In a historic win, PSAC has brought an end to sky-high tuition fees for its international PhD members at Queen’s University. Recently, the university announced that all PSAC members will pay the same PhD tuition, regardless of their immigration status, starting September 2021. This decision comes as a result of a two-year long, student-led campaign and advocacy by PSAC Local 901 members.
In 2019, PSAC members founded the International Student Working Group which brought together teaching assistants, research assistants and teaching fellows. They launched a campus-wide advocacy campaign drawing attention to the discriminatory practice of charging international PhD students two-times the tuition fees compared to domestic PhD students. The student working group wrote an open letter to the university demanding tuition parity and launched a petition that was signed by over 300 international graduate students.
Following these actions, Queen’s University commissioned a study into its graduate student wellbeing, which found that international PhD students are living in extremely precarious conditions, with only $22 per month to spare after tuition and rent was paid. The results of the study triggered a reconsideration of the university’s graduate student funding structure and led to the elimination of the inequitable tuition fees for international PhD students.
“This was our reality all along. We have seen our colleagues struggle hard to make ends meet, juggling between multiple minimum wage jobs, just so that they could pay tuition. We decided to do something about it two years ago, and our union took the lead in opening the doors for us and amplifying our voice.” says Canan Sahin, a PhD student from Turkey in the Department of Political Studies, and the current Chief Steward for Local 901.
PSAC hopes Queen’s University serves as an example to other post-secondary institutions across the country, who are unfairly demanding substantial international tuition rates at a time when most classes have moved to virtual. Bringing an end to the over-reliance on inflated international student tuition is one of the demands in the Education For All campaign, a joint coalition of PSAC, the Canadian Association of University Teachers, the Canadian Federation of Students, the Canadian Union of Public Employees, and the National Union of Public and General Employees.
You can join the fight for Education For All by signing up and pledging your support online.