State opts for fee freedom

March 8, 2002

British Columbia has become the first Canadian province to deregulate undergraduate tuition fees, giving its six universities the freedom to set fees as they choose.

None of the province's universities announced increases, it is expected that students, who pay C$2,617 (£1,150) a year for an undergraduate arts degree will soon pay about C$3,452, the Canadian average. Medical, dentistry and law students are expected to see even steeper rises.

Brian Sullivan, University of British Columbia vice-president for students, said: "We have been talking about increasing undergraduate fees to approximately the national average in three years." This would mean a 56 per cent increase.

The west coast province has for six years kept a freeze on fees. This made it the least expensive region for undergraduate education in the country.

The province's Liberal government, forecasting a C$4.4 billion deficit, has been implementing severe cuts. It has frozen the C$1.9 billion it gives to universities each year.

Students protesting the cuts occupied BC premier Gordon Campbell's constituency office and demanded the reinstatement of first-year grants.

The latest BC budget announced an increase in the number of medical school and high-tech graduates and a private partnership to fund 20 new research chairs.

Robert Clift, executive director of the Confederation of University Faculty Associations of BC, said the confederation would try to make sure universities did not go "hog wild" in raising tuition fees and would push the government to increase student aid.

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