Crossing Borders, Crossing Boundaries

May 27, 2015
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Paul Davidson, president, Universities Canada

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 Globalization involves 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

About Universities Canada
Universities Canada is the voice of Canada’s universities at home and abroad, advancing higher education, research and innovation for the benefit of all Canadians.

Media contact:

Lisa Wallace
Assistant Director, Communications
Universities Canada
[email protected]

Tagged:  Global connections, Study abroad

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