Broken promises from Ontario colleges hurt mental health, international students say

While trying to figure out which Canadian college to attend, Saurav Adhikari was at the mercy of what recruiters in Nepal told him – about the best city for him, how difficult the course work would be and which program would help him land a job.

Fortunately, Fanshawe College proved to be the right fit on all fronts, said the 19-year-old, now three semesters into a business accounting degree. But he knows other students who are not so lucky.

“You hear promises to students, thinking it would be easier to study here, but now they have to drop out because of the timetable. The consultants promised it wouldn’t be so difficult,” Adhikari said.

“I think that if we are not getting what we expected, you will end up having a lot of stress and you will go into depression and it would be a very difficult thing for a student here. They need to get straight to the point. ”

Ontario colleges aim to provide international students with a better experience.

They agreed on a new set of rules to protect students like Adhikari from recruiters who make promises about job prospects and educational standards that they cannot fulfill.

The standards — which colleges must meet by June 2024 — include not making misleading guarantees about academic, immigration or employment outcomes. They aim to provide students with a rewarding post-secondary experience, to support their well-being and help them achieve academic and personal success.

Fanshawe ‘following what is expected of us’

Fanshawe College, meanwhile, is already meeting and exceeding these standards, said Jeff Wright, the college’s vice president of corporate strategy and business development.

“We’re leaders in this space, and we’ve been doing these things and we have unrivaled maturity and pace. We’re very well positioned and we’ve been following what’s expected of us since I’ve been at this.”

Pramod Bhandari, 20, an international student at Fanshawe College, says he knew what his accounting program would be like, but others who have taken different programs have failed because they didn’t know the workload would be so high. (Kate Dubinski/CBC)

Almost half of Fanshawe students are from abroad and almost half of these international students are from India. The rest come from 120 countries, with the Philippines, Nepal, Nigeria, China and South Korea sending the most students, Wright said.

“The world is global and we want to create this extraordinary immersive multicultural condition where national and international students mingle with people from all over the world.”

Fanshawe consistently ranks in the top 10 in the world and top 3 in Ontario among international students in terms of satisfaction, according to the iGraduate Barometer.

Adhikari was drawn to London because of the free student bus pass, which saves several hundred dollars. He eventually hopes to move to Vancouver.

“Students need to know what they’re going to go through as students and what it’s going to be like afterward so they don’t get stressed about the future,” he said.

His friend Pramod Bhandari said he knew what his accounting program would look like but had seen others who are doing different programs fail because they didn’t know the workload would be so high.

“Between the first semester and the second semester, many people drop out because it’s too difficult, and then they opt for a different course and lose their tuition because they’re taking a new course. It’s a lot of money,” said Bhandari, 20.

crowd of people in a hallway
Students leave a classroom at Fanshawe College. Almost half of the students at the London school are foreigners. (Colin Butler/CBC News)

“Colleges should be genuine about things. They need to tell us: ‘You may find this course difficult, you must have basic knowledge first.’ They shouldn’t give them an offer letter and not say how hard it will be. They need to be up front.”

Arriving in a foreign country with little support and suffering the pressure of being alone for the first time and not making it can be exhausting, Adhikari said.

“It’s a waste of time and money.”

Broken promises from Ontario colleges hurt mental health, international students say

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