This means they pay much lower fess and could represent a loss of up to Can$30 million (Pounds 12 million) a year.

Between 1992 and 1996, universities reported a 16 per cent drop in international enrolment, while the number with permanent residence status rose from 28,000 in 1991 to 36,000 in 1996. Yet the numbers of visa students who changed their status to domestic went up almost fourfold.

The University of British Columbia, which enrols 2,200 foreign students a year, found that 10 per cent of its visa students become landed immigrant students every year. The university's international fees are five times higher than the domestic fees.

But one registrar from Quebec, the only province whose universities do not directly benefit from higher international fees, suggests universities are unfairly blaming these students. "They might want to factor the trend into their financial projections," said Concordia University registrar Lynn Prendergast.

More than 200,000 immigrants arrive in Canada every year and Ms Prendergast says that universities should get accustomed to students acquiring landed immigrant status, instead of "blaming the source of their revenue".

The organisation that promotes Canada as a study destination abhors the practice of switching to landed immigrant status while at university. "This is not a back door for immigration," Nancy Needham, assistant director of communications at the Canadian Education Centre Network, said.

Ms Needham says the CECN is in contact with Immigration Canada to try to solve the problem of switching. Her organisation, which works with universities at student recruiting fairs around the world, has been trying to "weed out" students who try to use their study authorisation as a way to gain entrance to Canada.

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