Recently, both the provincial and federal governments have committed themselves to attracting more international students to Ontario’s universities, with a stated goal of doubling Canada’s international student enrollment by 2022. OUSA is supportive of the increased internationalization of our campuses as international students provide valuable diverse perspectives and educational experiences that all undergraduates in Ontario benefit from. OUSA believes that in order for a doubling of international student enrolment is to be achieved, there are a range of issues that must first be addressed to ensure that an increase in international student enrolment does not result in decreased education quality for both international and domestic students. This year, Queen’s University hosted the 39th annual General Assembly and over the course of the three day conference, undergraduate students from Queen’s University, Brock University, McMaster University, Trent University, the University of Waterloo, Western University, and Wilfrid Laurier University debated policies pertaining to international students. The outcome of the conference was a new and updated iteration of OUSA’s International Student policy paper.

The updated paper addresses a plethora of issues surrounding international students and outbound domestic students alike, with topics ranging from excessively high international student tuition, to the problems associated with inadequate international students supports available on Ontario’s campuses. The paper begins by outlining the positive contributions international students regularly make to our campus cultures and broader communities, and the unique barriers international students face during their studies at Ontario’s institutions of higher learning. Students believe that the government, institutions, and students must ensure Ontario remains a welcoming place to study for all types of international students.

In order to ensure international students are provided with a welcoming, supportive environment and a high-quality educational experience, students recommend that international students pay no more than the real cost of their education, and that international student tuition should not be used to generate additional revenue for universities. Currently, international students pay far beyond the real cost of their education and are faced with high tuition costs that many students view as exploitative. Students are concerned about the troubling high sticker price of international student tuition, which averages more than 265 per cent more than domestic students. Additionally, international students are faced with yearly unpredictable tuition increases, which moves international students further away from paying the real cost of their education. The outcomes of this conference indicated that students believe that international student tuition should be regulated within the Ontario tuition framework, ensuring fairness for all students. Currently, international student tuition is deregulated, meaning there institutions are able to set international tuition rates as they see fit. Fair, consistent, and predicable tuition rates would allow Ontario to attract international students from a variety of socio-economic backgrounds, while also helping to make Ontario a key destination for international education.

For the first time, OUSA’s International Students policy paper specifically addresses concerns related to protected persons and refugees studying in Ontario, providing context for the historical issues these students have faced in Ontario’s post-secondary education sector. The paper also builds upon past work related to the student financial assistance available to international students, immigration and visas, health coverage, employment, international recruitment and admissions, and international student supports.

Finally, the International Students policy paper introduced an entirely new section on outbound students. There is a growing recognition of the positive benefits associated with studying abroad and students felt it important to ensure that this was reflected in the paper. Studying abroad often represents an excellent educational opportunity and Canadian students can greatly benefit from a high-quality experience abroad. Such experiences enhance a student’s employability and enhances their global knowledge capacity. These opportunities can assist students in building and developing the skills required to find meaningful employment in an increasingly complex labour market. The paper emphasizes that the government and institutions should encourage post-secondary students to participate in study abroad opportunities.

The sections within this paper provide a framework for the voice of Ontario’s student body on principles, concerns, and recommendations directly related to international students and domestic students wishing to pursue study aboard opportunities. Students believe the recommendations within this paper serve to enhance the Canadian economy, the post-secondary experience, and Canada’s multinational diversity as both Ontario and Canada seek to attract a greater number of international students to our universities.

To read OUSA’s International Students policy paper, click here.

Chris Fernlund
OUSA Steering Committee Member 2013-2014
Trent Oshawa Student Association (TOSA) VP University Affairs 2013-2014