Dissolving Queen’s-Blyth abroad

Members of Queen’s faculty have concerns regarding educational partnership

Students in the Queen’s-Blyth Worldwide program can be charged over $8,000 on a half-course, more than an entire year of on-campus tuition under the faculty of Arts and Science.
Students in the Queen’s-Blyth Worldwide program can be charged over $8,000 on a half-course, more than an entire year of on-campus tuition under the faculty of Arts and Science.

Desperate times sometimes call for desperate measures, but they don’t always result in good choices.

A case in point is Queen’s recent decision to partner with a private tourist education company to offer university credits overseas. Little more than an expensive form of edu-tourism, these Queen’s-Blyth Worldwide (QBW) courses infringe on academic integrity, reinforce colonial stereotypes and privatize post-secondary education.

As Queen’s University faculty members committed to accessible, progressive and internationalized education, we are writing to share our concerns with this program.

With prices as high as $8,000 for a half-course, the program is out of reach for most students.

To put this in perspective, one QBW course costs as much as or more than an entire year of on-campus tuition in the faculty of Arts and Science. They also cost twice as much as a full-course credit that Queen’s already offers in Cuba, which includes two weeks in Kingston doing preparatory work, two weeks in Havana, field trips, living expenses and travel costs.

Why is Queen’s outsourcing these courses to a private company when we already have internal capacity and expertise? In fact, we have one of the best internationalization records in Canada with strong pre-departure orientation sessions, post-experiential learning opportunities and hands-on work placements around the world.

QBW, by contrast, has no pre-departure preparations and is focused on mainstream tourist sites and activities, such as beaches and popular landmarks. Existing Queen’s courses are simply shoe-horned into these pre-packaged itineraries because they fit with Blyth’s networks on the ground, not because they have academic connections with a place.

The program also reproduces stereotypical images of non-Canadian destinations, particularly in its so-called “exotic” locales.

In Tanzania, for example, “Your safari commences after visiting Maasai villages and the Simanjiro Plains,” where you can “dance alongside the colourful native tribes-people.” The trip to India, meanwhile, “conjures up images of bustling streets, noisy markets, and exotic food … fortunately, some relaxing yoga is included!” Much of this blatantly colonial language has been removed from the website (after complaints were made), but the itineraries and travel partners remain the same.

Amazingly, there’s no apparent business plan for this privatized venture. Despite telling us that it will bring lots of money to Queen’s, the Faculty Office can’t (or won’t) tell us how much. When pressed on the matter last year, all the Dean could offer were ‘rough estimates’ of revenues, but no information on expenses or profits. In other words, no one seems to know if the program will even make money for the university.

Finally, the program has been separated from the collective bargaining agreement between Queen’s faculty and administration, allowing Blyth to hire teachers at almost half the rate as on-campus courses. Intellectual property rights are uncertain and faculty must teach on an overload basis if they participate.

We realize these are difficult financial times for post-secondary education in Canada. We also know that Queen’s faculty who have participated in Blyth in the past have done their best to do meaningful work within the constraints of the program. But surely we can do better.

Squeezing our global teaching and learning ambitions into pre-packaged tours from a private company isn’t the way to internationalize this University. If we are going to make Queen’s a more diverse and accessible place we need something else.

Thankfully, this is a trial program and can be terminated by Queen’s if it isn’t working. It’s important, therefore, that we send a strong message to our administration asking them to cancel it.

As faculty, we can do this by refusing to teach for Blyth. As students, you can refuse to sign up for Blyth courses. And we can all write to the Principal and to the Dean of Arts and Science expressing our concerns.

In its place, Queen’s needs to invest more in-house international programs, building on the expertise we already have and enhancing our growing network of international contacts. Internal programs offer a more rigorous, satisfying and less expensive way for Queen’s students to become engaged in the world around us. There’s no reason we can’t continue to do more of this in-house programming in the future.

Signatories of the above opinion:

• David McDonald, Professor, Global Development Studies

• Elizabeth Hanson, Professor, English

• Bruce Berman, Professor Emeritus, Political Studies

• Colleen Davison, Adjunct Assistant Professor, Community Health and Epidemiology and Global Development Studies

• Leda Raptis, Professor, Microbiology and Immunology

• Jennifer Ruth Hosek, Associate Professor, Languages Literatures and Cultures

• Robert Lovelace, Adjunct Instructor, Global Development Studies

• Eleanor MacDonald, Associate Professor, Political Studies

• Dorit Naaman, Alliance Atlantis Professor in Film and Media

• Paritosh Kumar, Placements Coordinator, Global Development Studies

• Elaine Power, Associate Professor, Kinesiology and Health Studies

• Frank Burke, Professor, Film and Media

• Samantha King, Associate Professor, Kinesiology and Health Studies

• Jacqueline Davies, Associate Professor, Philosophy • Margaret Pappano, Associate Professor, English

• Villia Jefremovas, Associate Professor, Global Development Studies

• Susan Lord, Associate Professor, Film and Media

• Susanne Soederberg, Professor, Global Development Studies, and Political Studies

• Charlotte Reinholtz, Associate Professor, Linguistics

• Richard Day, Associate Professor, Global Development Studies, Cultural Studies, and Sociology

• Mark Jones, Professor, English

• Laura Cameron, Associate Professor, Geography

• Ariel Salzmann, Associate Professor, History

• Karen Frederickson, Associate Professor, Music

• Karen Dubinsky, Professor, History and Global Development Studies

• Annette Burfoot, Associate Professor, Sociology

• Patricia Rae, Professor, English

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