International students hit the streets

Demonstration planned to protest fee hikes, GPA requirements in engineering

University of Manitoba international students are planning a massive demonstration outside the Fort Garry administration building July 30 to protest what they view as unfair treatment in everything from tuition fees to entrance requirements for the faculty of engineering.

“The university is just treating international students as cash cows,” said Muhammad Jazim, international students’ commissioner for the Canadian Federation of Students-Manitoba.

“They don’t seem responsible anymore toward international students, they are only responsible for getting as much cash out of international students as they can get.”

The recently passed 2015-16 U of M budget includes a hike in the tuition fee differential for international undergraduate students, who will have to pay between 10 and 18 per cent more in tuition this year depending on their academic program.

International graduate students were also subject to a fee increase, with their fee multiplier increasing by 10 per cent. Together, the two fee increases give the university $7.6 million in new revenue this year.

The fee hike comes as the university has trimmed $14.4 million from the operating portion of its $701 million budget, leading some international students to lament the quality of education at the U of M.

Mujtaba Abdul Jalil, a fourth-year electrical engineering student and the international students‘ representative for the University of Manitoba Students’ Union points out that the U of M is consistently low on rankings of the U15 group of Canadian research universities.

“One of the reasons given for the fee increase for international students was that they were comparing the fee with other U15 universities,” Jalil said.

“Those universities have a high percentage of international students, their rank is either stagnant or improving because the quality of education is improving, whereas University of Manitoba is going down. It has gone down every year.”

The university maintains that the fee increase is necessary to bring international student fees in line with those of most other Canadian universities.

“International students are very important to the University of Manitoba,” said John Danakas, executive director of marketing and communications, in an interview last month.

“The University of Manitoba has been traditionally less expensive than comparable universities.”

GPA requirements

In addition to the tuition fee issue, international students will be protesting the differential in GPA requirements for domestic and international students applying for admission to the U of M faculty of engineering after University 1.

The faculty of engineering maintains a GPA differential, ensuring that entrance requirements are much stricter for international students than domestic students applying for admission into the faculty of engineering.

There are five program streams in engineering, each with their own differential requirements. The largest gap is in civil engineering, where domestic students can gain admission with a 2.94 GPA in University 1 while international students must earn a GPA of 4.13.

The faculty of engineering consistently admits more international students than the U of M‘s 10 per cent enrolment total. This year, international students made up 13.69 per cent of total offers issued by the faculty.

In July 2014, international students organized a protest on campus railing against the GPA requirement, which they characterized as unfair. They are organizing around the issue again as more students are turned away or struggle to gain admission.

According to Jalil, the GPA differential leads to a situation where many international students attend University 1 without knowing about the strict differential in engineering admission requirements or the preference for domestic students in faculty admissions.

“I see University 1 accepting so many international students,” he said.

“I don’t see why you increase the population at the entry point and then sort of stay stagnant when it comes to quotas for the faculties.”

Representatives from the U of M faculty of engineering could not be reached before press time.

However, in statements made during a university senate meeting in June of last year regarding the GPA differential, U of M engineering dean Jonathan Beddoes defended the policy and said that University 1 students were given plenty of advance notice about the requirements last year.

“The admission policies for international students have not changed recently, but have been in place for more than 30 years,” he said, adding that the faculty’s general policy is to favour domestic students, who are either Canadian citizens or permanent residents.

“A full year before applying the existing university policy students were reminded of this policy. That this policy existed was communicated to students with announcements in courses during the winter term of 2013 and through many emails and meetings.”