An international student can choose to either attend the same stream of first-year university as everyone else or go to a private company that provides the equivalent of first-year university, catered specifically to the needs of international students. Which choice does the student make?
International College of Manitoba (ICM) is a sister school of the University of Manitoba that recruits international students and provides them with an alternative to the University One program, or first-year university.
The U of M faculty has raised some concerns about how ICM affects staff and students and a recent Maclean’s article, “The Sneaky Way Universities are Privatizing Teaching,” accused Navitas, ICM’s parent company, of doing just that.
Navitas is an Australian company that runs two international student prep colleges in Canada: ICM and Fraser International College at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver. They also have institutions worldwide in the U.K., Indonesia, Kenya and the U.S.
“International College of Manitoba is a private corporation whose profits increased by 45 per cent within the last year,” said Brad McKenzie, president of the University of Manitoba Faculty Association. “It definitely is privatizing post-secondary [education].”
According to McKenzie, having ICM as well as the University One program at the U of M creates a two-tier system that creates inequality of education between ICM students and international University One students.
“The argument that is made for having [ICM] is that it can offer smaller classes. If that is true for these students ... other students should have access to the same services,” McKenzie said.
The class sizes are smaller (capped at 30-35 students), but Susan Deane, principal at ICM, says the curriculum and course requirements are the same as the University One program.
“[The university] approves the exams [and] mid-terms, and they sign-off for the final grades,” Deane said.
The faculty concern raised by McKenzie is how ICM uses university resources to acquire its curriculum, saying it’s detrimental to the U of M faculty that develops it.
Deane’s response was that course curriculums are public knowledge and that it’s up to the instructor to develop them. At ICM, the instructors do develop the curriculum themselves. She added that ICM shouldn’t be seen as a threat to U of M professors, as many instructors at ICM are graduate students who want experience teaching smaller classes in an academic institution.
“We’re not taking jobs,” said Deane. “We’re providing employment for under-employed teachers.”
But profits from ICM go to Navitas, not the U of M.
“ICM makes profit because it uses public facilities in the school that are paid for by the public in Manitoba and Canada,” McKenzie said.
To address the concern of a for-profit company providing post-secondary education, Deane said the students pay a student services fee that is transferred directly to the university, like all other U of M students.
“There’s a political divide between public and private, but if you focus on the needs of the students ... we’re not doing anything different than any other faculty,” Deane said.
Delvinder Kaur, an international student from Singapore, is taking two courses at ICM this year and two courses at the U of M. She said that her time at ICM was beneficial to her integration into Canadian culture and English post-secondary education.
“In my [U of M] classes, the professor talks to 150 students and [the students] don’t speak up and say ‘I don’t understand,’” said Kaur. “[At ICM] they pay more attention to us. We actually have the time to grasp the concepts.”
Published in Volume 64, Number 22 of The Uniter (March 11, 2010)