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International funding cut for HE sector in Ontario

The HE community in Ontario has been taken by surprise by budget cuts for institutions enrolling international students. The provincial government announced in its 2012 budget that it was cutting funding to its institutions by at least CAN$750 for every first year international student they host – excluding PhD students – starting in 2013, under the International Student Recovery scheme.

"It certainly struck us as odd given Open Ontario's focus on increasing international students by 50%"

Hidden among the detail of the 2012 budget, the provincial government states it has “identified a reduction in indirect support, through operating grants that the government provides to non-PhD international students, as well as the elimination of subsidies for non-PhD international students provided to institutions to pay for municipal taxation in lieu of property taxes.

In addition, the government is eliminating subsidies for international recruitment and study-abroad scholarships.”

Ontario receives 40% of all international students in Canada, but some universities say the policy changes forces them to increase tuition fees for international students, risking their ability to compete not just with other provinces in the country but also with other top destinations internationally.

“We have little choice but to increase tuitions for international students to make up for their claw-back,” said David Naylor, President of the University of Toronto (which receives 26% of the province’s foreign students). “Otherwise, we effectively penalise all our students, Canadian and international alike, to cover the funds withdrawn from our budgets.”

He continued, “And in the process, we not only further narrow the backgrounds of international students who can afford to attend universities in Ontario. We also may lose ground to universities in other Canadian provinces where tuitions are not adjusted upwards to cover the costs of a government claw-back.”

“We also may lose ground to universities in other Canadian provinces”

Canada has become a popular destination recently because of ease in visa processing, post-study work opportunities and lower tuition costs. Ontario leads the country in the number of international students received.

In 2011, there were 96, 808 temporary students studying there while the second largest recruiter, British Columbia, hosted 66, 556 foreign students.

Its dominance is partly due to the Open Ontario plan announced in 2010 which aimed to increase the number of international students by 50% in five years. According to the government, colleges and universities have already reached 75% of its target. Critics say the new move goes directly against these internationalisation initiatives.

At the University of Windsor, Clayton Smith, Vice-Provost, Students and International, said that all universities would undoubtedly be affected by the move. “It certainly struck us as odd given Open Ontario’s focus on increasing international students by 50%,” he said.

“Loss of these stipends will possibly lead to us dropping some recruitment fairs”

“It, however, will not impact the resolve that the University of Windsor has to recruit an increasing number of international students. Internationalisation is a key part of our strategic plan and so we will look to innovative practices to overcome this.”

Smith did however acknowledge that the parallel policy decision to axe some subsidies will have an impact. Explaining to The PIE News that his institution made full use of the support to attend events such as NAFSA, EAIE and APAIE, he said, “Loss of these stipends will move expenses of this type to Windsor, and possibly lead to us dropping some recruitment fairs.” (NAFSA remains an eligible expense).

The government of Ontario said many difficult choices were made in the budget to ensure the province’s future competitiveness in the global marketplace.

“The International Student Recovery [as the measure is termed] is a modest measure, given the quality of post-secondary education international students receive in Ontario and the opportunities that they can access to gain valuable work experience and future employment should they wish to stay and work in Ontario,” said a spokesperson for the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities.

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