The 4th Annual Synergy Conference held on September 23rd 2010 at the Pearson Convention Center near Toronto which focused on Canada-India educational initiatives was yet another stunning success. With over 150 delegates in attendance, including representatives from dozens of Colleges and Universities across Canada and some from India, this annual event has become a ‘must attend’ fixture for institutions and academics working the ‘Canada India education corridor’.
With half a billion English-speaking youth under age 25, about 18,000 PSE institutions, and a participation rate of just 12%, India represents an immense potential market for colleges and universities worldwide. Canadian recruitment efforts in India have doubled in recent years, but plans for satellite campuses may be discouraged by the pending Bill 57 in the Indian parliament, which will prevent institutions from repatriating any of the surpluses generated by their Indian operations. Noted scholars, politicians and key academics presented interesting perspectives and directives for the future. With a focus on key academic areas of co-operation and partnerships, Synergy 2010 provided updates from India regarding the entry for foreign education providers (Bill 57) as well as the recently signed MOU in education between Canada and India at the G20 held in Toronto. Noted academic experts from both countries discussed recent developments and exciting opportunities as several illustrious speakers opined on the ongoing engagement as we move forward.
CIEC is a bi-national, independent, event-driven, membership-based organization established to operate exclusively in the ‘Canada India education corridor’, enhance ties and create opportunities for academic institutions. Since 2007, the Synergy Conference series has successfully brought hundreds of Canadian institutions together to discuss common objectives, challenges and opportunities and by conducting partner events with institutions such as FICCI, AUCC, CBIE, SICI & ACCC, CIEC has brought specialists from specific academic areas and presented joint partnership opportunities. CIEC already counts several respected organizations and institutions from both countries as its members.
The conference was opened by Hon. Pierre S. Pettigrew, PC who chairs the Canada India Education Council (CIEC), and he began by telling us about the unique nature of Canada, as one country comprised of several nations. He reminded us that by 2050, six of the largest economies of the world will be Asian. Our governments have to put a lot of money into health, but education is far more important for the future of our society — it is what we owe, not to those who have contributed to our society, but to those who will contribute to it in the future.
Kam Rathee, CIEC President, expressed the hope that this council, like education, could serve as a bridge between cultures and countries. He described the plan to create a mirror image organization in India to link the CIEC’s efforts across the Pacific. Husain F. Neemuchwala, CIEC’s COO, elaborated on the plan to establish three offices in Mumbai, and touched on the government of Ontario’s objective to increase international student enrollment, especially from India. CMEC is working with Ottawa to reduce barriers to Indian students.
Senator Consiglio Di Nino, the former chair of the standing committee on Foreign Affairs, delivered the opening keynote remarks. He stated from the outset that the CIEC is one of the most important initiatives in Canada’s relationship with India. He sees plenty of room for improvement — “the two countries have woken up, but they still need to get out of bed.” Up until 2010, we have issued about 8,000 student visas — “shamefully” few. The Indian middle class is larger than the entire population of the EU, and the university student population will double to 30 million in several years — there are immense opportunities for Canadian education.
Concordia professor emeritus Dr. Balbir Sahni delivered the inaugural address on cross-border education and the new Bill 57, which will pave the way for foreign universities in India. Although India has committed to spend 5% of GDP on education, only 0.37% is spent on higher education domestically, while $13 billion is spent by students going abroad. There is a significant deficiency in higher education capacity in India. Currently, India is the source of 5% of all international students worldwide (15% come from China) and most study in the US, UK, France, Germany & Australia. Canada attracts just 4% of international students. Since 2000, the flow of Indian students into Canada has increased from 1,000 to more than 6,000 students. Sahni sees great opportunity for joint grad studies, twinning of institutions, industry linkages, vocational training collaborations, and publicprivate partnerships. India will benefit from the establishment of foreign universities in India, so long as fees are affordable for Indian families, and overly generous salaries do not drain faculty from existing institutions in India.
Claude Bibeau of DFAIT spoke about the MOU on Higher Education Cooperation signed between Canada and India at the G20 summit in Toronto. The MOU creates a framework for exchanges, awards, partnerships and mobility of students and scholars between institutions in the two countries. Meetings with India are swift and very businesslike, but a challenge is that Canadian education has very decentralized budgets, and it takes significant time to put millions of dollars on the table. UK and Australia have opened well-funded offices in India, and can negotiate in a coordinated and centralized way. DFAIT has a $12 million scholarship program, and has been allocating 50 scholarships to Indian grad students studying in Canada, as well as the Vanier scholarships and the new $70,000 Banting fellowship. 73,000 students from Canada and around the world participate in the International Youth Program annually.
Jean-Philippe Tachdjian of Edu-Canada / DFAIT summarized recent developments in India, and the negative incidents in Australia which led to considerable bad press. The UK high commission was subsequently overwhelmed with Indian requests for study permits, so Canada has become the next destination of choice. “Our competitors have stumbled,” but now we need to be cautious that we learn from the Australian example, and attract the right students and potential migrants to Canada. The 2009 closure of CECN has led to a more direct role for DFAIT in promotion activities, but has meant the closure of 3 offices in India that were convenient and well-staffed. DFAIT hasn’t done nearly enough to promote the Edu-Canada brand, but clearly needs more resources. Nonetheless, we have seen 125% growth in enrollments from India in the past two years. DFAIT urges Canadian institutions to share their alumni lists for India with the Canadian High Commission, because alumni will be our best ambassadors.
Faisal Beg, the Canadian Trade Commissioner in New Delhi, presented the latest on Bill 57, which is still being deliberated. There are over 18,000 PSE institutions in India, and about 400 universities, and yet the participation rate is less than 12%, which is about half the world average. There are a number of foreign providers operating in India already, but without an effective regulatory regime to maintain standards. Bill 57 will allow institutions with more than 20 years standing to apply, but they will not be permitted to offer distance education and must deliver programs in India that are consistent with the programs in their home countries. Existing foreign operators in India will have to reapply under the new regime. No repatriation of funds will be permitted: 75% of funds can be ploughed back into operations, and 25% must be deposited as “corpus” with the Indian government as a form of collateral. (In effect, under this bill there will be every financial incentive for Canadian institutions to recruit students away from India, but a financial disincentive to establish any satellite campuses in India.)
UWO’s Dr. Lalu Mansinha gave a progress report on the Ontario-Maharashtra-Goa exchange partnership, a 2 way exchange of about 75 students each year. The Ontario Council of Academic VPs (OCAV) runs similar exchanges other countries under the auspices of Ontario Universities International (OUI). The exchange is about the reciprocal flow of knowledge — not just disciplinary expertise, but cultural understanding as well. About 50 students receive a stipend each year, but a significant benefit is that international tuition fees are waived. India has many institutions, but they are also often very large: the University of Pune, the “Oxford of the East”, has more than 400,000 students. There is now growing interest in the idea of faculty exchange and research collaboration.
Husain F. Neemuchwala returned to the podium to tell us how to “Maximize Your ROI (Return on India)” with out of the box recruitment solutions. Right now Canada invests about $1 million as a country in a sector that brings in $6.5 billion — this is inadequate. CIEC recommends pre-planned high school drop-in visits, alumni networking receptions, agents, fairs, and social networking — not just Facebook but also Orkut, Ishstyle and others. Over 100,000 Indians currently go overseas to study. About 1/3rd of 1 billion people are under age 30. CIEC has members from both countries and is poised to become the ‘GO TO’ organizations within the Canada-India landscape and currently operates the Synergy conference, Ed-Mission tours to India and “UnFairs” (HS Counselor visits) in India, and will open rep offices in 3 cities by 2011. It is also working to create a $1 million scholarship pool to attract Indian students. Having an “appearance” in India is not enough — Canadian institutions need an ongoing “presence” on the ground in India.
York University’s Dr. Alan Middleton urged Canadian higher education to make a lot more NOISE to gain brand awareness overseas. Despite institutional budget cuts, we need to remember that “you can’t cut your way to growth.” Increasing participation rates domestically will only hurt quality, the Canadian population is aging, government funding is dropping, and raising tuition is not sustainable. We need to stop treating education as something only for young people, and should abolish the expression “continuing education.” We should all be in the business of lifelong learning, especially in an emerging market like India. Canada is currently a tortoise moving at a snail’s pace, with a minimal market share. We can’t wait for the federal government to make the difference when education is a provincial responsibility. This isn’t just an international competition for revenue — who will be the top educational players globally in the future? We need to be oriented to the world of the future — an Asian future.
Rajiv Mathur, of Deloitte Consulting, addressed the financial and tax implications of establishing satellite campuses in India. The PSE market in India will grow to $80 billion within a few years, and there are already half a billion Indians under age 25. Salaries and consulting fees can be paid to Canadians, within certain limits, but are subject to taxes of 10- 20%. There are apparently some ways to “unlock” the surplus generated in India for other purposes, Rajiv implied and could be reached directly at Deloitte for further elaboration.
York University’s Dr. Sheila Embleton moderated an open floor discussion about Canadian institutions operating in India. Currently, virtually no-one at the conference has operations on the ground in India (except York’s Schulich School of Business), but several have plans to do so, including the Ivey School of Business, and Concordia U. Professionals educated in India will ultimately emigrate to Canada and other “aging” countries to meet their future labour market needs — so in effect, our institutions can consider going to India as educating future Canadians. Engineering accreditations need to be more flexible.
Prof. Deep Saini, the principal of uToronto Mississauga, gave us “a view from the top,” which he assured us meant “the top of his head.” He was previously involved in establishing the UAE campus for uWaterloo, and is currently helping to develop a new India strategy for the UofT. UofT is interested in becoming the “backup” research university for industry in Canada and in India, and has even contemplated a UofT Delhi. India has some outstanding institutions in specific disciplines, but not world class comprehensive institutions like UofT. UofT feels a sense of global social responsibility to affect the ethos of education in India, beyond science and technology and into liberal arts. Canada and India share an immense amount of common values as countries and societies. There is plenty of local capital available to build a campus in India, but a shortage of common purpose and governance — India can be more like a country with 1.1 billion individual goals and objectives. There is an increasing power of the private sector that is gradually affecting public sector governance, and India will likely resolve its governance issues soon.
(L-R) Hon. Pierre S Pettigrew, Chairman CIEC; Husain F. Neemuchwala, COO &Executive Director, CIEC; Canadian Senator Consiglio Di Nino &Kam Rathee, President, CIEC
(L-R) Hon. Pierre S Pettigrew, Chairman CIEC; Husain F. Neemuchwala, COO &Executive Director, CIEC; Kam Rathee, President, CIEC &Canadian Senator Consiglio Di Nino
Braj Sinha and Rick Butler of the Shastri Indo-Canadian Institute put forward an action plan in light of the MOU signed by Canada and India at the G20 Summit. Many of the specific initiatives articulated in the MOU are things that Shastri has been doing for decades and have recommitted to doing under the new MOU. Shastri is planning to host 8 regional workshops across Canada and India to enhance India studies in Canada and vice-versa. Shastri is also planning to launch a new web portal to engage and connect its member institutions, to include a speakers bureau, a searchable discussion forum, a broad communications channel to trumpet accomplishments, and a centralized data repository with instant reporting capacity.
Taras Kulish, the country director for HOPE Worldwide of Canada, spoke about “educational offsets” in India. Institutions looking to educate Indians may not be addressing the question, “what are you giving back to India?” Like carbon offsets, educational offsets are a humanitarian concept to create corresponding opportunities in India for every international student coming to Canada. HOPE proposes that institutions donate $250 to an Indian institution for every fee-paying international student from India. There are currently 30 HOPE Foundation schools in India, and Canadian institutions can effectively “adopt” a HOPE Foundation school through these offsets.
Academica Group’s Ken Steele announced a new international student prospect research study, to launch this winter in partnership with CIEC and Maple Leaf EduConnect. The ISPR will assemble an online research panel of thousands of prospective international students in India, and hundreds of high school principals and counsellors, and will gather market intelligence much like Academica’s longrunning UCAS applicant study does in North America, where it is the largest and most comprehensive PSE consumer research study. The new ISPR will focus on India, and interested college, university, or government departments will be able to participate in the project steering committee and obtain high-level research results for a small nominal fee. Participating institutions will also gain exclusive access to in-depth data and a series of ongoing market research reports. Ken also shared interesting data drawn from Indian applicants to Canadian universities in the 2010 UCAS study.
Harris Rosen and Alan Wolfish, from Fogler Rubinoff LLP, spoke on global change and business opportunities in private PSE. They represent private career colleges and private degree-granting institutions. Vocational training schools typically re-skill disadvantaged students and give them a new lease on life. The US Department of Labour projects the top growth sectors in the next 10 years to be IT, Healthcare, professional and business services. Canada could learn a lot from the US in the way it gathers national statistics. The Federal/Provincial division of jurisdictions affects Canada’s ability to create a national brand, and while education is a provincial jurisdiction, immigration is a federal one. They also act for a number of foreign investors interested in acquiring Canadian career colleges.
Gail Bowkett, senior policy analyst at AUCC, spoke about AUCC’s upcoming presidential mission to India. Truly global universities need to be engaged with India, and there are over 100 bilateral agreements in place. AUCC wants to build the brand of Canadian education in India, and has signed an MOU with its counterpart, the AIU. 16 university presidents will be travelling to India in November to meet with key university presidents in India, business and industry leaders.
Hon. Dr. Ruby Dhalla, MP Brampton-Springdale graced the occasion by her presence at the closing of the event during the wine reception.
(Thank you to Ken Steeles of the Academica Group for contributing to this post event report).