The university administration is halting negotiations with Navitas Ltd. to develop a private pathway college for international students, responding to faculty members’ collective opposition to the partnership.

Last spring and fall, Faculty Councils in Arts & Humanities; Education; Music; Science; Social Science; and FIMS overwhelmingly passed the following motion against outsourcing first-year international undergraduate teaching to a university preparation and pathway for-profit company:

‘The Faculty of XXX does not support the outsourcing of the crucial work of teaching first-year international undergraduates at Western to a private, for-profit international ‘pathway’ college such as Navitas.’

Faculty members used the procedures of collegial governance as an opportunity to collectively organize at our university. Crucially, it appears that faculty mobilization against the deal has led to a pause in negotiations between Western and Navitas. At the January 2021 meeting of Senate, the administration announced that the Navitas file had been closed.

About the Deal

In 2019, Western entered into negotiations with the company Navitas University Preparation and Pathways Programs to open a private pathway college for international students. Such an initiative would involve recruiting international students, who would not otherwise be eligible for entry to a Western undergraduate program. Those students would then be provided with academic language and their first-year undergraduate courses to prepare them for entry to a Western program.

While pathway programs and colleges can be public –ie. provided by the university — there are a number of private providers such as Navitas. As a for-profit enterprise, Navitas, headquartered in Australia, is responsible to its shareholders. In 2018, its after-tax profit was $19.5 million (Cdn). Navitas was bought out by the consortium BGH Capital in 2019. After the corporate takeover, following demands by BGH, Navitas began to focus on university partnership (UP), its most lucrative division. The UP divisions now form the largest part of Navitas’s business. Currently, they have 36 partnerships (down from 42 in 2018) with universities in Australasia, Europe, and North America.

In Canada, Simon Fraser University (SFU) entered into an agreement with Navitas in 2006 and established the Fraser International College (FIC). In 2007, the University of Manitoba (UM) entered an agreement with Navitas, establishing the International College of Manitoba (ICM). And in the spring of 2020, Ryerson University signed a 10-year agreement with Navitas. In 2012, the company generated more than $40 million in revenue from its Canadian operations.

As a part of discussions with Navitas about the potential partnership, Western senior administration visited other Navitas Colleges in Canada and hosted Navitas representatives on campus. Western’s President, Dr. Alan Shepard, assured faculty that any decision to partner with Navitas would go through all the regular university decision-making bodies and promised there would be a full debate at Senate before any decisions were made. That was welcome news. Collectively, UWO faculty have joined together to oppose the Navitas partnership. UWOFA has come out strongly in its opposition to this for-profit partnership. You can read UWOFA’s full statement here.

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