National Post

Chinese high schools on campuses cause worry

B.C. universiti­es hope to increase foreign students

- Douglas Quan

Looking to boost revenues and create a pipeline of future internatio­nal students, some B. C. universiti­es are turning to a novel — and controvers­ial — idea: letting Chinese companies open private high schools on their campuses.

So f ar, two schools — Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops and Kwantlen Polytechni­c University, which operates in several Vancouver suburbs — have agreed to lease campus spaces for such schools. A third, the University of Northern British Columbia in Prince George, is in talks to do the same.

Some faculty members and students are upset publicly funded campuses are giving up space to private corporatio­ns and worry about the optics of letting underage students onto their grounds. They also say university administra­tors are not doing enough consultati­ons.

“There’s been a lot of concern … about whether any of this has been thought through,” says Stephen Rader, president of the UNBC faculty associatio­n.

Dan Ryan, UNBC’s provost, said a high school could be in place as soon as September 2018, offering B.C. or Internatio­nal Baccalaure­ate curricula, as well as some Chinese courses. Enrolment would start at 50 to 75 stu- dents and could grow to 200.

Internatio­nal students make up about 10 per cent of the campus. Administra­tors want to double that and the high school would create a “smooth pathway,” Ryan said.

UNBC officials say discussion­s are ongoing and have not publicly identified the company they are talking to. But the National Post has learned it is an organizati­on that has been running dual Chinese- Canadian curricula schools under the Concord College of Sino- Canada banner for 20 years.

UNBC’s president, Daniel Weeks, was at its Beijing campus r ecently to announce a $1.2-million scholarshi­p program for internatio­nal students.

Meanwhile, Kwantlen’s governing board voted in late March to proceed with a high school for its Richmond campus. The plan is to open a school for up to 100 students in Grades 10 to 12 in September. Kwantlen is partnering with Maple Leaf Educationa­l Systems, the first and largest school system in China to offer a blend of B.C. and Chinese curricula.

Kwantlen administra­tors say the partnershi­p will enhance the university’s “branding and name awareness” in China and bring in about $ 400,000 over three years. But ahead of the vote, Kwantlen’s faculty associatio­n wrote to the board say- ing the deal could be “to the potential detriment of the university’s reputation.”

Critics worry the company — which went public in 2014 and raked in $160 million last year — puts profits ahead of students. They’re also peeved a private, for-profit company — which will charge $18,000 in tuition in 2017-18 — gets to use their facilities.

“I don’t feel it’s appropriat­e … to be leasing out classrooms and office space to a multimilli­on-dollar overseas corporatio­n when there are urgent needs in the community,” said Paul Edwards, a Kwantlen English instructor.

The presence of high school students could also make the university “less prestigiou­s,” members of the biology department wrote to the board.

Maple Leaf came under scrutiny in 2012 when the Vancouver Sun reported allegation­s Maple Leaf teachers in China were pressured to inflate grades.

“I was told my marks needed to improve because students couldn’t get access to the universiti­es they wanted,” said Jim Williams, who taught at a Maple Leaf school in Dalian for two years, and now teaches in Abbotsford, B.C.

B. C.’ s ministry of education, which has certified more than 40 offshore schools, including Maple Leaf schools, said stricter oversight and inspection­s were introduced in 2013.

Dawn Sutherland, president of Maple Leaf Education North America, called the allegation­s overblown.

“Our schools are being developed not because we want to make a profit, but because there’s an investment in the students and in the education,” Sutherland said.

While most students attending Maple Leaf ’s Canadian schools will be from China initially, the plan is to open enrolment to Canadians and students from other countries, she said.

Sutherland said Maple Leaf ’s first Canadian school, on the campus of Thompson Rivers University, has been hugely successful since it opened in September with 60 students in Grades 10 to 12, employing four B.C.-certified teachers (who teach English, math, science and the humanities) and one Chinese teacher (who teaches Mandarin and social studies).

The students, who wear uniforms, have adjusted well and are billeted or living in student housing, she said. Many Grade 12 students have applied for entry to TRU and, if admitted, will pay the higher foreign student rate.

But the university’s faculty associatio­n is still unhappy campus spaces are being used by high schoolers.

“We have seen ( Maple Leaf ) students using many publicly funded facilities, including the library, the gym, outdoor recreation­al areas, cafeteria facilities and science labs,” Tom Friedman, the associatio­n’s president, said in an email.

He said the campus was never fully consulted, nor was the deal with Maple Leaf put to the board of governors for a vote.

Matt Milovick, Thompson Rivers’ vice- president of finance, confirmed the deal was mentioned only informally to the board because it was deemed an “operationa­l matter.”


 ?? MARCELA AREVALO / THE OMEGA ?? Maple Leaf Educationa­l Systems of China operates a high school on the campus of Thompson Rivers University.
MARCELA AREVALO / THE OMEGA Maple Leaf Educationa­l Systems of China operates a high school on the campus of Thompson Rivers University.

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