Presidents: Postsecondary teamwork key to future

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Co-operation, collaboration and community are key to the future of postsecondary education in – and beyond – London, according to the presidents of Western University and Fanshawe College during a Canadian Club of London breakfast forum this morning.

Postsecondary institutions will be even more connected, with more experiential learning, more internships and more partnerships with each other and with businesses, they said.

“There’s no question that the world we all inherited is changing rapidly and we’re going to need to continue to promote opportunities inside universities and colleges for innovation,” Western President Alan Shepard said.

Both Shepard and Fanshawe College President Peter Devlin, BA’82 (Economics), also noted the growing number of connections between the college and university.

Devlin said, “The best collaborative nursing program in the country is one that is shared between Western and Fanshawe. There are some pathways for students that exist between our two institutions and I should also add there’s some great pathways for Fanshawe and the affiliated colleges, as well.”

London Mayor Ed Holder moderated the event highlighting the future of postsecondary education in London. “We grow as a city because of institutions like yours,” Holder said.

The two schools together represent a regional economic, employment and research colossus – Western and its affiliate university colleges with an enrolment of more than 38,000; Fanshawe with an enrolment of 45,000, including 24,500 full-time students.

Wide-ranging themes at the event included the new economy, entrepreneurship and innovation, thriving in an era of fiscal constraint, online classes, individualized learning, internationalism and expansion plans.

“The future will be defined by collaboration” among institutions and industry, Devlin said

Many Londoners work, teach and learn at both institutions, to the benefit of all in the region, said Shepard, who noted Devlin was one of the first people he met when he arrived at Western. “There’s an incredible synergy and that’s a good thing.”

Shepard said a recent conversation with a colleague at the Ivey Business School highlighted the point: “He was saying all the research shows that collaboration gets you much further than competition, particularly locally. The partnership model is key and it’s going to be more so.”

Devlin said Fanshawe’s moving some of its programs into downtown London has exceeded expectations. “It’s been super-exciting to watch us have 2,000 students, faculty and staff in the downtown core. They live there, they learn there, they grow there and they grow alongside with Londoners and industry. That is wonderful. It’s been great to see.”

Shepard said postsecondary schools are much more involved in the life of the community than in the horse-and-buggy days universities’ main purpose was to educate priests, doctors and lawyers.

“Universities and colleges are at the centre of civic life today” – and that includes student teachers leading classrooms, nursing and medical students bringing their skills to city hospitals and business students bringing solutions to area corporations.

He said that “carefully calibrated growth” needs to come from understanding areas of demand and in what ways those areas can benefit both the world and students making their mark in the world.

Holder said he had visited many postsecondary schools while he was a federal Minister of State for Science and Technology (in 2014-2015) and, “We are so blessed in this city to have the most incredible educational institutions in all of Canada.”