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by Nandika Ravi

Most Indian international students come to Canada with a hope that they’d one day get permanent residency. Nicholas Hune Brown, a journalist, conducted a research that focuses on the ‘phenomenon among international students and educational institutions,’ found that Indian students who come to study in Canada are from middle-class Punjabi families. With parents who end up selling their land just so that their child gets to study in a foreign country. But unfortunately, international students have become the product of a system that blurs the line between immigration and education.

Brown said, international students get blind sided by their expectations of what life in Canada would be like.

“So I think speaking with students, you see a lot of people who have been told unrealistic things about what life in Canada might be like.  How easy it is to get permanent residency about how easy it is to get jobs.”

He said that postsecondary educational institutions are making great strides on the basis of hefty fees from international students.

“The impetus there is just to bring as many students as possible to get a big chunk of a first year tuition. So if a student ends up coming to Humber and flunk out and has their life ruined, that doesn’t necessarily affect their  bottom line,” Brown added.

Brown goes on to saying that ,international students don’t have the leverage of skipping class like most Canadian students do.

“Switching courses, like accidentally working too many hours. All of that can lead to a student losing their their student visa, and that means everything they’ve invested. Their family is invested. This huge gamble they’ve taken in order to get permanent residency,” said Brown.

 Jaspreet Singh, a student advocate who came to Canada a student in 2015, feels that international students and their families don’t fully do their understand what they’re getting into. 

“When we are in India we don’t care about these things.”

“Our life’s motive is to come to Canada by any means. We only realize after we’ve paid our tuition fees that the college we are attending is not even one which is eligible for a work permit, “said Singh.

“Students have to find a new college through which they can get a work permit . It becomes a chain reaction. Most of the consultants in India are tied up with such colleges. The college makes their money, the consultant gets their commission but the student is left with the damage and struggle.”

Singh feels that, it is much easier to study in private colleges, and students are not treated too harshly. However, these colleges lack basic amenities like libraries, mental health groups, gyms etc. 

Hartej Singh another international student from India, attends a private college in Mississauga said that he failed his first semester because he was short of one class that year.

“I had paid the fees, I didn’t get the subjects, it was my mistake that I couldn’t pass the course. But they took the fees for all subjects from me. We get 7 subjects in a semester and I got 6 in each, whereas I had paid the fees for 7. When I asked them for more subjects that I needed to take, they asked me to pay the fees again. Although I had paid for all the courses already.”

Being caught in difficult situations, managing finances, while studying, can take a toll on these students.

“I try to best guide my friends coming from India because they wouldn’t know what to expect, and they wouldn’t know the system here like we didn’t know.”

“We still don’t understand everything that well, but still I have learned something in two years. I ask them not go for easy options and to know really well before making their selection.”

Baldev Mutta who works at the Punjabi Community Health Services emphasizes on the importance to research and plan before setting foot into a new country. 

“Private colleges are just a money making machine as far as I’m concerned.”


“For instance, if we look at the example of getting a diploma for social work; a private college might give the diploma in one year as ‘accelerated learning’ whereas the community college will require two years. It’s important to know the 2 year program for a social worker will allow the graduate to be a member of the Canadian Registered Social Worker Association. But the graduates of the 1 year private college program cannot. Now organizations such as ours cannot hire graduates who aren’t members. So clearly those international students who attend private colleges can not get the same jobs that those who went to community colleges can.”