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Québec int’l fee change to “reverse French decline”

In a move to reduce the use of English in the province, the Québec government is changing the tuition fee structure for international students attending three English-language universities.

McGill and Concordia are two the universities based in Montreal at the centre of the change. Photo: iStock

The province plans to keep the first $20,000 of an international student’s tuition for certain universities

The minister of higher education, Pascale Déry, has announced that the province plans to keep the first $20,000 of an international student’s tuition payment at McGill University, Concordia University and Bishop’s University.

In other provinces, including Ontario, the post-secondary institution is allowed to retain all of the international tuition payment.

McGill currently charges $44,181 per year for international student tuition; the changes will take effect in September 2024 and will not impact students already enrolled.

It will also not apply to students from France and Belgium, who are covered by international agreements.

“[Premier François Legault] has given a clear mandate to do everything possible to slow, halt and reverse the decline of French in Québec,” said Jean-François Roberge, the minister responsible for the French language.

“In the coming weeks, you will see the government taking other meaningful steps to make this happen,” Roberge added.

At the same time, Québec announced that it was raising the tuition fees for out-of-province Canadian students, the vast majority of whom speak English. The government stated that these fees will increase from about $9,000 to $17,000 per year.

McGill, in particular, is a popular school for many students from Ontario and other provinces. While McGill has a strong brand across Canada, Concordia and Bishop’s are less well-known.

Experts say the tuition increase may hurt the ability of the latter two schools to attract students from other parts of the country. McGill principal Deep Saini condemned the move.

“These measures, if implemented, would have serious consequences,” he said in a statement.

“We are stronger when our doors are open – when we attract the brightest minds from Canada and the world, enticing and equipping them to build fulfilling, productive lives here,” Saini wrote.

Alex Usher, who writes a popular higher education blog, commented: “I can pretty much guarantee you that the way the financial incentives are currently structured, it is deeply unlikely that the Government of Québec will meet its goal of reducing the number of English-speaking students in Montréal.

“These measures, if implemented, would have serious consequences”

“International students will simply replace out-of-province ones.”

In announcing the move, the Québec government complained that the three English-language universities had brought in $282 million in international tuition revenues in the past three years, while 10 francophone universities collected only $46.9 million.

However, this mostly reflects the worldwide demand for studying in English rather than French.

Only a year ago, Quebec was facing criticism after high refusal rates for visas; such issues caused one university to see 80% of its applicants from Algeria and Cameroon denied a permit.

Universities Canada said in a statement: “We anticipate the proposed increase in tuition fees will have an impact on inter-provincial mobility of students.

“Universities Canada encourages programs and policies that promote both national and international student mobility as it enriches campuses and their communities with diverse perspectives, experiences, and talents. This mobility not only broadens students’ horizons but also equips them with a broader perspective and more adaptable skill set, which is increasingly important in today’s world,” the statement added.

The Canadian Bureau for International Education did not respond to a request for a statement on the change.

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