Guiding Policy and Practice in International Education: Introducing the Consortium on International Education

The Consortium on International Education is a new HEQCO-funded research project involving five partner organizations. Each partner will conduct evidence-based research to inform policy and practice and address growing concerns related to the state of international education in Ontario. Over the next two years, the partners will investigate the quality, accountability and sustainability of international education, including the labour market transitions of international students, the regulation of education recruitment agents and the roles of private colleges and public college-private partnerships.

Authors: Hagar Effah, Rachel Courts and Alexandra MacFarlane

The rapid growth of international student enrolment in colleges and universities across Ontario (and Canada) led to growing concerns about student well-being. International students and their advocates call attention to gaps in policy and practices within the province’s postsecondary system, including concerns over food insecurity, financial stability, safe and affordable housing and mental health. Recent reports from media, municipalities and PSE stakeholders raise alarms about recruitment practices, program quality and accountability and misalignment between postsecondary programming and labour market needs. In early 2023, HEQCO released a report investigating these issues, concluding with a series of recommendations for colleges as well as federal and provincial governments.

Some levels of government and some postsecondary institutions are working to implement plans to respond to these concerns and guide the international education landscape (though as it stands, these are not coordinated efforts). At the federal level, the Government of Canada announced it will renew its international education strategy and will consult various governments, institutions and educational organizations to do so. Currently, 23 of the 24 publicly funded colleges in Ontario will implement standards to protect incoming international students studying within their institutions. At the municipal level, some governments are connecting with postsecondary institutions to support international students in local communities. For example, the City of Brampton and Sheridan College developed a Charter that includes shared principles, recommendations and mechanisms for accountability within its community. These strategies are important steps toward improving the experiences of international students, but additional data and research spanning Ontario PSE institutions are needed to further guide and grow internationalization activities.

In March 2023, HEQCO established a research consortium of higher education stakeholders to develop evidence-based projects and share findings to inform policies and practices. The Consortium on International Education consists of five partner organizations: the Canadian Bureau of International Education, Higher Education Strategy Associates, the Social Research and Demonstration Corporation, the University of Toronto and Fleming College.

Generally speaking, these partners will address how institutions, communities and government can support the delivery of quality education and student experience and the accountability and sustainability of international education in Ontario. They will explore how government and institutions can support the transition of international students to successful labour market and immigration outcomes. Given the complexity of the challenges facing international education, members of the consortium will collaborate to address concerns.

Specifically, consortium partners will examine the following issues:

  • The Canadian Bureau for International Education will investigate community partnerships that support international student success;
  • Higher Education Strategy Associates will explore the accountability of international student recruitment and admission processes;
  • The University of Toronto will investigate Public College-Private Partnership program quality assurance and oversight;
  • The Social Research and Demonstration Corporation will explore relationships between credentials, the labour market and/or immigration pathways; and
  • Fleming College will explore the alignment between postsecondary programming and employment in Ontario communities.

For more information about each project, readers can access the dedicated Consortium on International Education webpage. Over the next two years, HEQCO will share relevant updates on the Consortium projects and a final report providing recommendations for improving international education in Ontario.

To learn more about the Consortium, contact Alexandra MacFarlane, Director at, or Hagar Effah, Researcher and Project Lead at Watch HEQCO’s social media platforms for more updates on our work.

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