Thursday, February 28, 2013

UBC's International Pathways Program: A new model ?

I don't know much about this new initiative at UBC, but it is going to be big -- they are spending $200 million on it.

UBC serves a local, national and international community and efforts are currently underway to strategically expand international student enrolment so that campus life and the student experience are universally enhanced. UBC’s International Pathways Program (IPP) as an adjunct to our expanding International Students Initiative (ISI) will allow UBC to significantly diversify the student body and increase the number of talented international students at UBC. The IPP will combine innovative teaching techniques with cultural and language support to provide a transformative program that will allow us to invite promising students from a more diverse array of countries while maintaining our base of direct entry students from traditional sources.

(That's from the "UBC 5-Year Capital Plan.")

The UBC student newspaper reported last year that Pathways would be a "separate but affiliated college," a kind of first-year program which would eventually allow students to enter UBC as 2nd-year students. "Separate but affiliated" worries me a little. The ideal situation, I think, would be to have credit-bearing language/culture/study skills courses, and this might be closer to that. I think of the first-year English programs at the Chinese joint-venture universities and wonder if this might be something like that. The JVU programs, however, seem to be much more integrated into the actual university. There's something a little off-putting about building a larger, more glorified "you're not actually a real student" style institution, of which there is already one at almost every university -- an English language institute. Incidentally, UBC's large ELI is supposed to be involved in Pathways, though I don't know how.

Anyway, something worth keeping an eye on. It could be a good thing (and even a place for me to look for a job in the future, maybe).

UPDATE: I note that this program has also been referred to as "A Bridge to UBC" and it does seem to provide actual credit courses despite the students not being enrolled in UBC. UBC's vice provost presented a sketch of the prospective program to the UBC student body association last fall and laid out the following steps (see the whole PPT here), with my emphasis:

We are proposing:
• An educational program developed for international students from domestic school systems that are significantly different from those found in North America and Europe
• A program to enable these students to complete first-year equivalent coursework, and
be prepared to enter UBC degree programs as second-year students:
- Preparation programs tailored to individual needs, with longer preparation programs for some students
- Development of English language skills for academic success, integrated with the  broader curriculum
- Course content based on UBC first-year credit programs and curricula
- The majority of instruction will be provided by full-time academic staff in a variety of teaching configurations
- A “living lab” for innovative undergraduate teaching
- A “high-touch” in-residence experience for all students, with strong social support, to address cultural acclimatization issues specific to different countries
 - A program that broadens our reach and enables students from diverse backgrounds to attend UBC 

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