As we’ve pointed out more than once, most Canadian medical schools have highly restrictive enrolment policies: almost all of their seats are reserved for locals. The practice of restricting enrolment to in-province students is widespread at Canadian medical schools but, so far as I know, it’s highly unusual in all other university departments. The BC government may have pushed UBC medical school to reserve 95 per cent of its seat s for BC residents (yes, that’s the real number) but it puts no quotas (so far as I know) on the number of out of province students it will admit to into a bachelor of arts in history, or the bachelor’s in enginering program or the business school. Canadian higher education is an open, national market — but not when it comes to medical school admissions. All Canadian medical schools, save Ontario’s schools, reserve almost all of their seats for provincial residents. A British Columbian who’d like to study medicine at McGill or Dalhousie has almost zero chance of being admitted.
There is, of course, a compelling reason why provincial governments have pushed their local medical schools into the educational equivalent of “Buy American.” There always is. It’s called money. Doctors cost a lot of money to educate, and medical students from province X are more likely to stay and practice medicine in province X. Then again, there are even more compelling reasons to not go down this road. Follow the logic of locals-only and we end up building educational walls around each province. It’s expensive to educate every university student, not just medical students. The bulk of the cost of educating undergraduate students is borne by the provincial governments. The restrictive admissions practices imposed on medical schools are a terrible precedent, and not a precedent we should want to see followed.
Unfortunately, that’s not how Manitoba sees it. According to the most recent issue of the University of Manitoba’s Bulletin newspaper (see page 4 of the PDF), “effective with the 2009 admissions cycles, 25 out of the 29 students in a first-year dentistry class will be from Manitoba.” Is this an initiative that the university is undertaking in response to pressure from the Manitoba government? I don’t know. All I know is that, like bad legal precedents, bad policy precedents have a habit of giving birth to many children.
Does anyone have other examples of restrictive enrolment practices? Some provinces charge differential fees to out-of-province and foreign students, but I’m talking about hard quotas on the number of students who aren’t locals. Let us know.