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U of M engineering faculty accused of discrimination

Protestors at the U of M Thursday say the university discriminates against foreign applicants.

KEN GIGLIOTTI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Enlarge Image

Protestors at the U of M Thursday say the university discriminates against foreign applicants.

About 50 students demonstrated on the University of Manitoba campus Thursday to accuse the faculty of engineering of discriminating against international students.

Canadian Federation of Students Manitoba chairman Zach Fleisher said U of M has capped foreign student enrolment at 13.69 per cent in engineering, and will admit domestic students with as little as a 2.94 grade point average while requiring foreign students to have at least a 4.13 GPA.

That happened without notice or consultation, Fleisher said.

"It's an unfair dichotomy between domestic and international," Fleisher said.

Engineering dean Jonathan Beddoes said there are no caps on enrolment or on admission standards. Students have known the admissions process for this fall since last December, and U of M has had a policy of different treatment for Canadian students and foreign students for more than 30 years, he said.

"This year there's a high demand to study engineering at the University of Manitoba -- demand from Manitoba and international students far outstrips the seats available. We are turning away academically qualified Manitobans," Beddoes said.

Engineering will accept a minimum of 10 per cent of international students for the 350 second-year seats -- when students compete to get into their major field, such as civil or electrical engineering -- and aims to take 12 to 15 per cent foreign students.

That's the national average, Beddoes said.

This year, U of M accepted foreign students into 13.7 per cent of the available seats, he said, emphasizing that "13.7 per cent is not a cap.

"We start at the top of the GPA list and work our way down," he explained. The last qualified foreign student U of M accepted this year had a GPA of 4.13, and while U of M could have taken three or four more foreign students within the 15 per cent upper target, there was a big gap between that student and the next one's GPA of 4.0, said Beddoes.

The last Canadian student to be accepted had a 2.94 GPA, he said.

While student leaders accused U of M of discriminating, those student leaders would not say whether they believe foreign students have the right to attend university here under the same criteria as Canadian students.

"I'm not commenting on that," said U of M Students Union president Al Turnbull.

Fleisher said that CFS has not yet developed a policy on admission standards for foreign students, but said, "At the very least, it should be regulated and have consultation."

Several students at the rally held up signs which proclaimed, "I have a 4.0 and I couldn't get in."

However, in interviews, none of those holding signs are in that situation personally -- they were holding the signs to support someone else who is, said the students.

nick.martin@freepress.mb.ca

 

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