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CAUT Bulletin Archives

February 2008

Board and Senate Bypassed in Navitas Deal

New Private College Coming Soon to the University of Manitoba

The University of Manitoba last year signed a controversial agreement that outsources provision of ESL and intro-level courses for international students.
The University of Manitoba last year signed a controversial agreement that outsources provision of ESL and intro-level courses for international students.
Officials at the University of Manitoba remain tight-lipped over plans to launch a private college on campus later this year, despite mounting calls for openness and a debate over the proposal.

The International College of Manitoba (ICM) will open its doors to foreign students in the fall of 2008, operating as a private, for-profit school run by Navitas Ltd., an Australia-based self-described “global education provider.”

International students able to pay Navitas’ hefty fees will take English as a Second Language and introductory-level courses, and use U of M classrooms, although ICM will remain a separate legal entity from the university.

The agreement was quietly brokered without notice to the university senate, board of governors, or faculty association, and was a done deal by the time of the contract’s announcement on the Navitas web site Nov. 26.

Both the university and Navitas have refused to divulge details on the deal.

Brenda Austin-Smith, president of the University of Manitoba Faculty Association, questions the arrangement because it confers status on the private school, even though ICM will not be subject to typical standards or reviews expected of regular U of M departments.

She also remains unconvinced that ICM “grads” will be held to the same admission standard as all other applicants when it comes to competing for spots at the university.

“Is it possible that an ICM student with a lower grade point average will be given preference over a student who has come through the University 1 stream at the U of M and has a higher GPA?” she asked.

U of M vice-president academic Robert Kerr insisted that won’t happen, but the ICM website states “ICM guarantees you entry into second-year university.”

Navitas, formerly IBT Edu­cation, established a similar college at Simon Fraser University in 2006, called Fraser Inter­national College.

Navitas is also in the process of negotiating what would be its third Canadian deal with McMaster University in Hamilton. McMaster’s community is being given an opportunity to review the deal before a vote on its acceptance.

Plans for ICM remained un­known to faculty at the University of Manitoba until December when the Globe and Mail published an advertisement seeking applicants for positions at the college.

U of M president Emöke Szathmary and Kerr faced heated questions over the issue at recent senate meetings. Pressed on whether the senate, which has general charge of all matters of academic nature, has a fundamental right to review the deal, Szathmary replied, “It is not the business of the senate to review legal contracts ”

Austin-Smith said the university has been open in stating its need to attract more international students — who pay higher tuition fees — in an era of diminished government funding of higher education.

In addition to the outsourcing of faculty work, she said “What’s troubling about this deal is its secrecy. A major academic and administrative decision has been taken without any consideration by the governing bodies of the university.”