International College of Manitoba (Navitas)
September 24, 2008
International College of Manitoba (ICM): Still Looking for Cooperation
Brenda Austin-Smith, President
UMFA Members already know that Navitas, a private, multi-national, for-profit corporation, has opened a subsidiary for international students here at the U of M called the International College of Manitoba, or ICM. It is important to stress that ICM is not a post-secondary institution in its own right, but is rather a corporation that employs people to teach courses in its "pathway" programs. It is also important to note that ICM currently is taking on teaching activities already performed by UMFA and CUPE 3909 members at the University of Manitoba itself.
ICM's presence is a direct threat to UMFA and CUPE 3909 positions, and to the maintenance of public post-secondary education to international students on this campus.
The Principal of ICM, Susan Deane, has been meeting with U of M Department Heads and Chairs to seek their cooperation in partnering with ICM to provide course materials and oversight to ICM in return for a fee.
UMFA reminds you that the course materials that you have developed, including your lecture notes and course outlines, are your intellectual property and cannot be provided to another party without your permission. You are advised to consult UMFA if your department is providing materials developed by UMFA members or if you are asked to provide materials to ICM.
The Association is opposed to the privatization of the education of international students under the auspices of and on the property of the University of Manitoba, a publicly-funded educational institution. The U of M has apparently agreed to provide services, resources, and space under the terms of their contract with Navitas, a contract that has not been shown in whole or in part to members of either the Senate or the Board of Governors. The goal of Navitas is to make a profit from their ICM operations here at the University of Manitoba for their shareholders.
It is difficult to get clear information on the ICM operations. UMFA called the ICM office on campus and was told that someone would call back. From other sources, it appears that there are four University Transfer Programs (UTPs) being offered, even though U of M departments, voting in council, have declined support. The Economics department overwhelmingly refused to participate and so the ICM-offered Economics 1200 is being taught by a retiree with oversight apparently provided by the Vice-Provost (Programs). The Head of the Psychology Department did not find it necessary to seek advice from the departmental council and Psychology 1200 is being taught at ICM by a sessional with the liaison responsibilities unclear at this time. After originally announcing, that an English course would be offered (the Department of English had overwhelmingly refused to cooperate), ICM has now clarified that they are offering Introduction to University I, taught by a sessional. The final offering is a Math course, although the Math Department meeting in council refused to rescind an earlier motion saying that there would not be cooperation with ICM at this time. The Dean apparently communicated to the Department Head that the course would be offered and that the Associate Head (undergraduate) of Math would perform the liaison duties.
The ICM website suggests that other first-year programs will soon be offered as well and UMFA is aware that the ICM Principal, Susan Deane, has been contacting various departments to solicit their cooperation in the for-profit course offerings of ICM. The general response of UMFA Members has been to resist but there has been some pressure put by administration to ensure that ICM can function on the U of M campus, with or without UMFA Members' involvement.
If you or your Department has been approached by ICM to co-operate with this private institution, either by providing course material, agreeing to teach for ICM, or agreeing to provide "academic monitoring" for ICM programs or instructors, we urge you to contact the UMFA office for advice.
June 13, 2008
Navitas and CAUT Support
Brenda Austin-Smith, President
UMFA has previously sent Members communications regarding the contract that the U of M senior administration signed with Navitas, an Australian for-profit corporation. The International College of Manitoba (ICM), owned and operated by Navitas, is set up to be a "pathway" into programs at the University of Manitoba.
The U of M administration entered into this contract without the knowledge or consent of either the Senate or the Board of Governors, and has refused to make the contract with Navitas public, providing only a "framework" with respect to provisions. These provisions include statements that the University of Manitoba will be directly involved in approving Navitas instructors, reviewing course outlines, ensuring equivalency of assessment standards and reviewing the final examination and marking scheme.
The administration has stated verbally, on a number of occasions, that participation in activities related to Navitas is entirely voluntary. As some of you are aware, a number of departments have met and passed motions declining to provide any support to Navitas and its operations. The head of one department in the Faculty of Arts, without discussion at departmental council, agreed to the participation of the department but it is not clear how this is to be accomplished.
It is possible, however, that in the face of this opposition to cooperating with Navitas, that the administration may order UMFA Members to provide services, as well as course outlines or course materials, to ICM. It would be unprecedented for academics to be required to provide their expertise to a private corporation, and entirely contrary to the culture of the university.
UMFA has fully advised CAUT of the situation at the U of M and the possibility that UMFA Members might be required to provide service to Navitas. In reply, Jim Turk, Executive Director of CAUT, has stated, " CAUT will explore, in consultation with UMFA, every political, legal and other option to ensure that academic staff at the University of Manitoba are not forced to work or otherwise assist a private, for-profit employer, whether or not the University has signed a commercial contract with such an entity. I hope that the University comes to realize it made a mistake and brings to an end this ill-fated initiative that does a disservice to the University, to its academic staff and to its students."
Should you be ordered to perform services for Navitas or to provide course outlines or other course material (including lecture notes), state that you wish to consider the matter and immediately contact UMFA for advice.
March 1, 2008
Brenda Austin-Smith, President
The Association remains extremely concerned about the establishment of a for-profit institution on the University of Manitoba Campus that will, according to the International College of Manitoba website, guarantee international students entry into second year programs at this university. UMFA is also extremely concerned about the circumvention of collegial decision-making and input that should have occurred with respect to the Navitas deal.
The senior administration continues to maintain that no approval or even consultation with Senate and the Board of Governors was necessary. At the February 6 meeting of Senate, President Szathmáry acknowledged that communications with Senate and the Board could have been handled better but that it is entirely the responsibility of the administration to handle contracts. She also stated that because the contract is binding, there is an obligation to move forward. The administration continues to refuse to provide Senate, or any Senate committee, with documentation relating to the academic content of the Navitas deal. Discrepancies remain between the information provided by the administration, which has stated that there is no guaranteed admission to second year programs, and statements about ICM on the Navitas website (as of February 25, 2008).
Motions at both the Board of Governors and at Senate that would have required the administration to provide Senate with documentation relevant to academic matters were defeated. The motion at Senate was defeated by a vote of 41 to 34, indicating that a large number of Senators believed that it was Senate's responsibility to deal with the academic matters covered in the agreement with Navitas, the parent corporation of ICM
The university has refused UMFA's request under the freedom of information and protection of privacy act for a copy of the contract between Navitas and the university. The university justifies its refusal on the grounds that the information requested is the subject of a formal confidentiality agreement between the university and Navitas, and further that Navitas may negotiate similar deals with other Canadian universities and making the information public would prejudice their negotiating position. Similarly, the university's Privacy Officer deemed that the release of the contractual information could be prejudicial to the university's negotiations with other companies similar to Navitas.
UMFA remains seriously concerned not only about the lack of proper process and the secrecy attached to the agreement between U of M and Navitas, but also about the implications of having a for-profit "educational" entity on campus. Navitas students will not have be covered under U of M policies, including discipline policies and those related to academic honesty. There will be ICM instructors on this campus who have no protections for academic freedom, who are not able to grieve administration actions, who cannot bargain for compensation beyond that paid by the U of M to sessional instructors, who have no job security. Departments at the University of Manitoba and the UMFA Members in those departments are likely to be called upon to monitor ICM programs and instructors under terms and conditions that are so far unknown. What will be the impact on library services and other services at the U of M?
UMFA will continue to monitor the arrangements between the U of M and Navitas very closely and the impact that those arrangements have on UMFA members and on the University of Manitoba programs. We will take action to ensure that the integrity of collegial processes and the rights of Members are maintained.
We know that there have been some decisions made regarding the re-allocation of classrooms to meet the needs of Navitas, that there is an issue regarding lab space, that there are discussions with departments on the acceptable qualifications of Navitas instructors, and that there is ambiguity on the guaranteed access to second year programs, particularly those in the Asper School.
Please contact UMFA with any information, questions, comments or concerns that you may have regarding the International College of Manitoba and the relationship between the U of M and Navitas.
February 6, 2008
Brenda Austin-Smith, President
N.B. The new website of the International College of Manitoba can be found at www.icmanitoba.ca.
The U of M Senate meets today at 1:30 in the Senate Chambers, Room E3-262 Engineering Building. There will be a motion on the floor requiring the administration to provide Senate documentation. including the sections of the contract signed with Navitas , that relate to the academic matters for which Senate has responsibility.
Please consider attending this meeting of Senate. Your presence will signal to the Senators the deep concern that members of the university community have with the lack of proper process and the lack of documentation on the details of the contract that the senior administration has signed with Navitas.
On December 1, 2007, an ad appeared in The Globe and Mail seeking applicants for positions at Navitas International College of Manitoba which is to be located on the campus of the University of Manitoba. An announcement was made by Navitas on November 26, 2007 about signing a Recognition and Educational Services Agreement with the University of Manitoba. No such announcement was issued by the University of Manitoba and neither Senate nor the Board of Governors had been informed that there were discussions with Navitas on such an agreement.
Navitas (formerly IBT Education Ltd) is an Australian corporation providing for-profit pathway programs at the pre-university and university levels in a number of countries including Canada. International students, particularly those requiring English language tuition, are recruited by Navitas with the expectation that they will at a later date enroll in the partner educational institutions.
It is important to understand that Navitas is not an educational institution.
The first college established by this corporation in Canada was Fraser International College on the campus of Simon Fraser University and there may soon be a third institution established through an agreement with McMaster University. At SFU and McMaster, the governing bodies of those universities have been actively involved in not only discussing the contract with Navitas but in reviewing and approving the contractual arrangements before agreements were signed by the senior administration.
Here at the University of Manitoba things have proceeded in quite a different manner. Neither the Senate nor the Board of Governors knew that a deal with Navitas was in the offing. Information was provided to Senate and to the Board of Governors only after the agreement was signed and only after questions were raised at Senate by a Senator who became aware of the Dec. 1 advertisement. As yet, there has been no documentation provided to either the Board or the Senate concerning the details of the Navitas agreement.
Vice-president (academic) Robert Kerr has stated that the agreement is similar to the one with SFU. There, Fraser International College students who have received a particular grade point average in their courses are guaranteed entrance into second year programs such as Computer Science and Business. Will there be an open competition for available spaces here at the U of M? Or 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 grade point average? Dr. Kerr has said that there is no such guarantee here at Manitoba but the International College of Manitoba (ICM) website at icmanitoba.ca states that ICM "...guarantees you entry into second year university" but that it "...will be on a competitive basis and subject to quota". It is unclear exactly what this means.
There also has not been clear information from the senior administration on what U of M resources students and staff of ICM could access. The ICM website, however, states that students will enjoy access to a number of university facilities and services, including computer laboratories, health services and career services.
The U of M has also apparently agreed to provide two classrooms and an administrative office for the fall of 2008 when the first students are expected to arrive at ICM. In exchange for the space and other services, Navitas would remit a portion of the tuition fees charged students to the U of M.
The President of the University has been open in stating that the university needs to attract more international students who pay higher tuition fees in order to relieve the financial strain on the University. Government grants have not kept pace with cost increases at the University of Manitoba and in order to maintain the viability of its programs, the university is looking to other sources of income.
But why the secrecy about the agreement between the University of Manitoba and Navitas? The senior administration has stated that they have received legal advice that, because of the details of the contractual arrangement, it was not necessary to involve Senate and the Board of Governors in any way, that this is strictly a contract with a private business. But this is a very different arrangement than any the University has ever previously made. Navitas instructors will be teaching on the university campus. There is the possibility that they will teach courses that would ordinarily be taught by at the U of M by U of M employees belonging to CUPE or UMFA, and that this could be the beginning of contracting out and the privatizing of academic services.
UMFA has sent a request under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act requesting a copy of the agreement and we are awaiting a response. The U of M Students’ Union made a similar request and was turned down.
Right now, the clearest source of information appears to be Navitas itself and the icmanitoba website. Stay tuned.