Laurier strengthens ties with China

Since 2007, Wilfrid Laurier University has had an office on the campus of Chongqing University, an institution of nearly 60,000 students located in the city of Chongqing in southwest China.

The first Canadian university to establish an office on mainland China, Laurier is in a unique position as relations between the universities have grown. The closeness was evident with the visit of faculty and administration from Chongqing on Nov. 12.

The delegates met with representatives from Laurier at Kitchener’s Communitech Hub, a collaborative digital media centre that Laurier is a partner in, and later at the School of Business and Economics in Waterloo.
Peter Donahue, director of Laurier International, explained that the focus of the relationship between the two universities will increasingly be about resource-sharing.

“What we’re now examining is an arrangement that would allow our students at Laurier and their students to benefit from teaching on either side,” he said, explaining the growth of exchange opportunities for students and having faculty from either institution teach a semester abroad.

Laurier is focusing at the moment on drawing awareness to the possibilities available to students, associate dean of business: academic programs Kim Morouney said. “We’re trying to find a way to interest our students in exchange opportunities in China.”

“We don’t have a huge number of students that are clambering to go to China and we’d like to work on that.”

There are students taking advantage of the relationship between the two universities, including some present Friday.

Jian Liu is a Chongqing student who is currently on exchange in the journalism program at Laurier’s Brantford campus. She commented on the cultural differences that contribute to a far different university experience in Canada than she was used to. “Students have more examinations but professors have similar teaching methods to China,” she said, noting the smaller classes that allow different evaluation practices. “They assign more practical work, that seems like the major difference between Chinese scale academic and Canadian scale.”

The growth in online learning and technologies that allow streaming video of lessons and group collaboration among students have created new means of accomplishing the kind of resource sharing Laurier wants to put in place with Chongqing.

Software developed locally was showcased for the delegates at the Hub, including an e-learning platform called “Clevr U” that would allow classes to be streamed to mobile devices including iPads and Blackberries.

“If we’re going to be innovative and preparing our students for the world, we have to bring the knowledge of our partners into our campus,” Donahue continued.

“It can no longer be only for those who want to or are able to travel overseas, it has to be for all students.”

Morouney explained that establishing connections between students at international institutions would be a first step, such as having Laurier and Chongqing business students collaborate on group projects.

Joint programming and degree offerings could be within the realm of possibility in years to come as well. “From there you move to joint programs,” Morouney said. “So maybe one day we’ll have a joint degree MBA with a specialization in logistics where you complete a term in China or their students complete a term here.”

Donahue stressed the significance of having ties to a partner like Chongqing, which has been ranked in the top thirty universities in China out of nearly 3,000 institutions.

“I think what you’re going to see is our university have access to something big because the problems that are going to be solved in Chongqing are global programs,” Donahue explained.

“It’s water, environment, feeding the population. To be able to have access for our students and faculty to what is happening there means that we have an opportunity to have some input on the world’s biggest issues of today.”