AUSTRALIA: Higher education service goes global

An Australian service helping students prepare for joining higher education is expanding worldwide. Western Australia-based Navitas says launches in the US this year are the shape of things to come.

The company has an affiliation agreement with Western Kentucky University to establish a 'university pathway college' at the university's main campus. It has also struck a five-year agreement with the University of Massachusetts in Boston which will see a Navitas College opening in the New England university in September.

A recently-announced Navitas undergraduate pathway and pre-masters programmes at the University of Massachusetts Lowell and the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth are also set to open in September.

Navitas courses and colleges offer a range of services to students to prepare them for university, including instruction on language, study techniques and migration practicalities.

The company started work in its native Australia in 1994 and has been expanding - offering "pre-university and pathway programmes" in 19 internationally recognised universities in countries around the world, including the UK, Canada and Singapore.

But as ever in higher education, it is the US that is the biggest prize. Navitas Chief Executive Rod Jones said: "Partnering with established, quality universities is the key to the rollout of our business model into the United States.

"We are committed to establishing a footprint in one of the world's largest education markets and believe this partnership complements our entry into the United States."

Speaking to University World News, Jones stressed that Navitas programmes were more than a stepping stone for international students hoping to assimilate into the local university system.

He said they were geared to provide an environment for international students when they first arrive in a new country with the help and support they need to transition into the university education system.

"There is no free lunch. We assist new students who arrive in new countries and have extra obstacles to overcome to succeed in the university system".

The technique seems to be working. Jones said 90% of students who completed the pathway programmes were accepted into second year of university and 95% of those will go on to complete their degree.

Jones said the Navitas business model was a simple one: provide a service that allowed international students to succeed.

"If we don't deliver outcomes to our students - if they don't get success - then we won't have students come to us. It's not a focus on profit, it's a focus on educational outcomes."

I disagree with Mr Jones' assessment that this is about educational outcomes and not profit. It is entirely about profit. (1) The university pays a set contract fee, eg. $2-3 million a year (or even a one-time fee!), but Navitas, with for example 1,000 students per year, walks off with $15-20 million a year. (2) If it was about "educational outcomes" then these two years of study would be openly transferable anywhere but they are restricted to the mother university. What is most objectionable is that the taxpayer-funded university allows a private company to use its name and infrastructure for promotion, yet the majority of the profits leave the state or country.

Gary Henkelmann