Amid critical issues circulating in the Canadian international education scene, experts and thought leaders have voiced their stand to carefully gatekeep international recruitment processes to avoid the traumatic experience of some international students.
News has recently been circulating regarding freelance recruitment agents who mislead prospective students in order to sign them up to attend Canadian colleges.
These have resulted in international students wasting their time and resources to apply for visas and pay fees only to find out that what they signed up for was not exactly what was promised.
“As students in different countries aspire to resume or even start their overseas education after a long pause because of the pandemic, they can become targets of illegitimate players in international education recruitment,” notes Sanjay Laul, CEO and Founder of M Square Media, a 10-year-old education management company.
“This is why government and private partners need to work together and create new processes to ensure that only legitimate and reputable education recruitment consultants, who work to truly serve both students and institutions, are allowed to conduct international recruitment,” Laul adds.
M Square Media President Suneetha Qureshi also shares that there are legitimate recruitment partners who have agents and representatives who are trained both by the company and the institutions themselves.
“These agents are accountable for the accuracy of their messaging to students,” Qureshi reveals. “Once they make false claims, they will be blacklisted both by the education management company and the institutions and are no longer allowed to recruit students.”
According to Qureshi, the challenge is how to ensure that prospective international students only deal with legitimate agents and not fly-by-night recruiters.
Enrollment management can be tricky for institutions that manage multiple recruitment variables. Students may apply to multiple institutions, who delay final destination decisions by accepting multiple offers until registration deadlines or defer registration due to Study Permit delays or rejections. Filling classes may require admitting more students than they have space in order to balance.
There may also be a few small career colleges that admit substantially more students than their schools can physically accommodate as part of a cash grab. Such practices can create accommodation and classroom availability problems for both the students and institutions. “Regulations and monitoring should be implemented to prevent this,” Qureshi stresses.
Laul also underscores the need to ensure controlled enrollment which not only matches local demand for part-time student employability and meets the business and industry demand for workers, it also considers the availability of student services such as housing, transportation, and overall community development and growth.
There is also the perception that the growth in tech-based aggregators is adding distance between institution messaging and students, adding to the lack of information and increasing application volume with low conversion rates.
According to Laul, however, there are tech-based platforms that provide a holistic model with built-in student support through strategic partners, strong agent training, and qualification processes. These platforms have stringent prescreening requirements to ensure student qualification, legitimacy, and capability.
“In every field or industry, challenges can be identified but these are not the norm. There are many good-quality and well-trained agents who provide excellent services to students and their families. The majority of colleges and universities, private and public, offer high-quality education and career training; are committed to providing excellent student services and support for international students who are boldly attempting to adjust to new surroundings, systems, and cultures far from family and friends,” Laul stresses.
“And there are many more international students who made the adjustment, made many new friends, completed their studies, found meaningful employment, and went on to make a life in Canada,” he adds.