For Murali Chandrashekaran, UBC’s first Vice-Provost, International, universities are key to building a more just and prosperous world.
“Universities bring people together from all over the world, expose us to knowledge and experiences about the world, and can empower us all to want to solve problems facing our planet. But in order to do this, we need to have people from around the world here at UBC, and we need UBC to be out in the world.”
That’s where UBC’s international strategy comes in to play. “It’s a call to action for UBC’s global engagement,” Murali explains.
“It outlines a new way of thinking about UBC’s role in the world and sees our institution as having a social purpose and a responsibility to society, both locally and globally.”
One prominent example of the university’s changing role in the world is the recently formed U7 Alliance. In June, UBC’s President and Vice-Chancellor, Santa Ono, returned from the inaugural U7 summit in Paris, France, which convened university leaders from leading institutions in G7 countries as well as 14 other nations to co-create a series of commitments that universities can pursue to address the most pressing global challenges in a multilateral context.
Santa said he was “beyond impressed” with French President Emmanuel Macron’s support of the alliance. This new positioning of universities as engaged global actors lies at the heart of UBC’s evolving international strategy.
Development of the international strategy framework
The initial international strategy framework was developed based on input received during a two-year consultation process that led to the creation of UBC’s strategic plan: Shaping UBC’s Next Century. Discussions within the Local and Global Engagement Working Group, as well as feedback obtained from open houses and online surveys, engaged more than 8,000 community members, and more than 1,100 people commented specifically on the priorities and actions under the plan’s Local and Global Engagement core area.
The framework developed was tested and further refined during a six-month consultation process that has so far engaged more than 450 members of the UBC community. The result is a draft framework, themes and action directions that focus squarely on UBC’s purpose, as outlined in Shaping UBC’s Next Century: fostering global citizenship and contributing to a more just and sustainable society.
“What we’ve heard from the community has been nothing short of inspiring,” Murali says.
“In many cases, the consultation process has served to surface incredible work that our Faculties, individual faculty members, students and staff are already doing to foster global citizenship and contribute to a world where all people can thrive.
“And in others, it has highlighted a desire or need to do more. Throughout the process, the level of resonance and consensus has been high, particularly in relation to support for the core themes and how we should approach our global engagement.”
In fact, Santa has adopted global engagement as one of his top four priorities for his current term, calling it “a strategic imperative for our university.”
“The new international strategy will be key in further supporting UBC’s purpose of fostering global citizenship and building a better world, while also providing guiding values and principles to assist in decision-making related to UBC’s international activities.”
Gaining feedback from the UBC community has been incredibly important to Murali as he and his team work towards launching the strategy in the winter. Through an online survey, community members were given the opportunity to provide their thoughts on the draft framework, themes and action directions, and share how these pieces not only inspire staff, faculty and students, but also how UBC can best engage to bring the strategy to life.
After distilling the comments received, a final draft of the strategy will be presented to a number of stakeholders for additional input, including student leadership and the Association of Pacific Rim Universities’ Senior International Leaders Meeting, taking place on UBC’s Vancouver campus from September 18 to 20, 2019.
An official launch will take place later in the winter, after the strategy has been presented to UBC’s Board of Governors. Working groups will then be formed to create specific actions, determine resources needed, and develop implementation plans under each thematic area.
As for Murali, he believes the new strategy has ‘amazing potential’, and notes, “UBC is already North America’s most international university, but we recognize that sustained excellence in research, education and engagement depends on the integration of diverse perspectives and approaches.
“This international strategy sets a path to harness the energies and strengths of an extraordinary institution and its many partners to affect sustainable and positive change, both locally and globally.”