Simon Fraser University has approved a controversial deal with Australian-based IBT Education Limited to establish a for-profit preparatory college for international students at its Burnaby campus — the first of its kind in Canada.
The SFU senate voted 27–15 in favour of the project in early March, despite opposition from faculty and students who warned that contracting out international education to a profit-driven enterprise risks sacrificing academic quality and tarnishing SFU’s reputation.
The university argues the deal is consistent with its long-term strategy to boost its international enrolment and ensure a smoother transition for international students.
But SFU faculty association president Yaroslav Senyshyn said the deal is “definitely out on the edge,” pointing to the experience of Australian universities that have signed on with for-profit partners to boost their international student population and bottom line.
“The Australian experience is instructive,” he said. “Universities there are now facing serious criticisms they’ve cut corners and compromised academic standards to attract and retain new ‘customers’.”
The new facility, Fraser International College, is scheduled to open in September 2006 with about 120 students, a figure SFU says will grow to 1,000 in five years and peak at 2,000.
IBT will manage the college’s affairs, which includes recruiting overseas students. SFU will construct the buildings in exchange for rent that it says could climb to $10 million annually.
Senyshyn said the senate will review the joint venture in four years.
“In the meantime, we’re looking at options we might have to continue to voice our opposition to the deal,” he said.