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Presentation - October 7, 2015

Paul Davidson

Leveraging university resources for better business

Uncertain economic times.

Growing demand for sophisticated skills and new knowledge.

An increasingly competitive global marketplace.

Today’s businesses must be nimble, responsive and visionary in the face of emerging challenges. Partnering with universities helps companies and communities gain this competitive advantage.

Join Paul Davidson, president of Universities Canada, as he looks at universities’ role in providing the skills, new knowledge and innovation Canada needs to compete, open up new markets and get fresh ideas to market faster.

Mr. Davidson will take you behind the scenes of today’s universities and illustrate how higher education is building prosperity through research, innovation and experiential learning.  He’ll talk about the many ways universities provide young Canadians with the workforce experience, entrepreneurial skills and international and intercultural opportunities employers want and Canada needs. Learn how to harness the potential of universities to make Canada’s businesses, communities and regions stronger.

Hotel Fort Garry
222 Broadway
Winnipeg, MB

For more information and to register for this event, visit the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce Website

Media release - October 6, 2015

OTTAWA – Canada’s universities are celebrating news of the Nobel Prize in Physics being awarded to Arthur B. McDonald, director of the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory (SNOLAB) and professor emeritus of Queen’s University.

“This is a huge day for Canada’s university research community,” says Paul Davidson, president of Universities Canada. “Dr. McDonald has made the country proud and shown the world that Canada is home to ground-breaking research and discovery.”

Researchers at SNOLAB – an underground science laboratory located two kilometres below the surface in the Vale Creighton Mine located near Sudbury – were looking at neutrinos that come from the sun. Dr. MacDonald, who has been director of the observatory since 1989, discovered in 2001 that those neutrinos changed their identities, meaning they have mass.

SNOLAB is a partnership of five Canadian universities – Carleton University, Laurentian University, Queen’s University, University of Alberta and Université de Montréal. SNOLAB’s funding partners include the Canada Foundation for Innovation, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, and the member universities.

Dr. McDonald did his undergraduate and master’s degrees at Dalhousie University before pursuing a PhD at the California Institute of Technology. He will share the prize with Takaaki Kajita of the University of Tokyo.

Universities Canada is the voice of Canada’s 97 universities, at home and abroad.


Media Contact:

Helen Murphy
Assistant director of communications
Universities Canada/ Universités Canada
613 563-3961 ext. 238 or cell: 613 608-8749

Nadine Robitaille
Communications officer
Universities Canada/ Universités Canada
613-563-3961 ext. 306

Backgrounder - September 29, 2015

Canadian universities have a long history of offering assistance to scholars and students fleeing conflict zones.

Now is no different.

Universities across the country are responding to the ongoing Syrian refugee crisis by raising funds, offering scholarships and building on longstanding relationships with established refugee assistance programs.

Several universities – and their students, faculty and staff – are working with the World University Service of Canada to sponsor young refugees to resettle in Canada and continue their education through the organization’s Student Refugee Program. Many ofToronto’s institutions are partnering with Lifeline Syria, a non-profit group that is aiming to resettle 1,000 Syrian refugees in Toronto through private sponsors.

Learn more about universities’ efforts to bring more displaced Syrians to Canada by visiting the Lifeline Syria and WUSC websites:

Logo Lifeline Syria                                                WUSC logo

Commentary - September 15, 2015

This op-ed appeared in the Times Colonist, September 11, 2015

By Allan Cahoon, president and vice-chancellor of Royal Roads University

The postsecondary system is challenged. Challenged, as are other sectors, on many fronts: having to do more with less, challenged with the quest for efficiencies and with the complex issues facing society.

Another challenge we face is changing a longstanding perception — that a university education is elitist, that it’s a finishing school full of secret handshakes and robes that operate under the traditions of the past. That it has lost touch with the reality of today.

That old story is simply not true.

After eight years as president of Royal Roads, I find myself the longest-serving president among B.C.’s six research universities, and while it’s not perfect, I have personally witnessed the system change and adapt for our times.

Education is the great social equalizer and an investment not only in the individual, but in society as well. Studies show education provides greater mobility, increases pay over a lifetime, improves health and promotes greater social engagement and a positive impact on self-worth.

Students, especially those who might be the first in their family to attend post-secondary institutions, know this. We see this understanding increasingly reflected in the makeup of today’s student body.

Wander any campus this fall and you will find a large and emerging non-traditional cohort of students that includes adult “lifelong” learners, mid-career professionals, international students, indigenous students and, increasingly, online (blended learning) students.

These learners are far more informed and savvy. They come with their own agendas and expectations, different from traditional university learners. They are looking for relevant, focused learning opportunities, reflecting their own personal and professional expectations. They aren’t simply empty vessels that need filling up, as the traditional student stereotype dictates.

Today’s students are active partners in their education. Rather than a “sage on the stage,” they are looking for and receiving educational guides, content curators, coaches and practitioners they can work with and co-learn from.

Increasingly, students view a postsecondary education less as a rite of passage and more as a way to help them become more effective, personally and professionally, in their career choices.

Post-secondary institutions are responding by creating programs and content that align the skills students need for jobs that are in demand now and forecasted to be in the coming years, as outlined in the province’s B.C. Skills for Jobs Blueprint.

Universities are also incorporating service learning and work-integrated learning with live clients to bring real-life application of a student’s education to the workplace.

And there are other adaptations on the horizon: more professional certifications, licensing programs, degree specializations and customized, shorter and focused offerings, such as micro-credentialed programs that are responsive to sector and student demand. When put together with others, they build to a non-traditional credential recognized by the university and valued by industry.

Students, especially mid-career professionals, also have busy lives and want an education that more easily fits within their schedules. Blended programs — education that combines intensive face-to-face class experience with online classes, the kind Royal Roads pioneered in Canada and continues to evolve — are one way students can continue working while receiving an education.

“Flipped” classrooms, where lectures are recorded and viewed online in advance of going to class, where extensive discussions and activities take place, are another adaptation.

But critics will say the system is not changing fast enough. I would agree — that is an ongoing challenge. Some are even reluctant to change. But we only need to look back at how far we’ve come to know we are responding well to the challenges, with an eye on long-term and positive gains for students.

Gone are the hallowed halls and ivy — they are an ancient fable. The reality is that most universities, even those with actual castles, are adapting to the demands of today’s postsecondary student and societal needs. We just need to do a better job of telling that story.


Commentary - September 7, 2015

This op-ed was published in The Globe and Mail September 7, 2015

By Alan Wildeman, president and vice-chancellor of the University of Windsor

Who would have thought it would come to this.  Academics around the world are having to explain why there is value in studying history, English, philosophy, psychology, creative arts and the other subjects that collectively make up what we loosely refer to as the liberal arts, or the humanities and social sciences.  It is the equivalent of masons having to justify mortar and plumbers having to justify pipes.

Yes, we all agree that the liberal arts are in the proverbial crosshairs.  The exhilaration of the Age of Enlightenment of the 17th and 18th centuries has been replaced by the nervousness of what appears to be an Age of Justification in the 21st century.

Modern society’s love of innovative gadgets and apps, pronouncements that youth can now be rigorously self-taught on the internet and possibly become high-profile entrepreneurs to boot, and social media outpourings that give falsehoods as much airplay as truths, have created a modern cocktail of rhetoric for critics who are convinced that a liberal arts degree is a worthless investment.

The Age of Enlightenment, sometimes referred to as the Age of Reason, was about the growth of literacy, and the expanding awareness of diversity and knowledge in cultural, literary and scientific thought.  The Age of Justification, on the other hand, appears to have as its worrisome centrepiece the belief that the value of something exists only when viewed through a prescribed lens at the current moment.  We all agree that there should be good rationales for public expenditures.  But there are problems if, in trying to justify something, we fail to take into account all of the relevant information.

First, while it is disappointing for the sceptics to hear, a liberal arts degree is a great economic investment.  This year the Education Policy Research Initiative at the University of Ottawa published an analysis of the annual earnings over 13 years of students who graduated in 1998.  The data showed that earnings of social sciences graduates doubled over 13 years to $80,000, which was the same average earning of math and science grads.

The data showed that a far more worrisome difference was based on gender, with men out-earning women by 15-20% across all disciplines.  In fact, over the 13 year period the average annual earnings of a man with a humanities degree reached just over $80K/yr, compared to only $75K/yr on average for a woman with an engineering or computer science degree.  Such striking gender-based differences deserve much more research, the kind of important research that our country’s social scientists and humanists are increasingly engaged in.

Provincial university systems also track graduate performance.  Within Ontario today, two years after graduation employment rates for all university graduates average 94%, and average 92% for those specifically in the humanities.  These employment numbers do not include the many graduates who choose to pursue further education.  Ontario university graduates earn on average $1.1M more over their lifetimes than other postsecondary graduates, and $1.5M more than high school graduates.  University does make financial sense.

Second, as a multicultural country of indigenous peoples and immigrants, playing in the global arena, Canada needs a citizenry that learns and studies human differences, social behaviours, and cultural traditions.  It needs a citizenry that encourages respect for human rights.  It needs a citizenry that encourages artistic creation and appreciation of the arts.  The humanities and social sciences engage in these intersections, and contribute to what makes us human.

At my own institution, the University of Windsor, our Cross-Border Institute is looking at the technological, legal, and public policy issues involved in moving people and goods from one country to another.  Our research and education programs to prevent sexual violence against women are getting at one of the biggest realities any society must confront.  Both of these undertakings address matters critical to the future of our country, and rely heavily upon insights from the social sciences and humanities.

Third, the perceived crisis in the value of liberal arts must be viewed through the lens of globalization.  It is a fact that enterprises ranging from manufacturing to service sector jobs continually migrate to lower cost countries.  This reduces the prices of goods and services, and expands markets, but it also puts people out of work.

The suggestion that the best anodyne for this reality is STEM programs (science, technology, engineering, math) and more graduates in the skilled trades misses the reality that liberal arts have as their foundation the encouragement of communication, writing, and out-of-the-box thinking.  When you now travel to universities across Asia what you find is that liberal arts programs are taking off.

For example, the National University of Singapore and Yale University have partnered to open a liberal arts campus in Singapore.  Across China, Japan, South Korea and other countries, new partnerships that focus on liberal arts are emerging.  Increasingly around the world, the liberal arts are not being looked to as passé, but rather as essential.  There is no question that our world depends upon and needs STEM expertise, but what it really needs is STEAM, with the arts included.  It is similar to our bodies needing not only arteries and veins, but in addition the capillary beds that nourish each and every cell.

We undervalue the liberal arts at our peril. In his 1902 book Human Nature and the Social Order, the sociologist Charles Cooley proposed the concept of the looking glass self.  This concept states that humans acquire their own sense of self through their social interactions and by what others think of them.  Cooley would likely be intrigued, and feel that his concept has been resoundingly verified, by the addiction of peering into cell phone screens.  Humans are indeed social creatures.

A degree in the liberal arts, with its focus on the broad spectrum of human endeavour, has never been needed more.  It is justified based upon data and fact.  It is one of society’s best investments in helping to ensure that our self-reflections are broad, and that in this Age of Justification, we do not forget the importance of enlightenment and reason.


( Total - 291 )