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Laurentian University in Sudbury and a major business university in China have agreed to jointly deliver an undergraduate accounting degree for Chinese students – an agreement expected to spur new study abroad opportunities for Canadian students.
"Any outstanding university that does not have an international strategy, especially with China, is missing the boat and failing to maximize the opportunities for its own students," says Laurentian University president Dominic Giroux, speaking by telephone from China after a signing ceremony this week.
Under the agreement, Chinese students will spend their first two years at Zhejiang University of Finance and Economics before heading to Laurentian for three semesters – the equivalent of one year of study – and then back to their home campus to complete their degree. The first cohort from Zhejiang, a university of 23,000 students known in China for its accounting program, is expected to arrive at Laurentian next January. Graduates will earn a degree from Zhejiang and Laurentian – a so-called dual degree that is a first for Laurentian.
At the same time, Chinese students enrolled in the program will also be able to take courses to earn their designation as a certified general accountant, under an agreement between the profession's Canadian association, Laurentian and its Chinese partner.
Discussions for the dual degree began a year ago as Laurentian looked for a different model to handle its growing intake of Chinese students. With international students already comprising 10 per cent of the business school – and close to 25 per cent in some specialty programs – Laurentian wanted to ensure a diverse profile of students from abroad, not just one country. Under the dual degree program, Chinese students will arrive as a separate cohort but will have access to student clubs, career counselling and other services on campus.
Mr. Giroux says the entire negotiations, including approvals from the Chinese ministry of education (which he says typically grants just 10 per cent of requests for partnerships with Canadian and other international universities) and the Laurentian University Senate, as well as recruitment and admission of students, took just a year to complete.
He is hopeful the new arrangement will open the door to faculty-led research collaborations between the two countries, as well as opportunities, now under discussion, for Canadian students to study business programs in English or Mandarin at Zhejiang, located in Hangzhou in one of China's most prosperous provinces.
"For international collaborations to be successful long-term, you need research collaboration, faculty mobility and student mobility going both ways," he says.
Early bird MBA celebrates five years
By his own admission, Nick Macrae is not a morning person.
But in 2008, he dumbfounded his family and friends by signing up for a morning master of business administration (MBA) program offered by the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto. Over the next 32 months, he and his class of about 50 working professionals attended class two days a week from 7 a.m. to 8.59 a.m. local time to earn their professional degree.
"I wasn't looking to switch careers or change direction, I wanted to double down on my efforts and accelerate," says Mr. Macrae, 32, who graduated with a liberal arts degree from Queen's University and landed his first job with a major commercial real estate company. In 2009, part way through his MBA, he joined Healthcare of Ontario Pension Plan as an assistant portfolio manager of real estate.
Mr. Macrae credits his business degree with building his financial skills and, most importantly, his confidence in handling financial data and other information related to his job. "In terms of my actual business acumen and skill set, it has helped tremendously," he says.
His rationale for the morning MBA echoes that of others in the program, says Elizabeth Duffy-MacLean, managing director of the morning and evening MBA and the master of finance programs at Rotman. Students in the program have an average of six years of work experience (the minimum requirement is two), with no time to leave work for a full-time MBA lasting two years.
"Their focus is career momentum; not getting a job but getting ahead," Ms. Duffy-MacLean says. To date, 132 students have graduated from the program since its inception in 2007, representing a 97-per-cent completion rate. This year, women make up 48 per cent of the cohort, well above the usual participation rate of 30 in MBA programs.
"I think it represents an opportunity for people who have a bit more flexibility in the mornings," Ms. Duffy-MacLean says. "It seems to have resonated with women this year."
As for Mr. Macrae, he has a different reason now to be a morning person – he and his wife have two young children. "I am well trained in getting up early," he chuckles.
On Wednesday, alumni, including Mr. Macrae, will meet at Rotman for an early morning event to celebrate the fifth anniversary of the program.
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