Tuition hikes and other changes coming for international students in Quebec

Vimal Sivakumar
Published: October 20, 2023

In 2024, Quebec will be implementing changes to the post-secondary education system that some believe will have a “direct impact [on Quebec’s] ability to attract and retain the best talents.”

Recent reports from multiple outlets confirm Quebec’s intention, beginning in 2024, to implement several changes to the post-secondary education system – as well as connected immigration programs – across Canada’s only majority French-language province.

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Tuition fees set to double for out-of-province students attending any of Quebec’s three English universities

Incoming international students (as well as domestic Canadian students from outside of Quebec) set to attend any of the province’s three English universities – Bishop’s University, McGill or Concordia – will pay tuition that is twice as high as current rates starting in Fall 2024.

According to Premier François Legault, the upcoming tuition hike is being implemented as “one more gesture to reverse the decline of French in Quebec”, tuition for out-of-province students attending any of the three designated schools is set to rise “from … $8,992 to about $17,000 per year.”

Reports say that the tuition hikes will only impact undergraduate and graduate-level students after the Fall of 2024. This means that neither “students already in the system” nor “PhD students and researchers” will be impacted by the increase in tuition.

According to Quebec’s Higher Education Minister, Pascale Dery, this move is being made in an attempt to “boost funding of French universities and to protect French”, although she says that Quebec understands “increasing … tuition fees … will [cause] a drop [in enrollment] at Concordia, Bishop’s (and) McGill.”

New immigration rules will fast-track immigration for Francophone students

Quebec is set to alter its popular Programme de l’expérience Québécoise (PEQ) immigration pathway by adding a fast-track option specific to foreign students who are francophone and those who completed their studies in French. This change will mean that eligible international students, instead of having to acquire “12 to 18 months of work experience [prior to applying] for a certificate leading to permanent residency, can [make this request immediately after completing] their studies.”

Benoit Dubreuil, Quebec’s commissioner of the French language, notes that this change is being made for a similar reason as the tuition hike set to begin next Fall. “We have decided to render the knowledge of French a requirement for practically all the economic (immigration) programs … [because] we want people who live in Quebec to integrate, in French.”

What is the expected impact of these changes on international students?

These changes to Quebec’s post-secondary education system, and connected immigration pathways, are expected to have a notable impact on international students. This is due to the fact that most international students who come to Canada arrive from countries that do not speak French.

Impact of tuition hikes

From the time they enter Canada, Quebec-bound international students destined for English universities will now face tuition expenses that were already heavily advantageous to domestic Canadians.

In fact, according to Statistics Canada data pertaining to 2023/2024, the average international student tuition in Quebec at the undergraduate level ($31,887) is already over 9x more than the tuition expenses of domestic undergraduate students ($3,461). The difference is 5.5x at the graduate level, as international student tuition averages $20,034 while domestic tuition is just $3,633.

Undoubtedly, this tuition hike at Quebec’s three anglophone post-secondary institutions, will only further exacerbate the strain faced by foreigners coming to study in this region with respect to tuition fees.

Impact of changes to PEQ

Further, the changes coming to Quebec’s PEQ will impact the post-graduation immigration prospects of many international students who would otherwise live in Quebec.

According to Concordia University, one of only three English universities across Quebec, more than 9 in every 10 (93.3%) of its international student graduates obtained citizenship via the PEQ in 2017.

Now, many stakeholders across the province believe that such systemic changes to one of Quebec’s primary immigration programs will deter “foreign students without sufficient French knowledge … from applying [for permanent residence in Quebec] and eventually becoming part of the workforce.”

For international students, this may mean their Canadian immigration options – which many explore with the intent of staying in Canada after graduation – become even further limited, as these changes effectively remove the PEQ as a potential immigration pathway for those without the requisite French-language skills.

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