Foreign doctorate students could be sent home

Finish in four years or pay for it yourself: Ontario government

Six international doctorate students at the University of Western Ontario are fighting a new rule that forces them to pay up if they take more than four years to complete their degrees. They say that if they get sent home, their education — subsidized so far by Canadian taxpayers — will be wasted.

Saad Anis of Pakistan is one of those students. He told Inside Higher Ed that he may never finish his Ph.D. in philosophy, because he can’t afford to pay the international tuition of $16,000 plus living costs to take a fifth year. Although Ph.D. Humanities students at Western take an average of nearly six years to graduate, international students are funded only for four.

“Transfer is one option,” Anis said. “But I think most likely what is going to happen is I will not be able to finish and I’ll just go back home [to Pakistan] and teach at a high school or something.”

Russell Poole, the associate dean of research and graduate studies for the Faculty of Arts and Humanities said: “I feel very sorry for them that the rules have changed and those rules have changed while they’ve been here.” But, he added that Western doesn’t owe them more funding. “It would be simply wrong to say that any time a student is not completing in four years the university has the obligation to provide funding for the fifth or sixth year,” he said.

Henrik Lagerlund, the philosophy department chair feels that it would be a waste for the students not to finish, but added, “I think I can say with confidence that this program is doable in four years.”