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Ontario clamps down on public-private college partnerships amid cap on student permits

Ontario Minister of Colleges and Universities Jill Dunlop announced a moratorium on new public-private college partnerships on Friday, along with a slew of other changes in the education sector. (Steve Russell/The Canadian Press - image credit)
Ontario Minister of Colleges and Universities Jill Dunlop announced a moratorium on new public-private college partnerships on Friday, along with a slew of other changes in the education sector. (Steve Russell/The Canadian Press - image credit)

Ontario is imposing a moratorium on new public-private college partnerships, amid a slew of other changes aimed at protecting students and improving "the integrity of Ontario's post-secondary education."

The province announced several changes Friday, including plans to start a review of programs at post-secondary schools that "have a sizeable amount of international students." The province says it will also require all colleges and universities to guarantee housing options are available for incoming international students, and it will strengthen oversight of career colleges by better integrating enforcement efforts across ministries.

The move comes on the heels of a recent federal government decision to cap the number of international student permits it issues over the next two years in a bid to address the housing crisis.

"The challenges stemming from the recent spike in students coming to Canada, including predatory practices by bad-actor recruiters, misinformation regarding citizenship and permanent residency, false promises of guaranteed employment, and inadequate housing for students, require immediate attention and collaborative action," said Jill Dunlop, Ontario's minister of colleges and universities, in a news release.

"At the same time, we need to strengthen the links between Ontario's labour market needs and the programs being offered to students so we can get even more people into rewarding careers in health care and the skilled trades."

The moratorium is in place while "further work is done to strengthen oversight mechanisms and ensure the quality of existing partnerships," according to the release.

The province said it will also work with other partners in the sector and the federal government to "explore ways to further crack down on bad-actor recruiters who take advantage of international students and make dubious claims of employment and citizenship."

The release says the province is still making its way through the recommendations an expert panel put forward late last year and that further details will be announced by the end of February.

"We must find more ways to work together to combat gross recruitment practices while protecting our ability to attract the world's best and brightest to study here in Ontario," said Dunlop.