The President of Providence University College and Theological Seminary says they are concerned by the announcement out of Ottawa regarding international students.

In January, the Honourable Marc Miller, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship announced that the Government of Canada will set an intake cap on international student permit applications to stabilize new growth for two years. For 2024, the cap is expected to result in approximately 360,000 approved study permits, a decrease of 35 per cent from 2023. Miller says these temporary measures will be in place for two years, and the number of new study permit applications that will be accepted in 2025 will be re-assessed at the end of this year.

According to the Government of Canada, in recent years, the integrity of the international student system has been threatened. It says some institutions have significantly increased their intakes to drive revenues, and more students have been arriving in Canada without the proper support they need to succeed. The government says that rapid increases in the number of international students arriving in Canada also put pressure on housing, health care, and other services. The measures announced by Miller, are intended to stabilize the number of international students in Canada.

Dr. Kent Anderson is President of Providence University College and Theological Seminary at Otterburne. He says this was big news for every school across the country.

"We're all scrambling to figure out how this is going to work and what the implications are for each school," notes Dr. Anderson, who clarifies that this only impacts undergraduate students and not their graduate-level population.

"This is a concern to us for sure," he says. "We are working on the implications and think we will be able to manage the situation, but the news out of Ottawa certainly caught our attention."

The government says that in the spirit of fairness, individual provincial and territorial caps have been established, weighted by population, which will result in much more significant decreases in provinces where the international student population has seen the most unsustainable growth. Government says study permit renewals will not be impacted. Those pursuing master's and doctoral degrees, and elementary and secondary education are not included in the cap. Current study permit holders will not be affected.

Dr. Anderson says because of these provincial and territorial caps, Manitoba should not be hit as hard as some other parts of the country. 

"Other provinces (like) Ontario and BC have had a disproportionate number of these students, even relative to their larger population bases," he notes. "So, if they are going to allocate these numbers by population, the Manitoba proportion might actually rise. So that's good news for us here."

Dr. Anderson says they had aspirations of seeing growth in this category and are hoping to receive their fair share. He says Providence is currently working with the Ministry of Advanced Education to figure out how this is going to work and what the system could look like for them specifically. 

To implement the cap, as of January 22, 2024, every study permit application submitted to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) will also require an attestation letter from a province or territory. Provinces and territories are expected to establish a process for issuing attestation letters to students by no later than March 31, 2024.

Dr. Anderson notes Providence has quite a number of students who already have their Visas and permits in hand, and he does not expect any interruption for these individuals. 

As mentioned, the Government of Canada believes that some institutions have increased their international student intakes just to drive revenue. Dr. Anderson says this is clearly not the case at Providence, which is approaching its 99th anniversary as a school.

"We consider ourselves to be credible and we don't just hand out," he states. "Ask our students whether we hand out our degrees to anybody, we make them work for it."

And, Dr. Anderson says students at Providence are well cared for. He says none of their students are sleeping on the streets, noting many of their international students are living with family in Manitoba. 

"I don't believe that international students are overwhelming our housing market, our employment market, or anything like that," adds Dr. Anderson. "I believe that these students are adding substantially to the quality of life here in Manitoba."


With files from Adi Loewen