The Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) is set to implement a novel Trusted Institution framework within its student visa program by 2024. This framework constitutes a pivotal element of a broader strategy aimed at modernizing the International Student Program (ISP) administered by the IRCC.

While specific details are currently scarce, preliminary reports suggest that the fundamental concept revolves around assessing post-secondary institutions based on specific criteria that demonstrate their trustworthiness as partners. These criteria encompass various aspects such as sustainable enrollment practices, the ability to identify genuine students, diligent compliance monitoring and reporting, and ensuring a safe and enriching experience for international students.

Institutions that meet the prescribed criteria will be designated as Trusted Institutions. Although the full implications of this designation are not yet fully elucidated, the IRCC has indicated that Trusted Institutions may enjoy more streamlined and expedited application processing for their prospective students.

Presently, any Canadian institution admitting international students must hold the classification of a Designated Learning Institution (DLI), which requires approval from their respective provincial or territorial government. International students need an acceptance letter from a DLI to apply for a Canadian study permit. The introduction of the new Trusted Institution framework will effectively establish a two-tiered structure among Canada’s Designated Learning Institutions (DLIs), with some being recognized as Trusted Institutions.

The Trusted Institution framework was initially introduced by the IRCC during a briefing in June 2023, presented to select peak bodies and stakeholders. This framework emerged in response to the findings of the Strategic Immigration Review and a comprehensive examination of the ISP. Several concerns were identified in this process, including the vulnerability of international students, a rapid surge in application volumes, and the imperative to enhance diversity within the international student population.

The Trusted Institution framework will depend on two primary categories of data. Some data will be sourced from the records of the Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) itself and other government sources within Canada. This information will encompass statistics such as study permit approval rates, the countries of origin of international students, and post-graduation student outcomes, which include the transition to post-graduate work permits or other IRCC programs.

In addition, Designated Learning Institutions (DLIs) will be mandated to participate in a new reporting system, where they will share additional data with the IRCC. This data will encompass various metrics such as international student retention rates, rates of on-time program completion, the percentage of revenue generated from international tuition fees, institutional investments in international student support services, the availability of housing managed by the institution, and the teacher-student ratios.

Following a town hall event held in August 2023, which was attended by select Canadian institutions, the IRCC intends to refine its data collection survey and make it accessible to all DLIs in the fall of 2023. The collected data will then be compiled and analyzed throughout the spring of 2024 to establish the initial Trusted Institution designations.

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