Meditations on internationalization

Our panellists weigh-in on the Board of Trustees’ vote to increase international tuition and its conflict with the adminstration’s stated goal of internationalizing Queen’s

James Simpson, ArtSci ‘11
James Simpson, ArtSci ‘11
Devin McDonald, ArtSci ‘13
Devin McDonald, ArtSci ‘13
Dan Osborne, ArtSci ‘12
Dan Osborne, ArtSci ‘12
Lindsay Kline, ArtSci ’11
Lindsay Kline, ArtSci ’11
Elamin Abdelmahmoud, ArtSci ’11
Elamin Abdelmahmoud, ArtSci ’11

Cap enrolment to improve educational quality for us all

James Simpson, ArtSci ‘11

One of the most interesting facets of the debate on the increase in international student fees is the apathetic response.

Granted, there wasn’t as much notice as there could have been, but aside from a few vocal students, the majority of us aren’t engaged in the issue.

There are several explanations for this. Perhaps many of us just don’t care about international students. Maybe some of us feel that they must be rich, so it doesn’t matter if their tuition increases. Or maybe we don’t care because tuition increases seem to be immutable and inevitable.

Regardless, blame has been placed unfairly on the University administration. Regulations that cap domestic fees but not international fees actively incentivize the practice of recruiting international students.

Recruiting as many international students as possible allows Queen’s to fund programs and pay for professors they would not otherwise be able to.

I suspect that one result of this rabid drive to recruit international students is a decrease in standards for international students.

Undergraduate admission requirements support this. Students originating from the US need a minimum B- average to apply to Queen’s, equivalent to a 65 per cent Canadian average. Canadian students need a minimum 75 per cent average.

There is something wrong with our system if universities are willing to take less-qualified international students over well-qualified domestic ones.

The provincial government needs to re-examine its incentive structure. They provide universities with less funding for international students but are willing to provide these students with huge scholarships instead (such as the recently announced $30,000 Trilium Scholarship program).

This is absurd.

The Ontario government should instead cap international student tuition in the same way domestic student tuition is capped.

This would reduce the incentive to recruit international students and lower barriers to international student entry, ensuring a more heterogeneous and diverse student population.

Fix the structure of post-secondary education, not funding

Devin McDonald, ArtSci ‘13

It seems that we can divide this issue into two separate parts that share one root cause. The first question we ought to pose is: are the tuition increases reasonable?

The second looks at whether the process through which the changes were adopted provided sufficient opportunity for input from the international student community.

I hesitantly assess that the increase is not fair nor was its mode of adoption, though I’m reluctant to place all the blame in the lap of Queen’s administration.

International students are uniquely valuable to the Queen’s community insofar as they are the only students who pay the actual costs of their degree.

Hypothetically, the difference between the domestic tuition rate and the actual cost should be filled by the government through subsidy, but the rate of subsidy has been in decline while the cost of providing a high quality education has been increasing. The result is a cash-strapped administration looking for any way to raise funds.

International students—in addition to bearing the full financial weight of their degree—are not protected by regulated tuition.

Recruiting international students is one of the few ways in which the administration can freely raise funds. In a sense, the administration has little choice beside taking advantage of international students.

The kneejerk reaction for most partisan-inclined observers will be to advocate for changes to the funding structures, but this fails to consider more subtle (and sensible) alternatives.

In many other parts of the world, professional schools do not require undergraduate degrees as prerequisites for entrance.

If we expedited those students wishing to go to law or medical school, we would eliminate four years of government subsidization for undergraduate study.

Considering the number of life science and political science students who claim to be headed straight to the doctor or lawyer lifestyle, this would have a significant impact on the collective costs of maintaining an educated population.

The Ontario government is the real source of the problem

Dan Osborne, ArtSci ‘12

Internationalization is not an issue that we really have—or really should—discuss at Queen’s University; it has been brought on by Dalton McGuinty and the Liberal government of Ontario.

Unbeknownst to many students, the provincial government has forced Queen’s University and other universities in the province into their current financial difficulties. One of the only options that Ontario universities have to solve this problem is by recruiting more international students.

Queen’s Park subsidises tuition for domestic students such that a Canadian student pays only about one-third of the true cost of their place at university.

However, the transfers that Toronto has made to the universities have, in real terms, nose-dived over the past 20 years. This has meant that the funding positions of universities have become perilous.

The natural suggestion would be to raise tuition. Unfortunately, the province has simultaneously banned universities from changing their domestic tuition fees to allow tuition to reflect the true cost of education.

The only way Queen’s can really respond to the problems caused by the province, and to stay in the black, is to admit more international students and change their tuition, because that is the only type of tuition they are legally allowed to change in any significant amount.

Internationalization brings a variety of issues to bear. Are all of the international students being admitted qualified? Do we prefer them to domestic students? Will they be able to integrate?

But we have to brush these issues aside, because we have not really been given a choice to accept internationalization or not. The choice has been financially forced upon us by the Province of Ontario.

If we truly want to address internationalisation, we need to vote in a provincial government that will promise to delineate more power and responsibility to universities themselves, if not outright privatise them.

Come October, it is imperative, for the quality of Ontario universities, that it’s the Progressive Conservatives or the New Democrats that take Queen’s Park and not the Ontario Liberals. Only then can we address issues surrounding internationalization.

Reassess our admittance practices

Lindsay Kline, ArtSci ’11

Questions have arisen about the culture of Queen’s in light of the recent decision to raise tuition for international students.

A closer look at how Queen’s fails to properly facilitate international students brings up issues with transparency, reputation and responsibility.

What seems most at stake is the culture and tradition that Queen’s boasted about in my acceptance package and still talks about in the hopeful alumni relations emails I receive.

Increasing tuition for international students is problematic because the University is jeopardizing the very ‘internationalization’ Principal Woolf stipulated as a priority.

I’m sure many students are already familiar with the administration making decisions that affect all of us with very little acknowledgement of the student body.

Yet, this issue is a double edged sword because students seem more interested in what happened last night than with the decisions being made regarding their money and the future of the University.

Taken hand-in-hand, the system’s failure to include students and the generally low level of personal responsibility students feel towards Queen’s has resulted in one problem after another.

So, what can be done? The panel discussed at length the issues that spawned from the new tuition rate for international students and came to the conclusion that student enrolment needs to be reduced.

The quality of a Queen’s education has declined due to large class sizes, overcrowded residences and a weakening of many traditions.

The rise in international student tuition fees exemplifies a greater issue with enrolment at Queen’s, which inadvertently affects our culture.

To better our education, Queen’s experience and, in this case, show off our ability to be an international university, major reconsiderations need to be done in the admittance process so that the culture at Queen’s can be revitalized.

We can’t support the numbers

Elamin Abdelmahmoud, ArtSci ’11

In recent years, the internationalization of Canadian universities has been talked about in an intellectual arms-race kind of language, with each university promising to do its best to attract the most talented international students.

The problem with the Queen’s dialogue about attracting international students is that for the most part, it’s a load of bull.

International student tuition in Ontario is deregulated. At Queen’s, we have a predictable model of a ridiculously high increase in cost after your first year, and a slightly less outrageous one for each year to follow. The price is not our fault, admittedly—that’s purely a problem with that governmental model. I even admit that Queen’s is a leader for promising predictability of increases.

However, the real problem with our message is that international students at Queen’s are undersupported financially, academically and culturally. Many international students report a lack of resources to help with the transition to Queen’s.

Many students do not know this, but Vice Principal and Provost Bob Silverman recently announced that next year, Queen’s cannot increase its enrollment by more than 100 students.

That is to say, structurally, our campus cannot handle and support more than an additional 100 people. Yet here we stand touting our open doors to international students, knowing full well that we are at capacity and incapable of providing the support these students need.

Here’s what we need to do, in this order: stop recruiting international students by promising them an environment they will flourish in, it’s just not true; support the existing international students much better than we do now—financially, academically and culturally; figure out what we’re going to do about the capacity of students this campus can hold; lobby the government for better funding models for international students and then, only then, can we jump back into this arms-race.

We’ve found ourselves in the middle of a recruiting war, and right now what we’re selling is not worth the price. Let’s stop lying to ourselves, and start doing better. Please?

And I didn’t even talk about the environment of structural racism at Queen’s.

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