International student cap won’t have an impact in 2024, but beyond is uncertain: Fanshawe president

International student cap won’t have an impact in 2024, but beyond is uncertain: Fanshawe president

Fanshawe College’s international enrolment will remain largely unchanged for 2024, with the province set to issue roughly 11,000 study permits to the post-secondary institution, the school’s president told staff and faculty on Tuesday.

Peter Devlin unveiled the figure during a virtual town hall and Q&A which lasted for roughly 30 minutes, held to answer questions about the college’s finances, and the impacts of the cap on international study permits, announced in January.

The federal government reduced the number of new permits this year by 35 per cent to address the growing international student population’s effects on housing and other public services. The number of permits that will be issued next year is still undetermined.

The full impact of the cap wont be known for several months, but the college is set to see a slight reduction in revenue, and some part-time faculty and staff may be laid off, Devlin said. 

Tuesday’s town hall marked the first time Fanshawe College has updated staff and faculty of this year’s allocation, which it received from the province in late March. It’s not clear what the college’s allocation may be for 2025.

The college’s international student population has grown substantially, with around 11,700 permits granted in 2023, the third-highest number among Canadian post-secondary institutions, compared to just over 4,000 in 2018.

“I’m pleased that we will have a similar number of international students than we had in 2023,” Devlin said, noting the province expects the school will have a 55/45 international/domestic student ratio, about the same as 2023.

The province has ordered certain “priority programs,” like early childhood education and health and human services, to have minimum international student headcounts, while some one-year business management programs will see a two-year pause on international enrolment, he said.

It remains to be seen what the cap will do to the college’s public-private partnership with ILAC International College. Overall, 2,800 students will be enrolled this year, but international students in such partnerships can no longer receive a post-graduation work permit.

“I do anticipate continued lobbying by the private colleges to be able to get access to post-graduate work permits, and so we will assess our relationship with ILAC as we move forward,” Devlin said.

International student cap won’t have an impact in 2024, but beyond is uncertain: Fanshawe president

Ontario public colleges driving international student growth

Federal study permit documents obtained by CBC News reveal a handful of public colleges and universities in Ontario account for the greatest share of Canada’s steep growth in international students — not private colleges. And now those same institutions have the most to lose from a new cap on study permits.

Some part-time faculty and staff will likely be impacted in some programs, Devlin said, although he provided no further detail. “I suspect there will be other areas… where we will need additional part-time faculty and staff.”

The college will also see “slightly reduced” revenue, he said, but it’s not clear by how much. Further impacts will come from the domestic tuition freeze being extended to 2027 — a freeze which forced colleges and universities to rely on higher-paying international enrolment.

Devlin said Fanshawe had taken a “prudent” spending approach in response to the cap, and had implemented limits on hiring. He added that a budget will be tabled in June, and the college will review other cost cutting measures in the fall, including its use of space.

Afternoon Drive10:01How dependent are public colleges on international students?

According to a CBC investigation, it’s not private colleges bringing in tens of thousands of international students, but Ontario’s public colleges. London’s Fanshawe College ranked number three in the country. To learn more, host Colin Butler speaks to the school’s vice president of corporate strategy, Jeff Wright.

In February, the province announced it would provide a one-time $1.2 billion financial aid package to help colleges and universities stabilize their finances. Fanshawe will receive between $4-5 million, Devlin said.

“I think it’s important for all of us to realize that Ontario remains the most poorest-funded post secondary sector in Canada,” he said. “We are reliant on international students, and with that reliance comes some level of uncertainty.”

Student, faculty unions relived impacts are not greater

The union representing Fanshawe students says it’s relieved to hear the impacts won’t be as bad as they could be.

However, Fanshawe Student Union’s president, Stephin Sathya, said he wants answers about which programs and campuses will be hardest hit by the business management enrolment moratorium, and answers about the hiring of part-time faculty in programs deemed a priority by the province.

“I’ve been very curious to know how much of the allocation is going to turn into admissions?” he said.

“For our sake, our priority is ensuring that the quality of education that our students are receiving are still the same,” including across the college’s different campuses.

In a statement, the head of OPSEU Local 110, which represents Fanshawe faculty, said he was also relieved a major permit reduction did not occur.

Mark Feltham said he remains concerned about the “ongoing risks associated with the structural underfunding of colleges” by the province.