Government measures affecting universities

Dear members of the McGill community, 

Today, the Government of Quebec released new measures affecting tuition and university funding:

  • English-language universities will be required to have 80 per cent of their undergraduate students from outside Quebec reach a level 5 (intermediate) proficiency in French by the time they graduate, starting with students beginning their studies in fall 2025.
  • Tuition for Canadian students from outside Quebec newly enrolled in undergraduate and professional master’s programs will rise to $12,000 (an increase of 33 percent from current tuition). The new tuition applies to students beginning their studies in fall 2024. Current students have five years to complete their program of study under the previous tuition structure.

As well, the Government will not reconsider its intention to claw back a significant portion of international student tuition fees, effective fall 2024. 

Unfortunately, these new measures are expected to have an even more devastating effect on the University than the ones announced two months ago. The new policies are incoherent. I have called upon Premier François Legault to reverse the decision and go back to the drawing board.  


Recruitment impacts 

Today’s announcement means a double hit for our recruitment efforts: tuition for Canadian students from outside Quebec will be the highest in Canada for most programs, and French requirements will increase the cost and time for non-francophone students from outside Quebec to complete their degree. 

McGill supports the promotion of the French language and has proposed concrete programs to help non-francophone students integrate into Quebec’s workforce and society after graduation. However, the Government’s expectation that 80 per cent of undergraduate students from outside Quebec attain an intermediate level of French is utterly unrealistic.  

Many students are attracted by Quebec’s unique and rich culture and strive to learn French so that they can build their lives here after graduation. But a student with no knowledge of French would need a full semester of courses, on average, to reach an intermediate level. Forced to take an extra semester to complete their degree, most will simply go elsewhere.  

In terms of tuition for Canadian students from outside Quebec, the new $12,000 rates are double those at the University of Toronto and University of British Columbia for most programs.  


Financial impacts 

The Government will not reconsider the clawback of tuition from international students originally announced on October 13. We had estimated the total financial impact on McGill that stemmed from the clawback and from the expected drop in enrolment due to higher tuition for Canadian students from outside Quebec to range between $42 million and $94 million annually. The new requirements for French proficiency announced today could dramatically decrease enrolment, increasing the financial impact even further.  

Ultimately, the full financial impact will only become clear once we see the impact on enrolment. But we must prepare to navigate very difficult waters ahead.  


Impacts on Quebec  

With fewer students from outside Quebec studying at our universities, Montreal’s economy will feel an immediate chill, as what students spend on food, entertainment, clothing, and other expenditures will benefit businesses outside of Quebec. The ill-considered policies will also deprive Quebec employers of skilled talent during an already significant labour shortage. By weakening universities and research networks, the measures will harm Quebec’s capacity to innovate.  

Quebec’s reputation around the world will be – indeed, already is – tarnished.  

The measures will even harm the Government, which had hoped to increase its revenues by clawing back tuition from international students. However, the French-language targets will have such a detrimental effect on international student recruitment that most of the revenue the Government is counting on will not be realized – an example of the incoherence of these policies.  


Next steps  

A working group chaired by Provost Manfredi is considering multiple options to ensure our financial stability. However, as salaries represent the bulk of our operating budget, the Provost has already put in place a hiring freeze. We aim to reduce the number of employees through attrition, rather than a reduction in positions held currently by employees. The Provost will host a budget town hall for the entire community before presenting the FY2025 budget to McGill’s Board of Governors.  


Current students  

I know that current students may be concerned, so I will reiterate that neither the increase in tuition for Canadian students from outside Quebec nor the new French language programs will apply to you. And I can assure prospective students that we will do everything in our power to ensure that McGill remains financially accessible, drawing on a pool of scholarships and student aid that is the best in Canada. 


McGill will not be diminished 

The last two months have been filled with uncertainty. But I am reminded that successive generations of McGillians built this University from the ground up, one achievement at a time. The result – the product of two centuries of collective effort and dedication – is one of the world’s great universities.  

Each university has its own unique character. And McGill’s role as a place of meeting and exchange for all peoples of the world is fundamental to its identity. We bring together leading minds from Quebec, Canada and internationally, and create the conditions that allow them to learn, grow, and innovate, so that the whole of our community becomes so much more than the sum of the individuals who constitute it.  

This esprit rassembleur is fundamental to our identity. This is who we are.  

And with the very core of our identity under threat, I give you my word that we will fight these destructive measures with all that we have. The extraordinary nature of this threat necessitates an equally extraordinary response. And so, as per the mandate granted to me by the Board of Governors at its November meeting, I commit to exploring any and all avenues necessary to maintain the University’s standards of excellence in support of its mission.  

We may face turbulence ahead, and we may be forced to explore unconventional solutions, but we will not be diminished. 



Deep Saini 
President and Vice-Chancellor 
McGill University

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