Letters to the Editor

Learning abroad Dissolving Queen's-Blyth abroad

Re: “Dissolving Queen’s-Blyth abroad”

Dear Editors,

The opinion article on the Queen’s-Blyth Worldwide (QBW) program published in the Queen’s Journal on Fri. Oct. 5, 2012 contains several errors of fact and misleading statements which require clarification.

I believe it is important to state from the outset that the goal of Queen’s-Blyth Worldwide is the same as that of all of our other international undergraduate programs — for Queen’s students to have high-quality educational and rewarding international experiences.

Queen’s is not outsourcing its courses. Queen’s has complete control over all academic aspects of the program, including course selection, course syllabus requirements, student admission, and instructor hiring. Blyth is responsible for marketing and operational logistics (e.g. travel arrangements, accommodation, meals, on-site logistical support). This division of responsibilities has always been very clear and respected by both parties.

Blyth Academy is a registered and inspected private high school, not a tourist company. Its associated company, Blyth Educational Travel, provides accredited educational programming for high-school students wishing to study abroad. Queen’s departments and instructors are consulted to ensure that pedagogical input is provided in determining local itineraries for the courses. Feedback is sought from both students and instructor as part of a standard continuous-improvement process.

The cost of the program ranges from $4,000 to $8,000, depending on the location. More distant or less travelled destinations tend to be more expensive. The cost of the program also includes airfare, accommodation and local transportation costs, and some meals, and tuition. Thus, a direct comparison with only tuition fees is fundamentally flawed. Moreover, the cost of the program is comparable to analogous study-abroad opportunities offered by other Canadian universities. Finally, there is a bursary scheme available for students which is fully funded by Blyth, and, depending on a student’s financial situation, provincial loan programs such as OSAP may also be used.

The Queen’s-Blyth Worldwide Program provides a pre-departure orientation program to both students and instructors. Furthermore, all students, Blyth program staff, and QBW instructors must enrol in the Queen’s Emergency Support Program, and complete the QUIC predeparture orientation and Off-Campus Activity Safety Policy (OCASP) requirements as mandated by Queen’s University for all study-abroad programs.

It is important to clarify that we had provided several changes and corrections to an earlier draft of the brochure used to market the program this year, which, due to production reasons and printing deadlines of which we were not aware, were not incorporated into the final version. All marketing materials not approved by

Queen’s have been removed from circulation, and we have now put into place protocols with Blyth to ensure that such materials are vetted properly through Queen’s.

Instructor stipends do not reflect the fact that airfares, all accommodation costs, and some meals are all included while an instructor is participating in the program.

Intellectual property rights for QBW instructors are equally protected by the same university policies applicable to any instructor at Queen’s.

As this program is only in the second year of a pilot phase, we are always appreciative of helpful feedback which can be used to improve the program. Such feedback has already been used to modify the program structure for next year, indicates that the QBW program allows a segment of the student population which might otherwise not have travelled abroad to gain valuable international experience, and demonstrates that the students’ academic experiences on the program this past year were overwhelmingly positive.

As always, I would be pleased to discuss any further questions or concerns about the program with interested individuals.

Jim Lee,

Vice-Provost (International)

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