CANADA: Forging ties with Indian universities

A meeting last week of more than 40 university presidents and vice-chancellors from Canada and India is expected to stimulate further research and innovation opportunities between the two countries.

The meeting at the first Education Summit at Carleton University in Ottawa came a year after the signing of a bilateral agreement on education.

In spite of being slower off the mark to establish academic relations with India by comparison with other countries, Canadian universities are making up for lost time by establishing deep ties.

Last summer, Carleton established a Canada-India Centre for Excellence in Science, Technology and Policy. Headed by an India chair, the institute will help foster greater understanding and cooperation between both countries' higher education communities.

Similarly, York University's Schulich School of Business, Toronto, will break ground this summer when it begins construction of the first Canadian satellite university campus in India's IT and business hub, Hyderabad. Completion of the C$25 million (US$25.47 million) facility is expected for 2013.

But it was the recent conference that most compellingly attested to Canada's commitment not only to improving mutual understanding with India but, importantly, to enhancing educational opportunities in both countries, Foreign Minister John Baird affirmed in his opening address.

The conference addressed ways of expanding collaboration, exchange programmes and graduate student supervision opportunities. The delegates also focused on the thorny issue of credit transfer and considered ways of promoting and increasing the use of technology in and between each country.

Key to these goals is the creation of memoranda of understanding (MOUs) between specific universities and higher education programmes in Canada and their counterparts in India.

Roseann O'Reilly Runte, president and vice-chancellor of Carleton University, said the MOUs would open the door to increased sharing of knowledge and ideas, exchange of students, professors and researchers, sharing resources to solve real world problems as well as basic questions of science and culture.

"In turn, this will lead to greater economic development in both nations, responding to the goals iterated in the goals of the MOU signed by our two prime ministers last summer," she said.

Speaking at the summit, Daggubati Purandeswari, Indian Minister of State for Human Resource Development (Higher Education), said: "Education can no longer be considered a goal in itself, but rather should be considered a powerful driver of socio-economic change."

The conference was followed by the Canada-India Innovation Summit at which senior industry, government and academic executives considered pathways for scientific and technological collaborations to stimulate economic growth in both countries.