Skip to main content
Open this photo in gallery:

Students protest against the Quebec government’s planned tuition hikes for out-of-province students on Oct. 30.Christinne Muschi/The Canadian Press

The Quebec government says McGill and Concordia will just have to adapt to its plan to double tuition fees for students from the rest of Canada and redistribute the proceeds among the province’s francophone schools, even as the universities warn of devastating financial consequences, job losses and enrolment shifts.

But the government also said it’s working to address the impact of the policy on Bishop’s University. Bishop’s is located in the Eastern Townships and not in Montreal, where the government has said the threat posed by English-speaking students to the French language is most pressing.

Last month François Legault’s Coalition Avenir Québec government announced that tuition fees for Canadian students from outside Quebec would jump to about $17,000 from about $9,000 annually. The measure is expected to have a dramatic impact on enrolment at the province’s three English-speaking universities, which attract thousands of students from elsewhere in Canada.

The government has also said it will claw back and redistribute some of the revenue from international student fees, which will have a significant impact on the anglophone schools as they tend to attract larger numbers of international students.

Globe readers share their thoughts on Quebec’s tuition hike for English-speaking students

Quebec Higher Education Minister Pascale Déry has said the province spends more than $100-million annually subsidizing the cost of postsecondary education for students from outside the province, and that some of this money will now be redistributed to French institutions.

The move has been met with criticism from both anglophone and francophone university leaders as well as from parts of the business community.

A spokesman for Ms. Déry, Simon Savignac, said Friday that the strong reaction to the government’s decision is normal in the circumstances. He said the government must correct a funding imbalance between anglophone and francophone institutions.

Mr. Savignac said in a statement that the government has made a difficult decision that has shaken up the established order, but McGill and Concordia will have to adjust and revisit their plans.

But Mr. Savignac sounded a different note on the subject of Bishop’s University. He said the government continues to work toward a solution that addresses the Lennoxville university’s particular circumstances.

In an open letter this week, more than 100 Bishop’s alumni and community leaders in Quebec called on the government to exempt Bishop’s from the tuition policy, which they said threatens the university’s very existence.

The tuition hike would price Bishop’s out of the market for many of the students coming from other parts of Canada, the letter said. About 30 per cent of Bishop’s students are Canadians from outside Quebec.

“The presence in the Eastern Townships of Bishop’s University and the approximately 800 students from other Canadian provinces who have chosen to study here does not jeopardize the vitality of the French language in our region,” the letter said.

McGill University principal Deep Saini this week that the proposed tuition policy would have devastating consequences for enrolment, particularly in some faculties, that could lead to hundreds of job losses, the rethinking of infrastructure projects and the suspension of some sports teams.

If the policy goes ahead, McGill estimates it could lose between $42-million and $94-million in tuition revenue. It said the school of music, which draws 40 per cent of its students from other Canadian provinces, would face “especially devastating” consequences.

Dr. Saini said the university in response will enact a hiring freeze, eliminate 650 to 700 jobs and bring in further cost-cutting measures. Concordia has said that its revenues for out-of-province Canadian students and international students could drop by more than $30-million each after four years.

In an open letter, the heads of the University of Montreal, Laval University, University of Sherbrooke, Polytechnique Montreal and HEC Montreal said a policy that weakens a university or threatens its existence should be off the table, and that the tuition measures wouldn’t go very far in supporting francophone universities. Students from other provinces are not cash cows, the letter said, but talented young people who contribute to the quality and diversity of Quebec’s institutions. It also underlined the importance of projecting an attitude of openness to attract talent to Quebec.

A meeting between the government and the leadership of the three anglophone universities is expected to happen soon, Mr. Savignac said.

Follow related authors and topics

Authors and topics you follow will be added to your personal news feed in Following.

Interact with The Globe