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UBC Theses and Dissertations

From “friendly relations” to differential fees : a history of international student policy in Canada since World War II McCartney, Dale M.


This dissertation examines the development of policy related to international undergraduate students in Canada since the end of the Second World War. It draws on archival materials from the federal, British Columbia, and Ontario governments, and seven institutions: the University of Toronto, Carleton University, Wilfrid Laurier University, Seneca College, the University of British Columbia, Simon Fraser University, and Kwantlen Polytechnic University. The dissertation unearths the initial proto-policies developed by non-governmental agencies that provided services for international students, and examines how the priorities of these service groups were inherited by institutions as the organizations were formally incorporated into universities and colleges. It follows these early policy makers as they responded to international students’ own emerging consciousness, and the transition of students from welcome visitors to dangerous possible immigrants in the eyes of Members of Parliament. Out of this new context emerged differential tuition fees, which were first contested, then embraced by institutions. As differential fees became normalized, they reshaped institutions, driving them to dramatically expand recruitment efforts of international students. The dissertation concludes by examining another unintended emerging policy, as Canadian immigration policy and international student recruitment efforts combine to situate post-secondary institutions as immigrant selectors. In the process, the dissertation demonstrates the development of international student policy in Canada was uneven and reactive. Policy was crafted informally at the institutional level, or by non-governmental actors, and then formalized by institutions or governments when convenient. Although policies emerged fitfully, Canadian policy makers adopted policies only when beneficial for Canada and Canadian institutions, either politically or economically. Yet international student policies were consistently framed as an expression of the “internationalism” of Canadian higher education. However, the different attitudes towards international students embedded in policy demonstrate competing conceptions of internationalism at the institutional and government level. Finally, the dissertation argues that contemporary policy regarding international students, including the 2014 development of a Federal international education strategy, are not a break from this history but instead the culmination of decades of policy debates.

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