Version classiqueVersion mobile

The China Challenge

Huhua Cao
Vivienne Poy

Evolution of Canada-China relations

Chapter 7. Canadian and Chinese Collaboration on Education: From Unilateral to Bilateral Exchanges

Qiang Zha

Texte intégral

1Collaboration on education started shortly after Canada and the People’s Republic of China established diplomatic relations in 1970, although scattered exchanges of academic visits had occurred before that date. Collaboration after 1970 mostly took the form of Canadian development programmes, featuring a strong sense of “internationalism” but remaining largely unilateral until the late 1990s.

2The Canada–China Scholars Exchange Program, starting in 1974, was operated and funded by the Canadian International Development Research Centre (IDRC) and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC). The Canada–China University Linkage Program (CCULP), launched in 1985, and operated and funded by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), supported the linkage of thirty-one institutions, and included the highly successful Canada–China Management Education Program (CCMEP), which stimulated the renaissance of management and business education in Chinese universities. Following the success of CCULP, the Special University Linkage Consolidation Program (SULCP) was created by CIDA within its Country Development Policy Framework for China, adopted in 1994. SULCP supported eleven linkage projects involving twenty-five Canadian universities and more than two hundred Chinese universities, teaching hospitals, schools, other government agencies and non-government organizations (NGOs). As the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada has noted (2001, p. 3), the combined span of CCULP and SULCP, from 1985 to 2001, “coincided with a period of pivotal change in Chinese society,” and the two programmes, encompassing disciplines ranging from health to education, environmental studies, minority area development, engineering and agriculture, assisted Chinese universities to “improve their capacity to respond to China’s development needs.”

3A little more needs to be said about CCMEP, given its significance to the resurgence of business education in China. Ten Canadian management schools were involved in Phase I of CCMEP, from 1983 to 1987, and the network was then expanded to twenty-four schools in Phase II, from 1987 to 1996. The federal government contributed nearly CA$ 38 million to CCMEP, which produced many graduates who went on to lead the transformation of business education in China. When the Chinese government created MBA programmes in nine universities in September 1991, they drew heavily from the experience gained through these CIDA-supported linkages, as did the seventeen additional MBA programmes created in 1993. Several of the Canadian universities that had been involved in CCMEP went on to develop other initiatives, mostly in Asia, based in part on their experience in China (see Anderson, Cooney and Langevin 2001).

4Altogether CIDA has invested more than 250 million Canadian dollars in higher education for China since the early 1980s. Over the twenty-five years since CCULP began, more than one hundred institutional linkages and subprojects were created and funded. In addition, more than 37,000 Chinese scholars, researchers and students were educated in Canada and have since become leaders in their disciplines and institutions (see Klabunde 2009). Indeed, apart from the Soviet Union in the 1950s, it is hard to find any other country that has assisted development of China’s higher education to a comparable level of generosity, particularly in view of the unique approach of pairing universities within an overall strategic perspective. It seems that Canada’s contribution to higher education development in China is matched only by the World Bank’s education projects of the 1980s, through which a total of US$ 1.2 billion in loans supported the building of infrastructure and the development of human resources at eighty-eight national and provincial universities throughout China (see Hayhoe 1996).

Education Collaboration in the 21st Century: Opportunities and Obstacles

5With the shift of economic power to the East, China has emerged as the world’s second largest economy and its principal international education market. Since the early 2000s, educational collaboration between Canada and China has become a bilateral process.

6The Canadian federal government has continued to provide educational aid to China, but on a much smaller scale than before. For instance, an aid project implemented in 2003–2007 enhanced basic education in China’s poverty-stricken western region, cost only CA$ 11.8 million, and in 2005 China was officially dropped from CIDA’s list of “countries of focus.” The Canada–China Scholars Exchange Program has continued, but has become more mutually beneficial, with both Chinese and Canadian scholars being assisted to carry out research in each other’s countries. There are now twice as many Canadian scholars supported by the Chinese government through this programme than there are Chinese scholars supported by the Canadian government.

7At the same time, Canadian colleges and universities have started to be increasingly active and to dominate educational collaboration with China. The University of Regina pioneered the signing of an international partnership agreement with Chinese institutions soon after China opened its doors to the outside world. The university signed its first international partnership agreement, with Shandong University, in 1981 and since then it has developed thirty-five such agreements with Chinese institutions, more than with any other country. Many other Canadian colleges and universities have been providing academic and professional development programmes of various kinds for Chinese partners and professionals. Unlike the previous development projects, these programmes are now mostly contracted and paid for by the Chinese side.

8In my own institution, York University, there are ample examples to illustrate this changing pattern. The high-profile York University Asian Business Management Program (ABMP) was among the first in Canada to provide professional development and management training services to both the public and the private sectors in China, and it has maintained this focus ever since its establishment. York University’s Faculty of Education is now contracted by the Department of Education of Jiangsu Province, which has been Ontario’s Chinese “twin” for twenty-five years, to provide training for school teachers and administrators. In 2009 alone more than 900 teachers and administrators from Jiangsu came to York University for training for periods ranging from a number of weeks to three months.

9These examples amount to a tiny proportion of the collaborative activities taking place between educational institutions in Canada and their counterparts in China, but they may give a sense of how Canadian institutions are benefiting from an increasingly mutual process. They disseminate Canada-based knowledge to China, and make some profit out of the knowledge transfer. What still remain to be developed more fully are the collaborative research opportunities. China is now ambitious enough to lift a few dozen of its universities to world standing by pouring research funds in and intensifying research activities. The research budgets of these universities, on average, are now approaching the average among the member institutions of the Association of American Universities (AAU) and, backed up by China’s foreign exchange reserves of US$ 3 trillion which are by far the world’s largest, and desperately looking for meaningful and significant spending opportunities, there should be future possibilities for joint research projects between Chinese and Canadian universities.

Institutional Opportunities for Canada

10Canada has become both provider and beneficiary in the process of educational collaboration with China. This change promises numerous opportunities for Canada, and is in Canada’s long-term interest.

11First of all, educational collaboration with China serves Canada’s geopolitical interest in China and the Asia–Pacific region. Educational collaboration facilitates the flow and communication of people and ideas. Once the channels and mechanisms are in place, cultural and political barriers to mutual understanding are much easier to overcome. This is particularly true in the case of Canada and China, since the two countries have never been geopolitical rivals and in fact often have complementary interests, so that the rise of China can benefit Canada as well. Specifically, Canada needs China, now perhaps the world’s largest market and manufacturer, to secure its ambitious Asia–Pacific Gateway and Corridor Initiative and to expand its export-oriented economy. For its part, China seeks not only Canada’s energy and natural resources to maintain its manufacturing capacity, but also an overall strategic partnership with Canada as an endorsement of its peaceful rise. Globally, Canada has the image of a well-liked country. International opinion surveys conducted on behalf of the BBC World Service since 2005 indicate that Canada has consistently been among the most popular countries in the world (see BBC World Service 2010). With the world’s highest per-capita immigration rates and a firmly upheld ideology of multiculturalism, Canada may be taken as a model for the future of the planet in many ways. When the leaders of China and Canada met in June 2010, a clear message was sent out that they would seek a strategic partnership. On his tour of Canada the Chinese President, Hu Jintao, extended invitations to one hundred local educational officers and school principals to visit China in 2010, and to one hundred middle school students to attend summer camp in China in 2011, explicitly attaching political significance to educational collaboration. In this sense, educational collaboration serves to underpin the strategic partnership between Canada and China.

12Almost as a footnote to this point, both the US and Chinese governments have recently endeavored to strengthen educational and cultural exchanges in order to boost the relations between the two countries. On May 25, 2010, the US and China signed an agreement to establish the High-Level Consultation on People-to-People Exchange (CPE), and to launch the “100,000 Strong” Initiative. The purpose of the CPE is to promote people-to-people engagement between the US and China in education and culture as well as other related fields by providing a high-level annual forum for government and private-sector representatives to discuss cooperation in a broad, strategic manner. The “100,000 Strong: US Students in China” Initiative, which was announced by the US President Barack Obama during his November 2009 visit to China, promotes mutual understanding through encouraging private-sector student exchanges and aspires to have 100,000 American students study in China over the next four years (US Department of State 2010). The US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton hailed the importance of people-to-people engagement by saying: “tens of thousands of Chinese and American young people study in each other’s country each year. We want to see those numbers rise.” “What we call people-to-people diplomacy has taken on greater significance, as our world has grown more interdependent, and our challenges more complex. Government alone cannot solve the problems that we face...we have to tap in to the challenge of our people, their creative[ness] and innovation, and their ability to forge lasting relationships that build trust and understanding.” (Clinton 2010).

13Second, Canada also benefits economically from educational collaboration with China. Of course, economic interests are associated with the political interests elaborated above. Education, and higher education in particular, has moved to centre stage in the geopolitical contest for increasing shares of the global economic market, and China has emerged as the largest single market for international education and training, being expected to have reached a value of US$ 200 billion in 2010 (see JLJ Group 2009). From 1978 to 2009, China sent a total of 1.6 million students of all kinds to undergo education or training in other countries. Ever since China opened its doors to the outside world, the number of Chinese students going abroad has been increasing at an annual rate of 25.8 percent, and it is expected to have reached 300,000 in 2010 alone. Educational collaboration is crucial to enlarging Canada’s share of this market. In addition, due to demographic changes an increasing number of Canadian colleges and universities might have to attract international students to sustain their enrolments (see Hango and de Broucker 2007). Thus, for example, the government of Canada’s most populous province, Ontario, has recently pledged to make it a major destination for international students. In its five-year Open Ontario Plan, unveiled in the Speech from the Throne in 2010, a goal was set to “aggressively promote Ontario post-secondary institutions abroad, and increase international enrolment by 50 percent,” on the understanding that an increase in international student enrolment would bring about an increase in revenues: “These dollars could be reinvested to improve and expand our schools, and create more Ontario jobs” (see Ontario 2010).

14Now that Canada and China have pledged to double their bilateral trade by 2015, Canadian colleges and universities will be part of the effort to balance Canada’s trade deficit with China. In 2009 Canada exported slightly over CA$ 11 billion worth of goods and services to China, while importing close to CA$ 40 billion worth of goods and services from China. Indeed, apart from energy and natural resources, Canada has few other options to offset the flow of Chinese products into Canada. In particular, the export of educational services fits quite well with existing initiatives such as the Open Ontario Plan.

15Third, academic and cultural internationalization is a catalyst for improving the diversity and quality of higher education. As Philip Steenkamp, then Deputy Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities for Ontario, nicely put it in 2008:

[i]nternational students bring valuable diversity to the classroom, the campus, and the larger community, enhancing the academic experience for all students. Diversity in the classroom enriches all students’ understanding of the world by allowing them to share different perspectives, approach problems from different angles, and discover different cultural experiences.

16A strong presence of Chinese scholars and students on Canadian campuses would enhance the possibility of integrating ideas and perspectives from the very different Chinese epistemological tradition, and thus bringing greater diversity to academic thought and discourse in Canada. Chinese scholars are also likely to add to Canada’s brain stock of doctorate-holders. China has been a major source of foreign-born PhDs in Canada since the late 1990s, replacing the United States and the United Kingdom, which were historically the dominant sources: China’s share of Canadian PhDs reached twenty-five percent in 2000, having increased rapidly from just two percent in the early 1990s (see Gluszynski and Peters 2005). There could be more room for growth if bench-marked with what is happening in the United States, where, between 2004 and 2006, two Chinese universities, Tsinghua and Peking, overtook the University of California, Berkeley, as the “most fertile feeder schools” for American PhDs (see Mervis 2008). Since the Chinese government started in 2006 to select 5,000 doctoral students each year from the country’s leading universities and sponsor them to study in Western universities for up to four years, there seem to be plenty of opportunities for Canadian universities to attract a group of students of high quality.

Obstacles on the Canadian Side

17Canada became among the first countries in the West to recognize the People’s Republic of China when Pierre Trudeau’s government established diplomatic relations with China in 1970, nine years ahead of the United States and almost three years before the United Kingdom and Australia. Ever since the early 1970s, successive Canadian governments have invested enormous efforts and resources in educational collaboration with China, which has led to hundreds of institutional linkages, as well as a positive attitude to Canada among the Chinese. Against this backdrop, it seems logical and natural that Canada should have gained a harvest from the plantings of these earlier years, now that China is emerging as a major international education market. However, this is not really the case, and Canada substantially lags behind its competitors—the United States, Australia, the United Kingdom and New Zealand—in this market. There are at least two identifiable reasons that may have contributed to this unfortunate situation.

18First, there is no permanent agency at the federal level to trace the effects and outcomes of past educational collaboration programmes and projects, even though these have mostly been funded at the federal level. Over the years, different federal agencies seem to have taken turns playing the leading role in educational aid to China, but none of them has been given a permanent mandate to follow up their initiatives. When programmes and projects end, their effects and influences start to fade away, and the resources accumulated during the process, in particular the networking resources, have gradually been lost. This approach was not particularly problematic in the era when educational collaboration chiefly meant supplying development aid, but it has become dysfunctional in face of the neoliberal current of internationalization of education, which requires networking and niche determination. For Canadian–Chinese educational collaboration to thrive, it is urgent to step out of the aid mentality, and shift to an approach based on marketing and service. Efforts should be made to develop a good understanding of what is happening in China and what is in demand in the Chinese market, above all by creating and maintaining permanent links with Chinese scholars and their institutions.

19I may use my personal experience to highlight this point. At a conference at Harvard University in 2009 I encountered a leading Chinese scholar in management studies, who now works at the frontier of internationalization of higher education as the executive president of a joint campus operated in China by one Chinese university and one British university, each ranked high in their respective systems. He used to be a vice president of the Chinese university and, in order to qualify him for his current position, he was later appointed a pro-vice chancellor of the British university. Then I assumed that he was a shining product of the British education system, but, unexpectedly, I discovered that he had actually started his academic pursuits at a Canadian university, through CCMEP, back in the 1980s. He unveiled this part of his story in a “by the way” manner. Over the years, he had never been contacted by any Canadian institution, and his memories of his Canadian experience had been covered with thick dust until I showed up as a sort of reminder. In contrast, having been sponsored by the British Chevening Scholarship Programme to study at the University of London in the mid-1990s, I have been kept connected to the network created, maintained and updated by the British Council to facilitate contact and communication between former scholarship holders and their British sponsors. The rationale is evident and effective, when examined against the facts that, according to the British Council, “in 2009 over 85,000 Chinese students engaged in learning experiences in the UK,” increased by 40% from 2008 (see British Council 2010). Chinese students are now the largest single group of overseas students in the UK, even compared with those from other member states of the European Union.

20Meanwhile, there are almost no efforts devoted to branding Canadian education. As Carin Holroyd wrote nearly five years ago, “While the Government of Canada is constrained by its lack of constitutional authority in the delivery of educational services at home, it has been generally absent from the promotion of Canadian education overseas” (see Holroyd 2006). The “Pan-Canadian Education Brand,” launched in 2008 and jointly managed by the federal Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT) and the Secretariat of the Council of Ministers of Education, Canada (CMEC), is evidence that both the federal government and the provincial governments have started to make an effort in this realm, although the branding of specifically Canadian higher education is still in its infancy. Consequently, many Chinese students regard Canadian higher education as largely a derivative enterprise of the US system, and a second choice when they have no opportunity to go to a university in the United States.

21The United Kingdom and Australia, in contrast, do benefit from and take advantage of strong promotional efforts. The British Council manages a strong “Education UK” brand, which distinguishes the British system from its major competitors. In 1999, the government of Tony Blair declared international education a cornerstone of its plan for the “New Economy” and committed a huge amount of resources to international recruitment. The British Council now has 250 offices in 110 countries, among which thirty have a particular focus on student recruitment. Part of the Council’s annual budget of around US$ 900 million, one third of which is a direct grant from the government, is for international education, and an additional US$ 13 million was earmarked specifically for marketing, promotion and branding of British education over three years in the early 2000s (see Holroyd 2006). Advertisements encouraging study in the United Kingdom can even be seen on buses in Beijing, and the British Council has built a strong relationship with the Chinese media to ensure that “Education UK” activities gain the maximum possible coverage. Australian International Education, primarily funded through the federal government, runs ten overseas offices, while IDP Education Australia, a university-owned non-profit organization, operates an additional sixty-eight offices in thirty-eight countries. The Australian federal government committed US$ 114 million between 2004 and 2009 to market Australian post-secondary institutions internationally (see Holroyd 2006). It is thus not surprising that education has become an export industry for Australia, worth US$ 14 billion, half of that in post-secondary education, and is essentially the third largest Australian export after coal and iron ore (see Hazelkorn 2008).

22Canada does not have a national coordinating body for national marketing or any sustained federal investment in marketing Canada as a destination for international education. Education is a provincial responsibility under the Canadian Constitution, yet the provinces do not necessarily view its marketing as a major concern. As a result, Canada has been struggling and even suffering over recent years in the international education market. In 2007, the Canadian Bureau for International Education (CBIE) reported Canada had dropped out of the top five destinations for international students (see Tibbetts 2008), to seventh place, with a share of less than three percent of the international market (as shown in Figure 7.2). Without renewed efforts Canada will not be able to compete with the United Kingdom and Australia for a sufficient share, whether in China or elsewhere. Canada’s Chinese students recruitment has been declining relative to these competitors and the number of Chinese students in Canada is also small in comparison. In 2004, Canada received slightly more than half of the number of Chinese students attracted to Australia, and around three quarters of the numbers of Chinese students enrolled in New Zealand and the United Kingdom (as shown in Table 7.1). As China is now the largest single source country for international student mobility (as shown in Figure 7.1), Canada needs to attract more Chinese students in order to recover its position as a major destination of international education. Canada’s share of international students stagnated between 1999 and 2007 (as shown in Figure 7.2). Now, as Canada is pledging to increase its share and rise to become, once again, one of the leading destinations for international students, it would have a better chance of success if its performance in the Chinese market could be improved.

Table 7.1 Numbers of Chinese Students in Selected Countries, with Annual Rankings, 2002–2004




United States

64,757 (1st)

61,765 (1st)

62,523 (2nd)


47,904 (2nd)

58,574 (2nd)

68,857 (1st)


26,312 (3rd)

33,188 (5th)

36,747 (5th)

New Zealand


51,965 (3rd)

48,630 (3rd)

United Kingdom

20,710 (4th)

35,155 (4th)

47,740 (4th)

Source: Adapted from Holroyd 2006, p. 7

Figure 7.1 Main Source Countries of Internationally Mobile Students, 2007

Figure 7.1 Main Source Countries of Internationally Mobile Students, 2007

Source: Van der Pol 2009, p. 6

Figure 7.2 Main Destination Countries of Internationally Mobile Students, 1999 and 2007

Figure 7.2 Main Destination Countries of Internationally Mobile Students, 1999 and 2007

Source: Van der Pol 2009, p. 8

Suggested Policy and Strategy Framework

23Despite the obstacles discussed above, it is not realistic to alter the Canadian constitutional arrangement that places educational affairs under provincial jurisdiction, or to create a special federal agency, on the model of the British Council, in order to promote and brand Canadian education around the world. What Canadians can and should do is to become more practical and creative.

24In this respect, the “glonacal” agency heuristic, a paradigm developed by two distinguished scholars, Simon Marginson and Gary Rhoades (2002), appears to be both suggestive and inspiring (see Figure 7.3). Though originally suggested for use in studying globalization and higher education, their paradigm is applicable and useful in the domain of international education policy and strategy in the Canadian context. The “glonacal” agency heuristic emphasizes the intersections, interactions and mutual determinations of all levels (global, national and local), as well as domains (organizational agencies and the agency of collectivities). Rather than a linear flow from the global to the local, it sees a simultaneity of flows. In other words, local entities and collective efforts can undermine, challenge and define alternatives to national and global patterns, and “they can also shape the configuration of global flows” (Marginson and Rhoades 2002, p. 289). When it is applied to policies and strategies for international educational collaboration, a “glonacal” agency approach can lead us to work from the local level and reach the national and global level.

Figure 7.3 A “Glonacal” Agency Heuristic

Figure 7.3 A “Glonacal” Agency Heuristic

Source: Marginson and Rhoades 2002, p. 291

25This paradigm also suggests local adaptation as well as resistance. Traditionally, Canadians have had a tendency and strong potential to work from a local level. This is evident in the unique approach taken to executing CCULP and SULCP through the pairing of Canadian and Chinese universities. Such an approach made it possible to acquire good knowledge of partners and of the target community’s conditions and needs, to ensure that the planned intervention would be appropriate and that the benefits of the project would effectively reach the intended beneficiaries. Indeed, the CCULP and SULCP partnerships were effective in providing venues to adapt Canada-based knowledge and expertise to the Chinese context. In this sense, this paradigm may inspire us to transform the apparent policy and strategy disadvantage determined by the Canadian context into a sort of practical model with a Canadian flavour or Canadian characteristics.

26This notion is closely linked to ways in which the meaning of “agency” is incorporated into this paradigm. Two meanings of the word “agency” are used here. First, the paradigm uses agency “in the sense of an entity or organization that could exist at the global, national or local level,” with examples being the World Bank, the European Union, national ministries of education, national legislatures and individual education institutions (Marginson and Rhoades 2002, p. 289). In this sense, the initiatives and practices of individual colleges or universities may have an impact and influence across an entire nation. Canada’s lack of a central policy or a central coordinating agency means that international outreach has been left to the provinces, and even more to individual institutions. Therefore, it is useful and indeed imperative to take the alternative approach of identifying, demonstrating and disseminating good and successful local initiatives, strategies and practices, as models for others.

27For instance, the China focus approach adopted by the University of Regina, as discussed above, may be an experience that other institutions could emulate. Similarly, Seneca College in Toronto has been particularly involved in the development of partnerships with Chinese institutions. The college has arrangements with twenty-three Chinese academic institutions involving forty-one programmes, and it has spearheaded the effort to set up joint diploma and degree programmes with Chinese partners. Typically, students spend a year or two in China and then finish their studies in Toronto. Seneca also offers a complete training programme for flight attendants at the Guangzhou Civil Aviation College in China. It is now taking the lead in building an offshore campus in China, which looks like a wise move, given the huge potential and demand in the Chinese market. Following this lead, Simon Fraser University launched an innovative dual-degree programme in computer science with Zhejiang University in Hangzhou in 2007, in which students study at both institutions, providing an excellent opportunity for collaboration across cultural boundaries. More recently, York University partnered with Fudan University in Shanghai and began in 2009 to offer dual-degree programmes in history, financial mathematics, computer science and design. Students spend two years at Fudan University, followed by two years at York University, and receive a joint degree from both institutions. This move marked York University’s first such broad-based agreement with any university in the world.

28These few examples show the rich resources of good and successful local initiatives, strategies and practices that others may draw upon. A benefit of this bottom-up approach may be the promise it embodies for institutional adaptation. While the central policy approach may result in greater efficiency and more power, it may also lead to institutions reacting homogeneously, engaging in blind competition at the cost of precious resources, or even resisting change. The framework suggested here may warrant some sort of retention of institutional individuality and capacity for niche determination. In the same sense, the concept of glocalization that is modeled on Japanese word dochakuka and adopted much earlier, first by business professionals and then by sociologists, may better help to overcome the conceptual difficulties of global-local relationship, and therefore better capture this Canadian flavor. “The problem of simultaneous globalization of the local and the localization of globality can be expressed as the twin processes of macro-localization and micro-globalization. Macro-localization involves expanding the boundaries locality as well as making some local ideas, practices, institutions global...While in this view local is the provider of the response to the forces that are global, we argue that local itself is constituted globally” (Khondker 2004, p. 4).

29There is a second meaning of agency in the “glonacal” agency perspective, which “refers to the ability of people individually and collectively to take action at the global, national, and local levels” (Marginson and Rhoades 2002, p. 289). For example, there are international professional groups that extend across national boundaries, and help to shape national policies and local practices. There are also national groups that work to influence those policies and practices. Further, “there are local collectivities, such as professors and administrators in a department or institution, that influence local practice and undertake initiatives for their units to compete in international education markets” (Marginson and Rhoades 2002, p. 289). In short, at each level, global, national and local, there are collective human actions that are central to understanding, planning and undertaking international educational collaboration. It is the notion of human agency that appears to be most interesting and appealing in this paradigm. Once human agency is mobilized and motivated, it is possible that local entities can effectively influence, define and challenge alternatives to national and global patterns, which is particularly true in Canada’s decentralized context. Ultimately, it is people who can carry ideas and experiences around, and make them available nationally and internationally. As a matter of fact, individual faculty have been reported most influential in terms of setting international linkages, among all the internal and external stakeholders of Canadian universities (Metcalfe et al. 2010). Given the absence of a national coordinating agency, it is crucial to bring human agency into full play, in order to push forward the frontiers of Canadian–Chinese educational collaboration and broaden the horizon of policy initiatives and strategy choices.

30The most significant example along this line might come from University of Alberta. Its China Opportunity Funds was created in 2005, and supports University of Alberta’s Joint Research Laboratories (JRL) program with China’s State Key Laboratories (SKLs) and National Laboratories (NLs). Initially the idea came from a community-based group, Association of Chinese Canadian Professors (ACCP) at University of Alberta, and was piloted by some of its members. Then it was adopted as a university initiative, and further supported by Alberta provincial government through Alberta Advanced Education and Technology, and then the Chinese government via the Ministry of Science & Technology (MOST), which funds State Key Laboratories (SKLs) and National Laboratories (NLs). So, the University of Alberta case illustrates a typical alternative approach advocated by the “glonacal” agency heuristic: a good initiative started with the local human agency, and then helped to mould policy and practice of the local organizational agency. When it was proven successful, it further influenced and impacted the policy at the provincial and national level across the countries. Now University of Alberta’s China Opportunity Fund gives priority to research areas of energy, environment, nanotechnology, and life sciences, and supports 3 types of collaboration between its researchers and SKLs/NLs: to initiate contact with SKLs/NLs; to nurture an existing research partnership with SKLs/NLs; to support technology commercialization.

31It is in this sense that Canada must give priority to, and make full use of, the longstanding but often ignored advantages it has already acquired, in terms of the rich legacies of educational collaboration with China, and in particular the people associated with these legacies, as well as the large Chinese communities in Canada. There are nearly 1.6 million Canadian Chinese, who have made Chinese the third language in the country, after English and French, and who hold promise of endless possibilities for Canadian–Chinese educational collaboration.

Reflections and Recommendations

32There is a broad consensus in Canada that the rise of China is generally positive, that engagement has been useful and sustainable, and that “China’s role in the development of Asian-centred international institutions is likely to be of value to Canada and the world order, rather than a threat to them” (Evans 2006, p. 292). Given this consensus, it is important to further Canadian–Chinese collaboration, and educational collaboration certainly has a big role to play. To this end, I would like to make a number of concrete recommendations.

33First, it is necessary to reopen the old files concerning Canadian–Chinese educational collaboration in the 1980s and 1990s, in particular those concerning university partnerships, and to conduct follow-up studies to trace both the legacy and the efficacy of these programmes. By design, CCULP and SULCP provided venues to adapt Canadian expertise and approaches to the Chinese context in areas where Canada is a world leader, such as minority education, bilingual education, agriculture, energy, health and environmental assessment. Ten years after they were all closed, it is important to find out what long-term effects these Canadian programmes had on the transition of Chinese society, which has gone through dramatic changes in recent years. This work would also, to a large extent, to reestablish the network among Canadian and Chinese universities as a sort of extension from the past. From there, diligent work must be done to explore opportunities for collaborative research in the new context. Canadian universities have contributed a great deal to China’s development through CIDA and other linking institutions, and have long played a unique role in connecting Canada and China. With this significant shift in patterns of Canadian–Chinese educational collaboration, Canadian universities should take advantage of the historical linkage with Chinese partners, as well as the increasing capacity on the Chinese side, and see this shift as an opportunity to collaborate with their Chinese partners in joint projects that seek innovative science- and technology-based solutions to some of the 21st century’s biggest challenges, including clean energy and climate change, food security and agriculture, and public health. The complementary skills and strengths of Canada and China in research in these fields would create a “synergy” benefiting both countries.

34Second, as an emerging economy, China has been dropped from CIDA’s list of “countries of focus” for development aid, yet it is essential to continue to provide projects in the domains of social and cultural development in China. These domains have been suffering tremendously under the impact of the “GDPism” prevailing in China, which gives by far the highest priority to economic development. Governments at all levels have aggressively pursued rapid economic development, as measured by GDP growth rates, disregarding the social, cultural and environmental effects resulting from such rapid economic growth. Related to this, the Canadian government should consciously support collaborative research and development work with China in the social sciences and the humanities. These efforts, in turn, would effectively help to exert Canadian influence on Chinese society, and ultimately contribute to China’s peaceful rise as a responsible global power. For instance, the Chinese government’s programme of sponsoring doctoral students to study abroad provides a potential opportunity. Canadian universities may seize such an opportunity to work out some sort of exchange programme with selected Chinese universities, ideally those with historical connections, and host a certain number of Chinese doctoral students in the social sciences and the humanities. Such a move could create a “win–win” situation, attracting a group of students with great potential, on the one hand, and creating opportunities for Canadian students to study in China, on the other. In this regard, it is noteworthy that the recent US–China Consultation on People-to-People Exchange has a strong focus on the social sciences and humanities, and that the US government supports more students studying abroad in China than in any other country, the majority of them in the social sciences and the humanities. Universities are places of teaching and learning where new generations form their knowledge base and values. Universities also draw on extensive networks of alumni and benefactors, including personnel in government agencies, private enterprises and NGOs. Through these networks and links, study programmes can often disseminate their results and influence far more broadly than may have been originally planned, and thus help to forge lasting relationships, exchange and cooperation between peoples. Indeed, universities are highly effective agents of change and innovation.

35Last but not least, given the absence of a federal agency to facilitate and coordinate policies and strategies, it is imperative to use NGOs and private think tanks to identify good policy initiatives and practices in educational collaboration with China, as well as the unique aspects and overall strength of Canadian higher education. Notably, Canadian universities are exclusively public, and Canadian policies emphasize developing a network of comprehensive post-secondary institutions of approximately comparable standards, rather than specialized institutions or stratified systems. Canadian higher education has a reputation for “providing a wide range of opportunities to its diverse and geographically dispersed population” (Skolnik 1991, p. 1079), and even “[I]f Canada has fewer Harvards and Chicagos than the U.S., it also has fewer institutions of dubious standards” (Skolnik 1986, p. 21). From the perspective of securing equality of access and experience, this seems to be a better solution than a set of highly dispersed and diverse institutions. In general, Canadian higher education is excellent in quality and very affordable, and can also be a catalyst for social justice. Indeed, some NGOs, such as the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada, have begun to promote Canadian education, and a Montreal-based private branding company, Bang Marketing, is behind the “Pan-Canadian Education Brand” mentioned above. More such groups should be brought in to make the effort truly successful. Even more importantly, educational collaboration between Canada and China should seek to encourage greater involvement by the private sector, which would not only broaden the horizon of policy initiatives and strategy choices, but also enlarge the pool of resources and opportunities available for people-to-people engagement.



Anderson, Gary, Geraldine Cooney, and John Langevin. (2001). “Canadian Support for Management Education Internationally: Lessons Learned.” Canadian and International Education 30:2, 1–34.

Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada. (2001). Executive Summary: Final Report of the Special University Linkage Consolidation Program (1996– 2001). Ottawa: Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada.

BBC World Service. (2010, April 18). “Global Views of United States Improve While Other Countries Decline.” London: BBC World Service. Online at [consulted January 14, 2011].

British Council. (2010, July). “China Market Introduction.” London: British Council. Online at [consulted January 14, 2011].

Clinton, Hillary Rodham. (2010, May 25). “Remarks at a Signing Ceremony Launching the U.S.-China Consultation on People-to-People Exchange.” Online as [consulted July 26, 2010].

Evans, Paul. (2006). “Canada, Meet Global China.” International Journal 61:2, 283–97.

Gluszynski, Tomasz, and Valerie Peters. (2005, July). “Survey of Earned Doctorates: A Profile of Doctoral Degree Recipients.” Ottawa: Statistics Canada and Human Resources and Skills Development Canada. Online as http://dsp-psd.pwgsc. [consulted January 14, 2011].

Hango, Darcy, and Patrice de Broucker (2007). Postsecondary Enrolment Trends to 2031: Three Scenarios. Ottawa, Ontario, Canada: Statistics Canada.

Hayhoe, Ruth. (1996). China’s Universities, 1895–1995: A Century of Cultural Conflict. New York: Garland.

Hazelkorn, Ellen. (2008, Fall). “Globalization, Internationalization, and Rankings.” Journal of International Higher Education 53, 6–8.

Holroyd, Carin. (2006, January 26). “Canada Missing Opportunity in the Booming China Education Market.” Canada–Asia Agenda. Vancouver: Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada. Online at [consulted January 14, 2011].

JLJ Group. (2009). China’s Training and Education Market. Shanghai, Beijing, and Boston, MA: The JLJ Group. Online as [consulted January 14, 2011].

Khondker, Habibul Haque. (2004). “Glocalization as Globalization: Evolution of a Sociological Concept.” Bangladesh e-Journal of Sociology 1: 2: 1-9.

Klabunde, Niels. (2009). Translating the Olympic Spirit into a Canadian–Chinese Year of Education and Sciences. Ottawa: Canadian Bureau for International Education.

Marginson, Simon, and Gary Rhoades. (2002). “Beyond National States, Markets, and Systems of Higher Education: A Glonacal Agency Heuristic.” Higher Education 43:3, 281–309. Online as [consulted January 14, 2011].

Mervis, Jeffrey. (2008, July 11). “U.S. Graduate Training: Top PhD Feeder Schools Are Now Chinese.” Science 321: 5886, 185.

Metcalfe, A. S., D. Fisher, Y. Gingras, G. A. Jones, K. Rubenson, and I. Snee. (2010). “How influential are faculty today? Responses from the Canadian professoriate.” Academic Matters, October-November 2010: 16-20.

Ontario. Office of the Premier. (2010). “Investing in Post-Secondary Education: Increasing Spaces and Connecting Online,” in Open Ontario: A Five-Year Plan for Our Economy. Toronto; Queen’s Printer for Ontario. Online at [consulted January 14, 2011].

Skolnik, Michael L. (1986). “Diversity in Higher Education: The Canadian Case.” Higher Education in Europe 11, 19–32.

Skolnik, Michael L. (1991). “Canada,” in International Higher Education: An Encyclopedia, ed. Philip G. Altbach. Vol. 2. New York: Garland.

Steenkamp, Philip. (2008, September). “The Development of Ontario’s Internationalization Strategy.” e-MAGINED: Canadian e-Magazine of International Education 1:3. Online at [consulted August 8, 2010].

Tibbetts, Janice. (2008, March 2). “Come to Canada, Invent the Next Blackberry.” CanWest News Service. Online as [consulted January 14, 2011].

US, Department of State. (2010, May 25). “U.S., China Celebrate People-to-People Engagement in Beijing. Outline of new U.S.-China Consultation on People-to-People Exchange.” Online as [consulted July 26, 2010].

Van der Pol, Hendrik. (2009).“New Trends in International Student Mobility.” Press conference presentation. Montreal: UNESCO Institute for Statistics. Online as [consulted January 14, 2011].

Table des illustrations

Titre Figure 7.1 Main Source Countries of Internationally Mobile Students, 2007
Légende Source: Van der Pol 2009, p. 6
Fichier image/jpeg, 71k
Titre Figure 7.2 Main Destination Countries of Internationally Mobile Students, 1999 and 2007
Légende Source: Van der Pol 2009, p. 8
Fichier image/jpeg, 89k
Titre Figure 7.3 A “Glonacal” Agency Heuristic
Légende Source: Marginson and Rhoades 2002, p. 291
Fichier image/jpeg, 70k


Assistant Professor at the Faculty of Education, York University. He holds a PhD in Higher Education, earned at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto (OISE/UT). As a Chevening Scholar, he received a Master of Art degree in Comparative Education from the University of London Institute of Education. In 2004, he was a co-recipient of the inaugural UNESCO Palgrave Prize on Higher Education Policy Research.
In recent years, Qiang Zha focused his research on two SSHRC-supported projects, “China’s Move to Mass Higher Education: Implications for Democratization and Global Cultural Dialogue” and “Canadian Universities and International Talent in a New Era of Global Geo-Politics.” The first project shed light on China’s move to mass higher education in terms of the policy making process and the empirical experience. Its major findings are to be reported in a book titled Portraits of 21st Century Chinese Universities: In the Move to Mass Higher Education (Springer and Comparative Education Research Centre, The University of Hong Kong, 2011), which Qiang Zha co-authored with Ruth Hayhoe, Jun Li, and Jing Lin. This second project explores Canadian universities’ attractiveness to international talent, and in particular to university professors originating from China who now hold Canada Research Chairs (CRC). This study is situated in the current context of a global geo-political shift, with emerging powers such as China and India shaping global interactions in new ways

© Les Presses de l’Université d’Ottawa | University of Ottawa Press, 2011

Conditions d’utilisation :


Volume papier
Rechercher dans OpenEdition Search

Vous allez être redirigé vers OpenEdition Search