Professors voice concerns about international student support

Some professors at the University of Manitoba have concerns about international students and the International College of Manitoba (ICM) program.

In the last two decades the number of international students at the U of M has grown to over nine per cent of students, not including the students enrolled in ICM.

Julie Guard, an associate professor of labour studies and an arts senator, said she is concerned about a for profit institution on a university campus.

ICM is a member of an Australian company called Navitas.

Guard said some departments in the faculty of arts have declined to participate with Navitas.

Arlene Young, an arts senator and head of the department of English film and theatre, said her department voted as a whole against taking part in ICM programs in April 2008.

“There’s a general feeling in the department of English [ . . . ] that having a for profit organization use the space that has been paid for by Manitoba tax payers for open access education was an inappropriate thing to do,” Young said.

Young also said there are many international students at the U of M who need more help, and said she felt that this problem is not being addressed.

“This is a very serious problem, it’s serious both for the university and for the students,” Young said.

Young commented that a large proportion of international students have trouble with English as an additional language and need more help.

David Collins, vice provost (academic planning and programs) at the U of M, said university level courses offered by ICM are approved by the university and moderated by university approved course co-coordinators. Collins added that ICM instructors are approved by the university and ICM’s teaching facilities are provided by the university.

Collins said 50 instructors participating in ICM courses last semester were employed or had been employed by the University of Manitoba.

ICM’s annual report states that ICM students are performing at least as well as international students at the U of M based on their GPAs.

Students who finished ICM in 2010-11 had an average GPA of 2.96.

Collins said students admitted to the U of M from ICM have “actually” performed marginally better than other international students but there hasn’t been a statistical evaluation of this because of small sample size and lack of probability sampling.

Judy Anderson, a science senator and head of biological sciences, was concerned that ICM students were getting only marginally better grades than non-ICM international students.

The university has a strategic enrolment management planning committee (SEM) that looks at broad goals for the size of the university and recruitment and retention goals for different groups of students.

There are 2,638 international students at the U of M who are not in ICM.

Susan Gottheil, vice provost (students) at the U of M and co-chair of SEM, said international students deal with different climates, different cultures, homesickness and being separated from their families when they come to the U of M.

Gottheil also said international students have experienced different educational system standards and have to adapt to the U of M’s expectations.

“So there is the need to provide them with some extra supports,” Gottheil said.

Gottheil said ICM is separate from the university but there is a relationship because the U of M provides ICM space on campus and ICM is one of the university’s sources for international students.

ICM alumni and students the Manitoban spoke with expressed mixed feelings about the ICM program.

Tarique Khawaja, an ICM alumnus at U of M, said he was “100 per cent” satisfied with the education and experience he received from ICM.

Khawaja said when he arrived he received an email from ICM saying that he could come to their offices and talk whenever he felt homesick.

“I really liked that,” Khawaja said.

However Ali Tariq, a current ICM student, said he is not satisfied with his experience in ICM.

Tariq said the ICM program was a poor fit for him because he was a university student in Pakistan before he came to the U of M, and he wanted to enter the university directly.

Tariq said he felt he was not given enough information from the agent that recruited him to ICM.

The Manitoban attempted to contact ICM representatives directly for comment on this story but did not receive a response before press time.