February 29th, 2024

Quebec hikes tuition by 30 per cent for McGill, Concordia, imposes French requirement

By Sidhartha Banerjee, The Canadian Press on December 14, 2023.

Quebec is hiking tuition and imposing a French-language requirement for out-of-province students who attend McGill and Concordia universities. Concordia University's downtown campus is seen in Montreal, Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz

MONTREAL – Quebec says it will hike tuition by 30 per cent for out-of-province Canadian students, to $12,000 a year, and wants most of them to speak French at an intermediate level by the time they graduate.

In a letter dated Thursday to Quebec’s three English-language universities – Bishop’s, Concordia and McGill – Higher Education Minister Pascale Déry said the government is imposing the new measures so that anglophone Canadians better integrate into society.

The three schools had warned that the new tuition rate, which would be among the highest in the country, could lead to a drop in enrolment and devastate their finances. They recently proposed a different tuition model that they said would inflict less harm, but Déry said Thursday their plan wasn’t good enough.

“To reverse the decline of French in Quebec, we believe it is imperative to aim for more ambitious targets,” Déry said in her letter.

The government’s decision is somewhat softer than its earlier plan to raise tuition to around $17,000 from $8,992 for out-of-province Canadian students. The 30 per cent hike, to $12,000, now only applies to McGill and Concordia, not Bishop’s, and begins in the fall for incoming students. The French requirement is new, however, and will apply to all three schools by the 2025-26 academic year.

Déry says that in order for McGill and Concordia to avoid financial penalties, 80 per cent of non-Quebec students enrolled in an anglophone program should have a Level 5 spoken French by the end of their undergraduate studies. According to the Quebec “scale of proficiency in French,” Level 5 means a person “understands the essentials of conversations on everyday topics …. They grasp a varied vocabulary.”

The minister says Bishop’s will be spared the tuition hike because it is located in Sherbrooke, Que., where the French language is not under threat in the way it is in Montreal, where McGill and Concordia are located. Bishop’s will be able to offer a fixed number of out-of-province students the current rate, capped at 825 people. And while the new French-language rules will apply to the school, its financing “won’t be conditional” on Bishop’s attaining them.

Bishop’s called Thursday’s decision a positive outcome for the university. Sébastien Lebel-Grenier, principal and vice-chancellor, said in a statement that the school’s community was able to “convince the Quebec government that we and the students we welcome to campus from the rest of Canada are not a threat to the French language but rather an essential part of what makes our region unique.”

McGill is expected to comment later Thursday but had called on the government to reverse the decision on tuition, saying it would have “devastating effects.”

Quebec also announced earlier this year it would charge universities $20,000 for every international student they admit and reinvest that money into the French-language university network.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 14, 2023.

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