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Commentary - November 16, 2012

This op-ed was published in the Globe and Mail, November 15, 2012

Paul Davidson
President and CEO, Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada

Canada’s universities combine outstanding quality, relevance and affordability. They offer safe and welcoming learning environments. In the globally competitive international education sector, this is an enviable place to be.

So why – in a recent survey of students, parents and education advisers in Brazil, China and India – was Canada not on the map?

Our competitors have offices in key markets with budgets for promoting and building brand awareness. Canada currently spends just $1-million a year to pursue a market that contributes $8-billion annually to communities across the country. Australia has been spending about 20 times that amount for about 15 years – so yes, their brand awareness is higher. The United Kingdom has invested targeted resources in addition to the remarkable reach of the British Council. And U.S. President Barack Obama has made explicit commitments to fund efforts to recruit hundreds of thousands of students from China, India and Brazil.

Even as trade talks stall, and Canada`s approach to foreign investment is clarified, Canada’s education sector has still made enormous strides in advancing Canada’s place in the world. Three years ago, Canada’s universities, colleges, public schools and language institutes formed a consortium to work together to attract more students to Canada. And the results are encouraging – international student enrollment is up 12 per cent at universities this year; enrollment from India is up 40 per cent over two years; and Brazil recently committed to sending up to 12,000 students to Canada through its innovative Science without Borders program.

Achieving that success in Brazil took years of effort and overcoming what respondents to the survey released this week said was a barrier to making Canada their destination: “The weather – COLD.” Canada’s universities identified Brazil as a priority country to pursue two years ago. The Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada organized a strategy session for Canadian university leaders, key Brazilian counterparts, and government officials nine months before a mission by university presidents to the country. The Canada-Brazil Science and Technology working group met concurrently to identify areas for greater collaboration, and leaders of Canada’s private sector and media were invited to share their insights. As we built momentum around a Canada strategy for Brazil, a Senate committee initiated a study of the Canada-Brazil relationship, and MPs took an active interest. The Prime Minister announced that the Governor-General would lead the mission to Brazil, and that he would be joined by two ministers, and an accompanying delegation of MPs, business leaders and others from the education sector.

Throughout the process and with the help of public servants, the sector negotiated a series of preliminary agreements that were completed in advance of the April 2012 mission over the course of three working visits. Over the 10 day, four-city mission, Canada’s universities announced 73 new partnerships and Governor-General David Johnston met with President Dilma Rousseff. The number of students Brazil would send was not confirmed until that meeting, in which Mr. Johnston closed the deal so that Canada became the second largest beneficiary of the Science without Borders program. The first thousand students are on campus now and another cohort of about 500 students are expected in January.

This is a compelling example of getting international education marketing right – sector led, with support from government, and active engagement of the private sector, tied to broader strategic interests for Canada (in this case, advancing science technology and innovation with the world’s sixth largest economy).

But there is more to do. As Ipsos-Reid, the polling company commissioned by the Foreign Affairs Department put it, Canada needs to “communicate its postsecondary education advantages” globally. Or as Prime Minister Stephen Harper said last week in Delhi, “Canada needs to be connected to an international supply of ideas, research, talent and technologies in order to create jobs, growth and long-term prosperity in an increasingly competitive environment.”

A sophisticated international education strategy will recognize that, even within the university sector, there are at least four different groups we want to attract – each serving a different public policy goal and requiring specific marketing tools:

Undergraduates are the largest potential pool offering immediate economic benefit to Canada, a source of high quality immigrants and proven potential for increased trade. Master’s and PhD students have demonstrated abilities from the world`s best institutions, particularly in the fields of science ,technology, engineering and math to help Canada strengthen our innovation capacity. Post-doctoral students who are outstanding new scholars require targeted measures to attract them to pursue their early careers here. And finally, young global faculty with whom we can develop international research collaborations and who in turn will ignite interest in Canada among the next generation of their students overseas.

By living with and learning from international students, Canadian students have the opportunity to acquire the global skills employers are demanding. Moreover, their presence on our campuses alerts Canadian students to the intensity of the global competition that awaits them upon graduation and creates life-long networks that will span the world and continue beyond their time on campus. Universities are ready to participate in the sustained, co-ordinated and resourced initiative to leverage more fully our global brand for excellence in education.

Media release - February 16, 2012

OTTAWA – Emerging economies around the world are transforming themselves through dramatic investments in higher education and research, and Western countries must take action now to not be left behind.

That’s the focus of a workshop hosted by the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada at the AAAS Annual Meeting in Vancouver on Feb. 17. The session, “Establishing research collaborations with emerging economies: Canada’s experience in India and Brazil” will look at why and how Canada’s universities are establishing and enhancing educational and research partnerships with India and Brazil, the opportunities these collaborations are creating, and lessons that can be learned from the Canadian experience.

“International partnerships in research and innovation are vital to building prosperity in the new knowledge-driven economy,” says Paul Davidson, president of AUCC. “And in Canada, building international collaborations is increasingly about reaching out to emerging nations – countries that are building prosperity by investing in research and innovation.”

Brazil is an excellent example. This dynamic Latin American country is poised to become a top-five economy in the next five years and has set a research expenditure target of 2.5 percent of its GDP by 2022.

India, one of the fastest growing economies, will need 1,400 new universities in the next decade. It is currently sending about 160,000 students abroad annually and is poised to surpass all of the G8 in terms of research output.

The AUCC workshop will look at how Canada is positioning itself as a world leader in research and innovation – in part through enhanced partnerships and collaborations with emerging nations – and how this strategy fits with the country’s ongoing mission of attracting the best and brightest minds from around the world to its universities.

Workshop details:

Date: Friday, February 17, 2012

Time: 1:00 pm to 2:00 pm

Facility: Vancouver Convention Centre (West Building)

Room: 107-108


 NOTE TO MEDIA: AUCC president Paul Davidson is attending the AAAS Annual Meeting Feb. 16-20 and is available for interviews on this workshop topic and also the importance of hosting the AAAS gathering in Canada for our university research community.

Media Contact:

Helen Murphy
Communications Manager
Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada
613-563-1236 ext. 238
Cell: 613-608-8749

Commentary - January 30, 2012
Topics: India

by Paul Davidson
President and CEO
Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada

This op-ed was published in the Embassy newspaper on June 9, 2010.

A recent call for building a “Canada brand” in India by the former Clerk of the Privy Council, Kevin Lynch, is being pursued by Canada’s higher education sector. In his article, “India: An Emerging Economic Power”, published in Policy Options in April, Mr. Lynch argues there is vast opportunity for Canada to create a niche and the potential for benefits is high.

India is constantly characterized as an unparalleled innovation hub and an “emerging economic powerhouse” these days, with its population reaching well over 1.15 billion people (a full 17 percent of the world’s population), and therefore the largest democracy on the planet. India achieved steady average real annual growth of almost nine percent from 2003 to 2007. Even in 2009’s recession, according to Canada’s Export Development Corporation, the country’s economy grew by six percent in the final quarter.

This translates into a burgeoning Indian middle class, many times larger than the entire Canadian population, which is driving strong domestic demand. This demand is not limited to consumer goods – the list includes better infrastructure, more effective and transparent local government, efficient and effective application of the rule of law and better higher education opportunities.

Over the next decade it is anticipated that 1,400 new postsecondary institutions will be created to serve seven million more students. India is opening its doors and inviting more international partnerships to help mount the response.

Canadian universities are answering the call. There’s no doubt that now is the time to create opportunities for successful engagement and dialogue with key Indian government decision-makers, business leaders and universities to underscore the excellence of Canadian universities.

Canada’s universities are pursuing opportunities in India that will enrich experiences for students, strengthen links between Canada and India, and advance international research collaboration. There is much to do. For example, while there are 28,000 Indian students studying in Australia, there are only 2,800 Indian students in Canada. Thomson Reuters reported last fall that India is on track to surpass the research capacity of each G8 country within the decade. And there are many opportunities for linkages with the Indian private sector.

This is precisely why the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada is gathering national, international and India experts in Ottawa on June 9th and 10th to discuss some of these successes with an aim of advancing strategies for engagement with the Indian higher education sector. The workshop is being held in preparation for a November 2010 university presidents’ mission to India that AUCC will lead.

The AUCC mission forms one building block in a series of ongoing efforts to develop a strategy for improving Canada-India academic relations that is focused and sustainable and will achieve concrete results for the benefit of both nations. During his visit to India last November, Prime Minister Harper convened a roundtable on higher education underscoring the importance of this sector to Canada’s India strategy.

More recent missions led by Premiers McGuinty and Charest also reflect Canada’s ambitions. An upcoming meeting between Prime Minister Harper and Prime Minister Singh on June 27th following the G20 may also advance the higher education agenda.

As Mr. Lynch correctly points out, Canada has much to work with in undertaking these steps: strong cultural links; high-tech companies; a strong university research system; natural resource strengths; and a multicultural society and work force. Canada is home to over a million Indian immigrants. And we already have several well-established Indo-Canadian academic partnerships underway.

We recognize the commitment must be long term and that collaboration between the two countries’ governments, businesses and research communities will be key. This week’s workshop and the November mission are important steps in demonstrating our coordinated efforts to create stronger networks among university heads and to consolidate the impact of Canadian universities’ activities in India.

Presentation - October 5, 2011

By Paul Davidson
President, Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada

Good morning. I’m pleased to be with you in Montreal, where AUCC was founded, and where we will be celebrating our centennial later this month. Looking back, we see a century of growth, dynamism and diversity. Looking forward, we see how vital high quality education and research will be to Canada’s prosperity in a global world.

I envy you. You have each earned the trust and confidence of voters in your community. And for the first time in almost a decade you have a four year mandate. Each of you has the opportunity to do something extraordinary for Canada.

Canada’s universities recognize we are facing a period of intense worldwide uncertainty. Universities are helping Canadians navigate through these challenging times.

When the last downturn hit, the government moved quickly to create the Knowledge Infrastructure Program. It showed tremendous alignment of federal and provincial governments in an area of national priority, and it has helped transform campuses.

From idea to announcement in six weeks, and from announcement to funding decisions in six months it was an example of public policy and implementation at its best.

And next month, universities across the country will open their doors to showcase the upgraded, expanded or newly-built facilities made possible through KIP. It is our way of showing Canadians the lasting value of smart stimulus. There are more than 59 public events that will demonstrate how KIP is improving the quality of the research and learning experience for Canadian students, and we hope that you will join us.

This year, Canada’s universities welcomed the largest incoming class ever – because students and their parents recognize the value of a degree. Through the last downturn, from 2008 to 2010 there were more than 300,000 net new jobs for those with a university degree – compared to 430,000 jobs lost for those with no post-secondary education.

And we are going to need to continue to increase participation even more to meet the needs of an aging society, where the number of retirees will double and the workforce will grow by just 8%.

Let me talk now about the 2012 Budget.

We appreciate the recovery is fragile and there may be the need for flexibility in the months ahead.

This government is to be commended for sustaining investments in research – even during a downturn. And those investments are yielding results for individuals and communities. In the past the committee has asked me to elaborate on these results. I am pleased to say that today we are releasing new information to all MPs about the value of university research to Canada’s prosperity.

For next year’s budget, we have three major priorities.

First, university research. Funding through Canada’s three federal granting councils and the Canada Foundation for Innovation not only supports new discoveries, products and processes, it also allows faculty to engage students in hands-on research. And that gives students the analytical and innovative skills they need to thrive in today’s knowledge-based economy.

Second, enhancing links to the private sector and building a stronger innovation culture. We need to link university students and faculty more closely with private sector partners to build greater collaboration and networks.

What’s needed now is a new mechanism to help business engage new talent, and to help highly qualified graduates connect with Canadian enterprises. Such a mechanism will help create job experiences in the private sector for master’s and PhD graduates, and foster a culture of innovation in Canada.

And finally we need to improve Canada’s educational connectivity to the world.

Last year I spoke of India – in November, Canada’s universities committed $4 million of their resources to promote student mobility and research collaboration with India. And there is more to be done.

We are also delighted that the Prime Minister announced that the Governor General will lead an AUCC mission to Brazil in spring 2012.

Why do I keep referring to the need for greater educational connectivity? Because of scope, scale and urgency.

Brazil has just announced a scholarship program for 75,000 students to study abroad. India has 160,000 students studying abroad – but only 3,000 of them are in Canada. China has increased enrolment by two million in two years.

As a country we need to be able to seize these opportunities to connect to growing markets – especially when our competitors cannot.

That is why our third priority is a significant global research fund, focussed on priorities such as Brazil and India, enabling more students and faculty to participate in international collaborative research. And creating the linkages essential to prosperity in the years ahead.


I am pleased that others have taken up our recommendation to improve access and success for Canada’s aboriginal youth, and we continue to see that as an urgent national challenge.

We need to make sure that this generation of students is the best educated and prepared to meet the challenges our country is facing. We believe that research-enriched, globally engaged university experiences within a culture of innovation are the best way for Canada to prosper as we navigate through a changing world.

Media release - June 6, 2011

Ottawa, June 6, 2011 – The Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada (AUCC) applauds the Government of Canada’s continued support for university research and international engagement as announced in Budget 2011.

“We’re very pleased to see this government honouring its commitment to Canada’s universities as initially presented in the spring budget,” says AUCC President Paul Davidson. “With a four-year mandate, the federal government has a meaningful opportunity to position Canada as a leader in research, discovery and innovation through investment in our university sector.”

Highlights of support for Canada’s universities include:

  • a $37 million increase in the annual investment in the three major granting councils
  • the establishment of 10 new Canada Excellence Research Chairs
  • a total of close to $250 million over six years to strategic research initiatives led by or involving Canada’s universities, including an additional $65 million for Genome Canada to continue its ground-breaking work
  • $10 million over two years to develop and implement an international education strategy that will reinforce Canada as a country of choice to study and conduct world-class research
  • measures to build on recent efforts to strengthen connections between Canadian universities and India, including a $12 million investment in the establishment of a new Canada-India Research Centre of Excellence

“Canadian families know that a university education is the surest path to prosperity and economic security,” says Mr. Davidson. “These investments will help our universities strengthen communities and address Canada’s challenges and priorities in crucial areas such as health care, energy and climate change.

AUCC is the voice of Canada’s universities. It represents 95 Canadian public and private, not-for-profit universities and university-degree level colleges.


For interviews and information, contact:
Helen Murphy
Manager, Communications
Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada
613.563.1236, ext. 238
Mobile: 613.608.8749

Mélanie Béchard
Communications Officer
Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada
Tel: 613.563.3961, ext. 306
Mobile: 613.884.8401

( Total - 15 )