I owe a big thank you to the Comparative, International and Development Education Centre (CIDEC) at OISE for hosting a great day of presentations by PhD students. It was a wonderful chance to hear about the research that is happening across our faculty and taking our students around the world.
Follow this link to watch my talk on university students’ identity change at Western branch-campuses – http://connect.oise.utoronto.ca/p1pbn4xmzl7/
May was a tumultuous month for Canadian higher education. The ongoing student protests in Quebec have been gripping to follow and have presented new opportunities for student-government negotiations. But the recent murder of Jin Lun may have deeper ramifications – on an international scale. As an international student, his murder has led to the Chinese embassy warning their citizens to take extra cautions in traveling to Canada. Reponses from local institutions are countering the embassy’s warning saying Canada is a safe and welcoming place. But this is the second Chinese students this year to be killed and those statements ring a little hollow.
I am reminded of the Canadian tourists who have been killed recently in travels to Mexico. There may be only a handful in the overall tourist population – but it is not an easy thing to convince the rest of us that Mexico is safe for Canadians.
The bigger questions coming out of China’s cautionary statements need to be addressed – is there something that is making Chinese international students vulnerable? Perhaps a degree of isolation? Are these crimes racially motivated?
Jane Ngobia’s study – on the interaction of international and domestic students at UofT’s campuses – suggests that domestic students benefit and learn from their interactions with international students. However, the category of international students
is perceived as broad and often includes other Canadian minority students who
add diversity to campus. With growing numbers of Canadian-Chinese students as well as international – it is not just the international students that stand out. If indeed the recent crimes are racially-motivated, then both visibleminority populations are at risk. A
warning from the Chinese embassy is not enough – Ngobia calls for concerted policies to build relationship and provide continued supports for all our “diverse” students.
Our study abroad program in the Fiji Islands
So we know that too few Canadian students are studying abroad. AUCC 2006 numbers said it was less than 3% and we can assume that five years later is it still less than 10%. Now these numbers only count if study abroad actually is a benefit to students and does all the jazz its supposed to – increase cross cultural skills, global citizenship, global awareness… etc. But the programs that are strategically trying to make sure their students achieve these outcomes take a huge amounts of organizing time and people power. At the University of Toronto the ISXO advertises more than 130 countries that students can study in – but do we want all those options if a) students aren’t taking advantage of them and b) the programs aren’t structured to ensure positive outcomes. Let’s focus instead on quality rather than quantity? Drop the number of programs to 30, link them to specific majors and strategically develop ways to match students to programs that “fit” their academic and personal journeys.