Canadian universities told to offer ‘incentives’ to woo UK scholars

Thinktank advises universities to take advantage of UK’s ‘instability’ after EU referendum

July 15, 2016
Canadian sculpture
Source: Alamy

A Canadian thinktank has advised the country’s higher education sector to “offer research incentives” for top UK academics in order to take advantage of the result of the European Union referendum.

The Conference Board of Canada says that the country’s universities should “make a coordinated effort” to present themselves as a “compelling option” for leading UK scholars “as they seek alternatives to the instability facing them at home after the Brexit decision”.

“The lack of stability in Europe juxtaposes Canada’s sunnier landscape. Canada provides a welcoming contrast marked by academic excellence, continued liberalism and a warm openness to diversity,” it claims.

The statements are made in an article titled “After Brexit: next moves for Canada’s universities and colleges”, co-authored by Mark Robbins, research associate at the thinktank’s Industry and Business Strategy Research team.

It points out that China took advantage of shrinking university budgets in Western countries after the 2008 financial crisis through The Thousand Talents Program. Launched in 2009, the initiative aimed to make Chinese universities a competitive alternative for talented researchers in the West and led to 3,000 scientists moving to China within a six-year period, the article says.

It adds that Canada “may be particularly well-positioned to compete” for UK scholars after the referendum.

“Its Canada Research Chair program, designed initially to prevent the ‘brain drain’ of Canadian talent to the United States, accomplishes many of the same recruitment and retention objectives as the Thousand Talents Program,” the article states.

It notes that top UK professorial talent could be particularly responsive to incentives to move, as “highly educated, high-income researchers tend to be especially mobile”.

The article adds that Britain’s decision to leave the EU “should not be allowed to derail the significant progress that has been made between Canada and the EU” on university collaborations, student mobility and promoting the “free flow of research”.

“If Canada is to continue to increase the number of students that go abroad and the number that come to Canada, it cannot discount Europe. Post-Brexit, Canada will find itself an increasingly competitive destination for European students, a situation that can be helped or hindered by sympathetic programs and government policies,” it says.

However, it stresses that Canada’s relationship with the EU and the UK is “not a zero-sum game”, and it expects the UK to remain a top destination for Canadian students, an important source of international students for Canadian universities and a “formidable partner” in research collaboration.

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