Shock over Québec’s fee raise for Anglophone universities

On 13 October, less than a week after McGill University in Montréal in Québec province celebrated its medical school’s number one ranking in Canada by Maclean’s Magazine, the province’s most prestigious English-language university was rocked by the news that the Québec government was doubling the fees for out-of-province English-speaking (Anglophone) students.

Starting next autumn, tuition fees for undergraduates and non-research graduate students (that is, excluding sciences) at McGill, as well as the province’s two other Anglophone universities – Concordia in Montréal and Bishop’s in Sherbrooke, 140 km southeast of Montréal – will rise from CA$8,992 (US$6,500) to CA$17,000 per year, making Quebéc English universities significantly more expensive than the University of Toronto, for example.

Additionally, the province announced that tuition fees for international students – except for countries with which Quebec has agreements (for example, France and Belgium) – will rise to at least CA$20,000. It also removed the limit on what additional fees universities may charge.

The Québec government’s plan has been denounced by the leaders of the three universities as well as municipal politicians, the Liberal opposition in the province’s National Assembly, members of the federal cabinet and business leaders.

Sébastien Lebel-Grenier, Bishop’s principal, summed up the loss of approximately one quarter of the university’s revenue (paid by the 30% of the school’s students who come from other provinces) as “catastrophic”.

In a letter to the McGill community, Principal Deep Saini alluded to “serious consequences” to the university and said that he had mobilised the senior administration, board members and teams across the university “to demonstrate the concrete negative effects these measures would have on McGill, on the higher education sector and on the whole of Québec society”.

Saini also angrily pointed out how the decision is a blow to Montréal’s high-tech education and business sectors.

“A thriving knowledge economy requires a global exchange of talent. The measures announced today will have a major, long-term effect on Québec’s economy. The skilled people we attract and retain contribute significantly to Québec and provide our businesses with the highly qualified workforce they so urgently need,” Saini said.

In response to the tuition changes, McGill has shelved a planned CA$50 million investment over five years in programmes to help Anglophone students and professors to integrate into Québec.

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