International students

Starting next September, international PhD students at Western University will pay domestic tuition fees.

The School of Graduate and Post-Doctoral Studies announced March 14 that all current and incoming international PhD students are to pay domestic tuition fees starting Sept. 1, 2018.

For some students, this will result in thousands of dollars in savings. All international and domestic PhD students receive a funding package that covers tuition plus an income of $13,000 during a four-year period. However, students entering the fifth year of a doctoral program are required to pay their own tuition and are no longer guaranteed any income. 

During the 2017-18 academic year, Western recorded 581 full-time and 9 part-time international PhD students.

“This is very good news for us,” said Mary Blake Bonn, the president of the Society of Graduate Students. Bonn is also an international student and a fourth-year PhD candidate in music theory. She particularly welcomes the announcement as her four-year funding period ends on August 30, 2018.

“We're always working to make sure that the services and programs available for international students are helpful," Bonn said. "We want to make sure that they have what they need to succeed here at Western.”

The change in tuition will not impact international student ancillary fees or international students' mandatory health insurance plan. Further, the tuition break excludes international students completing a doctor of education or a doctor of musical arts.

In November 2017, the SOGS International Graduate Student Issues Committee started a petition calling for full and equal access for all international students in terms of tuition fees, health insurance and federal funding. The petition has received 261 signatures to date.

“I'd like to think that the pressure our international graduate student issues committee has put on the administration has made a difference in communicating that this really is a priority,” Bonn said. “I do admit we can't single-handedly take credit for this... the University of Toronto made a similar decision a couple of months back.”

In January, U of T started charging international PhD students domestic tuition fees. Bonn said Ontario universities, like Western, that look to attract international PhD students are trying to catch up to maintain a competitive advantage.

While many students may be excited about the announcement, Bonn reported some feedback from master’s students asking the coverage be extended to international master’s student's tuition fees. She said that may be the next step to pursue.

“We certainly see these changes as a positive step, but of course there's still work to be done,” Bonn added.

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