A New Approach to Student Recruitment in China

Concordia Begins Severing Ties With Recruiter After Controversies

Graphic Paku Daoust-Cloutier

After a few months of sobering reflection, Concordia University is taking several steps toward improving its recruiting practices in China.

In September, The Link published a story examining poor homestay conditions experienced by some Chinese students recruited through Orchard Consultants Ltd., the company used since 2007 to recruit Chinese students for the university. 

The story prompted an internal investigation by Concordia of its student homestay program, as well as its recruiting practices, particularly with regards to Chinese students.

On Friday afternoon, the university announced that it would end its contract with Orchard.

The contract between Concordia and Orchard was up for negotiation this fall, but after receiving a list of recommendations from a working group tasked with reviewing questionable homestay conditions, the university has decided to issue a Request for Proposals to seek out a new recruiting company in February.

According to Concordia, the relationship with any new company will be different.

In order to prevent similar issues from happening in the future, the university said in a press release on Friday that it intends to use “a blended approach to student recruitment in China” that will combine “in-house and third-party” involvement in the process.

“By this we mean building our capacity and our outreach ourselves in China, as well as seeking the assistance of a third-party service provider,” said Concordia VP Services Roger Côté in an interview with The Link.

“The emphasis is really on getting closer to the student applicants, and I think the general perspective was that we shouldn’t be over-relying on the service providers to be doing that.”

“The emphasis is really on getting closer to the student applicants, and I think the general perspective was that we shouldn’t be over-relying on the service providers to be doing that.” —Roger Côté, Concordia VP Services

The current contract with Orchard will continue until Feb. 28, at which point the company will stop taking on applications from new students for Concordia.

So as to support the students who have already applied for the fall, and to ensure a smooth transition, however, Orchard will continue to work past that date to close any active applications.

“Their role will be considerably diminished and there will be no additional outreach or recruitment for new applicants beyond Feb. 28,” said Côté. “It will be a gradual retrenchment as those files are received and processed at Concordia.”

The Link was unable to reach Orchard for comment by press time.

The Request for Proposals process will begin in February, and Côté said that transparency will be key.

He also added that he will be looking to several parties for help with the process, including the Concordia Student Union and the Graduate Students’ Association.

“We will be asking student leaders and national organizations that are involved in international education to give us some input on the specification of the RFP before we finalize it,” said Côté. “It will also become a public document for everyone to see.”

According to CSU VP Clubs and Internal Affairs Nadine Atallah, the ability to be involved in this process “is one of the most exciting parts about the relationship going forward.”

“It seems like the university is willing to put its resources towards making this situation a bit better and making sure it doesn’t happen again,” said Atallah, adding that the union’s relationship with the university had changed in recent months.

“There is more cooperation, and we’re working in good faith.”

Atallah has been part of a working group established to look into homestay practices that include representatives from several groups including the CSU, the GSA, Concordia’s Housing and Job Bank and the Dean of Students, among others.

She says that they have yet to see any concrete results, and is cautious to give too much credit to the administration, but she’s hopeful that this new process is a step forward.

“I think we’re seeing the university moving in the right direction, but it’s still in the process of moving, and we haven’t arrived at the results that we need yet.”

—additional reporting by Julia Wolfe