The arts council is set to reduce the number of international student advisers, following similar changes at other faculties

The Faculty of Arts could cut its international student advisers in the next academic year.

Academic counseling at UBC performs a variety of functions, including assisting students with degree planning and filing academic grants. Each undergraduate faculty has its own advisory office, with several general academic advisors that students can make appointments with.

In addition to general advisers, some faculty academic advising offices also have advisers for international students, who have more training and experience specific to the needs of international students.

However, in recent years, there have been cuts to the position of international student adviser in faculty advising offices on campus.

Viola Chao, the Arts Undergraduate Society’s academic vice president for the 2021/22 academic year, said the science and commerce councils have scrapped the position entirely.

Susanne Goodison, director of academic arts advising services, mentioned that other faculty advising offices “have already moved away from specific roles for international students,” but didn’t say whether science or business had done it. The two faculties did not respond to requests for comment.

Chao added that the artistic council also made significant cuts to the post.

“I believe there was a team of eight of them who [were] specifically intended to support international students within the Faculty of Arts, but… many advisers who focus specifically on international students have just been adapted to become general academic advisers,” she said.

Chao said there are currently two international student adviser positions remaining in the arts advisory field, but they could be cut by the next winter semester.

“I don’t know if this change has been confirmed yet, but it seems very likely to happen,” she said.

Dayle Balmes, president of the Science Undergraduate Society, declined to comment on the matter, citing a lack of sufficient detail from faculty.

The Ubyssian also contacted the Commerce Undergraduate Society, but received no response.

More than 27 percent of students at UBC Vancouver are international, reflecting the need for an academic advising system that provides sufficient support for international students.

“I think from the work I’ve done as VP Academic this year and having peers who are international students, the challenges they’ve faced…especially during COVID[-19]brought a lot of unique challenges,” Chao said.

Chao said she thinks it’s important for international students to speak with counselors who are better equipped to address these unique concerns.

There can also be a lot of cultural understanding that goes into supporting students, she noted.

“I feel for so many international students who are struggling and trying to balance their studies, … and who want to talk to someone about, ‘Hey, this is happening with my family right now in Ukraine [for example] and I just can’t handle this course load, I might have to drop a class,” she said. If they are able to speak directly with an academic advisor who knows how to delegate this situation, I feel like they would benefit a lot.”

Shambhavi Srivastava, a third-year arts student, said the academic arts council was unable to support her when she was unable to travel to Vancouver in the first term of the 2021 winter term/ 22 due to flight ban to India.

When she contacted arts advisers about her classes, they said there was little they could do other than drop the classes or contact individual departments about potential online alternatives.

She said she hopes to see more support for students experiencing unexpected circumstances in the future.

“[There’s] disappointment that they couldn’t help me,” she said.

Goodison wrote in a statement that the removal of international student advisers is part of a shift to an advising model that will allow international students to access better support.

One of the reasons for the change is to minimize confusion between the academic council and the general council for international students, she said.

In addition to international university student advisors, UBC has an International Student Advice Office which includes trained and registered immigration consultants, and can help international students make the transition to life in Canada outside of academics. .

“We’ve heard from students that the job titles and roles of different professionals on campus are confusing,” Goodison said. “Students often come to our office for immigration support and advice, but academic advisors… cannot offer specific immigration support.”

Muskan Shukla, another arts student entering her third year, said she was unaware that the arts council had specific advisers for international students. In her past experiences with walk-in counseling, she had been “handed over to a counselor” who took care of her needs.

Shukla also said accessing college arts counseling was “confusing at first,” but they are a helpful resource for her.

“They are there for you. Just look for them,” she said.

Another issue Goodison noted in his statement is that international students are not always able to meet with international student-specific advisers when attending academic counseling, due to limited availability.

Chao also said the long wait times frustrate students.

“Our goal is to support all students, and we believe the type of support shouldn’t depend on who a student sees in our office on any given day or time,” Goodison said.

The new advising model aims to train all academic arts advisers with the knowledge and tools necessary for the specific concerns of international students.

Goodison said the training for international student advisers is “largely similar” to that of general advisers. The main difference is that the former receive training on the management of study and post-graduate work permits and must attend the international student working group led by international student advisers.

With the removal of international student-specific advisors, all academic arts advisors will now have this additional training, along with an increased focus on equity and inclusion-focused training for the entire office.

She noted that the arts council is developing and piloting a knowledge base to better work with specific international student populations.

— with files by Nathan Bawaan