The principal of McGill University is calling the upcoming Summit on Higher Education "a joke.”

McGill Principal and Vice-Chancellor Heather Munroe-Blum said the summit, set to take place at the end of February, is too carefully orchestrated.

“To this point, the pre-summits have been very disappointing. There's been a great choreography of who can talk and who can't,” she said.

She said, for example, that McGill University and the Universite de Montreal have yet to be given a formal a voice at the table, even though those two institutions educate about half of the province's university students.

“Those chosen to have a formal role in the summit are those who are at the head of lobbying associations. Where is the voice of the average student? Where is the voice of the professor? Where is the voice of families, who have a great stake in the success in our educational system?” she said.

Meantime, Higher Education Minister Pierre Duchesne is also facing criticism from student group ASSE.

The group is threatening to boycott the summit because the government says free tuition isn't on the table.

Duchesne, however, said students are welcome to have a debate about the concept.

“They can submit documents or studies, they can even post their ideas on the summit's Facebook page,” he said.  

ASSE spokesperson Jérémie Bédard-Wien calls the response insulting.

“His comments this morning do not consist of a proper answer to our ultimatum and it's a sign of disrespect to the 70,000 members of ASSE. Of course, we'll announce our decision in the coming few days,” he said.

Student group FEUQ said a boycott wouldn't be reasonable.

“It's not always easy to discuss and negotiate with the government, but it's another thing to say that you're going to boycott because it's difficult. You need to be there. You need to make sure that the students you represent are actually well represented,” said FEUQ President Martine Desjardins.