Eduvation Blog

Canada-India Synergy 2011

I’m at the Canada-India Education Council’s 2011 Synergy conference in Mississauga, a two-day smorgasbord of interesting case studies, success stories, and lessons learned from both Canadian institutions and government agencies working with India, and Indian schools and government representatives. I’ll attempt to record some of the most salient facts and new ideas I hear over the next two days…

The Opportunity is Now

In her opening remarks, Dr Sheila Embleton of York University expressed her enthusiasm for the burgeoning Canada-India corridor, but observed that student numbers from India could be greater, and that Bill 57 (the foreign providers’ bill in India) still hasn’t been passed. Australia and the US have experienced setbacks in recent years and this presents an opportunity for Canada to position itself as a destination of choice for Indian students. UK institutions are establishing international branch campuses, despite their fiscal challenges at home. Canadian institutions need to approach the immense Indian market with a spirit of “coopetition” because “there is room for all.”

Husain Neemuchwala, the executive director of CIEC, acknowledged the broad range of delegates at the event, including AUCC, ACCC, government representatives. Husain summed up changes in the past year, including Australia’s decline in international Enrolment, and India’s new focus on “no child left behind.” Ontario is pushing for significant growth in international enrolment, and is making it easier for international students to find work in Ontario. CMEC is working with Ottawa to address obstacles to international enrolment, and part of that is the establishment of the Canadian Consortium for International Education Marketing. CIEC has big plans for 2012, including the opening of representative offices all over India, to serve its 15 member institutions in Canada, and aims to recruit 15 member institutions in India as well.

Momentum in Knowledge Mobilization

Professor Balbir Sahni opened the conference with a keynote on the Canada India context, “Knowledge Mobilization?” The term “KM” has been used in many ways, but in recent years has come to mean sharing the benefits of the results of collaborative efforts. There has been a “quantum jump” in the number of collaborative initiatives and MOUs between Canadian and Indian institutions. CIHR, NSERC and SSHRC are all committed to KM. Globally, there are about 3 million international students, 62% enrolled at institutions in North America and Western Europe. Almost a third of them came from East Asia and the Pacific Basin. Here in Canada, 26% of international students come from China, 11% from South Korea, and 8% from India (as of 2010 StatsCan estimates). In terms of flow, though, for the first time India has become the second-greatest source of international students in Canada. Since 2008, international students from India have increased from 3501 to 12188 — a fourfold increase in just 2 years! 54% of international students in Canada come to enroll in university, 27% in trades or other PSE, and 15% in primary or secondary school. The Shastri Institute is surveying existing MOUs and so far has tracked 232 MOUs involving about 125 institutions, spanning the full spectrum of institutions in both countries. There are 400 French faculty members teaching in India, and partnerships with Quebec institutions are growing as well. Often collaborations begin as student and faculty exchanges, leading to research collaborations, co-supervised grad students, and of course more formal 2+2 agreements and collaborative degree programs. Recently some institutions have used the co-op format, to allow for study terms or work terms in the partner country. In particular, Professor Sahni singled out York University for its agreements with 23 Indian institutions. A number of Canadian institutions are establishing or considering Canada-India policy development centres, such as York and McGill. He emphasized that KM flows between Canada and India must be two-way flows; we need to ensure that Canadian students and faculty are learning about India too.

A lively panel discussion on “good practices in building and managing relationships” followed, moderated by Rachel Lindsey of AUCC and including Liselyn Adams of Concordia, Ann Curry of uRegina, and Helmut Reichenbacher of OCAD U.

Dr Curry described the growth of programs of student and staff exchange, and 2+2 agreements, between uRegina and Indian institutions. URegina’s president has recently established a $100,000 scholarship fund for students from India, and recently UofR revisited its English language and cultural proficiency requirements — which led to a one-year orientation or transition year for all incoming Indian students, to address their culture shock. UofR has developed an international active support program, for early intervention when students are experiencing academic difficulty. The Global Leadership Program is open to all UofR students, and encourages them to engage in events already running on campus. (Ultimately UofR is looking to mention student activities on their academic transcript.) UofR hosts numerous cross-cultural communications workshops on campus, not just for Indian culture but also other growing demographics, to help prepare UofR students and faculty before going abroad, and to help acculturate incoming students and faculty from other regions. The hope is that this will boost student retention.

Ms Adams, the AVP International at Concordia University, described the many connections between Concordia and India — including the fact that Concordia has 5% of it’s faculty from India. She distinguished between personal connections and institutional connections, but emphasized that the two overlap, and both are necessary to reinforce each other. The role of the AVP International is essentially that of matchmaker, and demands considerable patience, when “everyone in the room thinks that they are the leader.” Ms Adams emphasized that “following is also incredibly active.” Connections are necessary at the political, administrative, faculty, student, and corporate levels. The goal is to encourage connections and projects to grow into ongoing, consistent programs. Concordia is emphasizing 8 key areas for India collaboration, including aerospace engineering, environment and sustainability, advanced materials and nanotechnology, design media arts, education technologies, sustainable enterprise, gender studies and mathematics. Concordia’s solar communities partnership began with the construction of solar homes and has grown into a 200-acre solar research park that will be built in partnership with Tata. Concordia is also leading innovative teaching and research workshops in Indian universities to grow their capacity. India needs to grow capacity very quickly, connections between universities and colleges are lacking, it is proving challenging to recruit qualified faculty, and there is great interest in Concordia’s modular customized workshops, which will begin in India in Fall 2012. (They are already running in Iraq and planned for Kuwait.). Ms Adams emphasized the need for “management by walking around,” and finds that telephone or Skype calls are a much better way to make things happen in India than email. Canadian students seem anxious about going on exchange alone, and often faculty study exchanges are a better starting point to pave the way.

4 Key Requirements for Successful International Collaboration

Dr Reichenbacher, the AVP Research at OCAD U, described the 4 parameters he believes are most helpful. First is the institutional match, and secondly the personal, human element. Ultimately, you have to meet at the human level. Thirdly there need to be incentives in place to maintain momentum, to prime the pump. Fourthly, programs need sustainability and ongoing funding. OCAD has partnerships with several Indian institutions, ranging from the National Institute of Design to a large multi-campus university, Manipal University. OCAD’s Digital Futures Initiative is exploring a broad range of fascinating innovations, from data visualization to wearable technology. OCAD’s relationship with NID began with a six-month visit from an NID prof, who did not teach but observed, and became an advocate for OCAD back in India. OCAD’s president participated in the AUCC mission to India last year, and was interviewed on national television. Content, format, and student expectations are different in India, so it can be a great challenge and learning experience to teach on exchange. Manipal U looked at developing curriculum in parallel with OCAD’s, so that students could transfer freely between the institutions in a joint or dual degree program. The parallel curriculum approach is a way to very quickly achieve a degree collaboration. Dr Reichenbacher also described OCAD’s partnership with the Institute for Apparel Management, a very different sort of institution with complementary strengths.

Brand Canada

Claude Bibeau, DFAIT Deputy Director, came to Synergy 2011 to update us on the promotion of Canada as a study destination. Their partners include ACCC, AUCC, CMEC and CBIE, and Ms Bibeau described the work of the Joint Working Group which evolved from the 2010 Canada-India MOU in higher education cooperation. DFAIT has established as a website for scholarships for international students. The Canadian Studies program has focused on creating understanding of Canadian culture among foreign academics. The ISTPP program helps fund science and technology research collaborations. The High Commission in New Delhi is available to support Canadian institutions.

Lee-Ann Hermann spoke about the Edu-Canada brand, “Imagine Study in Canada.” international students contribute $6.5 billion annually to the Canadian economy. China, India and Brazil are national priorities for student recruitment, but Canada’s marketing budget is still far less than competing nations. Student visas quadrupled between 2008 and 2010, from 3,194 to 12,252, thanks to the Student Partners Program. Visa application processes have been accelerated to an average of 28 days for Indian students, and the approval rate is “getting better.” DFAIT is engaged in events, summits, social media and information seminars, and is developing an alumni database. In June 2011, the government allocated $10 million for the education strategy, but an advisory panel is still being formed to decide how to spend the money. The Edu-Canada program “sunsets” at the end of March this year, so the hope is that a new strategy will be in place by April 1.

The Global Centre of Growth is Shifting EAST

The Hon. Preeti Saran, Consul-General for India, emphasized that as the centre of global population and economic growth shifts to the east, more and more Indian students will want to pursue PSE in their own country, so that they can do work terms and ultimately find employment in India. She encouraged Canadian institutions to partner with Indian institutions to offer more educational opportunities there.

Thank God we have India!

The Hon. Pierre Pettigrew, Chair of CIEC, observed that the fiscal crisis in Europe will mean virtually zero growth there for years to come, and that the US economy is crippled because government has covered private-sector debts. European countries should have realized that a monetary union without a fiscal union was a recipe for disaster. America should have regulated financial institutions to prevent the financial crisis. The problem, Pettigrew says, is that there is no dialogue between corporations and the political class in the US, which is a major problem. The Republicans have fallen victim to the Tea Party movement, and the Tea Party hates big business as much as they hate big government. Corporations are sitting on fat balance sheets because they know that, at some point, new taxes or contributions will hit them, but they don’t know what or when. When we look at the world situation, Canadians should be very grateful that we have India, and the emerging markets of China and Brazil. India has a healthy democracy, constitution, the rule of law — it may take more time, but things should remain open there. Canada has shifted from an Atlantic-focused country to a Pacific-focused country. “Thank God we have India!”

A new CIEC Initiative to Accredit Agents

Husain Neemuchwala presented on a new initiative of CIEC they call iCARE (Indian Canadian Advisors Representing Excellence), to create a consolidated database of agents and consultants, increase accountability and reduce fraud. iCARE pools resources and shares intelligence between institutions, improves efficiency and may raise institutional profile in India, particularly outside the four major metropolitan centres in untapped markets. CIEC members are encouraged to join a committee that will nominate, validate and accredit agencies.

Streamlining Student Visas to Canadian Colleges

Dominique Van de Maele of ACCC provided an update about the Student Partnership Program (SPP) in India. Canada’s colleges offer a form of education that is overlooked in many developing countries, and can pursue collaborative applied research projects with international institutions or industry. Canadian institutions will find that partnering with overseas institutions to recruit and select students has many benefits over using agents, and reciprocity (sending Canadian students abroad) will help expand their horizons, and ensure the sustainability of the exchange programs. SPP is a program of Citizenship and Immigration Canada to improve visa approval rates for colleges that belong to ACCC. Under the program, approvals grew from 1500 in 2008 to more than 9100 in 2010, and the approval rate doubled from 34% to 69%. The program has become extraordinarily popular with agents in India, but the government cap on the number of SPP visas is affecting the approval rate. SPP requires students to have borrowed 80% of their expenses from a list of accepted Indian banks. SPP has now been replicated in China, and is under discussion for a few other countries. ACCC feels that the program growth needs to be controlled, rather than allowing it to grow exponentially.

Herding 21 Ministers of Education

Dr Andrew Parkin, the Director-General of CMEC, shared some thoughts about international education from the perspective of the 21 provincial and territorial ministers on his council. He praised the PSE system in Canada, which has a disproportionate number of top universities for a country of its size, and has achieved a much more level playing field for students of all socioeconomic backgrounds than other OECD countries. Less than 5% of Indian students who study abroad choose Canada. There is clearly room for improvement. The provinces and territories are taking a number of steps to promote Canada as an educational destination. The International Education Action Plan emphasizes the need to promote the “Education in Canada” brand, and to explain what we mean by it. It also emphasizes the need to improve the efficiency and transparency of study and work visa processes. The plan also addresses the need for consistent quality mechanisms across the jurisdictions to ensure that confidence in Canada’s PSE institutions is maintained, and that it is easier to identify “recognized” institutions. Members of the audience observed that mobility into and between Canadian institutions remains a challenge for many Indian students, since Indian 3-year bachelors degrees were not always accepted as prerequisite for graduate work. What the Indian students really needed was a comprehensive year to fulfill a breadth requirement, rather than a year of senior courses in their own specialization.

Jennifer Humphries of CBIE provided an update from the Canadian Consortium for International Education Marketing. CBIE has conducted a study of PSE pathways in Canada, and will release the report at their conference in Ottawa this November. The consortium, which includes CBIE, ACCC, AUCC, Languages Canada and Caps-i, doesn’t promote itself but seeks to advance Brand Canada internationally.

Provincial Roundup

BC premier Christie Clarke is planning a trip to China and India in November, and hopes to attend some of the education summit and innovation summit in Mumbai. SFU president Andrew Petter will join her, and hopes to sign several MOUs. TRU and UFV both have schools on the ground in India.

Saskatchewan premier Brad Wall visited India fairly recently. UofS is committed to developing an India strategy this year, to encompass research, recruitment, mobility and exchange of faculty and students.

Newfoundland and Labrador has identified India as a high priority market for student and faculty mobility, exchange, and recruitment.

Quebec decided to offer some international students domestic tuition. UMontreal has invested a lot of energy in China, but does not yet have a strategy for India. Their priority tends to be francophone markets, and they will likely focus their energies on the health sector. McGill earmarked $400,000 as seed money to develop projects with India, and about 15 projects have come forward. ULaval is focused on health sciences links in India, primarily for the purposes of training.

In Ontario there is considerable activity in India, and particularly Fleming, Durham, and other community colleges have been moving actively. Many universities are stepping up their recruitment efforts to meet provincial goals for internationalization, and to cope with funding challenges domestically. McGuinty indicated that, if re-elected, he would lead a third mission to India.

That’s it for Day One of Synergy! Tune in Friday as I continue live-blogging. I’m look forward to presenting some high-level results from Academica’s own ISPS study, the largest survey ever conducted of more than 5,000 elite high school seniors in India.

Day Two

Our moral challenges

Ah, now I remember why I so seldom get to blog from conferences.  This morning I’m presenting on some complex data, and preparing for that presentation meant that I sadly missed a presentation in the morning, and came in late for a fascinating presentation by Prof Deep Saini, Principal of uToronto Mississauga.  His final note particularly bears repeating here: Canadian universities face a moral challenge, that in doing business with elite Indian institutions we do not further exacerbate the access challenges facing the poorest citizens in India.

In the Q&A session, audience members asked whether we are trying to impose the Canadian educational system on India. Dr Saini replied that we can bring Canadian approaches and pedagogical methods to India, but the education in India needs to address local issues. Dr Mario Pinto, VP Research at SFU, observed that we are struggling with the purpose and evaluation of education here in Canada too, and will have to resolve it here as well, for mainstream students and under-represented groups like Aboriginal students. The colonial education left in India was faded, learning by rote, and had many weaknesses. We can do better.

Dr Saini insists that we need to develop the habit of setting aside a percentage of tuition for scholarships for international students. Dr Pinto, concurred.

Dr Pinto also revisited the huge skills shortage facing Canada, and the need to improve the way we train and retrain new immigrants from India and many other countries. Skills upgrading is going to be critical.

To encourage Canadian students to study in India, Dr Pinto proposes that dual degree programs between two institutions in the two countries would be the “ultimate” approach. SFU is doing something like this in China, but has been unable to move something similar forward in India.  Dr Saini does not believe it will be feasible to mandate a year abroad for Canadian students, but a voluntary system with support will be the best approach.

Fleming College dips its toes into the India Market

Dr Faith Ratchford, the faculty development facilitator at Fleming College, presented on how a mid-sized Canadian college is working the India market. You don’t have to be large to make things happen, she says, and in Fall 2011 Fleming was receiving its first Indian students. The initial idea was to develop a 4-year plan with “risk-takers” among the faculty, to internationalize the program. To break down fiefdoms, it was essential to involve faculty from various schools on campus. Within 5 months, with the invaluable assistance of Husain Neemuchwala and CIEC, 3 faculty from Fleming took its first exchange trip to India.  (In the next year or so, Fleming plans to host a reciprocal visit.) There were some definitely cultural differences between Peterborough (a town of 75,000) and Mumbai (16 million).

In “RJ College” of the University of Mumbai, Fleming found a good institutional match. Voted best college in 2008, RJ and Fleming have 9 program areas in common, and shared approaches to education: student engagement, educational technology, partnerships and social justice, among others. Fleming is looking at the possibility of linkages in applied research, faculty exchanges, curriculum and more.

Solid Data on Perceptions of Canada among Indian Students

My own presentation discussed a few of the many interesting results from Academica’s 2011 ISPS surveyof more than 5,100 grade 11 and 12 students at 59 elite private high schools across India.  The ISPS results make clear the percentage of these students considering study abroad, their preferred countries, and the rationale, motivations, subject areas and credentials that draw them there. (For example, Singapore is the #3 destination, but more because of lower admission requirements than because of perceived quality of education.) The ISPS examines “push” and “pull” influences, the impact of parents, and the use and influence of a wide range of information channels. (For example, Facebook is almost equal in weight to the Times Higher Education Rankings!)  A key finding of the survey is that many students in India make use of education web portals in India, the US, UK, and Canada, but the market is so fragmented that no collection of Canadian web portals will gain access to more than a few percent of Indian students considering study abroad.  The Ivy League and top universities worldwide are top of mind for Indian students, but those most serious about study in Canada are fixated on 3 institutions: the University of Toronto, UBC, and most of all, the University of Waterloo.  Canada has particular attraction to Indian students for Environmental Studies, among other subjects, and a disproportionate number considering Canada say they are motivated by a desire to emigrate.

I could tell you more about the ISPS results, but then I’d have to kill you.  Instead, you can read more about it here, and connect with Bruce Thompson at Academica to buy the entire, data-rich report for just $1495.

Final Notes

Dr Braj Sinha, president of the Shastri Indo-Canadian Institute, gave the conference’s valedictory address, on dimensions of collaboration and cooperation.

Dr Lalu Mansinha, from UWO, spoke over lunch aboutthe Ontario-Maharashtra-Goa partnership, a reciprocal exchange of about 75 grad and undergrad students each year.  He has been extraordinarily happy with the reaction from students on both sides, regardless of what the numbers show. The Ontario Council of Academic VPs (OCAV) runs similar exchanges to Germany, China and France, under the auspices of Ontario Universities International (OUI).  The exchange is about the reciprocal flow of knowledge — not just disciplinary expertise, but cultural understanding as well. About 50 students receive a stipend each year, but a significant benefit is that international tuition fees are waived.  India has many institutions, but they are also often very large: the University of Pune, the “Oxford of the East”, has more than 400,000 students. There is now growing interest in the idea of faculty exchange and research collaboration.

And with that, another year of the CIEC Synergy conference drew to a close!

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