The University of British Columbia is accepting more international students in some academic programs and displacing qualified domestic students as a result. That is according to a research paper published by Dr. Peter Wylie, associate professor of economics at UBC Okanagan and University of Alberta law student Shaun Campbell.
The paper titled “British Columbia’s International Education Strategy: Implications for Public Post-Secondary Education” argues that students who are Canadian-born and permanent residents are unable to get into high-demand programs at UBC because foreign students are getting accepted over them.
“(Foreign students) are not displacing domestic students in total because UBC is meeting their targets for domestic students,” Wylie told Daily Hive.
“But a lot of the seats in these programs are taken by international students. So there is a displacement of domestic students with the uneven distribution of international students.”
Out of the 54,232 students enrolled at UBC in the 2016/2017 school year, 13,182 (24%) were international students, according to the university’s Annual Report on Enrollment.
In their report, Campbell and Wylie highlight that the university has set different admissions standards for domestic and international students in its Principles of Effective Undergraduate Admission.
“For example, in programs like Commerce and Kinesiology, where there is vast unmet domestic student demand, the competitive GPA for domestic students to get in might be in the 90s,” write Campbell and Wylie in the report.
“However, for international students, there might be only a small amount of excess demand relative to supply of seats targeted, so they might get in with say a competitive GPA in the 70s (because they are not competing in the same pool).”
According to Wylie, this is a way for the university to maximize its revenues.
“For UBC, it’s a money-making venture,” he said.
In the report, Campbell and Wylie refer to UBC’s 2017/2018 operating budget, which forecasts the university will receive $277 million from international students in the upcoming school year.
This is significantly higher than the $227 million the school will receive from domestic students.
“If this money actually went into more classes and professors, it would be all fine. I tend to find it goes into more administration and more provosts and more higher salaries for administrators and it’s not necessarily trickling down where it would benefit the domestic students who are being displaced from some of these courses,” Wylie told Daily Hive.
UBC does not believe that international students are displacing domestic students.
In their report, Campbell and Wylie cite several reports where UBC administration argue that displacement is not an issue.
“Not a single BC student is displaced by international students at UBC. The premise that UBC’s recruitment of international students is at the expense of our mandate to serve BC is false,” said former UBC president Stephen Toope in 2012.
Wylie acknowledges that his report has not sat well with UBC administration.
Wylie has also come across criticism that his report is discriminated against foreign students. But he says this has nothing to do with culture or race.
“I think diversity in the classroom is a wonderful thing,” he said. “And people sometimes misinterpret it as a racial issue but we are all immigrants really in Canada.”
However, Wylie says he does not think that international students should be given preference into certain academic programs when there are qualified students who are Canadian citizens or permanent residents.
Wylie says that the university should consider conducting a study into where funds from international students should be allocated.
He argues that money from international student tuition fees needs to trickle down to a department level.
“The tuition fees from these international students are massive now. And the money the international students are paying might not be going to the programs that they are taking that would help domestic students get better classes in that program,” said Wylie.
“I think there needs to be better transparency and accountability at the university level.”