Jonathan Corbett said it changed his life. Last winter the third year law student spent four months in Singapore on a co-op term at one of the largest law firms in the country. While conducting research and drafting documents, he lived with two different Chinese families, explored the parks and streets of Singapore and ate the local food. He travelled to Malaysia and Indonesia and developed relationships with people that he says he will never forget. Everything he experienced while living there changed him.
"Now when I sit in class and we're discussing a controversial issue, I find myself wondering what a Tamil lawyer or a Malay lawyer would think about it. How would it impact someone from a totally different culture? Working in another country is a real eye-opener and changes the way you view yourself and your surroundings," says the Calgary native.
And Corbett is not alone. Of UVic's nearly 2,500 co-op students, 120 work abroad. While the experience, as Corbett says, leaves a permanent impression on the students, they too leave an impression on the people they encounter. Because of the co-op program and UVic's other international initiatives, the University's sphere of influence has moved from southern British Columbia across the globe to Asia and Europe. "Certainly UVic is very well known in the legal community in Singapore," says Corbett. "It's very favourably looked on."
The University's thrust into the international scene mirrors the trend within the higher education system to create an international dimension-a dimension which Dr. John Schofield, dean of Social Sciences and UVic's international liaison officer, says "enhances the quality and reputation of the University" and responds to the "increasingly multicultural character of Canadian Society."
In a recent report, the B.C. Centre for International Education Task Force, a consortium of B.C. post-secondary institutions and government, states that internationalization infuses all facets of the post-secondary system, fosters global understanding, and develops skills for working in a diverse world. UVic President David Strong agrees. "Internationalization is the future of the post-secondary system," he says. "Any university that calls itself a university must be interested in internationalization."
Internationalization has been a key concern for Strong since his undergraduate days at Memorial University in Newfoundland where he befriended international students from Asia. Like Jonathan Corbett, his eyes were opened to the wealth of knowledge available from the world's cultures. The university, he thought, should be a place for the exchange of people and ideas. He envisioned a kaleidoscope of international activity with student and faculty exchanges, co-op programs, twinning with other institutions, and research agreements-all creating an ever-changing multicultural environment.
"I believed the university should offer every student the opportunity to experience international friendships firsthand, if not in other countries, then at least through international students on campus," says Strong.
Since 1990, he has presided over an institution with an increasingly strong international focus-a focus that is shared by many at the University and has been enshrined in its strategic plan, recently approved by the Board of Governors, which calls for increased internationalization.
UVic has 75 institutional agreements with universities in 23 countries-12 in Thailand alone, more than any other Canadian university. The Faculty of Business leads UVic faculties in forging these international linkages with 18 agreements in 10 countries. It recently signed an agreement with the Rajabhat Suan Dusit Institute in Bangkok to offer, on site, a UVic MBA to senior managers from Thailand's business community-the University's first off-shore degree program. The program combines business professors, local instructors and distance education technology and, according to Dr. Roger Wolff, dean of the faculty, has the potential to generate links with Thai business, create co-op positions for UVic students and open up opportunities for joint research projects.
"Sometimes business schools get involved in projects just to make money. At UVic we're doing it to get a deeper understanding of how to do business with other areas of the world-in essence to further the University and benefit its students," says Wolff.
The Faculty of Law is also active in Thailand where five students are currently on an exchange program with Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok. The faculty is working on similar exchange programs with universities in Singapore, Taiwan, and Japan. By fall of 1998, there will be about 12 students on exchange, says Bill Neilson, director of the Centre for Asia Pacific Initiatives (CAPI).
"It's all happened in the space of eight years since the first law school exchange was established with Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok," says Neilson, who adds that at any given time up to 50 UVic faculty are involved with CAPI in international research projects.
Spearheading the University's fundraising initiatives overseas are honorary patrons Dr. Chen-Fu Koo of Taiwan, Dr. Anand Panyarachun, the former Prime Minister of Thailand and Dr. Siti Hasmah, wife of the Prime Minister of Malaysia. The Anand-UVic fund seeks to raise 10 million baht ($500,000) from Thai-based contributors over the next five years. The money will be used for scholarships or bursaries for Thai students wishing to study at UVic, to support faculty and student study or work exchanges and to help establish a Thai studies program at UVic.
These initiatives harken back to Strong's vision of a kaleidoscope of international activity on campus and reflect the University's growing interest in opening its resources to international students. Since welcoming the first recorded international student- Jacques Désiré Gaston Noël from Liège, Belgium (MA'68)-more than 30 years ago, UVic has actively recruited students from around the world. In February 1997, 4.1 per cent of the student population were international students.
"The international students bring revenue to campus, but they also bring their culture and that benefits the whole university," says Bronwyn Jenkins, senior program coordinator at the English Language Centre (ELC) in the Division of Continuing Studies.
The ELC recruits students at education fairs sponsored by the federal government's Canadian Education Centres in Asian capitals. UVic has a reputation in Asia as a leader in English language programming ("The Canadian Education Centre newsletter in Seoul rates UVic as the number one place in Canada to study English ," says Jenkins) and this reputation attracts more than 1,400 students to the ELC each year.
The University is taking English language training so seriously that last November, University officials signed an historic agreement with Han Yang University in Seoul establishing a UVic language centre in Seoul where students are taught by UVic instructors-the first on-site international English language centre the University has established abroad.
"Korea is committed to globalizing its economy and learning English is a means to achieve that," says Dr. Wes Koczka, dean of Continuing Studies. Officials expect enrollment at the centre to reach 1,000 in three to five years.
While UVic is making its mark internationally, Canadian agencies are also taking note of its development work with emerging countries. In 1996, the Canadian International Development Association (CIDA) awarded UVic biologist Dr. Jack Littlepage a $5 million grant over five years-one of the largest grants it offers-for his Brazilian Mariculture Linkage Project, an international aid project he heads in Brazil. Littlepage hopes the shellfish culture technology project will create a stable, environmentally aware and self-supporting industry in an area hard hit by declining fish stocks, where almost half the population is poor. Twelve Canadian universities competed for the grant money. UVic won.
"We got the grant because of our good record with international programs and because we had strong local support from Brazilian universities and agencies and Brazil's Science Council," says Littlepage.
CIDA is also supporting a UVic initiative in Vietnam where CAPI has been working with Vietnam's Ministry of Justice and the Law Committee of the National Assembly on a series of legislative policy and drafting programs to bring the legislative practices of this rapidly developing country up to international standards.
All these initiatives speak to a global, forward-thinking vision that is moving the University into the world community. Whether it is providing the opportunity for Canadian students to work abroad and expand their knowledge base, welcoming international students to experience Canadian culture, or helping developing countries achieve self-sufficiency, UVic's spirit of internationalization is having a positive impact around the globe. Perched on the Pacific Rim, the University is perfectly positioned to wield its influence far beyond Ring Road. *
· There were 11 ongoing UVic international development projects involving human resource development or research in 1995/96.
· More than 70 UVic students were selected to participate in international exchange programs in 1996/97.
· The University is looking at possibilities for delivering selected first year programs at partner institutions and even establishing an overseas campus.
· There are plans for a UVic international school in Macau, beginning with elementary education, eventually offering courses at the baccalaureate level.
· UVic's Certificate Program in Computer-Based Information Systems is being offered in Mauritius & Hong Kong.
· There are plans to offer a Certificate in Business Management in cooperation with Beijing University of Science, Technology, and Management. An anonymous donor has made possible a unique exchange program between UVic and institutions across Asia. The Orion Asian international program will bring artists and scholars in the arts from 20 Asian countries, to UVic. Some of these countries are:
Bangladesh, Bhutan, Brunei, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Laos, Malaysia, Mongolia, Myanmar, Nepal, Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand, and Vietnam.