Laurier hopes to expand options at office in China


Business students in front of Chongqing University where Laurier’s office operates. (Photo courtesy of Peter Donahue).

With its fifth year anniversary in October, Wilfrid Laurier University’s international office at Chongqing University in Chongqing, China hopes to secure field courses and more student interaction in the coming years. Based in a rapidly developing part of China – in the Southwest as opposed to typical destinations on the coast – Laurier has developed its relationship not only with the universities in the area but also the businesses and local government.

“There wasn’t [as big of an] opportunity as there was in Chongqing to be really the very first Canadian university in Southwest China to set up an office,” explained Peter

Donahue, the director at Laurier International.

“More importantly, some of the things that we wanted to do was to be involved in some of the development issues that were happening in Southwest China.”
Chongqing, which works similarly to the city-states of Beijing and Shanghai, is only a little more than a decade old and has a population of about 37 million – slightly more than the overall population of Canada. Donahue wants Laurier to be involved in the developmental strategy that the city is now exploring.

“For us, a lot of the developments are with the university sector and developing the capacities to support a new modern economy,” he added.

According to Donahue, Laurier International has been involved in a variety of different projects ranging from executive training programs with the local banking industry to research with science and technology.

“So there’s been six executive training programs that Laurier has been involved with, we’ve also been involved in building capacity with universities,” continued Donahue. “Chongqing is trying to become a more international and outward looking city.”

For the future, Laurier wants to send students from Waterloo to Chongqing with faculty for field courses and studies. So far, only around 200 business students – both at the undergrad and graduate level – have been exposed to the office in Chongqing.

In addition, Laurier has an exchange program with some of the universities in Chongqing that sees about two international students at Laurier each year.

“Now that we are kind of maturing a bit more, what we’re trying to see is how we can engage more students,” said Donahue. “The next three to four years we should start seeing a field course every year being taught there. “

Donahue noted that the courses will not only be business related, but also fall under other facilities such as history, and also health studies courses specifically around ancient Chinese medicine.

According to Tom Buckley, the assistant vice president of academic services, partners have primarily funded this venture.

“There’s no operation budget, it’s funded by partners. It’s not designed to be a money-maker.  It’s not a significant cost to the university, it’s pretty marginal,” he said.

However, a relatively new office such as this doesn’t come without its challenges, especially in an area such as Chongqing.

“Any new venture, there’s always challenges, it’s been a learning experience, it’s helps us on form our overall strategy on global engagement,” explained Buckley.

Donahue echoed Buckley’s remarks by saying, “The challenge itself with working in a new part of China, it’s trying to become more international.

“It’s a great opportunity for us, but it does present the challenges where you don’t have a large expat community,” he continued. “The ability to speak Chinese and to understand Chinese culture is much more important in Chongqing than it may be in a city such as Shanghai.”

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