Unions concerned about the impact a private sector partner might have on the educational process
Faculty unions are seeking clarity on the details of Ryerson University’s partnership agreement with Navitas.
“We welcome any initiative that could result in more work for our members,” said John Girardo, president of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Local 3904. “At the same time, we are concerned about the challenges that this initiative might present and what impact a private sector partner might have on the educational process.”
The partnership between Navitas and Ryerson is part of the university’s internationalization strategy which was released in October 2019 and outlined Ryerson’s goal to become more competitive globally.
The Ryerson Faculty Association (RFA) has similar concerns to CUPE about the private sector collaboration.
“The RFA has misgivings regarding the administration’s decision to partner with Navitas. Our view is that the arrangement with Navitas furthers the privatization and commodification of post-secondary education in Ontario,” said RFA president Ian Sakinofsky in an email to the Ryersonian.
Sakinofsky said the RFA is concerned this arrangement “will undermine the quality of education at Ryerson and diminish its ability to maintain high academic standards.”
The RFA represents Ryerson’s tenure-track faculty, limited-term faculty, librarians and counsellors. CUPE represents contract instructors.
Ryerson hopes to increase the international student population to 15 per cent of all enrolments by 2023, up from the 7.2 per cent it was last year, according to the internationalization strategy.
“This partnership with Navitas marks the beginning of an exciting new chapter for Ryerson that will better position the university to broaden its global perspectives and enrich the learning experiences for international and domestic students alike,” said Ryerson president Mohamed Lachemi at the time of its announcement.
Girardo said CUPE is in discussions with the RFA and the Campus Coalition at Ryerson regarding the partnership, and what steps they need to take next to get a better understanding of the agreement.
Uncertainty over new pathway program
Ryerson and Navitas are set to launch the Ryerson University International College (RUIC) this month, with the goal of helping international students overcome any challenges they face while transitioning to life in Canada.
“The students who graduate from RUIC need to meet Ryerson’s standards for admission into second year,” a spokesperson from the provost’s office said.
They stated that there is a course moderation process in place, where Ryerson departments and faculties will provide oversight of the courses taught at the RUIC. This will take place using course co-ordinators to ensure that these courses meet Ryerson standards.
“International students may be challenged by studying in an academic environment that is unfamiliar to them,” said Kaitlyn Taylor-Asquini, the director at Student Life and Learning Support.
Taylor-Asquini said the program would prepare international students for academic success and “comprises academic course content, study skills development, and wraparound social and academic support systems.”
With the program launching, Girardo said CUPE is still unclear on who will be responsible for teaching international students who will be enrolled.
He said that while it is understood the hiring process for Navitas courses will follow the CUPE Unit 2 collective agreement, there has been no documentation provided by the university to confirm that.
“We have requested a copy of the Instructor Services Agreement that the university is expected to sign with Navitas that entrenches this commitment to hiring CUPE members but, as of yet, we have not seen this document,” said Girardo.
He concluded, “Until we see this, we will continue to be vigilant to ensure that our members are not adversely affected by this initiative.”
This story was updated at 5:22 p.m. Jan. 27, 2021 to include comments from the office of the provost.