Meeting minutes of the Vice-Presidents Council at Memorial University of Newfoundland (MUN) on October 13th, 2020 confirms that the administration has endorsed Pathway Partnership Feasibility between Memorial University and Navitas.
In attendance for the meeting was Provost and Vice-President (Academic) pro tempore Mark Abrahams, Vice-President (Marine Institute) Glenn Blackwood, Vice-President (Research) Neil Bose, Office of the President Executive Director Margot Brown, Office of the Vice-President (Research) Manager Eileen Bruce, Vice-President (Administration & Finance) Kent Decker, Vice-Presidents Council Coordinator Renee Elliott, Office of the Vice-President (Marine Institute) Manager Jillian Kavanagh, Vice-President (Grenfell Campus) Jeff Keshen, Director of Academic Support Services Roxanne Millan, Assistant to the Vice-President (Grenfell Campus) Darlene Pike, Office of the Vice-President (Administration & Finance) Director Carol Tibbo, and Recording Secretary Mary Wall. It is problematic that highly paid administrators and their staff are conducting meetings behind closed doors to discuss matters of importance such as this. There are already committees in existence at MUN that have a broader representation of people from across the university.
The Memorial University of Newfoundland Faculty Association (MUNFA) Executive Committee sent a letter to all MUNFA members on March 25th, 2021 with the subject line: Navitas – Private Pre-University and Pathway Program for International Students. The MUNFA Executive state that they were approached by the University Administration on February 12th, 2021 about a possible partnership with Navitas. They state that Navitas is “an Australia-based transnational corporation that provides for-profit preuniversity and pathway programs for international students.” According to MUNFA, the company aims to recruit international students and provide them with English-language training as well as “foundational” or “pathways” programs in several disciplinary areas. MUNFA states, “Navitas recruits students by promising a guaranteed transfer – often at a second-year standing – to the partner university upon successful completion of the program.”
MUNFA states that they strongly support the diversification of the student body and academic supports for International students but that they have serious misgivings about the implications of the invitation to Navitas into MUN. MUNFA contacted their colleagues at other institutions in Canada that have had experience with Navitas including institutions where Navitas partnerships exist and those where Navitas partnerships were rejected.
Out of their discussions with colleagues from other institutions came several concerns including but not limited to the outsourcing of International student recruitment, the support for a for-profit company whose primary responsibility is to its shareholders, Navitas’s partnerships with private recruiters who are alleged to have predatory and deceptive practices to students and their families, the exploitation of international students as a source of revenue, and the possible threat to Academic Freedom as it relates to a third-party engagement in curriculum delivery.
MUNFA presented an alternative to the university administration’s proposal with the suggestion for the administration to explore the development of its own foundation-year program. They suggested that funding can be obtained from the government, the Department of Immigration, Skills and Labour, to do this work.
Matt Barter is a third-year student in the Humanities and Social Sciences Faculty at Memorial University of Newfoundland, majoring in Political Science with a minor in Sociology. He enjoys reading thought-provoking articles, walks in nature, and volunteering in the community.