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University of Toronto to remove higher tuition for international PhD students

Prof. Joshua Barker, dean of the School of Graduate Studies, said the school wanted to remove financial barriers.

As Metro reported last year, U of T has seen a spike in international student applications since the U.S. travel ban.

Eduardo Lima / Metro

As Metro reported last year, U of T has seen a spike in international student applications since the U.S. travel ban.

In a bid to attract top research talent, the University of Toronto announced Wednesday it will no longer charge most international PhD students higher tuition.

International students typically pay much more than domestic ones, at all levels, but starting in fall 2018, the university's PhD students will pay the same amount. Currently, international PhD students pay an average of $22,604 a year, compared to $8,492 for domestic PhDs.

Prof. Joshua Barker, dean of the School of Graduate Studies, said the school wanted to remove financial barriers. While they already provide funding packages to doctoral students, that runs out after four years.

“If we can attract a strong cohort of international students into our ranks, it allows us to build a kind of global network that will benefit all of our students, because research today really does happen at a global scale,” Barker said.

As Metro reported last year, U of T has seen a spike in international student applications since the U.S. travel ban. This move puts the school in an even more competitive position to attract top talent.

Over the 2017-2018 academic year, 1,179 of the total 6,145 PhD students were international.

Jim Woodgett, director of research at the U of T-affiliated Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum Research Institute, said lowering international PhD tuition is "the best thing U of T could have done to increase diversity and excellence."

At many labs and institutes, research supervisors pay grad students' tuition and stipend out of their budgets, financed by limited research grants, Woodgett explained in an email. And because international students' tuition is so much more expensive, there's a "major disincentive" to recruit them.

Rather than just U of T, removing the tuition barrier is "good for Canada," he added. "We see other countries putting up walls to limit foreign-born trainees. We’ll benefit by attracting the best minds to conduct research.... Some will stay and become Canadians over time. Others will return home but retain affinities with Canada. It will help build international relationships."

U of T professor Molly Shoichet, who holds a Canada Research Chair in Tissue Engineering and directs U of T’s Shoichet Lab, said she’s “really excited by this change.”

“There are great Canadian students and great international students. By lowering the barriers to recruiting and hiring international students, we will be able to enhance the excellence of our scientific pursuits while at the same time bring diversity into our laboratories,” Shoichet wrote in an email.

“Having a diversity of perspectives is key to critical and creative thinking.”

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