Skip to main content

News and commentary

Filter News and commentary »
By topic, year and series



( Total - 29 )
Show: 5 | 10 | 20 | All
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
613 563-3961 ext. 238 or cell: 613 608-8749

Nadine Robitaille
Communications officer
Universities Canada/ Universités Canada
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.


Media Contacts:

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

Nadine Robitaille
Communications officer
Universities Canada/Universités Canada (formerly AUCC)
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

Commentary - April 17, 2015

by Andrew Parkin
Former director general, Council of Ministers of Education, Canada 

This op-ed was originally published on the Academica Group’s Rethinking Higher Ed Forum on April 15, 2015 

Are we pushing too many young people to go to university?

A new paper by Ken Coates argues that a preoccupation with universities and a tendency to overlook the more job-relevant training offered by colleges and polytechnic institutes is leading too many young Canadians astray. The paper, published at the end of March by the Canadian Council of Chief Executives as part of its “Jobs and Skills for the 21st Century” initiative, grabbed headlines because of its suggestion that we should cut university spaces by 25 to 30 percent and refocus our attention on producing more career-ready college graduates.

There is nothing wrong with shining the spotlight on Canada’s college sector and its success in aligning programs with job opportunities. There is a problem, however, with arguing that, if we want more college graduates in order to address anticipated skills shortages, we need fewer university ones. If the goal is to better align education with the needs of the labour market, we need to do better than engage in a zero-sum trade off between the college and university sectors.

As a first step, it is worth pointing out that Canada already stands out internationally because of its of its exceptionally strong college sector; by international standards, however, its university sector is comparatively small.

Canada ranks third in the OECD in terms of the proportion of its young adult population (age 25 to 34 years old) that has attained a tertiary education (whether college or university). This respectable position, however, is the result of the fact that the proportion of young Canadian adults with a college degree is very high, at 25 percent. This is good for second place in the OECD, behind only Korea.

By contrast, Canada ranks only 17th in the OECD in terms of the proportion of young adults with a university degree (32 percent). True, more young Canadian adults have a university degree than a college diploma. But is also true that in no other country is the difference between the relative size of the two groups of graduates as small.

This doesn’t mean that we could not benefit from even more college graduates. The point is simply that Canada does not look at all like a country that has over-emphasized university education to the detriment of colleges.

Fortunately, there is a more sensible way to boost college enrollment than by cutting university spaces. And that is to focus on the one in three young Canadians who are currently navigating the labour market without the benefit of any form of postsecondary education or training whatsoever.

If there is any group in Canadian society that is “too large” in the context of today’s knowledge intensive economy, it is the 32 percent of young Canadian adults who either never finish high school, or who end their formal education and training once their high school studies are complete. These are the young Canadians whose skills are least likely to meet the needs of employers, and who are most at risk of unemployment and under-employment.

Nothing made this clearer than the experience of the most recent recession. Unemployment spiked in the late 2000s, but the worsening job market affected those with and without a postsecondary education quite differently.

Jobs for those age 25 to 54 with no education beyond high school dropped by over 3 percent between 2008 and 2010; for those with a trades certificate or college degree, employment fell by less than one percent. But for those with a university degree, the number of jobs increased by 5 percent, representing a net gain of over 160,000 jobs. In fact, the economy added jobs for university graduates in this age group in every year during and after the recession period, including the years when the overall unemployment rate increased.

Similarly, the unemployment rate for those age 25 to 54 with neither a college diploma nor a university degree jumped three percentage points from a low of 5.3 percent to a high of 8.3 percent during the recession. By comparison, the rate for college graduates rose only 2.1 points, and only 1.8 points – from 3.5 to 5.3 percent – for university graduates.

The Canadian experience is typical of that of most industrialized countries. As the OECD pointed out in a recent study of youth in the aftermath of the economic crisis, the burden of economic adjustment has fallen disproportionately on youth with lower levels of education. And it is no stretch to anticipate that the same will be true in the case of the adjustments underway right now in the Canada’s oil-producing regions as the petroleum industry reacts to new market realities.

If we really want to focus on creating a better fit between education and the labour market and producing “career ready” graduates in an ever more demanding economy, the implication is clear. The problem is not an over-emphasis on universities but an under-emphasis on any and all forms of postsecondary education and training. This is the type of career information that students planning for their future need to hear.

This brings us to the most misdirected part of Coates’ argument, which is his claim we are doing a disservice to too many young Canadians by encouraging them to set their aspirations too high. This, he complains, only leads to universities having to cope with classrooms that include “marginally talented” students who are “ill-suited” to university studies.

Certainly, one way for universities to respond to the growing numbers and more diverse backgrounds of students is to pull their doors more tightly shut. Thankfully, most realize there is a much better way, which is to introduce new programs and services and re-emphasize teaching quality in order to meet the needs of these students – and of the employers who will eventually hire them.

In the 21st-century, all institutions and businesses have had to adapt and innovate to stay relevant and competitive. It is not clear why Coates—unlike so many of his peers—believes that the university professoriate should be an exception to this rule.

Commentary - March 6, 2015

The following commentary was published in the Saint John Telegraph-Journal  on March 6, 2015

By Peter Halpin, executive-director of the Association of Atlantic ‍Universities 

We are dismayed by the profoundly negative nature of recent editorial comments concerning the province’s ‍university sector in the Telegraph-Journal and Moncton Times & Transcript. While the ‍university sector is not above constructive criticism, the almost hostile tone of the newspapers’ opinions bring to mind a comment attributed to British author Oscar Wilde, who mused that “A cynic is a man who knows the price of everything but the value of nothing”.

Written in response to recent enrolment trends data released by the Maritime Provinces Higher Education Commission (MPHEC), both editorials badly under-estimate the hard work undertaken by the province’s ‍university leaders to tackle, in partnership with others, the significant challenges confronting New Brunswick. To suggest that ‍universities have been oblivious to New Brunswick’s population challenge, particularly among the university-age cohort, is simply inaccurate.

Encouraging young people from all corners of the province (14,153), across the country (4,277) and from around the world (2,793) to pursue a ‍univer‍‍sity education in New Brunswick has been a longstanding, top priority. Despite a recent slippage in enrolments, New Brunswick’s ‍university participation rate (29 percent) ranks fourth in Canada – three percent higher than the national average.

The notion that ‍university leaders are somehow insensitive to the growing cost of post-secondary education and its growing burden on students and their families is simply wrong. New Brunswick’s ‍universities expend considerable time and effort on attracting funding from sources outside government to provide millions of dollars in student scholarships and bursaries (80 percent of which is attracted from outside of the province) and on-campus employment. It is also noteworthy that 41 percent of all students who earn a bachelor’s degree do not have any debt at all, while one-third of those with debt owe less than $12,000.

New Brunswick’s ‍universities are talent magnets that annually produce nearly 5,000 credentialed graduates who become the province’s future community, business, government and political leaders, professionals and entrepreneurs who reside and start families in communities across the province. More than half of New Brunswick’s recently elected MLAs are graduates of the province’s ‍universities, including Premier Brian Gallant and many members of the Executive Council.

‍Universities are powerful economic engines, employing more than 4,000 New Brunswickers in high-quality jobs and purchasing millions of dollars in products and services from local businesses.

The province’s ‍universities lead innovation in New Brunswick, performing more than half of the province’s R&D ($135 million annually), $84 million of which is funded from outside the province.

New Brunswick’s ‍universities play a vital role in improving standards of living; creating the right environment for a thriving arts and culture sector as well as the recreation, fitness and athletic facilities vital to active and healthy lifestyles – essential to improving health and wellness outcomes. Not to mention the important role they play in providing highly supportive environments in which young people grow into adulthood.

‍Universities are publicly engaged, playing an important role in helping build civil society. Students, faculty and staff are active volunteers in their local communities, actively supporting many charitable and community service organizations.

In short, New Brunswick benefits from having four, strong, publicly engaged ‍universities in the province.


PETER HALPIN is executive-director of the Association of Atlantic ‍Universities

( Total - 29 )