By Tim Alamenciak
More international students will be able to get their PhD from Ryerson University thanks to increased funding from the provincial government.
Ryerson and the Ontario government will provide three international PhD students with $40,000 per year for four years in order to help them get their doctorate.
The government will provide twothirds of the funding, with the university picking up the remaining third. The funding will be available starting in fall 2011.
“Individuals coming to study from overseas bear huge financial pressure,” said Diana Ning, co-ordinator of International Student Services at Ryerson.
Ning said paying for tuition and living expenses is the number one challenge for international students.
They pay nearly double the tuition of domestic students. Domestic tuition is regulated and can only increase 5 per cent per year, whereas the institution can set international student tuition.
This initiative will help provide international students with the extra support that they do not currently receive, according to Ryerson president Sheldon Levy.
“The difference is that when a university takes in a Canadian or a landed immigrant student, the province funds that student,” said Levy.
“When an international student is recruited to any university in Ontario, [they get] zero from the province.”
Levy added support from the scholarship would make it easier for Ryerson and other Ontario universities to recruit the world’s best talent because they would be able to provide them with financial aid.
“It’s a great investment,“ said Levy. ”If you believe that you have to be competitive for the best minds in the world… then it’s a good investment.”
The province has left the criteria for who receives the scholarship up to individual universities.
Dr. Alan Shepard, provost and vice-president academic, will collaborate with the dean of graduate studies to decide on the criteria for the recipients.
But the university has not worked out the details yet. But, according to Levy, the decisions surrounding the recipient criteria will have to be made by January or February 2011.
“You’re going to have to recruit students and they’re going to have to know,” said Levy. “You can’t recruit students in September.”
Dalton McGuinty announced the new scholarship while on a visit to China. The scholarship will fund a total of 75 international PhD students across Ontario. Ontario’s 17 universities will receive at least two spots, with 15 of them going to the University of Toronto.
But opposition parties are upset about the decision. Tim Hudak, PC leader and opposing candidate in the upcoming election, told the Toronto Sun he would shift the spending to domestic students.
“Hopefully they’ll want to stay here, if not they’ll go back to their own country and become great ambassadors,” said Tyler Charlebois, spokesperson for John Milloy, Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities.
Both McGuinty’s office and Ning say international students bring an economic benefit to the province because they rent apartments and buy things. Ryerson currently has 1300 international students, 230 of whom are graduate students in either Masters or PhD programs.
The fund is provided through collaboration between the Ontario government and universities. The government will contribute $20 million, while universities will provide $10 million.
The premier’s announcement is part of the Open Ontario Plan, a suite of government policies aimed at improving Ontario’s economy. Ontario hosted a total of 38,000 international students in 2009-2010.
The government hopes to achieve an increase of 50 per cent in international enrollment over the next five years.
Photo: Lauren Strapagiel