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Canada France 1604-2004
Canada France 1604-2004
Canada a space for imagination

Reports From the Youth Mobility and Exchange Round Table Workshops
Paris, February 5, 2004

Creation and Establishment of Binational Study Programs

Chair: Benoît Bourque, Director, Coopération et échanges internationaux, Université de Moncton
Recorder: Maia Yarymowich, International Association of Universities (IAU), Unesco House

A large majority of the participants in this workshop were representing French post secondary institutions, and the remainder were representing Canadian universities or organizations. Several work in the international exchange offices of their respective institutions.

The first part of the discussion focussed mainly on the operating procedures for the existing exchange programs between France and Canada. Most of the programs presented at this workshop involve Quebec institutions. The group briefly identified and defined the different types of binational study programs possible, such as “dual recognition” or “joint diploma” programs, with or without an integrated curriculum, etc. The participants agreed that the type of diploma and curriculum desired depends largely on the program involved. Some study programs easily lend themselves to an integrated curriculum, while others are less flexible. But in all cases, what is most important, according to some of the members of the group, is that students taking part in exchanges have a worthwhile experience and do not a “lose a year.”

In the same vein, the discussion also touched on issues surrounding the best way to initiate and manage binational study programs, that is, either through an established program such as the one managed by CREPUQ (Conférence des recteurs et des principaux des universités du Québec), or through the creation of bilateral agreements between two specific institutions. The group considered the strengths and weaknesses of the two systems of operation. The value of the CREPUQ program was recognized as invaluable in terms of facilitating exchanges between Quebec universities and French institutions (e.g.: as regards course recognition, diplomas?degrees, etc.).

However, some universities prefer to manage exchanges independently for greater flexibility. That said, there is the recognition that small universities do not have as many resources for establishing overseas contacts as large institutions like the Université de Montréal, for example. The group agreed that it is not advisable to create national regulations in Canada or France, since such regulations could restrict exchanges somewhat.

The second part of the workshop was spent discussing different possibilities for expanding and improving binational study programs. The issue of level of studies was also discussed in an effort to determine which level of studies should be the primary focus of binational exchanges – undergraduate, masters or doctoral?

Moreover, some participants identified budget constraints as a major obstacle to expanding exchange programs. One participant suggested that part of the work connected with the administration of such programs could perhaps be centralized and managed through an existing network or organization such as a centre for Canadian studies at one of the French universities. However, this suggestion was rejected by several discussion members who indicated that these centres do not have the necessary resources for proper management of binational exchanges either. The participants concluded that some programs work well mostly as a result of the bilateral efforts of two institutions that implement a specific agreement and therefore, centralizing certain services would not solve all of the problems with which they must deal. This is particularly true of issues related to joint diplomas and dual recognition of diplomas.

Budget constraints are also the reason several of the representatives participating in this workshop stressed the necessity of concentrating their efforts to expand binational studies on a specific level of studies rather than developing exchanges at all levels. Some think that there is greater value in studying abroad at the masters level, which generally involves a more targeted study program, while others feel that doctoral students benefit more from studies abroad.

Some participants, however, defended the option of studying abroad at the undergraduate level, arguing that most students never get to the masters or doctoral level, and thus would not have the opportunity to study in Canada (or France, as the case may be). One participant who held this view also added that students who study abroad at the undergraduate level are more likely to become the “world citizens” of tomorrow.

Still on the topic of how to improve binational study programs, some participants explained that their students would like to be able to extend their stays abroad, but in most cases, the rules governing student visas prevent them from doing so. Some participants indicated that they hoped the new agreements between France and Canada would broaden opportunities in terms of type and length of binational studies, but feared this would not happen. For example, students would like to have the opportunity to do an internship after finishing their studies in Canada, to combine work with their studies, or to do two study programs in succession abroad. Overall, it could be said that students would like to have more options, according to the workshop participants.

A final suggestion was accepted unanimously: to facilitate (with public funding?) mobility of administrators responsible for international exchange programs and professors responsible for creating the integrated programs. All of the participants acknowledged that this mobility is invaluable because it increases opportunities for creating new programs and improving existing ones.

The participants in this workshop want to ensure the survival of the existing exchange programs, while creating more opportunities for the future. The representatives of French institutions would like increased promotion of studies in France aimed at young Canadians, since there are always more French students opting to study in Canada than there are Canadians choosing to study in France.