York-led exchange program with India receives $600,000 boost

Chris Bentley, minister of training, colleges and universities, dropped into York Tuesday with some good news. His government will invest $600,000 in a York-led international exchange program between Ontario and two states in India. Amid the applause, York presented him with a York Internationalization Award.

The $600,000 is part of the province’s $6-million commitment to the internationalization of Ontario’s postsecondary education system.

Left: Sheila Embleton presents Chris Bentley with a York Internationalization Award

The announcement comes five months after Sheila Embleton, York vice-president academic, signed the Ontario-Maharashtra-Goa Student Exchange Agreement on behalf of 15 Ontario universities during Premier Dalton McGuinty’s trade mission to India last January. Embleton was one of 32 delegates representing the postsecondary education sector on the mission. The agreement was one of 26 Ontario-India pacts signed during the mission to create opportunities for student and faculty exchanges, research collaboration and joint programs.

Tuesday’s announcement was a chance to celebrate and recognize such government support.

"What the ministry has achieved in the past two years is impressive," said Adrian Shubert, York’s associate VP international, in his introductory remarks Tuesday. "Ontario has moved from being a laggard to being a leader in terms of internationalization in education in our country. Ontario is now a presence recognized at major internationalization conferences." Students – 23 this year and 69 next year at York alone – have already benefitted from international scholarships, he said.

Since 2005, when Liberals replaced the ruling Conservatives, "we’ve seen a sea change in the climate for internationalization in education in Ontario," said Embleton. "Chris Bentley has been a leader and a champion of these changes."

Bentley acknowledged Embleton’s role in focusing his attention on international education: "It was the first thing she said to me. Not, ‘hello’. Not, ‘welcome’. But ‘how about Baden-Württemberg’ [an exchange program with Germany] and ‘how about international education?’"

"We’ve come a long way," said Bentley. He accepted the Internationalization Award from Embleton on behalf of McGuinty, whom he called a "champion" of international education.

"We talk about international education as a great end in itself," said Bentley. "But it is far more than a benefit to students." When exchange students return after being abroad "they bring a perspective they could never gain if they had stayed at home. International education is about education, it’s about relationships and it’s essential for our growth as a province and as an economy," he said. "Cementing relationships with people in one of the fastest growing economies in the world will also enrich the people of Ontario."

The Ontario-Maharashtra-Goa Student Exchange Agreement "is just the start," said Bentley.

Right: Sheila Embleton, Chris Bentley and Adrian Shubert

The initial agreement was signed between York University, on behalf of several Ontario institutions, and the University of Pune, Maharashtra, India, in January. Since then, it has expanded to include 15 Ontario universities and up to 10 Indian institutions.

The $600,000 dedicated to the agreement will support the exchange of up to 50 students from Ontario, and Maharashtra and Goa, India, over three years, beginning in January 2008. Some funding will be available to assist Indian exchange students with their travel costs.

Bentley also announced that the province is investing $2.7 million over two years to support 1,000 Ontario students to study abroad through the new Ontario International Education Opportunity Scholarships. Last year, 272 scholarships worth $2,500 were available to students and in 2007-2008, the number will rise to 800.

Above: Chris Bentley, centre, with York international exchange students. Kneeling: Polina Kukar (left), an intern in Hong Kong; and Naoki Wright, an exchange student in Japan. Standing, from left: Nathan Muiruri, Kenya; Christine Omuodo, Kenya; Maxine Toth, exchange student in Denmark; Bentley; Inbal Markovich, Israel; and Tammara Soma, Indonesia.

To provide more opportunities for students to study abroad, Ontario is also building on existing student exchange agreements with Germany and France, and developing new agreements with China and the United States.

In addition to the Ontario-Maharashtra-Goa Student Exchange Program, York signed agreements with the following Indian counterparts during the January trip:

  • Birla Institute of Technology & Science, Pilani, and its branches at Goa, Hyderabad and Dubai will work with York to promote both faculty and student exchanges.
  • The Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay, will work with York to facilitate faculty and student exchanges in computer vision, image processing, and the theory of computation, biology and biomedical sciences.
  • St. Xavier’s College in Mumbai will work with York to facilitate short and long-term student exchanges in biology, health sciences and environmental sciences, including a summer study program in 2007.
  • Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi.

York has dozens of agreements with other universities around the world. To find out more, visit the York International Web site.