MONTREAL – Concordia students handed out “misfortune” cookies on Wednesday as they protested the university’s international student recruitment practices in China.
Concordia provides education for half of Quebec’s Chinese international students, with over 980 students registered at the university.
“Gloria,” a Chinese Concordia student who wouldn’t give her real name told Global News she had to shell out tens of thousands of dollars to the university for services that she either didn’t need or were substandard.
“I was promised to be treated well at a homestay, have good food to eat,” she said.
“Not to be treated like an outsider.”
She’s one of a group of Chinese students at Concordia who say they’ve been mistreated and mislead.
“They feel betrayed by Concordia for having to pay unnecessary fees that brought little to them,” said Nadia Hausfather, of the Concordia Graduate Students’ Association.
A Concordia spokesperson said the university never received complaints from Chinese students about this before the controversy broke.
In September, the Concordia student newspaper, The Link, reported on poor conditions at homestays set up by the Concordia China Student Partner Recruitment Program (CCSPRP).
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This weekend, Focus Montreal will feature an in-depth interview with Riley Sparks, the Concordia student who broke the story in The Link.
The article alleged that the university recruits students from China who pay tens of thousands of dollars to provide “fast-tracked and simplified application process,” room and board in Montreal homestays, airport pickup and assistance getting their English up to par by helping students to register for ESL classes.
When students arrived in the city expecting to live in comfortable accomodation, they faced appalling living conditions.
While the university confirmed that the CCSPRP is run by a third party, it also noted that the program is authorized to represent the university and can collect university fees.
The program’s director, Peter Low, has a Concordia email address (which has since been changed to a Gmail account).
Concordia has launched an inquiry into the situation, and is reviewing its policies and promises about the program.
“It possibly wasn’t as clear as it could have been, and language could have been an issue,” said Chris Mota, a Concordia spokesperson.
“So we now have a commitment to publish all our materials in Mandarin.”
The program’s director runs a Vancouver-based consultancy that has Concordia as its sole Canadian client.
However, according to the Immigration Consultants of Canada Regulatory Council, Low is not licensed as an immigration consultant.
That, said Concordia Student Union Lawyer Walter Tom, raises questions about Concordia’s vetting process.
“I think one thing we really need to do is to ask Concordia what kind of diligence there is,” he said.
Mota said Wednesday morning she was not aware of Low’s qualifications, but the university later confirmed that it can only use agents licensed to recruit students by the Chinese government.
Tom described the situation with Concordia’s Chinese students as only the beginning.
“It’s not just, you know, a situation with Concordia,” he said.
“It seems to be a countrywide problem.”