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Opinion: Quebec's tuition scheme a blow to diversity in research

As McGill University graduate students, we foresee long-term consequences on our careers and a decrease in the value of our degrees.

Two students share an umbrella on the campus of McGill University in Montreal.
"Research laboratories and institutes within McGill rely heavily on a heterogeneous student population for undergraduate and graduate recruitment," write Anne Blouin, Mara Whitford and Sophie Viala, graduate students in the faculty of medicine and health sciences. Above: Sharing an umbrella on McGill's campus. Photo by John Mahoney /Montreal Gazette

As McGill University graduate students, we want to express our concern about Quebec’s tuition scheme for out-of-province students.

We are master’s and doctoral students completing our degrees in the faculty of medicine and health sciences. We conduct cutting-edge biomedical research at one of the world’s top-ranking universities.

Although we will not be directly affected by the new fees — which will almost double for students from the rest of Canada — we foresee long-term consequences on our careers and a decrease in the value of our hard-earned graduate degrees.

We joined McGill for its quality of education and resources available to pursue high-impact research and make a difference at an international level. McGill is known for its high academic standards and quality of students enrolled.

As a testament to this, only 8.30 per cent of students who applied to programs within the faculty of science in 2022 joined the university. Our world-class reputation is also reflected at the graduate level, where only one-quarter of applicants receive an offer of admission into a PhD program each year.

More than 50 per cent of the current graduate positions in the faculty of medicine were earned by out-of-province (26.79 per cent) and international (26.02 per cent) students. This highlights their invaluable contribution to research and crucial role in maintaining McGill’s high academic standards.

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Research laboratories and institutes within McGill rely heavily on a heterogeneous student population for undergraduate and graduate recruitment. The drastic increase in tuition for out-of-province and international students will inevitably deter a portion of these students from applying to McGill. This will lead to a decrease in the quality and diversity of research trainees.

High-quality health research fosters the exchange of knowledge and ideas among students at all levels and benefits from global perspectives. In 2022, 28.75 per cent of undergraduate students enrolled in the faculty of science were from other provinces. Potentially losing a significant proportion of such students would result in a decrease in the heterogeneity of researchers, which would in turn impede the pursuit of new ideas.

McGill is known internationally for its quality of research, which is maintained by the highly collaborative work among Quebec, ROC and international students. By adding barriers for out-of-province students wishing to join the university at the undergraduate level, the government essentially is also penalizing graduate students, laboratories and research institutions.

McGill cultivates a world-renowned hub of cutting-edge science and innovation in Montreal. Decreasing the standard for research within McGill would undoubtedly have negative repercussions on the Quebec scientific community as a whole.

Anne Blouin, Mara Whitford and Sophie Viala are students in the faculty of medicine and health sciences at McGill. This commentary is endorsed by the associate dean of biomedical sciences and by students and faculty members of the School of Biomedical Sciences.

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