University of Calgary administration discussed plans last week to create an on-campus international college that would be staffed and operated by a private corporation. Administration hope the new college will attract more international students to the U of C, but their plans have already drawn sharp criticism from the University of Calgary Faculty Association — the union representing teaching staff on campus.
During a General Faculties Council meeting on Oct. 17, U of C provost and vice-president academic Dru Marshall gave a presentation to professors, student representatives and other university stakeholders about the administration’s plan to create the international college.
Marshall said administration hopes to go ahead with the college soon to avoid a long debate.
“I’m not interested in a long, lengthy debate on this issue,” Marshall said. “It’s not good for the academy to spend a lot of time focusing on an issue that might be divisive.”
The new college would be filled by international students who hope to attend the U of C but first need to upgrade their academics. As part of their Eyes High goals, administration hopes to increase the number of international undergraduate students to 10 per cent from 5.3 per cent by 2016.
The corporation running the new college would recruit students by contacting agents that were hired by prospective students in foreign countries.
After Marshall’s presentation, U of C Italian studies professor Eileen Lohka read a letter written by faculty association president Paul Rogers, outlining his organization’s strong criticisms around having the new college run by a private organization.
In the letter, Rogers wrote that the college could damage the U of C’s reputation by creating a “conflict between high academic standards and the profit-motive of a third-party being paid very large fees by students,” that would lead to “an incentive to recruit students with weak academic backgrounds and to ‘pass’ them so they can be admitted to the U of C.”
Rogers also wrote that the faculty association is against hiring a corporation to run the college because it would lead to “the outsourcing of academic work from U of C academic staff to a for-profit corporation whose employees would have no collective agreement protections (including academic freedom).”
After reading the letter, Lohka said the faculty association would take legal action if the current model for the school is not changed.
“The dangers both to those individuals who will be hired and to members of [the faculty] have not been adequately addressed, and frankly, do not seem to be of too much concern at this point,” Lohka said. “If this proceeds, it’s likely the faculty association will take legal action on this point.”
During her presentation, Marshall addressed a number of these criticisms. She assured the GFC that the university has developed “mitigation strategies” to avoid these problems.
Marshall also said the University of Manitoba and Simon Fraser University both hired corporations to do academic work on campus with considerable success.
Students’ Union president Raphael Jacob said the SU is still undecided on whether they support the college.
“On November 5, [Marshall] will be coming to present on the college at [student legislative council],” Jacob said. “We’re going to be having a discussion there then we’ll decide our official position on bringing a third-party in.”
Jacob said that students at the college would not pay fees to the SU, though they might be entitled to some of their services.
No decision has been made on which corporation would run the college, although during her presentation, Marshall said administration was looking at firms from Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia.