Private Manitoba college had controversial beginnings
Faculty members at the University of Manitoba are raising concerns about a private college that is operating on campus and is already the subject of criticism by students for its recruitment practices and refund policy.
International College Manitoba (ICM) has a contract with the university, recruiting international students from countries like Pakistan, China and Singapore, and bringing them to Winnipeg.
ICM's goal, according to the University of Manitoba, is to recruit students whose English proficiency and high school grades would not be sufficient for direct entry to the university, then prepare those students over one or two years for eventual entry as second-year students.
But ICM did not arrive without controversy. Minutes from the University of Manitoba's senate meetings reveal that in late 2007, a senator brought in an Australian news article that announced the then-new agreement between Navitas — the Australian parent company that runs ICM and other institutions like it — and the university.
For many at the university, this was the first time they had heard of ICM. The college began teaching students in 2008.
Five years later, ICM is still a contentious subject in the University of Manitoba's senate.
Some senators have questioned why they didn't have more involvement in the decision to bring the college to the university, and why they don't have more oversight of its activities.
According to meeting minutes, senators had to file a request under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA) in 2008 and 2009 to see a copy of the contract between the university and Navitas.
Initially their request was denied, but an appeal to Manitoba's ombudsman led to a version being released to them, but with financial information blacked out.
Senate minutes indicate the document was subsequently made available for public viewing in the Office of the University Secretary.
When CBC News requested a copy of the contract, the request was forwarded to the university's communications department, which instead forwarded an "academic framework" document.
CBC News eventually received a copy of the contract through a freedom of information request — although, as with the senate's version of the document, the financial information was blacked out in this case.
Faculty association concerned
Cameron Morrill, past-president of the University of Manitoba Faculty Association (UMFA), says this kind of secrecy is "the norm [in the private sector], but it's a problem at a publicly funded institution."
"We're giving publicly funded classroom space to [ICM]. It's important for the university to demonstrate that we're providing good stewardship to the resources that the people of Manitoba give to us," said Morrill, a professor with the university's Asper School of Business.
"I think that kind of secrecy gets in the way of proving that kind of stewardship."
Morrill said UMFA is concerned about ICM mainly because it represents an outsourcing of teaching.
"Teaching is one of the biggest things we do here," he said, adding that UMFA is also concerned with the fact that ICM is a for-profit institution.
"For them, they make more money if their students are successful. We think this translates into pressure on the instructors to make sure the students succeed," he said.
UMFA has warned its members about cooperating with ICM, and some departments at the university, such as history and sociology, have declined to work with the college.
Ex-student looks to future
Meanwhile, some current and former ICM students have expressed concerns about what the college's overseas recruiting agents have been telling prospective students.
Nabeel Fakhur, a former student who moved from Pakistan to Winnipeg, said the agent who recruited him was not transparent about many things and told him ICM was a part of the University of Manitoba.
Fakhur said he later tried to leave ICM and enroll directly with the university, but the college refused to refund his money for one term, which he said amounted to about $7,000.
For his part, Fakhur said he has put his experience at ICM behind him and is looking toward the future.
"It was very difficult," he said.
"I don't know how I made it up to here. [But] now I can say, 'I'm glad I am where I am right now.'"