Sunday, December 13, 2015

Ottawa's Algonquin College Tries--and Fails--To Make a Go Of Things At a New Campus In...Saudi Arabia?

Yup, in Saudi Arabia (my bolds):
Algonquin College has lost close to $1 million operating a male-only campus in Saudi Arabia, according to its financial statements.
The Algonquin College of Excellence in Jazan opened in 2013 in a partnership that was supposed to make money. 
"Algonquin has the unique opportunity to become a global leader in the export of Ontario education," reads the school's 2014 international strategic plan. 
But the campus in Jazan has long been a sore point for the faculty union at Algonquin.
Professor Jack Wilson, a vice-president of the faculty union, has been a longtime critic of Algonquin's Saudi Arabia campus. (CBC) 
Algonquin professor Jack Wilson, a vice-president of the faculty union, says the region is too unstable and has an "abysmal" human rights record. 
No kidding. So how much money has this doomed-from-the-start project made so far, professor?
"In our first year in Jazan we lost money and the projections of the money that we were to get have been downgraded from the initial forecast of $20 million over five years to just over four [million.] So I'd even question whether it's an appropriate financial investment," he said. 
And I'd question whether it's appropriate for an Ontario college to be setting up shop in these human rights-deprived, sharia-ridden environs. Anyone over at Algonquin care to tackle that one?
Doug Wotherspoon, vice-president of international and strategic priorities at Algonquin College, wasn't available for comment.
I guess not.

If you've read this far and assumed that this must be Algonquin's one and only foray into the Arab Middle East, you would be wrong:
The college has another campus in Kuwait with about 80 students enrolled.
Swell. Is that campus "male only," too? And where, pray tell, is Algonquin planning to open its next branch?



Update: Apparently, Dubai is the next oil-rich, sharia-ridden entity being eyed by Algonquin.

Update: Dug out this nugget of info from Algonquin's 2014 International Strategic Education Plan:
More recently, the government of Ontario approved the college’s plans to partner with Saudi Arabia’s Technical and  Vocational Training Corporation (now re-named colleges of excellence) to establish the Algonquin College of Excellence  in Jazan, Saudi Arabia. This support runs alongside the province’s effort to rebound from the global recession and balance its finances.
So you mean to say that Algonquin had the Wynne government's backing for this project? But how could either possibly justify opening a branch operation in one of the most repressive countries on the planet? Well, here's how Algonquin tried to do it (as set out in the same document; the italics are mine):
Human Rights Considerations When Pursuing International Opportunities  
Canadian educational institutions establishing partnerships abroad must be prepared to answer—for themselves  and their stakeholders—questions of how to deal with issues of human rights. algonquin college’s framework for  determining opportunities for offshore international recruitment and partnership considers the treatment of human  rights among a series of critical indicators.  
Algonquin believes that education is a powerful, effective force for positive change in any country. It can improve  economic and social wellbeing in countries that have demonstrated a real desire to progress—countries that invest  in improving education and healthcare, and that promote a stable business environment with growing gdp. 
For these reasons, while some fee Algonquin should not partner with countries that do not offer the same human rights protections as Canada, the college is convinced that working with those genuinely invested in change can yield beneficial outcomes. Saudi Arabia and China, for example, are investing heavily in education and have explicit policies encouraging their educational institutions to partner with those in the West.
What a load of codswallop! This isn't about Algonquin fostering "change" in Saudi Arabia and China (which about as "genuinely invested" in it as they are in becoming freedom-loving democracies). It's about the college trying to make a shite-load of money--and, it must be said, in some pretty sketchy places.

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