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Canada Education partnership on the agenda during Dutch mission to Canada

King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima of the Netherlands arrive at St. John's International Airport, Tuesday, May 26, 2015.

Joe Gibbons/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Dozens of university and college leaders from the Netherlands will begin a visit to Canada on Wednesday, part of an economic and education mission by the country's King and Queen, one that Canadian educators say could be a model of how to make higher education central to growing trade relationships.

"More and more, you see academic partnerships reinforcing the broader bilateral relationship. ... Quite often in the past, we've seen missions being very economic and trade focused," said Jennifer Humphries, a vice-president at the Canadian Bureau for International Education.

The three-day visit by King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima marks the 70th anniversary of the country's liberation and includes visits with Second World War veterans who served in the Netherlands. As well, the Dutch government has established 70 scholarships for Canadian students to study in the Netherlands.

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Madeline Liddy is one of the first to receive one. The University of Waterloo student is studying toward a master's degree and is a research assistant at the Institute for Quantum Computing. She will spend a term at the University of Delft, where she will continue her studies of diamond material and how its chemical properties can be used in quantum computing.

"The purpose of the scholarship is to keep the connection alive during a time of peace," Ms. Liddy said. "My aunt is of Dutch heritage, and her parents were living in the Netherlands during the occupation, so there is a personal connection."

Multiple agreements on research and academic exchanges will be signed between Canadian and Dutch schools during the visit, which has been organized through the office of Governor-General David Johnston.

Such intense linkages with individual countries are necessary for Canada to grow its global educational partnerships, educators say. Science Without Borders, a program funded by Brazil's government that is sending more than 100,000 students to study and do research internationally, has been cited as the type of collaboration Canada should cultivate.

Educators say missions abroad should not be just about recruiting new companies or students to Canada.

"Increasingly, that interest in collaboration is what makes for a deep and effective partnership that includes both a focus on research and a focus on two-way student mobility," said Karen McBride, the president of CBIE.

Universities across the country already have partnerships with institutions in the Netherlands, including exchange programs. As well, a few schools, including Dalhousie and Thomson Rivers, offer a joint-degree programs in which students do a work term in Europe. And Simon Fraser runs a research program in Dutch design for its art and design students.

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But the overall numbers of students moving between the countries is small. Approximately 200 students from the Netherlands are studying in Canada and slightly under that number of Canadians are in the Netherlands.

"There is a sense that we are missing opportunities for mobility. So many institutions offer programming in English, so it's not a question of a language barrier," Ms. Humphries said.

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