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Globe editorial: Giving a tuition break to foreign PhD students is an educated idea

The University of Toronto announced last week that it will slash annual tuition for international PhD students from roughly $23,000 to the much lower domestic rate of roughly $8,000, starting in the fall. Let's hope this becomes a trend.

In some ways, it's a small change. Some "professional" programs will be exempted. And since most PhD students don't pay tuition out of pocket for the first four years of their program because of university funding, the benefit will only start accruing in their fifth year of study.

Still, a savings of $15,000 can be a big deal for a young scholar from Iran or Bangladesh.

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The symbolism of the move is also important. It says to the world's best and brightest that the top research university in Canada's biggest city wants them here – and not just because of the gilded fees they pay.

Yes, there's a slight unfairness to the fact that Canadians will be paying the same tuition as foreign students. But that's similar to the way all public services for immigrants work, and Canadians overwhelmingly think it's worth it.

Plus it's good business. Nearly half of international and permanent-resident PhD students who graduated from U of T since 2000 stayed in Canada, keeping their skills here.

Canada has experienced a recruitment bonanza since Donald Trump's aggressively xenophobic administration took power last year, including a Silicon Valley hiring spree in places like Waterloo and Toronto. Our openness to international talent stands to be a competitive advantage as we hunt for foreign capital in the years ahead.

That's why other schools should be imitating U of T – with government assistance, if money is an object. It's in the interest of McGill, Queen's and others to have the smartest PhD students, regardless of means or nationality. It's in Canada's interest, too.

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