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Commentary - August 26, 2015

The following op-ed was published in today’s Montreal Gazette and posted online by the Vancouver Sun, The Province, The Leader Post, Edmonton Journal, Star Phoenix, Calgary Herald, Ottawa Citizen, Windsor Star and on Canada.com

By Paul Davidson, president of Universities Canada

Paul-Davidson-London-Chamber-of-Commerce

Paul Davidson

Young people across Canada will soon be packing up and heading off to university for the fall semester. Those of us a little older may feel a twinge of envy, as we remember our own time on leafy campuses in September. But in fact their experience will be quite unlike ours. More than ever before, these students will be learning by doing.

Today more than 50 percent of undergraduate university students across all fields of study will have a co-op, internship or service learning experience over the course of their studies. And that number is growing.

It’s pretty clear how this benefits students. They’re gaining workplace experience and building a network to help them land that crucial first job. They’re learning to transfer new knowledge and skills to the workplace and preparing to hit the ground running after graduation. But what’s in it for the employer?

Simply put, students are good for the bottom line. And Canada can ill afford to forego what’s good for the bottom line.

Smart employers are drawing on the energy, knowledge and skills of university students to bring fresh thinking to business challenges.  Talented students help open up new markets, find efficiencies on the production line and bring innovative thinking to business operations.

Employers get access to a wealth of new knowledge and skills, while both students and employers get to ‘test drive’ the match. But not nearly enough small- and medium-size businesses take on co-op and internship students. That’s the big disconnect in Canada’s economy. Too often, critics wring their hands at the challenges of an increasingly competitive and complex marketplace, while not building bridges to the ready talent in our universities and colleges.

Students see the value. They’re savvy and want an edge in the job market. The number of university students participating in co-op programs has grown by 25 percent in recent years – there were approximately 53,000 students in university co-op programs in 2007 compared to more than 65,000 in 2013. Fifty-nine universities now offer students more than 1,000 co-op programs. But even at that level, it doesn’t satisfy student demand, because not enough employers participate in co-op programs.

Canada needs the private sector to step up and do more to take advantage of the largely untapped potential of university students – from undergraduates to PhDs – to make businesses stronger and advance our competitive advantage.

Enterprises already seizing the opportunity are reaping the benefits. Four out of five employers who take on co-op and internship students say these hires add value to their company as a source of new talent and as future employees with workplace skills. Two-thirds say these students contribute new ideas to the company and are effective in their work.

The value of co-ops and internships for employers is evident in the hiring process. Research shows that graduates coming out of university co-op programs are hired faster and enjoy a 30-40 percent income premium over graduates with no co-op experience.

The stats are just part of the story. Universities Canada recognizes the power of students sharing their stories in their own words. That’s why we recently launched a new online resource at www.universityworks.ca. It’s where a public relations student tells us about brainstorming with senior staff at a marketing firm, and a computer science student says his placement as a software designer will put him ahead of the curve when it comes time to finding a job.  We’re also sharing the perspective of employers. They tell us students bring fresh energy to their teams and the latest knowledge and technical skills to their operations.

These student placements also provide our universities with valuable employer feedback on the performance of their students.

The university community welcomes new initiatives designed to strengthen collaboration with the private sector to ensure Canada’s workforce is ready for the future. The Canadian Chamber of Commerce has made enhanced opportunities for co-ops and internships a pre-election priority in its electoral platform, A Canada That Wins. Canada’s Manufacturers’ and Exporters have recently launched a new initiative to support work integrated learning amongst their member firms. And it is encouraging to see that the Canadian Council of Chief Executives has launched a new Business-Higher Education Roundtable as a strategic opportunity to bring together the private sector, university, college and polytechnic leaders to share information and objectives for driving Canada’s future prosperity. This kind of collaboration holds promise.

There is a role for the federal government to play. A recent Universities Canada survey of employers shows that new financial incentives for private sector partners, especially small- and medium-size enterprises would enable them to take on more student co-op and quality internship placements.

There is no reason Canada cannot be a global leader in experiential learning. More business leaders have to see themselves in the equation, connecting the dots to improved productivity and expanded markets. Higher education, the private sector and government must commit to a more meaningful, long-term dialogue and action plan to better connect our changing economy and workplaces with students.

Getting it right will bring both short- and long-term benefits to business, and build the highly productive and innovative future workforce Canada needs to be globally competitive. Those students preparing to get back to class are ready to do their part, in bringing new knowledge, energy and skills to the workplace. The private sector, universities and government need to work together to ensure that those workplace doors are open.

Commentary - August 10, 2015

This op-ed was published in the Moncton Times and Transcript and the Telegraph Journal on August 8, 2015

MountAllison_President_cropBy Robert Campbell, president and vice chancellor of Mount Allison University

Almost 10 million adult Canadians read newspaper content, and many of us head directly to the editorial and opinion pages. Why? It is in our nature to discuss, examine and share information and points of view. It is an essential part of what makes us human.

In Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, Yuval Harari maintains that it is not our ability to speak or communicate that differentiates us from other creatures. It is our ability to discuss. We are social animals. And discussing to problem-solve and cooperate is key to our survival.

And yet, we hear increasing skepticism about the value of studies in the humanities and social sciences, the precise fields of study that make us competent and effective when discussing and cooperating and being human. We ignore those studies at our peril.

I recently revisited the revamped Pier 21 in Halifax, which celebrates our character as a country of immigrants.  Multiculturalism has played a consequential role in Canada’s evolution. When Canadians live and discuss and cooperate together, we engage with a range and complexity of distinctive cultures, languages and sensibilities. The humanities and social sciences help us to understand and navigate these intersections. The study of history and literature, or sociology and anthropology, or philosophy and religion – they each add to our collective interpretation and understanding of who we are, the complexities that we confront and the possibilities of what we can achieve together.

These insights and perspectives give us a world view as well. Can we fully understand what is happening in Greece, Syria, China, or in the U.S. today without having a grounding in and understanding of the history, cultures and emotions that comprise these societies?

I am president of a university in Canada’s only officially bilingual province, one that is increasingly embracing our aboriginal heritage and receiving a substantial influx of new Canadians from across the globe. Ours is an increasingly diverse and textured community, and our students need a range of understanding and tools to be successful and useful participants in this complex world. We have produced 10 Rhodes scholars in the last dozen years and they have one thing in common: they all have a strong interdisciplinary background with grounding in social sciences and humanities.

Like many educators and leaders, I fundamentally believe that students in all disciplines need exposure to the insights of the social sciences and humanities. Whether an engineer designing new highways, an urban planner building new communities, or a designer creating social media tools – our graduates need to understand people, what motivates them, how cultures work and how a society and economy can cooperate and prosper.

Employers report time and again that the top skills that they look for in new hires are teamwork, problem-solving, planning, and communications. Employers want our graduates to be prepared and able to work with others, to define and figure out how to approach complex problems, to discuss and debate competing perspectives and ideas, and to collaborate effectively on plans and solutions. These are the precise tools and skills that are developed through programs in humanities and social sciences.

Employment data confirms this reality, as there is a healthy demand for liberal arts graduates. For example, there are almost 40,000 Canadians with a bachelor’s degree in history – 18 percent of whom work in management occupations and another 23 percent who work in business, finance, and administrative positions. And these grads are doing well. Full-time employees with degrees in history earn on average the same as grads with degrees in biological and biomedical sciences – above $65,000 a year.

Canada’s universities are encouraging more exposure to the humanities and social sciences through innovative interdisciplinary programs to equip students in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields with the skills that will help them succeed in applying their technical knowledge to complex social problems.

I am a president of a complex organization as well as a professional researcher in postal and communication systems around the world. Whatever success and accomplishment that I might enjoy in these occupations is substantially related to the excellent liberal arts education that I received at Trent University, where I really learned how to think, research and communicate, and to understand social and economic systems, culture and the world.

Where do we find liberal arts grads in today’s labour market? Everywhere. And they can be found especially as leaders across all political, economic and social sectors. A recent U.K. study found showed that the majority of the world’s leaders with higher education have degrees in the social sciences and humanities. Their skills in negotiation, problem-solving and collaboration helped them to be successful.

Humanities and social sciences programs produce graduates who are ready to adapt to, engage in, and help manage our changing world. The challenges that we face as a global community – social, economic, environmental and ethical – are rooted in complex intersections of identity and culture, business and politics. We need leaders in our corporate, technological, political and community realms with the necessary interdisciplinary and humanitarian perspectives and understandings, if Canada is to develop, succeed and prosper in a stable and just way.

A Council of Canadian Academies’ report earlier this year concluded that in order to ensure future innovation and productivity growth, Canada needs a workforce with a balance of both STEM and non-STEM skills, such as those acquired and used in the liberal arts.

It is not a question of developing one group or the other. It is necessary to generate more high quality graduates in both areas.

We must encourage today’s students to learn from and be exposed to the liberal arts in ever greater numbers, if Canada is to develop the array of effective leaders and informed citizens that will make it a successful society in the future.

Media release - June 12, 2015

Brazilian rectors touring Canadian universities over 13-day period

OTTAWA – Universities Canada is pleased to welcome 19 rectors and senior university administrators from Brazil for a 13-day tour of Canadian universities. From June 14-26, participants will meet with Canadian counterparts across the country, with the goal of forging new institutional partnerships for academic exchange and collaborative research.

Led by the Association of Brazilian Rectors of State and Municipal Universities, delegates will visit Montreal, Ottawa, the greater Toronto area, Vancouver and Calgary, and participate in sessions designed to showcase the excellence of Canadian higher education. Highlights will include roundtable discussions on international experiential learning and mobility, and university-industry partnerships.

This mission is the first official return visit to Canada following the Canadian university presidents’ mission to Brazil in April 2012, coordinated by Universities Canada and led by His Excellency the Right Honourable David Johnston, Governor General of Canada. Canada’s universities look forward to sharing best practices in research, innovation, and experiential learning, and to strengthening Canada’s position as a preferred partner for Brazil in higher education.

To arrange an interview or for more information, please contact:

Helen Murphy
Assistant director, communications
Universities Canada/ Universités Canada
hmurphy@univcan.ca
613 563-3961 ext. 238 or cell: 613 608-8749

Nadine Robitaille
Communications officer
Universities Canada/ Universités Canada
nrobitaille@univcan.ca
phone: 613-563-3961 ext. 306

Media release - May 28, 2015

Universities Canada welcomes announcement of new scholarships honouring liberation of Netherlands

OTTAWA – Canada’s universities applaud the Netherlands’ new Liberation Scholarship Program for Canadian students. The program, funded by the Dutch Ministry of Education, Science and Culture, will provide 70 scholarships to Canadians to study at Dutch universities in 2015. The first six recipients were presented with their awards today by King Willem-Alexander and Queen Máxima of the Netherlands at an announcement at the University of Waterloo. The scholarships are named in honour of the 70th anniversary of Canada’s participation in the liberation of the Netherlands.

This announcement comes at a time when boosting international student mobility is a major priority for Canadian universities.  Such experiences help students develop the international competencies and cultural awareness in demand by today’s business leaders.  A 2014 employers’ survey commissioned by Universities Canada revealed that 82% of small and medium-sized enterprises that hire recruits with international and intercultural experiences say these employees enhance their company’s competitiveness.  Universities Canada research shows that only 2.6% of undergraduate students participated in a for-credit study abroad experience in 2012-2013.

“The Liberation Scholarships mark an exciting step forward for Canadian student mobility,” says Paul Davidson, president of Universities Canada. “We commend the Netherlands for their commitment to fostering international partnerships, and for their investment in Canadian students. Canada’s universities are proud to be at the forefront of the historic relationship between Canada and the Netherlands.”

The announcement comes during a visit to Canada this week by a delegation of more than 30 Dutch university leaders, coinciding with the state visit of King Willem-Alexander and Queen Máxima. Universities Canada has worked closely with the Kingdom of the Netherlands to organize the mission, which includes three days of dialogue and events at six different Canadian universities. Building on Canada’s position as a preferred partner in higher education, the Canadian and Dutch participants will explore further partnership opportunities and share best practices in university research and innovation.

About Universities Canada/Universités Canada

Universities Canada is the voice of Canada’s universities at home and abroad, representing the interests of 97 Canadian public and private not-for-profit universities and university degree-level colleges.

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Media Contacts:

Helen Murphy
Assistant director, communications
Universities Canada/Universités Canada (formerly AUCC)
hmurphy@univcan.ca
phone: 613-563-3961 ext. 238
cell: 613-608-8749

Nadine Robitaille
Communications officer
Universities Canada/Universités Canada (formerly AUCC)
nrobitaille@univcan.ca
phone: 613-563-3961 ext. 306

Commentary - May 27, 2015

This blog post appears on the 2015 Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences blog

By Paul Davidson, President of Universities Canada

As President of Universities Canada, I always look forward to participating in Congress, and I congratulate the organizers on their formidable work in assembling one of‎ the largest multidisciplinary academic conferences in the world. At Congress, I am continually reminded of how today’s researchers are thinking in connected and interdisciplinary ways, which is one of the great strengths of the social sciences and humanities. Many of this year’s Interdisciplinary Symposia events examine issues with truly global impact, such as climate change, children’s rights, artificial intelligence, and international policy. Unsurprisingly, international connections are a priority for Canadian universities today. This week at Congress is an opportunity for all participants to think globally: across borders, and across boundaries of discovery.

I particularly want to welcome the large delegation of German researchers who are attending Congress for the first time. Canada’s universities work closely with our German counterparts to advance a vision of innovation that includes social sciences and the humanities at its heart, and their participation at Congress demonstrates the power of collaboration.

Last December, Universities Canada conducted a survey of our members (97 Canadian universities from coast to coast) on the state of internationalization in our universities. The first of its kind since 2006, this survey revealed some exciting and surprising trends. One of our main findings was that Canadian universities are increasingly making internationalization a priority at the institutional level: 96 percent ensure internationalization is integrated into strategic planning, and 81 percent offer collaborative academic programs with partners around the world.

As highlighted in our report, Canada has among the highest rate of international co-authorship on research. Canadian universities collaborated and co-published with institutions in more than 180 countries around the world, and 67 percent of the universities surveyed are helping students to conduct research abroad. These trends are a testament to the quality of our globally competitive research infrastructure and our outstanding researchers, who are routinely conducting complex research that has global implications.

One such collaboration is the Borders in Globalization project, housed at the Centre for Global Studies at the University of Victoria. Borders in Globalizationinvolves 23 universities, 11 of which are Canadian, and 34 non-academic partners around the world, bringing together top researchers in political science, history,  geography, economics, international relations, and environment. This project reflects the need for international collaboration, as it addresses global security, trade, and migration flows in the context of changing technologies and regionalization.

Our survey also revealed some areas where Canadian universities are struggling with internationalization. While we succeed at attracting international students and engaging with the international research community, only 2.6percent of Canadian students leave the country for university educational experiences each year. The benefits of international experiences for students are well-established; studying and working abroad transforms students into global citizens, with improved cross-cultural competencies and a readiness to enter a globalized labour market.

As professors, teaching assistants, postdoctoral scholars, and administrators, you have an exciting leadership opportunity to help your students broaden their horizons and find their passion. I urge you to encourage them to think globally as they plan their studies: both to consider an international experience as a valuable component of their academic program; and to bring internationalization and global perspectives into your own teaching.

Canada’s Governor General the Rt. Hon. David Johnston, who is a Big Thinking speaker at this year’s Congress, champions the idea of the diplomacy of knowledge, which he defines as “our ability and willingness to work together and share our learning across disciplines and borders.” Members of the academic community are perfectly positioned to practice this diplomacy, which is not only essential for the vibrancy of our postsecondary institutions, but also for our national and global wellbeing.

I look forward to discussing these issues and more at Congress next week.

Paul Davidson will join Denise Amyot and Jennifer Lewington for a plenary panel on the future of higher education as part of the Canadian Society for the Study of Higher Education’s conference (open only to registered members of the CSSHE).

Monday, June 1
10:25 AM – 11:40 AM
Faculty of Social Sciences Building/ Sciences Sociales FSS 2005


( Total - 31 )