UBC wants to build an affiliated college to bring in more international students.
Pathways College would be a one-year program to prepare international students for UBC. The university still has to work out many details of the program.
“I’ll say we’re at the dreaming phase, in the sense that everything is still in the air … but we’re also definitely at a phase where we’ve made the decision we are going to pilot something,” said UBC math professor Mark MacLean, who has been involved in the discussions surrounding the program.
The program would be tailored to individual students’ needs, ranging from English language skills to core courses that aren’t taught in their indigenous schools. After completing their year at Pathways, students would enter UBC as second-year students.
“A Pathways program, it brings people who we think are going to do really well at UBC but perhaps don’t have exactly the right background,” said Paul Smith, UBC vice-provost and associate vice-president of facilities and enrolment.
Smith added that the program would diversify and increase UBC’s international student population, since UBC currently lacks students from areas such as the Philippines, South America and Africa.
“We’re not intent on mining a current pool of applicants so much, although some of that may go on. We’re more interested in pushing into new areas. So that’s the real impetus behind it,” said Smith.
MacLean said the program would only bring in the brightest international students.
“I think a lot of the colleges that we’ve looked at who are doing this are going deeper in the barrel, if you will,” he said. “I think we want to avoid that for lots of reasons. Probably number one is they just won’t survive here.”
Pathways is set to cater to international Arts and Science students in its pilot stage, which could begin as early as 2013. But MacLean and Smith said similar programs could also benefit aboriginal students.
Kiran Mahal, AMS VP Academic and University Affairs, said she can appreciate where the university is coming from, but UBC needs to consult with the AMS to determine if the Pathways students would be AMS members.
“We can appreciate that it is very much in the vision stage, but we have to also consider the implications if you’re going to push it forward that fast,” said Mahal.
“And even if it’s a pilot program, 300 students are still 300 students that the AMS has to care about and that UBC has to care about at a level besides what they’re looking at right now.”
Some have criticized UBC’s goal to increase international enrolment as a money grab. International tuition is not capped by the provincial government and is a large source of funding for UBC.
MacLean met those accusations head-on.
“If it’s only about money, let’s just get out of the game,” said MacLean.
“You can reduce this to ‘The only conversation is about dollars,’ and there’s no question that the International Student Initiative has had a big impact on the university financially,” he said. “But I think that with that comes really thinking about how we make use of those resources to make this a strong university.”