York University maps courses that teach about Sustainable Development Goals

Image shows a hand holding a pine cone against a lush backdrop of greenery

York University is internationally recognized for its contributions to addressing the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs) through teaching, research, stewardship, and partnerships. York’s annual SDG report is a snapshot of some of the work the University is doing in collaboration with Canadian and international partners to advance the Global Goals.

“The University is making determined and substantial strides towards the goals, through the power of higher education,” says York University’s Provost and VP Academic Lisa Philipps.  

As the world rapidly approaches 2030, youth have been mobilizing to compel global leaders to take urgent action on the SDGs. “As a global SDG leader, York University and its students are already playing an integral role in this movement,” adds Philipps.

To continuously improve the support offered to students and graduates who are tackling these challenges, York University has embarked on a process of understanding how its courses address or are linked to the SDGs. This initiative maps York courses with one or more of the SDGs, as appropriate, and the University is making this information available to the community on its SDG website.

The goal is to better inform students about learning opportunities related to the SDGs, to understand York’s strengths and curricular assets across the disciplines, and to increase awareness and deepen SDG-related conversations at the University and beyond.

Teaching the SDGs: the number of York courses related to each Global Goal

The above graphic shows the number of courses that relate to each of the United Nations 17 SDGs

Lessons learned from mapping courses

In consultation with OSDG, an open access tool developed by the United Nations Development Program’s SDG AI Lab and the EU-based thinktank PPMI, York analysts were able to undertake this process. They looked at both undergraduate and graduate courses offered in both English or French across all Faculties and all courses offered at the time of this analysis.

This approach looked at the use of more than 20,000 keywords and with the help of machine learning identified courses that are related to one or more of the SDGs through course titles and official descriptions. The University learned about the OSDG tool from University College London.

York University is the OSDG’s first official North American partner, as the organization works with a range of global partners such as the University of Hong Kong. York analysts consulted other universities in Ontario, British Columbia, California, England and New Zealand, organizations like York that are recognized for their global leadership on SDGs. Those consultations focused on learning about best practices for mapping and sharing SDG-relevant courses with their respective communities.

In total, analysts identified 1,635 courses (38 per cent of all courses), that are related to at least one SDG. Mapping for SDG 17 is still in development. All Faculties were represented among the mapped courses and the above table shows the number of courses that were identified as being related to each SDG.

The OSDG’s machine learning-enabled course mapping functionality flagged SDG-related courses when they specifically referenced the SDGs in the curriculum or where the curriculum empowered students to independently tackle an SDG theme within or outside of the classroom.

Many courses also mapped to more than one SDG – in fact, 285 courses were simultaneously mapped to two SDGs and 43 courses mapped to three SDGs. The process of mapping courses to the SDGs is iterative and analysts recognize that it is reliant upon the use of specific keywords and phrases found in current courses descriptions. As course descriptions continue to evolve, the analysis will be updated.

This approach will continue to improve over time, as new keywords are contributed to the OSDG’s bank. The full list of mapped courses will be published by Spring 2023 on York’s SDG website for the benefit of prospective and current students. The University will invite feedback in the lead up to publishing these courses and will continue to welcome ongoing feedback thereafter to ensure the mapped list of courses are kept up to date, and remain helpful for the York community.

The current analysis will serve as a starting point to improve the process of capturing SDG-related courses and advancing SDG education, and research on the SDGs, as outlined in the University Academic Plan.

Feedback from former Provostial Fellow and Professor Cheryl van Daalen-Smith, associate dean, academic; the Sustainability Office; the UNESCO Chair in Reorienting Education Towards Sustainability; and the Vice-Provost Students team has also been invaluable during this initial mapping endeavor. This Provostial initiative was supported by the Associate Vice-President Teaching & Learning, the University Registrar, the Office of Institutional Planning and Analysis and York International.

York promotes Sustainable Development Goals, inclusive insurance at Consortium of Excellence

International flags and Canada stock banner

York professors played vital roles at the Consortium of Excellence for the 17 Goals (C-17), which serves as the hub for academia, industry and governments from around the world to promote and achieve the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs).

Spearheaded by the Risk and Insurance Studies Centre (RISC), the consortium is a recently formalized agreement with: the University of Lausanne, under the leadership of Professor Séverine Arnold; the University of Liverpool, under the leadership of Professor Corina Constantinescu; and York University under the joint leadership of Professors Edward Furman and Ida Ferrara.  

Edward Furman

Furman, in York’s Department of Mathematics and Statistics, Faculty of Science, leads the Actuarial Science program and serves as director of RISC. Ferrara is an applied micro-economist with the Department of Economics and deputy director of RISC.

In its efforts to engage with practitioners on important societal goals, as embedded in the UN SDGs, the consortium sponsored a session at the recent International Conference on Inclusive Insurance (ICII), an annual non-profit platform for all stakeholders to present and discuss issues, policies and innovative solutions for efficient, sustainable and inclusive insurance products. More information about the conference is available here.

This year’s conference, organized by the Insurance Association of Jamaica, the Munich Re Foundation, and the Microinsurance Network, took place in Jamaica from Oct. 24 to 28, with around 250 participants from more than 50 countries. Jamaica’s Minister of Finance and Public Service, Nigel Clarke, was in attendance and announced that Jamaica is set to become the first country in the Caribbean Community and Common Market (CARICOM) to have microinsurance legislation, with a bill to be introduced in 2023.

The focus of the discussions at this year’s conference revolved around strategies to manage climate risks and address the specific needs of small island countries. The consortium sponsored a session, facilitated by Ferrara, which considered the role of academics in the development and implementation of inclusive insurance and highlighted the imperative for a practice-informed approach and close collaboration among academics, practitioners, policymakers and other stakeholders to realize the full potential of science-driven results in addressing major societal challenges.

Ida Ferrara
Ida Ferrara

“I found the experience very rewarding,” said Ferrara. “I met wonderful people who have been grappling with the realities of making markets work for the poor and reducing the risk of poverty traps and who shared valuable insights and perspectives.”

The session featured four presentations: José Miguel Flores Contró, PhD candidate at the University of Lausanne, spoke of the cost-effectiveness of subsidization when considering the public cost of supporting those who fall below the poverty line; Kira Henshaw, postdoctoral research assistant at the University of Liverpool, and Constantinescu, who introduced the idea of country-level risk pooling and provided input on optimal matching of countries using data on floods/droughts in African countries; York Professor Tsvetanka Karagyozova shared her findings about the long-term impact of microinsurance on economic growth based on a sample of African countries. 

In the final presentation, Michael McCord, managing director of the Microinsurance Centre at Milliman, underscored the importance of bridging the gap between academia and practice and provided insight into how to support and facilitate partnerships among academics, practitioners and regulators. 

To further their commitment to promoting greater engagement between academics and practitioners, the proponents of C-17, along with co-guest editors McCord and Dirk Reinhard, vice-chairman at the Munich Re Foundation, are currently co-editing a special issue of the journal RISKS on inclusive insurance. The aim of the issue is to gather science-driven and practice-informed data to address opportunities and barriers for inclusive insurance and identify ways of accelerating growth and economic viability in inclusive insurance for the benefits of all parties (households, insurers, and governments) in emerging markets.

Workshop series brings SDGs to forefront of teaching and learning

Featured image for stories related to sustainability

A series of one-hour workshops at York University will launch in the new year and share ways in which educators can infuse the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SGDs) into teaching and learning.

Co-developed by York’s Teaching Commons and SDGs-in-the-Classroom Curricular Innovation Hub, The Sustainable Development Goals in Teaching and Learning series launches Jan. 25, 2023 and presents five online workshops.

UN SDG wheel with the 17 SDGs

The series explores how educators might speak to the SDGs through curriculum, teaching practices, course design and assessments. The outcomes are developed to raise awareness of the importance of sustainable development and prepare students with the knowledge, skills and attributes to tackle the world’s greatest challenges.

The workshops, which run from 10 to 11 a.m., are:

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)-in-the-Classroom Curricular Innovation Hub is part of the SDG Teach In, a campaign to put the SDGs at the centre of all stages of education, and across all disciplines. The SDG Teach In, hosted by Students Organizing for Sustainability United Kingdom (SOS-UK), is a student-led education charity focusing on sustainability with a belief that change is urgently needed to tackle the injustices and unsustainability in our world.

The 2023 campaign will run from March 1 to 31, 2023, and encourages educators to pledge to include the SDGs within their teaching, learning and assessment during the campaign and beyond. Educators can pledge to take part now via the SDG Teach in pledge form

Study reports public control over energy policy required to avert climate crisis

climate change iceburg

A new paper authored by York University PhD student Erin Flanagan and Professor Dennis Raphael explores the future of the environment in this time of climate crisis.

Dennis Raphael
Dennis Raphael

From Personal Responsibility to an Eco-Socialist State: Political Economy, Popular Discourses, and the Climate Crisis” was published in the Sage journal Human Geography and looks at how Canadians think about the crisis, and what can be done to move toward a more environmentally friendly future.

The study builds upon research from Flanagan’s major research paper completed as part of her MA degree in health policy and equity, at the Faculty of Health’s School of Health Policy and Management.

Based on the authors’ review of different ways of resolving the crisis, the paper concludes that averting a catastrophe will require gaining public control over energy policy and countering the power and influence of fossil-extracting industries.

“In theory, this could be accomplished through existing policy instruments, but in reality, it may require the establishment of a post-capitalist eco-socialist state,” says Raphael.

  • while what this state will look like is uncertain, certain features can be envisioned, he said. These would initially include:
  • universal access and social justice: ending energy poverty while reducing energy consumption and prioritizing the needs of communities, households, and marginalized people;
  • renewable, sustainable, and local energy: shifting to renewables by leaving fossil fuels in the ground, divesting from fossil fuels, and investing public funds in local renewable energy systems to create thriving communities;
  • public and social ownership: bringing energy production under democratic control, within new forms of public ownership by municipalities, citizens’ collectives, and workers;
  • fair play and creation of green jobs: building renewable energy through fairly paid, unionized jobs; and
  • democratic control and participation: empowering citizens and workers to participate in energy policy by democratizing governance and instituting complete transparency.

The authors state that to accomplish this, Canadians are required to understand that the current features of the country’s economic system make dealing with the climate crisis almost impossible and make the provision of health-promoting living and working conditions difficult.

Read the full paper here.

Contributions of the acclaimed economic theorist Nanak Kakwani will be celebrated Sept. 28

hands holding a globe

The international event will feature a number of keynote presentations and is organized by Glendon Professors Omar F. Hamouda and Betsey Price. Pre-registration is required, all are welcome.

The two Glendon professors are playing an integral role in an international event to mark the contributions of the acclaimed economic theorist, Nanak Kakwani. The event, which will feature the launch of a special issue of the Journal of Income Distribution dedicated to Kakwani along with an accompanying celebratory event, will take place on Sept. 28 over Zoom, is open to the University community. Pre-registration is required and can be completed at https://tinyurl.com/yum23m6u.

Nanak Kakwani
Nanak Kakwani

The launch of the special issue of the Journal of Income Distribution in honor of Kakwani’s legacy on the “Study of Income Inequality, Poverty, and Tax Progressivity,” will feature contributions from an impressive number of keynote speakers, including economists and thought leaders Jacques Silber, Hyun Son, Stephen Jenkins, Nora Lustig, Gary Fields, Kunal Sen and Francisco Ferreira.

The gathering introduces the next issue of the journal, guested edited by Jacques Silber and Hyun Son, on the central theme of “Nanak Kakwani’s Legacy on the Study of Income Inequality, Poverty, and Tax Progressivity.”

Kakwani’s imposing and inspiring theoretical and empirical economic contributions are impressive, both in depth and breath. The central focus of his research is the development of measurement tools needed to evaluate poverty, inequality, and disparity and to provide the empirical evidence and policy guidance required to help lift the underprivileged from their deprivation and destitution. He has developed many statistical methods and sets of indices, along the lines of the Lorenz curve, the Gini coefficient, and social-welfare functions, that bear his name, as published in the top economics journals: Econometrica, Econometric Theory, Applied Econometrics, Applied Welfare Economics, Quantitative Economics, the International Economic Review, and many others, including the Journal of income Distribution, Journal of Economic Inequality, and the Review of Income and Wealth

Aware that poverty has multidimensional characteristics and consequences, Kakwani has skillfully set out to disentangle its facets through theoretical and empirical methodologies. He investigates and studies the various aspects of deprivation and tackles each one from the angles of its specific impact on growth, taxation, standard of living, social protections, prices, labour opportunities or health prospects. In each of his studies, Kakwani’s intuitive approach is original and has pioneered empirical research in economic development.

Kakwani’s theoretical research in the concept of measurement was designed mostly for empirical performance application in specific case studies, in either one or a group of countries: poverty levels in Côte d’Ivoire, redistribution in Australia, poverty alleviation in India, aging in Africa, growth and the labour market in Brazil, cash transfers in African countries, inequality in Thailand, social pensions for the elderly in Sub-Saharan Africa, welfare in Ukraine, poverty program in China, and many other international comparison studies in welfare and growth performance. Dozens of examples of his studies are published in applied journals and various international organizations, such as the United Nations (UN), the Asian Development Bank and the World Bank.  

Kakwani has advised many governments and worked for many international organizations, such as UN Development Program (UNDP) director and chief economist of what was then called the International Poverty Centre UNDP, consultant to the Welfare and Human Resources Division of the World Bank, and economist of the Brazilian Development Bank.

The Journal of Income Distribution is hosting the event in connection with the ZEW – Leibniz Centre for European Economic Research in Mannheim. The editorial office of the Journal of Income Distribution is housed at the Glendon Campus at York University. Its website, https://jid.journals.yorku.ca/index.php/jid and its electronic publication are hosted by the Digital Scholarship Centre of York University Libraries.

Online and print versions of the publication of the special issue in honor of Kakwani are available by individual or institutional subscription, available at: https://jid.journals.yorku.ca/index.php/jid/about/subscriptions.

Osgoode professor address calls for stronger UN anti-racism convention

silhouette of people gathered outside

Osgoode Hall Law School Assistant Professor Rabiat Akande was invited to address the United Nations Ad Hoc Committee on the Elaboration of Complementary Standards on July 20 where she asked the committee to consider changes to the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD).  

Akande urged the Ad Hoc Committee to strengthen ICERD to specifically prohibit the persecution of racialized religious minorities. Akande argued that international human rights law does not offer these groups adequate protection.  

The Ad Hoc Committee was initially formed in 2007 to consider a convention or additional protocols to update the ICERD. The committee has met most years since 2008 and is attended by member states, regional groups, national institutions, specialized agencies, and intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations.  

The committee has engaged with numerous experts in the fields of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, and contemporary issues of racism in different contexts. The resumed 11th and 12th sessions of the committee took place from July 18 to 29 in Geneva, Switzerland. 

Rabiat Akande

Akande told the committee that a current draft of the additional ICERD protocol, which was drawn up during the 10th session, mistakenly construes all forms of contemporary religious discrimination as racial discrimination and “fails to acknowledge the every day struggle of persons who suffer intersectional discrimination along the axis of race and religion.”  

The 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which helped shape subsequent international human rights law, was fatally flawed because its concept of religious liberty continues to exclude members of disfavored and racialized religious groups, she said.  

Akande argued the international law draws a false dichotomy between freedom of conscience (or internal beliefs) and outward forms of religious faith.  

“The most obvious casualty has been the covered Muslim woman,” she stated to the committee, “with a string of decisions handed down by the European Court of Human Rights consistently upholding state restrictions and even proscriptions on the hijab – the Muslim headscarf or veil –as being a proportional and reasonable restriction of the manifestation of religion.” 

Muslim minorities face the debilitating impact of Islamophobia, said Akande, but are unable to access meaningful legal remedy under the law. At times, she added, the same has been true for other religious minorities, including Jews, Sikhs and even some Christian groups.  

Akande said the draft protocol to ICERD “will not offer the legal remedy needed by those whose experience of religious and racial marginalization is compounded by the intersection of those two forms of discrimination.” 

She told the committee that the legacy of colonization lives on in the racial and religious subordination of certain peoples – “marginalization that is not only denied recognition and remedy under international law but is in many ways even compounded by the current international legal regime.” 

“As we confront new forms of oppression such as lethal Islamophobia masquerading as national and international security policy,” she said, “and indeed, the persistent denigration of the religions of Indigenous peoples globally, I hope member states will seize this opportunity to take bold action by offering robust legal protections for communities at the margins.” 

Akande joined Osgoode last year, and works in the fields of legal history, law and religion, constitutional and comparative constitutional law, Islamic law, international law and post-colonial African law and society. She is an Academy Scholar at the Harvard University Academy for International and Area Studies, where she was in residence from 2019-21. She graduated from Harvard Law School in 2019. At Harvard, she also served as an editor of the Harvard International Law Journal and taught at the law school and in the Department for African and African American Studies. 

Applications for Glendon’s Research Apprenticeship Program and G21 courses are open  

Glendon students

Glendon Campus will be recruiting more than 30 undergraduate students to partake in the Research Apprenticeship Program (RAP) and the new G21 course during the 2022-23 school year.  

With funding from the Academic Innovation Fund (AIF) and support from other on-campus partners, the Glendon Research and Innovation Office has created opportunities for students to pursue their diverse interests and passions by providing them with an impressive range of research experiences on campus. These initiatives aim to encourage students to participate in enriching, experiential learning opportunities. 

Glendon students have the option to engage in two unique opportunities to conduct hands-on research. Students in RAP work as research assistants on the projects of faculty members, while students participating in the G21 courses pursue their own independent passion project under the supervision of a faculty member. In both areas of interest, Glendon professors serve as invaluable mentors to all participating students. 

All students are welcome to submit an application RAP. Glendon’s incoming cohort of first year Top Scholar students, a group of high school students entering Glendon with an average of 90 per cent or higher, are given priority to participate in the first year of the program. 

As part of the application process, students will be asked to answer questions based on their research interests and engagement both inside and outside of the classroom. Students will also be asked to indicate their top three choices of faculty members with whom they wish to work in a research assistant capacity. Student researchers in the program are expected to complete five hours of apprentice-related work per week. Each student will be granted a bursary of $1,500 for their work. 

Students interested in pursuing an independent research passion project in the G21 courses must ensure that their project aligns with one or more of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Participation in the G21 is limited to upper-level Glendon students, who will enroll in the course entitled “G21 Passion Project / Projet passion G21” on the Glendon course website page, which is coded 4669 and can be found under the course listings for History, Linguistics, Drama and Creative Arts, Canadian Studies, Philosophy, Psychology, and International Studies. 

Students majoring in other programs may enroll in the social science version of the course. As part of the application process for the G21 course, students will be asked to submit a short proposal detailing the independent research project that they wish to pursue, and they will identify a faculty supervisor.

At this year’s Glendon Research Festival, a number of talented students presented their research findings and engaged in a stimulating question period at the end of the session. One student centered their research on SDG 11 by analyzing the critical role of public art in creating sustainable cities and communities, while another student focused their research on SDG 4 through their insightful analysis on the integration of students with down syndrome and dyslexia in an L2 classroom (a setting where their dominant language is not spoken). 

In the G21 courses, students will receive a course credit and have access to research funds for their projects. 

Both programs equip students with an invaluable skill set to conduct intense research, which includes enhancing their critical thinking, editing, presentation and writing talents. Students are also encouraged to cultivate networking skills through their participation in various research-oriented workshops that are organized throughout the academic year. It is through their engagement in RAP and G21 courses that many Glendon students can explore their research interests and develop a passion for conducting research.  

Undergraduate opportunities like the RA program and G21 courses demonstrate the benefits that come from engaging students in research projects beyond traditional, formal classroom settings. The skills and knowledge the students acquire will help them prepare for future academic and work endeavours. 

To learn more, visit the Glendon Campus research webpage.  

4REAL experiential learning opportunity to focus on local climate solutions 

glass planet in a forest with sunshine

The Co-operative Education and Work-Integrated Learning Canada (CEWIL Canada) is supporting York University’s 4REAL (4th Renewable Energy & Agricultural Learning) project.

Students building a compost at the experiential learning partner farm, Native Plants in Claremont as part of a previous CEWIL-funded REAL project

CEWIL partners with post-secondary institutions, community members, employers, government and students to champion work-integrated learning. The 4REAL experiential learning opportunity will focus on local climate change solutions through the lens of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), specifically regenerative agriculture and gardening, value-added food production, sustainable building construction, renewable energies, electric mobility, Indigenous knowledge and environmental education, including arts-based learning. 

This innovative project will enable 224 post-secondary students from across the country to receive a $1,200 scholarship. In addition, it will cover the costs of trainers, safety equipment, transportation and more.  

The project lead is Faculty of Environmental & Urban Change (EUC) Associate Professor Jose Etcheverry, who is also the Co-Chair of Sustainable Energy Initiative (SEI) and director of the International Renewable Energy Academy (IREA). Project coordination will be led by master’s of environmental studies graduate Dale Colleen Hamilton, and administration by York University master’s of environmental studies student Codrina Ibanescu.  

“Our goal with this grant is to provide practical and memorable experiences, and to allow people from all different walks of life to participate in seeing and creating the world that they would like to see,” said Etcheverry. 

4REAL is linked to York University’s renewable energy course to offer undergraduate and graduate credits. Participants may also receive a United Nations Sustainable Development Goals certification based on their level of achievement, issued by the International Renewable Energy Academy and the Rural Urban Learning Association. 

4REAL will begin July 18 and conclude Sept. 30. The timing of the project is flexible, with options available for all interested students and partners to remain involved as a team for subsequent initiatives. Interested students can sign up through the Eventbrite link

The Beausoleil First Nations and Six Nations alongside REAL team members who built design elements of the Climate Solutions Park, an ongoing project that began during previous REAL rounds in Penetanguishene, Ontario

The project aims to provide practical training in renewable energies and regenerative agriculture as pivotal climate change solutions. The project offers opportunities to select and train a group of student leaders to undertake SDG-focused projects and work collaboratively with community partners to develop practical deliverables in areas such as: regenerative agriculture, scientifically proven climate change solutions, renewable energies for farm and general use, arts for environmental education, ethical entrepreneurship, and Indigenous reconciliation.   

“We must make peace with our own actions if we would like to speed up change for the climate. We all have to come to peace with our own responsibility for our community, and collectively open our consciousness to create something different if we are to contribute to the well-being of future generations and climate solutions. It starts with us. We are all one ecosystem, and we need to manifest our natural abilities for greatness,” said Jacqueline Dwyer, 4REAL community partner and founder of the Toronto Black Farmers and Growers Collective. 

This opportunity will ensure students obtain the practical skills needed by diverse employment sectors, represented by 4REAL’s numerous community partners. Students will explore their professional and personal development needs, positioning them for employment in high-demand local sectors such as food production, energy, transportation, housing, and environmental education. 

A solar installation training offered with Relay Education in February 2020 as part of a previous REAL project. Each of the three cohorts welcomed more than 50 students

4REAL participation can be entirely online, but with a strong preference for some in-person experiential learning at our various farm and green industry sites in the Guelph, Toronto and Georgian Bay areas. Students will work in groups informed by mentors and collaborating with strategic partners and other local community stakeholders to design and implement practical strategies to tackle selected SDGs; and will curate their experiences for online knowledge mobilization. 

“Each student which enters this training has the opportunity to empower themselves towards their greatest potential, and importantly, their own self-actualization. Education, to me, has always been a liberatory practice aimed to awaken and free my mind, and I believe this training offers just that. We must allow seeds of hope and inspiration to plant trees that will water future generations for many years to come. Everyone has a purpose, and it is up to all of us to discover what that is. I’ve learned that when we join together with like-minded individuals, anything becomes possible,” said Ibanescu. 

For further details about how to participate in 4REAL, email csp@123mail.org.  

United Kingdom’s Turing Scheme awardees visit Lassonde

Lassonde MMU students outside of Bergeron building

Manchester Metropolitan University degree apprentices selected York University’s Lassonde School of Engineering and its corporate partners to gain global industry exposure and share important lessons.

By Elaine Smith

From June 3 to July 3, York University was home to eight students from Manchester Metropolitan University (Manchester Met) who were taking part in an opportunity offered by the U.K.’s Turing Scheme, which gives students a chance to gain international experience. Named in honour of the renowned British mathematician and computer scientist, Alan Turing, the program is designed to support life-changing international experiences for study or professional advancement. The visit to York University is special because it does both, and it is one of the select Canadian programs delivered under the Turing Scheme’s inaugural call.

Jane Goodyer (2022 image)
Jane Goodyer

The students are part of Manchester Met’s Digital & Technology Solutions Degree Apprenticeship program, which allows them to earn university degrees while working in industry and earning a salary. It’s similar to a model that Jane Goodyer, dean of the Lassonde School of Engineering at York, pioneered in New Zealand and plans to introduce at York in 2023.

Over the course of their degree apprenticeship program at Manchester Met, students spend 20 per cent of their time in class and 80 per cent applying what they’ve learned to industry jobs and learning workplace skills. Many degree apprenticeship participants are employed full time at the same employer for four years, earning a competitive salary while studying towards a Bachelor of Applied Science (BASc) degree. York University’s program will offer a variation on that theme.

“I was commissioned by the New Zealand government to lead a pilot program [for work-integrated-learning] and Manchester Met became our advisors,” said Goodyer. “Although this learning model is a first for Canada, where students spend the majority of their time working with employers, it is widely used across more than 100 universities in the U.K. We’re proud to be working closely with Manchester Met, one of the U.K.’s leading providers, with over 2,500 students enrolled in these kinds of programs whilst working with 544 employers. Our intention is to bring this concept to Canada and it’s a win-win for us to have these students visit. It is informative and a joy for academics and Canadian employers to learn first-hand about their experiences.”

For their part, the Manchester Met students visiting York University had an opportunity to expand their professional exposure beyond the U.K. context.

“We want our students to have international awareness and exposure,” said Darren Dancey, a professor of computer science at Manchester Met. “They can see what is common and what is unique and compare and contrast. The Turing Scheme is fairly new in the U.K., and we think we are the first apprenticeship program to use it. The opportunity for our students to come to York came out of our international network where Jane, who is passionate about work-integrated-learning, plays a leading role.”

Since most of the students are involved in work year-round at their jobs as part of the apprenticeship program, they were given time off to spend a month at York.

“The employers have been hugely supportive,” said Dancey. “They see them as people well worth investing in.”

The students had a full schedule while at York University. After a week of orientation to Lassonde and the University, they attended classes four days each week; visited technology companies, including Ceridian, CGI, IBM Canada, mimic Technology Inc., Shopify and Pearson; and met weekly with the University stakeholders responsible for the curriculum for the forthcoming York program. There was also time built into their visit to take in some of the area’s sights, such as the waterfront, Niagara Falls and Canada’s Wonderland.

Two members of the group, Tasmia Niazi and Ryan Whittaker, both recently finished their software engineering undergraduate degrees at Manchester Met and have accepted positions – and promotions – with the companies where they did their apprenticeships, Lloyd’s Banking Group and AstraZeneca, respectively.

“As a student and a full-time employee, you spend four years learning about the processes and procedures of the employer, which makes you a very valuable team member,” said Niazi. “I don’t understand why someone would leave.”

Whittaker agreed. “After four years, you’re so well integrated,” he said. “I appreciate the benefits and the confidence I’ve gained, and I want to stay. People who leave university with the usual degree start in entry-level jobs, but we’ve had a four-year head start.”

They are also ahead financially, having earned while they learned.

According to Manchester Met, the average student salary a year after graduating is 46 per cent higher than the average U.K. computer science graduate and five per cent higher than graduates from the top five U.K. computing courses. Across all Manchester Met’s degree apprenticeships, learners performed so well during their programs, 78 per cent received a pay-raise and 64 per cent received a promotion.

“As working and learning occur in a seamless environment, businesses can benefit from a learner’s access to the latest expertise, knowledge and resources a university provides,” said Goodyer. “A vehicle for social mobility, the program offers a pathway into higher education for non-traditional learners, particularly those underrepresented in the technology sector or those without the means to pursue a traditional degree.”

The U.K. visitors enjoyed sharing their degree apprenticeship experiences with York faculty and staff, as well as Canadian employers who are potential participants in York’s upcoming work-integrated program in Digital Technologies.

“It has been an opportunity to talk about what we do day-to-day,” said Niazi. “Since York University is trying to implement a similar program, it felt right to help employers understand it and see how they can onboard and support learners.”

While in Canada (“It’s a massive country!”), the pair enjoyed the opportunity to live on campus with their fellow students, something that was not possible while doing their degrees.

“I missed out on university living, so that’s one of the reasons I wanted to come,” said Whittaker. “The educational system is very different here with majors and minors and there is much more granular detail in the lectures. I am enjoying the exposure to the North American market and would like to spend more time here to explore the different lifestyle and work culture.”

Niazi noted that most of the British student visitors, “never knew each other because we’re in different years or different courses. It has been great getting to know each other and learn from their experiences, too.”

Although York University has yet to inaugurate its Integrated Program, the connection between York and Manchester Met will continue, based on longstanding personal connections, the value propositions each university’s ecosystem brings to the partnership, a mutual desire for reciprocal student mobility, and the U.K. model to which Lassonde aspires. The partnership between York University and Manchester Met exemplifies how international collaborations offer a mutual benefits for students, faculty and higher education ecosystems.

Emerging themes in social determinants of health theory and research highlighted in commentary

writing notes schulich

In an invited commentary to the International Journal of Health Services, Professor Dennis Raphael of York University together with Ontario Tech University Associate Professor Toba Bryant outlined seven emerging themes in social determinants of health theory and research.

Dennis Raphael
Dennis Raphael

These themes go beyond traditional notions that carrying out high-quality research and presenting them to policymakers will lead to health-promoting public policy. Instead, the authors identify significant barriers to having this research put into practice by governmental authorities increasingly under the sway of corporate and business influence. The corporate and business sector commonly calls for reduced government spending, lack of regulation of the workplace, and reduced taxes on the corporate and business sector, positions at odds with the findings of this research.

The seven themes are:

  1. Models of Public Policy Change (traditional models of public policy change do not represent how public policies actually come about);
  2. The Political Economy of Health (public policy is increasingly under the sway of political and economic interests whose desires are not aligned with the needs of most Canadians);
  3. Unionization and Collective Agreement Bargaining (these processes are key to promoting health but neglected in health promotion research and action);
  4. Corporate Domination of the Base and Superstructure of Society (it is increasingly apparent that the corporate and business sector are shaping both economic and political processes as well as all aspects of civil society);
  5. Neoliberalism, Redistribution and Service Delivery (increasing acceptance of neoliberal approaches to governance are leading to greater inequities in the distribution of resources necessary for health as well as degrading of health and social services);
  6. Communication and Polemic (it is necessary to raise the volume on these issues as traditional communication approaches are not working); and
  7. Social Welfare States or Socialist States (it is becoming apparent that many of the barriers to having the social determinants of health addressed are rooted in Canada’s form of capitalism. The environmental crisis is leading to questioning whether a climate catastrophe can be avoided under our present economic system.)

In the conclusion of their commentary, Raphael and Bryant state: “The apparent inability of government authorities to control the power and influence of the corporate sector is yet another reason for a reconsideration of the current economic system and whether capitalism is capable of maintaining, much less improving, the quality and equitable distribution of the social determinants of health.”

Finally, Raphael points out that most of the work cited in the paper was conducted with graduate students in York University’s Graduate Program in Health Policy and Equity. The paper “Emerging Themes in Social Determinants of Health Theory and Research” is available at https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/00207314221109515.