McGill and Concordia sue the province of Quebec over 33% tuition hike

Two Canadian universities are suing the province of Quebec over a plan to hike tuition fees by 33% for out-of-province students and changes to fees paid by international students.

McGill and Concordia, two English-language universities in Quebec, argue the measures are discriminatory.

Applications for both have dropped since the measures were announced.

Quebec has defended the plan, claiming that it will help preserve the French language.

In December, the predominantly French-speaking province said tuition for out-of-province students would increase from C$9,000 ($6,700; £5,200) to C$12,000 a year.

Quebec will also take a larger chunk of the universities’ international student fees, which once boosted the schools’ operating budgets. Those funds are to be redistributed to French-speaking universities.

The province will also require that 80% of students from outside Quebec reach an intermediate level of French by the time they graduate.

The tuition overhaul is part of a range of policies Quebec has adopted to help preserve French heritage and language in the province – a longtime goal.

But both McGill and Concordia, two of the three English-language universities in the province, announced separate legal challenges on Friday on the basis of discrimination. They declared they had exhausted all other avenues.

“We would have greatly preferred not to do this, but we have run out of viable alternatives,” Deep Saini, McGill’s vice-chancellor and president, said in a statement.

He added that the university’s board believes the “measures are illegal” and “threaten” the institution’s mission.

McGill University is seeking a stay on both the tuition hike and the changes to their funding model. It says they constitute discrimination under federal and provincial rights charters and are “an unreasonable exercise of the powers” by the higher education minister.

Concordia is seeking a judicial review of the tuition measures, saying in its court filing that they are “based on stereotypes and false assumptions about the English-speaking community of Quebec and its institutions”.

The schools also argue the changes are already negatively affecting their future enrollment.

Combined, out-of-province and international undergraduate applications for McGill have dropped by more than 25% since last year. Concordia has had a roughly 39% combined decline in both types of applications over the same period.

A spokesman for Quebec’s higher education minister, Pascale Déry, declined to comment as the matter is now before the courts.

Source: BBC

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