Student Demand – United States of America

Conducted and prepared by Nishant MakhijaniUniversity of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign ’15

During February 2015, we conducted an online survey to explore demand for this project in our second biggest market, the United States of America. The question was: If you were applying for university, how interested would you be in a degree where you could study at a different Canadian university each year?” 

253 respondents completed the survey.  Responses were very positive, with 38% (95 people) very interested, 48% (122 people) interested, and 14% (36 people) not interested:


242 of these respondents were American citizens from 25 different states, with 37% (91 people) very interested, 49% (118 people) interested, and 14% (33 people) not interested:


We surveyed targeting three types of groups based on current education.  The bulk of our respondents were undergraduate students, as well as high school students, graduate students, and others who took the survey:


Among the undergraduate and graduate student population (244), we were interested in two specific groups: those with study abroad experience and those without any study abroad experience. It was noteworthy that both groups were very positive towards the idea but those with study abroad experience were more likely to be a part of this program:


We were also interested to see what aspects of the joint undergraduate program appealed to the university students and the travel opportunities and unique educational experience stood out for most students:


We received some very critical and important feedback from survey, both positive and negative. One of the respondent’s said “I believe this offers a very unique opportunity giving students a chance to learn in an ever evolving and exciting atmosphere. The dynamics sound intriguing and I think the diversity would benefit the learning experience by creating more culturally aware graduates.” While one raised the issue about the lack of opportunities to make deep connections with professors and other peers not in the cohort. We also noticed that some students enjoy the large community offered in public university in america and didn’t feel comfortable moving from one campus to another. They believe that the possibilities of maintaining a network are better if students stay in one location and utilize the benefits of one-semester study abroad programs. Students were also interested in including American universities in the program in the future as it would make the program more popular and beneficial, both for Canadian students interested in expanding their intellectual horizons by experiencing the US education system, and also allowing US students to do the same by traveling to Canada.


Student Demand – Preliminary Exploration

Conducted and prepared by Matthew Klassen, University of Waterloo ’15, London School of Economics ’16

In October 2014, we conducted an online survey to explore demand for this project.  The question was: If you were applying for university, how interested would you be in a degree where you could study at a different Canadian university each year?” 

292 respondents completed the survey.  Responses were very positive, with 49% (143 people) interested, 38% (111 people) very interested, and 13% (38 people) not interested:


268 of these respondents were Canadian, with 38% (101 people) very interested, 49% (133 people) interested, and 13% (34 people) not interested:


We surveyed targeting three types of groups based on current education.  The bulk of our respondents were undergraduate students, as well as high school students, graduate students, and others who took the survey:


Among the undergraduate population, we were interested in two specific groups: those who stayed in, and those who left their province, state, or country for their degree.  It is noteworthy that both groups were very positive towards the idea.  In other words, it might be more palatable for students to participate in this program, rather than to simply go to one university for four years out of province.


We were also interested in international students for this survey.  Although we were not able to get a significant sample, those that we did poll were excited about the idea.


A new model for Canadian university studies

Taken from St. Paul’s GreenHouse Incubator website, Fall 2014

Fourth-year Knowledge Integration student Geoff Evamy Hill spent a summer on a pipeline project in northern British Columbia. At a community open house, an older woman commented, “You people come here from the big city and mess everything up and call it progress.” This comment resonated deeply with Geoff, who thought about the number of conflicts in Canadian history between people with a poor understanding of one another and the diversity that is Canada. It also reminded him of his own experience: Coming from Calgary to study at UWaterloo, he had been surprised by his peers’ lack of awareness about the realities of life in other parts of Canada.

Believing that 21st century leaders need to develop this capacity, Geoff developed what he calls a “moonshot” of an idea: The Pan-Canadian University Project, where top Canadian (and international) students will complete joint Canadian undergraduate degrees offered by university consortiums, with students traveling with their cohort to a different university in Canada for each year of their studies.

“This is a project for massive social change,” says Geoff. “It is about fundamentally shifting the way we prepare future leaders at the systemic level. The project is hugely complex, and requires a very high amount of attention in order to be successful.”

There is successful precedent for this idea: Erasmus Mundus is a decade-old EU educational initiative where consortiums of European universities come together to offer joint degrees. Geoff notes that the Erasmus Mundus program has produced a new generation of ambitious students with broad vision, and believes it could have a similar effect in Canada. Such a collaborative program, he says, develops the skills and knowledge needed in a rapidly changing information economy. It also leverages regional resources and experiences to create linkages of knowledge and perspective, and to broaden social networks.

Being part of the St. Paul’s GreenHouse community has been very helpful to Geoff in this initiative. “When you are with people in a community who share a singular focus on getting things done and made, it’s very motivating. The weekly skill sessions with practitioners have been hugely successful because they are very practical. Mentorship and the connections provided help make it happen. The people at GreenHouse approach this with an equally entrepreneurial spirit – putting their heart, soul, know-how, and connections to making our ideas work.”

Geoff would like to see joint Canadian undergraduate degrees as “a gift to Canada for our sesquicentennial or 150th birthday” and hopes to put student mobility and innovative education on the national agenda and mindset for 2017. While he recognizes the challenges of adopting this new approach, he believes the project can become more than the sum of its parts, with high potential return.

– by Susan Fish


St. Paul’s GreenHouse is a social enterprise and social innovation incubator at the University of Waterloo. It is a key supporter of the Canoe Project.

Interview with a King’s College (Halifax, NS) and Ivey (London, ON) Transfer Student

As part of the research program for Canoe, we reached out to student’s studying at the Richard Ivey School of Business at Western University in London, Ontario. This respected, innovative, case-based business education is only taken during the final two years of students’ undergraduate degree. The first two (or three) years are spent studying whatever the student wants: from Fine Arts to Engineering. Many students transfer to Ivey in their third year from other institutions across the country. This helps business students develop a broad-base as well as sharp analytic skills to identify and execute entrepreneurial solutions to a wide range of problems.

Ivey has a close relationship with the University of King’s College in Halifax, Nova Scotia. King’s is Canada’s oldest chartered University, located on the edge of the Dalhousie University campus.  King’s offers the illustrious Foundation Year Program, lovingly known as FYP.  FYP is an intensive “great books course” where:

the journey begins in the ancient near East, in Egypt and
Mesopotamia, and winds its way through Plato’s Republic, into the garden with St. Augustine and through Dante’s circles of Hell. Entering the modern world, students bear witness to the temptations of Faustus, experience the effects of Descartes’s earth-shaking doubt, and confront the contemporary epoch with Nietzsche, Darwin, Freud, and many others.

Dylan Anderson took both programs, transferring from King’s to Ivey in his third year. Dylan will be graduating with FYP from King’s, a BA in Political Science from Western, and an Honours Business Administration from Ivey under his belt this spring. Geoff Evamy Hill interviewed him in January.

Geoff: Where did you do your first two years of University? In what subject? Did you know you were going to do the HBA? Did you do an international exchange?

Dylan: I did my first two years at the University of King’s College in Halifax. I also did quite a few courses at Dalhousie during my second year. The first year was primarily the Foundation Year Program, which is a combination of English, History, Philosophy, and Sociology. My major for my first two years was Political Science. I did not know I was going to do an HBA and kind of just found out about it during my second year. Then I decided to go down that path. Prior to my HBA I did a year at Western to fulfill some other requirements.

G: Did studying at two different universities enhance your experience? What were the main benefits and challenges?

D: I think studying at two universities did enhance my experience. Especially given that in my program I was able to get a diversified experience in the academic realm. I think this benefited my ability to get more out of my HBA experience because my background is different than everybody else here. I also enjoyed the fact that I met people and have a network at both schools. Some challenges, however, is getting to know people at a new university and getting used to everything here. It is much harder to get involved not going here in my first year and having a core group of friends. Luckily I have a lot of high school friends who I moved in with and was able to get acquainted with more people from there.

G: How could the experience of studying at two universities have been better?

D: I think the experience could have been a lot better if there was more coordination between the schools academic departments. If credits were easier to transfer over and the administration was more receptive to certain situations I could have filled my requirements in the summer before 3rd year. I would not have had to do an extra year full year at Western to get certain credits.

G: Do you believe it gives you an employment advantage? In what way do you feel “better educated” your Western only peers?

D: I think in the long run it does make me more employable in a way. I have had a lot of different experiences with different people. My perspective is not that of a normal business major as I have done courses in philosophy and political science. The breadth of background that I bring from my past school is not something you can get if you do MOSS [Management and Organizational Studies] at Western and then go right into Ivey. Finally, having taken the risk to come to a new school was something that was hard for me to do. But since the venture has paid off, I am more prone to take risks to enhance my career and learn more from various people.

G: Take a look at the Canoe information sheet . What questions and feedback do you have?

D: I really like the idea, I think it is something students could benefit from very well and if executed properly could be widely recognized from high school students to participate in. The problems I see with it potentially are the difficulties with becoming immersed in a university culture one year and then leaving right after that. It was extremely hard for me to leave King’s even though I knew I wanted to go to Ivey, and doing that every year may be difficult. Another thing is getting acclimatized to new schools and social circles. The only reason I enjoyed my Ivey experience was because I was living with 3 of my best friends from high school and I had a fallback group of friends. If only a couple people did this program it may be difficult for them to fit in to a new place every year. I would also suggest maybe programs based on different interests (like the Canadian cultural thing, or breadth of academics similar to what I did). Lastly, it will be hard to work with professors and gain valuable research experience. Transferring for me meant I could not complete a thesis, or extensive research project, which is difficult for me as I still have a strong association with Political Science. It may also be difficult to get professor recommendations.

Dylan’s feedback has been incredibly useful for developing Canoe. Canoe will be cohort based, so that each entry-year of the program travels and takes core classes together over their four years.