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Commentary - March 2, 2015

 This letter was submitted to the Saint John Telegraph Journal in response to the Editorial “Universities need complete refocus” published on February 25, 2015

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

As highlighted in your Feb. 24 editorial, sharp demographic and economic shifts require changes in postsecondary education.

In every recession we see shifts in employment outcomes for graduates that rebound as conditions improve. But even recent graduates coming out of a degree program in the midst of the economic downturn are faring very well in the labour market today. Statistics Canada’s 2013 National Graduate Survey reveals that just three years after completion well over 90% of bachelor’s graduates are employed – and almost 85% in full-time jobs. Their average income is some $53,000 – effectively at the outset of their careers. The unemployment rate for these recent graduates was just 5%.

Today’s university experience responds to demographic and economic changes through innovation and collaboration. It’s rich with hands-on learning, community partnerships, global experiences and research opportunities. Half of all Canadian university students across all disciplines now complete at least one co-op experience, practicum, and internship or field placement by the time they graduate.

In regions with declining populations and significant economic challenges, education and innovation are key to fueling prosperity. This is what New Brunswick’s universities do.

Media release - March 2, 2015

OTTAWA – Canada’s universities, the Rideau Hall Foundation and Canada’s community foundation network are pleased to announce that more than 1,900 scholarships for university students will be funded through the new Canadian Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Scholarships. With initial investments of more than $40 million, including $10 million from the Government of Canada, this initiative will build a dynamic community of young global leaders in Canada and throughout the Commonwealth over the next four years.

Jointly announced in June 2014, by Governor General David Johnston, Prime Minister Stephen Harper and former Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, the Canadian Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Scholarships will help develop the next generation of innovative leaders and community builders, both locally and globally. Canadian students at the undergraduate and graduate levels will participate in internships or academic study for periods of three months to one year in another Commonwealth country. Scholarships will also be available to students from Commonwealth countries to attend a Canadian university for masters or doctoral studies. The Scholarships form part of university-designed projects that address pressing local, national and global issues. Some examples of these projects include:

  • Innovative Solutions for Developing and Managing Climate Resilient Transport Infrastructure in South Asia Region: A Lifecycle Thinking Approach, University of British Columbia
  • Integrating Innovative Research and Training Methods for Improved Sustainable Livelihoods of Smallholder Dairy Farms, University of Prince Edward Island
  • Building Resilience in Coastal Communities, Vancouver Island University
  • Quantitative biology and Medical Genetics for the world, McGill University
  • The Mining Life Cycle; Discovery, Development, Remediation, Social License and the Environment, Laurentian University
  • Formation scientifique d’étudiants indiens pour la recherche en énergie durable et en sciences biomédicales, Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières

The Canadian Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Scholarships program is a joint initiative of the Rideau Hall Foundation, Community Foundations of Canada and the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada. It was created through unique contributions from the Government of Canada, provincial governments, the private sector and individuals worldwide.


“We deeply appreciate each supporter who, through their tremendous generosity, will assist Queen Elizabeth Scholars as they engage with communities across the Commonwealth and create projects and actions that impact the world,” says Ian Bird, president of Community Foundations of Canada and Executive Director of the Rideau Hall Foundation. “The program’s focus on community collaboration has also created an incredible opportunity for community foundations to partner and share our philanthropic expertise with local universities.”

“The Canadian Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Scholarships will provide students with transformative international study and research experiences,” says Paul Davidson, president of the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada. “By sending young Canadians overseas to study and bringing international students to our campuses, this visionary program will help build economic, diplomatic and cultural ties that benefit all Canadians.”

Key facts:

  • Students selected for the scholarships will be named “Queen Elizabeth Scholars.”
  • Through the first wave of this initiative, 34 Canadian universities will manage projects that will offer scholarship opportunities to more than 1,900 university students in the Commonwealth; 46 Commonwealth countries will be involved in this wave.
  • Successful universities were selected by an independent committee comprised of representatives from Canadian and Commonwealth academic organizations, private sector companies and non-governmental organizations.

For additional details including donors to the program and participating universities please visit and the  winning proposals.


Rideau Hall Foundation Logo

Community Foundations of Canada logo


For more information:

Helen Murphy
Assistant Director of Communications
Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada
613-563-3961 ext. 238 or cell: 613-608-8749

David Venn
Communications Manager
Community Foundation of Canada
613-236-2664 ext. 302 or cell: 613-266-6917

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

Community Foundations of Canada is the national network for Canada’s 191 community foundations, which help Canadians invest in building strong and resilient places to live, work and play.

Commentary - February 27, 2015

This letter was published in the Moncton Times & Transcript in response  to the editorial “Too many N.B. ‍universities, not enough young people” published on February 25, 2015

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

Yesterday’s editorial highlights the need for universities to be responsive to demographic and economic changes, and to innovate.

Students today demand choice and New Brunswick’s universities offer tremendous diversity and quality across the disciplines. In focus, languages, geography and size, they offer the choice in programs and experiences that allow students to find their best pathway to a rewarding career – be they from New Brunswick or New Delhi.

In every recession we see shifts as higher education responds to economic changes. The downturn that took hold in 2008 is no exception. Students are also responsive to change, gravitating to disciplines in higher demand. And in all fields, today’s undergraduate experience is more research-intensive, global and experiential than ever. Half of all Canadian university students across all disciplines now complete at least one co-op experience, practicum, and internship or field placement by the time they graduate.

While the population of youth 18 to 21 is projected to decline by a little more than 10 percent in the region between 2015 and 2022, it stabilizes after that point. Small increases in participation rates and attracting more international student and greater interprovincial mobility can erase the impact of that decline. And as we have seen in provinces like Saskatchewan, projected population declines can themselves be reversed if the economy grows.

New Brunswick’s universities today are hubs of innovation, increasingly connecting with partners in the private sector to help companies grow and give students hands-on experiences. They’re working with industry and other partners to develop more sustainable forestry practices, advance research on aging, and learn how ocean ecosystems relate to climate change.

In the face of sharp demographic and economic changes, innovation is vital if our communities are to rebound and thrive. And universities are at the heart of innovation.

Commentary - February 23, 2015

This op-ed was published in the online edition of The Hill Times on February 23, 2015

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

Unlocking the secrets of innovation – when it happens, how, and what we can do to fuel it – is an ongoing pursuit of governments around the world. That’s because innovation drives prosperity and quality of life. Without it, societies and economies stagnate.

Last fall Canada’s universities convened a meeting of innovation leaders from Israel, Germany and Canada to share insights into their respective national innovation systems, with an eye to strengthening the Canadian system.

The Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada chose to invite experts from Israel and Germany because they represent two of the world’s most innovative economies, sharing excellence in research and innovation, strong practices of academic-industry collaboration and prominent high-tech sectors. What really came to the fore during our two days of discussions was the culture of innovation and respect for research that supports this success.

Israel is an incredibly entrepreneurial society willing to take risks in pursuit of success. As Ruth Arnon, president of the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities pointed out, “many Israeli start-ups are funded in the recognition that few will succeed.“

Enno Aufderheide, secretary general of Germany’s Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, says his country “understands that funding research is fundamental for German prosperity.”

While conference participants agreed that the innovation process is complex, and that models cannot simply be imported from one nation to another, they also agreed that successful innovation systems have certain common elements: strong support for basic research; the involvement of students as researchers, innovators and entrepreneurs; support for creativity and risk-taking in research; multidisciplinary collaboration; and strong university-private sector ties. These elements can be seen as the building blocks of a healthy culture of innovation.

And importantly, such a culture sees both basic and applied research as essential to building a strong innovation ecosystem. Our international guests noted that German and Israeli publics understand that their countries are well-off thanks in large measure to investments in research and innovation.

So how can Canada build a culture of innovation that permeates all levels of society?

Students and young researchers are a big part of the solution. Universities and industry are increasingly tapping into students’ potential as agents of technology transfer, knowledge exchange and entrepreneurship. Israeli and German universities offer students wide scope for interaction with industry and industry-experienced faculty members. Such opportunities in Canada are fewer but increasing—for instance, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council’s Collaborative Research and Training Experience Program that offers graduate students and postdoctoral researchers both international and industry experience.

Another key ingredient is risk-taking and support for creativity. Major scientific discoveries cannot be planned. They come from giving creative thinkers the freedom to follow new ideas. This fact, conference participants agreed, underlines the need for research programs and institutional structures that enable innovative approaches and encourage researchers to take risks.

These principles underpin distinctive Israeli and German approaches to research funding. In Israel, a wide range of applied research and commercialization activities are funded in the expectation that some will succeed and many fail—and that failure is itself productive. In Germany, the approach of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (German Research Foundation) to research funding prescribes no disciplinary boundaries or quotas and no application deadlines, with the aim of funding the best ideas as they emerge.

Innovation success also requires a multi-disciplinary approach. It emerges not only from the natural sciences and engineering but the social sciences and humanities as well. Canadian universities are creating campus cultures, programs and physical spaces that encourage interdisciplinary collaboration. We need these collaborations to extend beyond the campus into local, regional and international partnerships.

The private sector has a vital role to play. The vibrancy of both Germany’s and Israel’s innovation ecosystems has much to do with the depth of university-private sector collaboration in those countries. Industry mentorship and information-sharing fosters academic researchers’ awareness of applied research needs—and innovative collaborations emerge when areas of shared fit and benefit are identified.

What can Canada learn from these insights? Manuel Trajtenberg, former chair of Israel’s Planning and Budgeting Committee of the Council for Higher Education, acknowledged that policies cannot be simply copied from one country to another. Yet, he urged Canada to “release the entrepreneurial genie” by following Israel’s lead in shaping institutions that let the best and brightest be innovative, are open to change, and empower youth with a ‘can do’ attitude.

Canada doesn’t have to change course to strengthen the success of its innovation system. We do, however, need to bring the right people together, support their creative efforts, be open to risk, and share research and innovation successes with all Canadians.


Commentary - February 13, 2015

This letter was submitted to the Globe and Mail in response to the article “Immigration changes risk leaving foreign students behind” published on February 10, 2015

By Christine Tausig Ford, vice-president and chief operating officer, Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada

Canada’s new Express Entry immigration application system should benefit international students who come to Canada to study and want to stay as permanent residents – not hinder them as your article states. Express Entry is not a new program in itself, and does not modify or replace the requirements or the annual level targets of the various economic immigration programs.

International students bring major benefits to Canadian campuses and our local communities, and contribute $8 billion to Canada’s economy every year. Given the intense competition among countries to attract global talent, it is critical that we provide these students with accurate information about Canada’s immigration system. By not doing so, we risk damaging Canada’s standing as a destination of choice.

( Total - 261 )