Office of the President

A Smart Canada and Higher Ambitions for Higher Education

Amit Chakma and David Johnston
Presidents of the University of Western Ontario and the University of Waterloo

Recently an important debate on higher education has received public airings in the national press. Should universities be viewed and funded as if they are all the same or should we distinguish those that emphasize teaching from those with more research? Higher education is of significant national importance and as such, a public debate on the future of higher education is welcome. In a globalized world we need to excel in areas that are important to Canadians if we are to maintain and enhance our high standards of living and quality of life. The global community also needs Canada to share its values in making the world a better place. To achieve these goals, Canadian universities must provide the highest quality of education to our next generation and feed the innovation through creation, discovery and interpretation to give Canada a competitive edge in attaining and enhancing knowledge and wealth for its own citizens and those of the world. In the game of discovery and innovation, second place is not good enough. Canada and Canadian universities must seek gold. Since we cannot be at the top in all that we do, we need to select areas within our own institutions that are of strategic importance to this nation and where each can excel. Thus, we strongly believe in institutional differentiation for the sake of attaining global excellence. The question is how? We suggest the following:

Our undergraduate and graduate students have the intellectual ability, the desire and the discipline to compete with the best. But to achieve their goals, students need universities that are equally bold and ambitious. Canadian universities can compete and many of our institutions will rise to the top if a supportive environment is created.