Blouw tours India

Wilfrid Laurier University president Max Blouw recently returned from a week-long trip to India, a journey undertaken to further the university’s goal of greater international recruitment.

Blouw was among a group of 15 presidents of Canadian universities on a trip sponsored by the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada (AUCC).

Their mission was to raise the profile of Canadian post-secondary education to the tremendous number of Indian students in the nation’s growing middle class.

One of the strategies the AUCC used to increase awareness of Canadian education was participation in India’s Education Day on Nov. 11. “I think we succeeded in raising the profile of Canada certainly with very influential people,” Blouw said.

Blouw and his colleagues believe that India was an ideal place to travel to because it is so different from Canada. “Demographically, it’s the opposite of Canada,” he observed. According to Statistics Canada, the number of
Canadians over 65, which is already considerably higher than in India, will double in the next decade. “The reverse is true in India,” explained Blouw.

“The young people are just burgeoning in numbers.”

While India is home to many colleges, universities and technical institutions, enrolment in the country is low for a variety of reasons. In 2007, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh complained that, “Almost two-thirds of our universities and 90 per cent of our colleges are rated as below average on quality parameters.”

The AUCC sees India’s need for quality education as an opportunity for Canada. “The need for education there is profound,” said Blouw, who sits on the AUCC board. “The need for talent here is profound. So I think that by combining our need for talent with their need for education, we can have some very good synergies with India.”

According to the Laurier’s office of the registrar, of undergraduates, 382 are international students — less than one per cent of Laurier’s population.

Among those, only 16 are Indian citizens. The University of Waterloo (UW) sees a far higher rate of international enrolment, averaging more than 3,400 per year according to UW’s web site.

Despite Laurier’s low numbers, Laurier International is always seeking to increase the number of international students.

Blouw doesn’t have his own specific numeric goals for increasing international students. His primary concern is to increase global engagement in the student community by exposing them to diversity among their peers — not limited to bringing in international students.

“I believe that having students from other countries here is important,” said Blouw. “I also believe that having our students go to other countries is critically important and I’d like to focus on doing both of those.”

Blouw’s vision of a more diverse student experience is not exclusive to the classroom. He hopes that employers for co-op students will make placements available abroad in order for students to better absorb other cultures.

“I think that the world is increasingly a very small place,” said Blouw. “I think that any university that doesn’t expose its students to international concerns … is not doing an appropriate job of preparing students for what I think is a real future of global integration.”