Approximately 160 participants from Chinese and Canadian universities came together to discuss “innovative approaches to graduate studies” at the forum, held in Chengdu in southwestern China, August 3-5, 2012. Participants also evaluated progress in academic collaboration and exchanges between Chinese and Canadian universities since the first forum took place in Edmonton, Alberta, in August 2010.
The Chengdu meeting was convened by the China Scholarship Council together with the University of Alberta, and was hosted by Sichuan University. Vice-Presidents, Deans of Graduate Studies and other senior administrators and graduate students of leading research universities in both countries came together in Chengdu. National ministries and funding organizations—as well as industry representatives—also participated. A total of 16 Canadian universities were represented.
The two-day long discussions revealed important insights into trends and developments in graduate education in both countries and showcased a range of innovative concepts and practices.
Generally, both sides agreed that in many ways graduate education was faced with the same challenges in both countries, and that there was more and more convergence in many aspects of graduate education between China and Canada.
In particular, participants found a similar need to come to more broadly-defined and more flexible curricula. “Transferable skills” seem to be more and more at the center of attention in both countries. Career prospects for Ph.D. students are no longer exclusively focused on academic positions as university labor markets in Canada and China cannot—and maybe should not—fully absorb the growing numbers of Ph.D. graduates. The corporate sector, government and media present new job opportunities but require skills and competences that are normally not emphasized in more traditional graduate programs.
With the growing sense of commonality and shared vision and mission for graduate education in China and Canada, participants saw a wide range of new opportunities for international collaboration and exchanges. Joint and Dual Degree programs are already a rapidly growing phenomenon in graduate education in both countries. Chinese universities in particular have successfully built multiple models for such internationally collaborative programming.
Canadian universities look with satisfaction at the rapidly growing number of Chinese graduate students in Canada; the total number of full-time Chinese Ph.D. students grew 27% between 1992 and 2009, while the number of full-time master’s students more than doubled (Statistics Canada). Both sides agreed that the flow of graduate students from Canada was still underdeveloped despite a number of national and institutional efforts in China to attract more interest from students in North America to academic opportunities in China.
In a concluding document, both sides agreed to work together especially in four areas: Thematic based and interdisciplinary cooperation, two way student mobility and increased numbers of Canadian students going to China, Joint/Dual Degree programs between Chinese and Canadian universities, and university-industry collaboration. The Canadian participants came together to recognize the need for a more coordinated approach to China-Canada collaboration in graduate education.
A small Canadian working group will try to identify next steps that can bring about more coherent and more significant collaboration, notably with a view to enhanced mobility from Canada to China. A third forum will be planned for 2014 in Ottawa.