Kingston – On January 27, 2021, Queen’s University announced the introduction of tuition fee parity between International and Domestic PhD Students. This announcement comes as a historic win for the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC Local 901), and our hundreds of migrant members who have been paying twice the tuition fees as their domestic colleagues until now.
Starting this Fall Semester, all members will be eligible to pay the same PhD tuition, regardless of their immigration status in Canada. This decision comes as a result of a two-year long student-led campaign and advocacy at the University.
In early 2019, migrant members of our union self-organized to form an International Student Caucus, with the purpose of discussing and addressing various inequities that plagued graduate education at Queen’s. After a series of discussions, the group – led by members from across continents, identified some pressing issues that needed to be addressed.
The International Student Caucus drafted an open letter to the University and met with the upper administration to share these concerns. The first and most pressing of demands raised was the elimination of tuition fee disparity, which identified as discriminatory on the basis of immigration status.
Since then, Local 901 members founded a campaign-front called “International Student Working Group”, bringing together Teaching Assistants, Research Assistants and Teaching Fellows under the shared identity of International Graduate Students. We then launched a campus-wide advocacy campaign demanding tuition parity as a single-point agenda. We created and circulated educational info graphs, built coalitions among other student groups, and launched a petition that collected over 300 signatures of International Graduate Students.
Following these actions, the University commissioned a study into Graduate Student Wellbeing, which found that International PhD Students are living in extremely precarious conditions, with only 22$ to spare for other expenses after tuition and rent was paid.
“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.
The results of the study triggered a reconsideration by the University into Graduate Student Funding structures, and eventually resulted in the elimination of the inequitable tuition fee charges upon International PhD Students.
We consider this decision to be a win for self-organized grassroots advocacy, and a victory that highlights the role of unions in leading the struggle for equity, racial justice and non-discriminatory working conditions.
For more information or to arrange interviews, please contact:
Lino Vieira, Political Communications Officer, firstname.lastname@example.org or 416-577-0238