Where in the world is Queen’s going?

University is ‘positioned well’ to expand international opportunities, Hitchcock says

John Dixon, vice-principal (international), says Queen’s needs to increase the number of opportunities available for international experience.
John Dixon, vice-principal (international), says Queen’s needs to increase the number of opportunities available for international experience.

It’s imperative Queen’s students develop an international outlook because they will have to function in a global environment for their entire lives, Principal Hitchcock said.

“There are so many hackneyed phrases now … ‘global village’ and ‘global society’—we hear that phrase over and over, but it is true,” she said.

“There’s nothing we do now that is not affected by global issues, and I think it’s incumbent upon us to be sure that our students are very comfortable in that environment, and that they’re informed about that environment, and very importantly that they’re curious about that environment.”

In 2005, Prinicpal Hitchcock released a vision for Queen’s titled, “Engaging the World.”

The discussion paper outlined a desire to make Queen’s an international institution.

Hitchcock said there are two sides to international opportunities—sending students abroad, and welcoming international students to Queen’s.

“One of the goals here in the strategic plan is to do just that, and to enhance the diversity here on campus through more extensive international student participation, at both the undergraduate and the graduate student level,” she said.

One way the University hopes to internationalize, Hitchcock said, is to increase its partnerships in China.

“Queen’s is positioned very well to expand not only the numbers, but the kinds of opportunities our students have. … We’re capitalizing on taking advantage of our already-strong presence in China.”

The executive education program the School of Business established in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates this year has helped Queen’s establish and enhance its presence in the region, she said.

“We haven’t talked about the range of opportunities yet that such an office and such a presence allows us in Dubai, but certainly we will be looking at a whole range of programs.”

Hitchcock said the University also continues to support development projects in other countries, such the Balkans Primary Health Care Project, post-tsunami work in Sri Lanka and work on HIV/AIDS in Kenya.

“Our faculty and students are deeply involved in research projects and development projects around the world,” she said. “We’re reviewing those and looking to add to those, as well.”

Hitchcock said the University will have to allow for flexibility in curricula in order to increase the number of students going abroad.

“Some of the realities are the engineering programs are accredited and there’s certain requirements that are imposed on all engineering programs,” she said.

But she said the principle remains that international education is a valuable experience.

“I certainly can say that to a person, the deans are committed to the concept of international experience for students,” said Hitchcock, who praised the commitment the School of Business has showed to international experience.

In March, Angela James, director of the Centre for International Management at the School of Business, will be travelling to Costa Rica, Argentina, Brazil and Chile with Patrick O’Neill, Arts and Science associate dean (international). The International Programs Office, which arranges international opportunities for arts and science students, is also exploring partnerships in the area. James said several students have been seeking opportunities in Spanish-speaking countries. Right now the commerce program only has one exchange partnership in South America, at the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile.

She said the School of Business just signed an agreement with the University of Esade in Barcelona, as well as University Nova in Lisbon. It also just signed its first agreements in Austria, Hungary and Slovenia.

The School of Business sees Queen’s as a top-ranked Canadian university, James said, and focuses on its partner universities’ academic rankings.

“We’re only going to partner with the top one, two or three schools in that respective country,” she said. “When you go on exchange you want that to add value to your résumé, not put it down in any way.”

Sixty-five per cent of students in third-year commerce go abroad, James said, adding that she hopes that number will reach 70 per cent within the next couple of years.

“We’re really trying to do research now as to why are students are not going abroad.” She said students often aren’t able to go abroad for financial reasons, athletic commitments and course requirements.

James said she wants to see staff and faculty going on exchange with students in 20 years.

“I think to truly internationalize we need to get students, staff and faculty all overseas, and we would also have the benefit then of having international faculty here.”

She said she also wants Queen’s to strengthen its name internationally.

“Right now there are a few other Canadians schools that are first at the tip of the tongues of my international colleagues and I would like to see Queen’s there as well.”

Vice-Principal (International) John Dixon said he wants to see more Queen’s students get international experience.

“That really comes down to increasing the opportunities,” he said. “I know that there is demand from the students and we don’t have enough places. … I’d also like to see the range of countries in which those places are located to be more diverse.” Dixon said although projects like the International Study Centre at Herstmonceux Castle are great opportunities, one international campus is probably enough. Last year, Dixon said, he received a brochure from a real estate company trying to sell Queen’s a 17th-century mansion in Austria.

“There’s quite a lot of energy and investment required to manage something like that,” he said. “We should be doing something different, rather than just replicating that in another place.”

Queen’s doesn’t have any exchange opportunities in Africa, few in South America and the only faculty that offers exchange programs in Eastern Europe is the School of Business.

Dixon said that should change.

“There are huge chunks of the globe that we don’t have any opportunity in. So we need to work on diversifying, making more types of opportunities,” he said.

In 2006-07, almost 1,000 students had a “significant international experience,” Dixon said. That includes students who took part in exchange programs, study abroad experiences, the ISC program, internships and field trips.

The university has about 110 bilateral exchange agreements, Dixon said. When students go on exchange, they pay Queen’s tuition but cover their own travel and living expenses. In return, the universities with which Queen’s has partnerships send their students to Kingston. He said the agreements are reviewed every five years.

“The faculties have to have confidence that the university they’re going to send students to is a good match both in terms of academic standards and of the content of courses.”

Dixon said the University has 15 or 20 exchange agreements in various stages of consideration: there are several in Australia, and one that could be Queen’s first in Africa.

“The University of Cape Town in South Africa is one we’ve been working on for quite a while and it’s getting closer, but we’re not quite there yet,” Dixon said.

The University also just signed an agreement with the University of Havana in Cuba, which begins in September. Because Cuban university students are required to complete compulsory military service, the agreement allows one faculty member from Havana to come to Queen’s for a semester instead of Cuban students while four Queen’s students are given placements in Cuba.

Setting up an exchange agreement is fairly straightforward once both sides agree the partnership would be mutually beneficial, Dixon said.

He said he was in Asia for three weeks earlier this month, where he visited seven of China’s top 10 universities. He said it’s difficult, from Queen’s end, to set up exchanges in China.

“Most of our students don’t speak Mandarin well enough to be able to study in Chinese,” he said. “We have to ask if the Chinese universities have enough courses available that they’re teaching in English so our students can get a reasonable range of courses.”

There are more opportunities in China for Queen’s students than there were as recently as three years ago, he said\.

“The environment is really changing and there’s a lot more movement in the Chinese universities to offer more courses in English,” he said, adding that it’s useful to make contacts with these universities today so they know there’s interest.

Although the School of Business set up a professional development program in the United Arab Emirates this year, Dixon said the University hasn’t looked into setting up exchange agreements with universities in the region.

“It’s not something that we’ve seriously looked at yet, though it’s probably something we should be,” he said. “We haven’t had the demand and so we haven’t gone looking.”

Some students have expressed interest in developing exchanges with Israel, Dixon said, but he said it’s foolish to set up an exchange in an unstable area.

Some students have gone to Israel on study abroad programs, which the University doesn’t formally endorse.

“All we would have done is say, ‘Right, we’ll issue a letter of permission that says if you get credits, we’ll recognize them.’”

Dixon said the University advertises faculty positions as widely as possible, but Canadian immigration rules put certain restrictions on the hiring process.

“While we advertise broadly and we do fairly often end up hiring internationally, we also have to think about giving jobs to Canadians when they’re well-suited to the job,” he said.

He said there isn’t any direct evidence that professors coming from other countries are more easily drawn to metropolitan schools like McGill.

“We’re pretty successful with landing the candidate who we choose, so I guess we’re able to convince them that this is a good place to live,” he said. “You don’t necessarily need a big city in your day-to-day life.”Dixon said Queen’s is trying to increase graduate student enrolment and is actively seeking more applications from well qualified students both in Canada and worldwide.

He said just over 16 per cent of this year’s graduate students are international, an increase of about two per cent from last year.

At the undergraduate level only 4.4 per cent of Queen’s students are international.

“Compared to other top universities those numbers are both on the rather low side, so what it shows is that we need to do more to make ourselves known around the world as a good destination for education at both levels,” Dixon said, adding that the registrar’s office is aiming for an undergraduate population of 10 per cent international students within the next few years.

“It provides a more diverse experience for Canadian students,” he said. “It also taps a bigger pool of outstanding students for Queen’s.”

On Friday the Board of Trustees will meet to discuss proposed increases to fees for international students.

Dixon said although higher tuition could be a barrier for some students, it allows the University to put more money into bursaries and scholarships.

When Student Awards reviews an application, he said, they consider the actual costs the student faces, including tuition and exchange rates.

“If a student is in a more difficult situation because of higher tuition, that increases their access to bursary funds,” Dixon said. “Those students that are better off are putting money in to the system which would be redistributed to students who need more help.”

He said for the percentage increase for tuition in 2008-09 for international students is the same as that being applied to domestic students, although that hasn’t always been the case over the past few years.

“Last year, in fact, the domestic students had a higher percentage increase than the international students,” he said. Domestic students saw an increase of between four and eight per cent, depending on the faculty, while international students saw an increase of two per cent, Dixon said.

From 2004-07, however, the course fee for commerce students paying in American dollars increased 32 per cent. For students paying in Canadian dollars for a commerce course, the increase was only four per cent.

Wayne Myles, Queen’s University International Centre (QUIC) director, said increasing international opportunities can be problematic as well as positive.

Queen’s has to balance a commitment to international studies with a concern for the global environment, he said.

“If we wish to reduce our carbon footprint on this world, how can we send thousands of students all over the world? That’s going to be the question that we have to deal with here in a really academic way,” he said.

Myles said there will always be people questioning the fiscal and environmental sides of international engagement.

“It’s really important to stay positive,” he said. “We want students to experience things … we want students to think about the significant questions.”

He said along with the environmental aspects of international travel, there are also moral questions to consider.

“Are we building these schools for the benefit of the rich of the world? …When we’re talking about global citizens, we need to ask that question about where we put our resources,” he said, adding that the universities Queen’s partners with can play a role in students’ understanding of the global community.

He said development studies raise significant questions about the model Queen’s uses to internationalize the campus. The number of students interested in development studies is growing and represents a significant opportunity for the University.

“We begin to think about our role in a community outside of our traditional options of going to Scotland or being connected to our partners in Europe, because the world of development is largely linked with the world of the South,” he said.

He said he wants to see students leave Queen’s campus with an awareness of the many questions involved with global citizenship.

“It’s not something that is peripheral or extraneous--all of these efforts are building the essence of Queen’s.” The QUIC has also begun to focus its resources on “internationalization at home” activities to complement what the University is doing abroad, Myles said.

He said internationalization at home is something the University doesn’t talk about very much.

“Basically, we’re looking at building some infrastructure. If there’s going to be growth and activity, then there needs to be ways of … supporting students who are going to be taking some international aspect in their life.” Queen’s is working on internationalizing its curriculum by engaging international students. Faculty members need to understand the role that international students can play in the classroom, he said. The QUIC is developing a training program for staff and faculty to help integrate internationalization into their courses.

“What courses can we develop so that staff members will be able to get a better sense of what international means and how to relate to international students?”

He said international students who come to the University should also be paired with Queen’s students and alumni outside of the classroom environment.

“We’d have to say, ‘This is what Queen’s is about. … Queen’s is wanting to engage every aspect and every tier of student life.’”

Myles said that in the future, students will see more exchange students, more relationships with different universities, and, hopefully, partnerships in areas outside of the traditional destinations of Australia, New Zealand and Europe.

If the University continues on this track, Myles said, it could be a name that attracts students worldwide.

“I think the world 20 years from now is going to be quite different,” he said. “There’s this sort of international optimism. We’d like to believe that by being international at Queen’s we’re going to be out there and be recognized, and that probably will happen more than it’s happening now.”

Expanding horizons (2006-07)


total number of Queen’s students with a “significant international experience” (any program that lasted more than three weeks)


undergraduate students on exchange for one term


undergraduate students on exchange for two terms


graduate students on exchange


undergraduate students on independent study for one term


undergraduate students on independent study for two terms


graduate students on independent study for one term


graduate students on independent study for two terms

Source: John Dixon, vice-principal (international)

All final editorial decisions are made by the Editor(s)-in-Chief and/or the Managing Editor. Authors should not be contacted, targeted, or harassed under any circumstances. If you have any grievances with this article, please direct your comments to journal_editors@ams.queensu.ca.

When commenting, be considerate and respectful of writers and fellow commenters. Try to stay on topic. Spam and comments that are hateful or discriminatory will be deleted. Our full commenting policy can be read here.