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Complaints from Concordia University international students who say they were steered to sub-par homestay accommodations may have stemmed from "miscommunication," the university said in a statement Friday.

Two international students from China studying at Concordia detailed how they had paid thousands of dollars in fees to the Concordia China Student Recruitment Partner Program (CCSRPP), only to find themselves living in crowded houses where meals sometimes consisted of little more than bread and margarine, according to a recent article by Concordia's student newspaper, The Link.

In its statement, the university also made it clear it does not provide or require homestay arrangements. The CCSRPP is operated by Peter Low, a contract consultant who works with foreign recruiting agencies to provide simplified applications and ESL services for a fee, and sometimes refers students to a Canadian homestay company for living arrangements. Concordia says written correspondence provided by Mr. Low suggests students have not always understood the options available to them, which include applying to live in residence or living on their own.

According to the Link article, the CCSRPP website offered to "arrange for home stays with carefully selected English-speaking families." Concordia spokesperson Chris Mota said the University has since asked Mr. Low to remove references to homestays from the site as they are not endorsed by Concordia.

"We realized that yes, it could be misinterpreted, and that was wrong," Ms. Mota said. "So we've deleted all those references from our website because they should never have been there. We're trying to un-muddy the waters."

In response to the complaints, Concordia officials have set up a working group to examine international students' needs and promised to create orientation sessions in Mandarin for incoming students, interview 15 per cent of the CCSRPP students annually about their experience, and provide future correspondence in Mandarin as well as English. University officials also sent a letter by e-mail to all 5,200 of its international students to come forward with any off-campus housing issues. So far, three responses have been submitted.

On Wednesday, a small group of Concordia students rallied to demand that the Canadian Bureau for International Education look into the students' claims, but the CBIE has so far shown no interest in starting an investigation.

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