[photopress:Montreal_executives.jpg,full,alignright]A protest that eleven students in Universite du Quebec a Montreal’s (UQAM) current executive MBA program in China were admitted despite the fact that they speak virtually no English seems to have been caused by a lot of misunderstanding on both sides and some fairly odd decisions by UQAM.
English is the language in which half the classes are offered. This is important because the University, being set in Montreal, is, in theory, bound to run most of its classes in French. Thus it seems slightly odd to see it running courses overseas in another language.
Pervaiz Iqbal, a co-coordinator’s assistant, claims he complained to the universities’ Chinese partners, demanding students take a proficiency test and sign a waiver promising to improve their language skills. He lost his job. Now he states there is what he calls widespread cheating and bribery in the international program.
Pervaiz Iqbal is a Pakistan-born Canadian citizen who speaks fluent Chinese and says the Canadian university bowed to pressure from officials at China University of Mining and Technology. He said, ‘I am a victim of racism and discrimination because I tried to stop this corruption. There are some people at UQAM (the university in Montreal) who are not happy.’ That last bit is probably true, the rest debatable for the university says Iqbal was never officially on the university’s payroll.
Benoit Bazoge, director of ESG’s executive MBA program, said Chinese officials were tired of negotiating through an intermediary and asked that UQAM treat the Chinese program the same way it does in other countries, where it is administered by a coordinator hired by the local partner.
Sylvain St-Amand, UQAM’s director of international relations, said, ‘The main problem is his personality. He speaks very loudly. The Chinese, that’s what they told me. The woman who is in charge of the program was afraid of him, that’s what she told me. She was afraid of his anger. He shouts, he threatens them, he says if they don’t do it the way he wants, UQAM is out.’
Yet Sylvain St-Amand, Benoit Bazoge and Pierre Filiatrault, seen in our illustration in that order from left to right, concede there have been anomalies with language tests for the current EMBA class in China.
Benoit Bazoge confirmed 11 of the course’s 35 students had very poor scores on their proficiency test and were told they would have to brush up before UQAM’s courses began. In the future UQAM hopes to prevent this problem by insisting students take an internationally accredited language test.
He said many universities offering programs abroad have struggled to ensure students, often in their 30s with families and full-time jobs, know the language of instruction. In China, UQAM’s program is offered in two sections, with the first courses taught in Chinese.
ESG-UQAM has steadily fostered an ambitious — and profitable — EMBA program in 15 countries on five continents, where the language of instruction is dictated by the demands of the local clientele.
UQAM professors teach management, marketing and strategy in French in Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco and the Ivory Coast, and in Spanish in Mexico, Peru and the Dominican Republic. In Warsaw, UQAM’s English-language EMBA ranks among the top foreign programs offered in Poland. And in one peculiar twist of logic, in France, UQAM has partnered with Universite Paris-Dauphine for an EMBA program which it offers in English.
Asked why a French-language Montreal university was teaching courses in English in Poland, France and China, ESG dean Pierre Filiatrault seemed genuinely baffled. He said, logically, ‘You can’t go to China and teach in Spanish.’
The problem is the university is mired in debt and this kerfuffle (good word) in China is not helping. In recent years, ESG has been one of UQAM’s most reliable breadwinners, attracting more and more students anxious to beef up their resumes in an increasingly competitive job market. Private MBA programs, with corporate partners or foreign universities, are an especially nice little earner.
Yet even before the problems with the Chinese program, there was grumbling among tenured faculty and lecturers about the EMBA set-up.One disgusted UQAM professor who asked not to be named said he was alarmed by the way course material for executives was crammed into the equivalent of two weekends. He said, ‘The university, in its stupid wisdom, agreed to cut the course back from 45 hours to 30. There’s no time to learn, to read a book. Time to make a nice PowerPoint presentation, and that’s it.’
PierreFiliatrault insists UQAM is dedicated to maintaining the highest standards. He said, ‘We want to be real kosher on our international MBA. We won’t make agreements that could destroy our reputation.’
Source: Montreal Gazette and, in a later edition of the same newspaper, Montreal Gazettte