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Canadian HEIs increasingly outward looking reports AUCC

Canadian universities are undergoing a shift away from nationally focussed and academic goals toward provincial and institutional-level international strategies. According to a survey carried out by The Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada (AUCC), compared to eight years ago, internationalisation is considered a “top priority” at 82% of Canadian universities, up from 70%.

Photo: AUCC.

“This survey shows that Canada’s universities have broadened and deepened their international activities and are leading the way for Canada to engage the world’s most dynamic economies”

Preparing internationally knowledgeable graduates and promoting strategic alliances abroad remain the top motivators for internationalisation but reputation and revenue have also become key factors driving development.

The study also reveals a sense of urgency to internationalise, as 96% of institutions said they ensure internationalisation is integrated in strategic plans, and 89% said the pace of internationalisation on their campuses has accelerated during the past three years.

89% of universities say the pace of internationalisation on their campuses has accelerated during the past three years

Universities remain heavily focused on international undergraduate recruitment, named as a priority by 70% of institutions, but recruitment plans are becoming more strategic.

Fewer universities have a target number of international undergraduate students for recruitment than eight years ago (42% from 60%), but just over three quarters of institutions identified geographical priorities for recruiting degree-seeking international students.

Geographical regions reflect those listed in the International Education Strategy launched this year, with China named the top priority country for student recruitment by 46% of Canadian universities, followed by India, the US, Saudi Arabia, Brazil and Nigeria.

However, when it came to developing international partnerships, China, Brazil, India, the US, France, Mexico and Germany took precedence.

“This survey shows that Canada’s universities have broadened and deepened their international activities and are leading the way for Canada to engage the world’s most dynamic economies like China, India and Brazil,” AUCC President Paul Davidson commented.

“Research, academic and people-to-people ties forged through these relationships are vital for Canada’s prosperity.”

Fully 81% of universities surveyed offer some kind of international programme with international partners. Dual or double degree programmes in particular have boomed and are now offered by 78% of institutions, up from 48% in 2006.

Although internationalisation efforts have increased across the board, the survey reveals a lack of national cohesion as priorities at the provincial and institutional levels vary widely.

For example, reciprocal student exchange agreements with foreign partner institutions are in place at 92% of institutions, but are much more highly valued in Quebec, where 75% rate them as very important, than in the East, at 38%.

As in 2006, preparing internationally knowledgeable graduates and promoting strategic alliances were the top two reasons for internationalisation.

Just 3% of full time undergraduates (about 25,000 students) studied abroad in 2012-13

However, promoting an internationalised campus, building the institution’s global profile and generating revenue have overtaken other top priorities universities listed in 2006 including responding to labour market needs and ensuring that research/scholarship address national and international issues.

The report also shows that universities’ commitment to internationalisation is becoming more sophisticated as institutions take on more responsibility in shaping and evaluating their own internationalisation commitments.

In 2014, 39% said that their institution’s quality assessment and assurance procedures make explicit reference to internationalisation and/or global engagement, up from 32% in 2006, and a further 20% have procedures under development.

However, there remains a huge discrepancy between inbound and outbound movement.

Just 3% of full time undergraduates (about 25,000 students) studied abroad in 2012-13 and only 2.6% had a for-credit experience abroad – a negligible increase from 2.2% in 2006.

This is despite 97% of Canadian universities offering some variety of international experience including sending students to foreign field schools, (offered by 70%) and service work or volunteer opportunities abroad (67%).

Students’ lack of interest or recognition of the benefits of study abroad appears to be a contributing factor, and has displaced a lack of awareness among faculty as the third most cited obstacle to study abroad.

It follows cost and inflexible curricula or too-heavy programs at the home institution as the biggest barriers to study abroad.

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12 Responses to Canadian HEIs increasingly outward looking reports AUCC

  1. Data from the United States shows there is a steady decline in the 16-24 aged population who are eligible to enroll in developed country IHE’s. IHE’s are built for “boomers” and a steady or increasing national demand. That is not materializing and the costs for maintaining the current model are driving universities to seek markets in the developing world, particularly from those who can pay. Since knowledge is fungible, transferable across geo/political boundaries and content is asymptotically approaching zero, regardless of the “academic” argument for going global, the current efforts, following the thinking of Clayton Christensen on “disruptive” innovation”, are going to yield only temporary opportunities.

    This is not to say that the need to increase international exchanges, multilaterally, are not critical for more effective civic engagement, but that the economic models for the IHE’s in the developed countries and the growing concern about employment for the students are currently and will continue to be problematic as long as the current IHE’s maintain their present models and public sector subsidies are increasingly squeezed.

    The academics can not expect to be able to avoid addressing the issues of their own fiscal needs and that of the students

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