Previously undeclared plans for a Joint Venture involve INTO Partnerships Ltd opening an English teaching centre on Heslington East – with potential consequences for the current in-house Centre for English Language Teaching and its staff.
Leaked minutes from the last meeting of the Joint Negotiation and Consultation Committee, the university’s trade union and management forum, reveal the university claiming “very early stage discussions [are] taking place with… ‘INTO’, who provide foundation programmes for overseas students, for one year, which [include] programmes to bring English language up to the required standard to undertake degree programmes.”
However, Vision has obtained information that suggests the university has been in negotiation with INTO for around six months, as it is still being heavily negotiated by Senate, with union representatives on campus only discovering plans in October.
One source told this paper that the negotiations were ‘closed-door’ and lacked transparency. INTO’s own website suggests that the partnership is already underway, promoting International Foundation courses at the university.
According to the JNCC minutes, the plans are currently for the initiative to fully “begin [by] Autumn 2015, with flow through from 2016”, with the university claiming potential benefits include “shared fees with INTO and flow-through of overseas students, which would help increase the University’s overseas undergraduate student intake.”
However, unions on campus have questioned the plans, with the UCU lecturers’ union asking why international student recruitment and language teaching cannot continue to be done in-house.
INTO state that since 2006, they have “successfully launched 18 joint venture partnerships with 17 leading universities in the United Kingdom, North America and China”, providing a “strong private sector partner.”
But York Vision spoke to a staff member at a British INTO-partner university, who wishes to remain anonymous, who claims the company operate “dicey immigration practices” to increase student numbers, “promise more than they can deliver’ and engage in ‘extremely poor practice’.
The source – who is considering resigning over the issue – claims they play ‘fast and loose’ with their student recruitment, and only delivered around a third of their initially predicted student recruits.
The outsourcing plans were discussed in a ‘very lively debate’ at last week’s Senate, leading to the university agreeing to establish a Senate sub-group to look more closely at the proposals – a tactic used at other campuses – with the UCU pushing for a seat at the table. However, given the scale of anger, there may be an emergency Senate before the next scheduled meeting.
University registrar David Duncan said: “We have given the trade union a [legally-required] guarantee that the jobs and terms and conditions of existing members of staff would be safeguarded. We would also be prepared to enter a recognition agreement with the union covering staff in the joint venture.”
Duncan stated that under the proposed Joint Venture “INTO would provide the capital for additional facilities on campus and recruitment services via overseas recruitment agents; the academic content and all decisions on academic matters would be the responsibility of the University. Total additional student numbers coming into University programmes would rise gradually to around 300-350 by 2022/2023.”
YUSU President Kallum Taylor said: “The student representatives at Senate made it very clear that we absolutely recognise that the INTO proposal could be hugely successful for York.
However, along with a considerable section of Senate membership, we raised a number of concerns and conditions which we expect to addressed and met in order to cement our support.
“We won’t be backing [the plans] until a vast array of grey areas are cleared up, and a number of conditions are met”.
He demanded student representation on the Senate sub-group to discuss the plans.