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Principal Woolf makes the case for global outreach

Principal Woolf makes the case for global outreach

Although resources are scarce, Principal Daniel Woolf makes the case for extending the University’s international horizons. Doing so is not only wise, he says there’s a compelling argument to be made that it is essential.

Internationalization is one of the key principles – along with innovation, interdisciplinarity, and imagination – of "Where Next?", the vision statement that I presented to the Queen’s community last January. An advisory group including Vice-Provost (International) John Dixon and Vice-Principals Steven Liss (Research) and Tom Harris (Advancement), is busy developing an international strategy to align with the University’s emerging Academic Plan, with our research activities and the University’s emerging fundraising priorities.

Why is an international strategy so important when we are facing serious issues closer to home, including continuing ­financial constraints and increased competition from other Canadian universities? I believe that part of the solution for addressing some of these current pressing challenges will be to extend Queen’s global reach.

The world is incomparably smaller than it was a generation ago. Thanks to the Internet and social media, today’s students, as international citizens, connect regularly with people from different places and ­cultures.

Scholarship, too, has become truly global. Our researchers are as likely to be collaborating with partners halfway across the planet as with someone down the 401, or in another province. In my own research, for instance, I receive emails from several different countries in any given week. Curriculum, too, continues to evolve and is increasingly accessible on-line, providing a diverse lens that shapes our perspectives differently.

At Queen’s these virtual connections have physical roots. An article elsewhere in this Review (p. 22) describes the creation of the Bader International Study Centre (BISC), a world-renowned facility where each year approximately 400 students from Queen’s and around the globe come to study and expand their horizons.

Establishing the BISC provided a catalyst for Queen’s move outward into the world. But internationalization today encompasses more than an international study centre.

According to a 2003 report in the Peking University Education Review, the internationalization of higher education comprises the “human” exchange of students, teachers, and researchers; the exchange and accreditation of programs, courses and degrees; and collaborative research projects.

While all of these activities are already under way at Queen’s – for example, 75 per cent of our undergraduate business ­students go on an international exchange – I believe we need to move beyond exchanges and memoranda of understanding at the undergrad level toward a coherent strategy involving broader partnerships. Such agreements could include, for instance, the sharing of best practices by staff, who may benefit from discussions with counterparts elsewhere.\

An illustration of this is the Matariki Network of Universities, launched last May with Queen’s as one of seven founding members. Focusing on strong links between research and undergraduate teaching, partner universities commit to providing rich learning, an international experience for all students, and strong stewardship through ­social and global responsibility. The Matariki Network has staff connection as one of its specific goals.

Another example is the very active cross-disciplinary group of Queen’s faculty who currently work in research and teaching pertaining to South Asia. We have not promoted this as actively as we should, and need to raise our visibility in key areas. Our alumni are natural allies in this regard, and so we may look at providing them with information and presentations on research we are carrying out at Queen’s that directly affects the places in which they live.

But we are going to have to be selective. We simply cannot partner with every institution with which we have contact, nor can we pursue internationalization pan-globally. While we may well have very broad coverage in terms of individual faculty and department linkages, we will need to identify several key markets – not always the ones that are currently “hot” – for us to pursue with special vigour. In short, we must choose regions or countries on which to focus our efforts, or we risk diffusing our efforts “all over the map”.

Last December, while accompanying Premier Dalton McGuinty on his “Clean Tech” mission to India, I met with business and educational leaders and made some valuable contacts for student recruitment, research partnerships, and new business opportunities, capitalizing on Queen’s expertise. I will be back in India with a delegation from the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada as this publication is printed, hopefully bringing Queen’s one step further along in our global journey.

[Queen's Alumni Review 2010-4 cover]