University of Manitoba students protested on campus Thursday over what they say are discriminatory admissions policies in the faculty of engineering.

Students are upset that international students with high GPAs are being denied admission to the faculty while Manitoba students with lower GPAs are getting in.

Saqid Shahzad, a student from Dubai, said he was denied admission to the engineering program at the U of M despite having a GPA higher than many Canadian applicants.

“It’s not just a choice, it’s a dream for us to become engineers and make this world become a better place,” said Shahzad.

U of M protest

Students from the University of Manitoba's Faculty of Engineering gather outside of University Centre at the University of Manitoba on Thursday to protest proposed changes in admission policy for the Faculty of Engineering. (Sara Calnek/CBC)

​Shahzad was joined by dozens protesting the admissions policies on campus on Thursday.

But university officials say students protesting don’t have their facts straight.

The program lets in about 50 international students each year and 250 Manitoba students.

The international spots are fiercely competitive. Thousands of people apply, and only the best get in. That means the average GPA of an international student in the program tends to be higher than for their local counterparts.

The university’s Dean of Engineering, Jonathan Beddoes, said the university has doubled the number of international students in the faculty over the last five years.

“More than half of our graduate students are international students, so I don’t think there is any case that there is discrimination against international students in the faculty of engineering – far from it,” said Beddoes.

He said he empathizes with international students, but the university has limited space.

“Would we like to accept more students? Absolutely we would. But we are limited by the resources available to us,” he said.

And the problem may get worse.

“There is a very strong demand for engineering programs from all students, including international students. That demand is increasing at a rate we cannot keep up with,” said Beddoes.