In 2024, Quebec is set to implement changes to its post-secondary education system that will have a direct impact on international students. These changes include tuition hikes and alterations to immigration programs, which are causing concern about the province’s ability to attract and retain top talent.
Quebec’s post-secondary education system is undergoing significant changes that are expected to affect international students. Starting in 2024, several adjustments will be made to tuition fees and immigration pathways in Canada’s only majority French-language province. These changes aim to protect and promote the French language while also addressing funding gaps in the province’s universities. This article explores the implications of these changes for international students.
Tuition Fees Set to Double for Out-of-Province Students Attending English Universities
Beginning in Fall 2024, international students attending any of Quebec’s three English universities – Bishop’s University, McGill, or Concordia – will face a doubling of their tuition fees. This increase will also apply to domestic Canadian students from outside of Quebec. Premier François Legault justifies the tuition hike as a measure to reverse the decline of French in Quebec. The current annual tuition rate of $8,992 will rise to approximately $17,000 for out-of-province students at these designated schools.
It is important to note that this tuition hike will only impact undergraduate and graduate-level students starting in Fall 2024. Students already in the system, as well as PhD students and researchers, will not be affected by the increase. While Quebec’s Higher Education Minister, Pascale Dery, acknowledges that the tuition fees will lead to a drop in enrollment at Concordia, Bishop’s, and McGill, she emphasizes the need to boost funding for French universities and protect the French language.
New Immigration Rules Will Fast-Track Immigration for Francophone Students
Quebec plans to modify its Programme de l’expérience Québécoise (PEQ) immigration pathway by introducing a fast-track option specifically for foreign students who are fluent in French or have completed their studies in French. This change means that eligible international students will no longer be required to acquire 12 to 18 months of work experience before applying for permanent residency. Instead, they can immediately request a certificate leading to permanent residency upon completing their studies.
Benoit Dubreuil, Quebec’s commissioner of the French language, explains that this change aligns with the province’s goal of making knowledge of French a requirement for most economic immigration programs. The aim is to promote integration in French among those who choose to live in Quebec.
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 significant impact on international students. The majority of international students who come to Canada arrive from countries where French is not spoken, which presents challenges related to language proficiency and cultural integration.
Impact of Tuition Hikes
The tuition hikes at Quebec’s three English universities will further exacerbate the financial strain faced by international students. Even without the increase, international student tuition fees are already significantly higher than those for domestic students. According to Statistics Canada data for 2023/2024, undergraduate international students pay an average of $31,887 per year, over nine times more than the $3,461 paid by domestic undergraduate students. At the graduate level, the difference is 5.5 times, with international student tuition averaging $20,034 compared to just $3,633 for domestic students.
These tuition hikes will make it even more challenging for international students to afford their education in Quebec and may discourage prospective students from considering the province as a study destination.
Impact of Changes to PEQ
The modifications to Quebec’s PEQ program can also limit the post-graduation immigration prospects of international students. Concordia University, one of the three English universities in Quebec, reported that over 93.3% of its international student graduates obtained citizenship through the PEQ program in 2017. However, with the recent changes, many stakeholders believe that international students without sufficient French knowledge will be deterred from applying for permanent residency in Quebec and joining the province’s workforce.
This effectively removes the PEQ as a potential immigration pathway for international students who do not possess the necessary French-language skills. As a result, their Canadian immigration options may become further limited, impacting their plans to stay and contribute to Canada after graduation.
The upcoming tuition hikes and changes to immigration pathways in Quebec are expected to have a significant impact on international students. The doubling of tuition fees for out-of-province students attending Quebec’s three English universities increases the financial burden on already financially strained international students. Additionally, the alterations to the PEQ program create barriers for international students without adequate French language proficiency, limiting their post-graduation immigration opportunities in Quebec.
As these changes unfold, it remains crucial to monitor their effects on international student enrollment and the province’s ability to attract and retain international talent. The long-term implications for Quebec’s education system and the diverse culture it strives to maintain are yet to be fully understood.
To study in Quebec, you first need to have a letter of acceptance from the designated learning institution that you plan to attend in Quebec. In addition, you must have received an attestation of issuance of your Quebec Acceptance Certificate (CAQ), which is issued by the province of Quebec. At that time, you can apply for a study permit from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada.