“It’s an efficient strategy to enhance our pool of highly qualified talent, and so that’s really important”
The decision came after education stakeholders lobbied the government for two years, and worked alongside the Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities, Reza Moridi.
In its provincial pre-budget submission at the start of the year, the Council of Ontario Universities called on the government to: “Enhance the ability of universities to attract top international students so important to research and the economic growth of our province by providing flexibility for universities to use some graduate spaces for international students.”
Judith Wolfson, vice-president of international, government, and institutional relations at the University of Toronto, said it took years of discussion due to it being a highly political decision, to use taxpayers’ money to fund this growth in places.
“Being supportive of international students at graduate level…is a key part of the provincial role”
“Of course there is an understandable tension between the funding of domestic students; which is an obligation of the government to fund our own domestic students, but at the same time to internationalise because that’s good for us,” she told The PIE News.
According to the Canadian Bureau for International Education, with 126,805 students, Ontario currently has the biggest share of international students at university in Canada, 43.3%.
But, up until now, universities in Ontario, unlike other provinces, have not received any operational funding for international graduate students from the provincial government.
According to Wolfson, this has made it harder to compete with neighbouring provinces.
“All provinces have had some sort of funding for international graduate students, whereas we’ve had no funding and therefore fewer numbers of international graduate students,” she told The PIE News.
“Alberta has been almost double ours, the University of British Columbia has been almost double ours. And Quebec has been ahead of us but now we will be able to catch up.”
A spokesperson from the government of Ontario said that it is critical for the province’s post-secondary institutions to attract the top talent from around the world.
“This initiative will help reduce barriers for international PhD students to come to Ontario by lowering the cost of their education, while making our institutions more competitive with other jurisdictions,” she told The PIE News.
“Helping universities better attract leading international PhD students in a strategic and targeted way will help drive Ontario’s competitiveness.”
However, Wolfson added that while the new policy is a positive step, there is still a long way to go to support internationalisation efforts.
“There will be institutions that use a few of their spaces, but there will be others in certain fields where it’s hard to attract PhD students across the country”
“It’s an efficient strategy to enhance our pool of highly qualified talent, and so that’s really important,” she explained.
“What do I hope for next? I hope that we extend it beyond 25% of just the growth.”
Universities in Ontario are permitted to use these funds but are not required. The future funding can support up to 130 international graduate students.
Speaking to The Globe And Mail, president of the Council of Ontario Universities, Bonnie Patterson, said: “There will be institutions that use a few of their spaces, but there will be others in certain fields where it’s hard to attract PhD students across the country.”
Jennifer Humphries, vice president of membership, public policy and communications, of CBIE said it is important that provincial governments support Canada’s international education agenda.
“Being supportive of international students at graduate level as at other levels of study, based on the needs and concerns expressed by institutions, is a key part of the provincial role,” she told The PIE News.
“International students comprise 25% of enrolment in a number of our graduate programs and that’s a very good thing, conducive to a stronger and more comprehensive academic experience for all.”