March 29, 2012 5:42 am

Eminata schools under fire: Frustrated students meet with NDP Leader Adrian Dix

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Opposition leader Adrian Dix is calling for a closer look at the regulatory bodies responsible for monitoring B.C.’s for-profit schools after a meeting Wednesday with ­dissatisfied students from the University of Canada West in downtown Vancouver.

Dix and NDP advanced education critic Michelle Mungall met with six of the school’s international students, who expressed “disappointment” with their experience at the university, which is operated by the Eminata Group.

“They feel that they haven’t got what they were promised, and this sends . . . a very problematic message about British Columbia to the world,” said Dix. “The clear message we’ve got from these students is they are not getting the level of education that they thought they were [going to get].”

Equally concerning, added Dix, is that 30 students were originally supposed to attend the meeting, which his party arranged at the request of the students.

“I think the challenge here is to ensure that those people making complaints feel they can make complaints,” said Dix.

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The Private Career Training Institutions Agency (PCTIA) is the body that regulates B.C.’s for-profit schools and deals with student complaints. Before a complaint is heard, however, students must demonstrate that they’ve made meaningful efforts to resolve the issue under the school’s internal resolution policy.

Dix and Mungall highlighted the reluctance of the six students to speak with the media without first being promised anonymity as proof that this process doesn’t work.

There is also some confusion as to who is actually responsible for hearing complaints from students attending the University ofCanada West (UCW). Mungall said it’s PCTIA’s responsibility, but Karin Kirkpatrick, PCTIA’s registrar, said student complaints from that school are the responsibility of the Degree Quality Assessment Board.

Mungall said the NDP has put forward a private member’s bill that will address some of the regulatory problems.

The six students, who spoke briefly with the media, raised issues related to the quality of some of their instruction and a lack of internships they believed would be arranged.

They did note that many of their professors were good. They mentioned, however, that some instruction was done using YouTube videos and Wikipedia.

Approached by The Province for comment, UCW spokesman Drew Lawrenson replied with a news release highlighting the ­university’s track record in providing quality education. He said YouTube and Wikipedia aren’t part of any academic content.

“We are a professionally run institution,” Lawrenson said. “We regularly hold meetings for students to raise any concerns and provide feedback. We have an excellent record of meeting and resolving all student concerns.”

UCW was one of three ­Eminata schools looked at by The Province during an investigative series sparked by student complaints, published March 11 and 12.

Former B.C. cabinet minister Harry Bloy resigned from cabinet March 15 after admitting to leaking an email from The Province to the Eminata Group during that investigation.

 

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