Within the last few months, the federal government has announced multiple changes to the way provinces will be handling the intake of international students. Two key changes in regulations surrounding the application process have the potential to spread shockwaves through BC’s post-secondary education system and its component institutions, and the consequences could be far-reaching. This is a changing situation, and all information included is up to date as of the time of writing, March 3, 2024.

Before we dive in, it should be noted that these changes apply only to new study permit applications, meaning those with existing study permits should not be affected. The details discussed in this article concern only new applicants; those who have already received their permits and are attending UBCO should not be affected. 

However, there may be indirect implications for both domestic and international students depending on how the university responds, which will be discussed below.

With all that said, what exactly are the new regulations being put into place that could impact UBC’s future intake of international students, and what is the university’s plan to respond to them?

Two major changes were implemented over the last few months by the federal government, both focusing on regulating the intake of international students. We will first look at the latter of the two changes, the federally mandated 35 per cent decrease in the issuing of study permits for the year 2024. 

Each year, a certain number of study permits are allocated to each province to distribute to incoming international students. In late January 2024, the federal government announced that the total study permits allocated would be reduced nationwide, weighted province by province based on the population of international students present.

With a high number of international students, UBC seemed poised to be most heavily impacted by this change. However, according to a Globe and Mail article reporting on statements provided by BC Premier David Eby on February 29, 2024, UBC and UBCO will not be having their allocated number of permits reduced. 

The allocation of study permits is decided by the province, and in response to the changes instituted by the federal government, Premier Eby has stated that BC has elected to prioritize its public post-secondary educational institutions and ensure that they remain minimally affected by the change.

“They’ve operated responsibly, we’re able to ensure that they’re able to continue operating at the levels that they were before,” he said.

What this means is that private post-secondary institutions will be taking an increased hit on their allocation of study permits, but UBC can breathe a sigh of relief.

The same cannot be said for the other announcement made by the federal government, in recent months, specifically the revised financial requirements for international students announced late last year.

Previously, applicants for Canadian study visas needed to demonstrate that they had $10,000 worth of cash on hand to be accepted, in order to ensure that they had the cash reserves needed to live in Canada. This number has now been increased to $20,635 for 2024, with a commitment to adjust this number yearly to account for changes in the cost of living.

When reached out for comment on how this increased requirement might impact the university’s budget due to the increased difficulties surrounding international student applications, University Relations had the following to say:

“Complex global issues and inflationary pressures are creating an evolving and challenging financial landscape for Canada’s post-secondary sector. The university’s budget process is currently underway and at this time we are planning for a balanced budget. The university will take a prudent approach to any challenges arising.”

This answer is, in many ways, not particularly reassuring. The Phoenix has previously covered student dissatisfaction with the tuition process, and in doing so found a long history of student frustration with the way increases are handled by the university. This news may indeed only add to the pressures being placed on the university’s financial situation, and as we have seen before these situations often leave the students holding the bag.

When asked about what the university plans to do for existing students who may be suffering under the financial strain of studying in Canada, University Relations stated:

“UBC has a wide range of supports in place to assist international students including, but not limited to, health services, international student advising, academic advising, career programming and advising, financial supports, and a housing guaranteed in first-year for international students.”

These resources are good to have and incredibly valuable for the long-term well-being of international students. However, the future of how the university plans to account for the changes implemented by the federal and provincial governments remains uncertain.