Navitas brings worrying reputation to Christchurch

Posted By TEU on Sep 6, 2012 |


Tertiary Update Vol 15 No 31

Two years ago, Australia’s private student recruitment company Navitas was embroiled in a scandal. Canada’s Immigration minister, Jason Kenney, had warned Chinese students wanting to come to Canada to choose their representatives carefully “to ensure the students are not taken advantage of.” He made the comments in reference to a Beijing-based company that Navitas hired to recruit students for it, Aoji Education Group.

“There’s an industry of bottom-feeders that try to profit from people’s dreams of visiting, immigrating or studying in Canada,” he told the Globe and Mail.

Navitas is an Australian stock exchange-listed company valued at over a billion dollars and its chief executive Rod Jones is worth over AU$250 million.

Navitas announced last week that it wants to set up a similar business here in New Zealand, at the University of Canterbury. The man behind the UC proposal, pro-vice chancellor of Student Services and International, Dr Nello Angerilli, has worked previously at Canada’s Simon Fraser University where he also managed a contract with Navitas.

The Globe and Mail went on to outline how agencies like Navitas abuse their relationships with Canadian schools, promising Chinese families far more than they can deliver.

“Often, students are charged thousands of dollars for what turns out to be a semester of English-language training at private colleges loosely affiliated with the Canadian universities to which the students’ families thought they were paying admission.”

The University of Fraser Valley in British Columbia severed its ties with Aoji shortly after the scandal. However, Aoji is still recruiting for Navitas in partnership with Simon Fraser University and the University of Manitoba. Last year Aoji sent 70 students to those private colleges.

Education International consultant David Robinson says all these Navitas deals are pretty much the same around the world. “They involve the outsourcing of international student recruitment and some academic work (i.e. language training). All the deals also ‘guarantee’ students who pay extraordinarily high fees access to the regular academic stream upon completion of the Navitas ‘foundation’ program.”

In both the United Kingdom and Canada Navitas has a reputation for outsourcing the work of academics and employing staff outside of the relevant collective agreement, with lower rates of pay, little or no benefits, more contact hours and heavier workloads.

Staff working in private pathways colleges in the UK have reported being pressured to ensure that students pass their programs even if they have not achieved the program requirements.

In Britain, the University College Union reports that ventures such as Navitas maintain their profits by recruiting more students. That means students arrive with a lower than usual level of ability.
“They are then offered a fast track to an undergraduate degree which places the staff delivering the courses under tremendous strain.”

“If staff want to maintain standards and ensure that students are not fed into the university at lower levels of ability they have to work harder than before. Worse than this, they have to do so with standardised off-the-shelf materials that, it is reported, are not produced by specialists in English for Academic Purposes.”

Staff associations at two universities in Canada, Dalhousie and McMaster, have successfully campaigned to prevent Navitas setting up shop in their universities.

TEU national president Sandra Grey says all institutions are under pressure from the government to increase international student numbers, but Canterbury University is already a very experienced recruiter of international students. In choosing to sign a contract with Navitas it is implicitly conceding that Navitas can either do the job cheaper than it can, or import students that the university could not take itself.

“Both of those are worrying conclusions when talking about a company whose primary motive is not high quality education but returning a profit to its Australian shareholders.”

Also in Tertiary Update this week:

  1. Govt aims to hit quals targets with reporting and incentive pressures
  2. Noo Zild eccent also causes Joyce problums
  3. Joyce: ‘Import more students to fund education’
  4. Public services bill could hamstring education employment bargaining

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Dutch political parties and student organisations have failed to avert the introduction of a controversial €3,000 (NZ$4739) fine for the 2012-13 academic year for students who take more than one extra year to graduate – University World News

Greater effort needs to be made to ensure that New Zealand’s 84,000 young people not in education, employment or training participate in the skills and trades training that will enable them to contribute to the rebuilding of Christchurch – Council of Trade Unions

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