University is the best time to grow in all aspects of life. It’s a time of change, challenging your beliefs, and experiencing life as a more independent person for the first time, for many of us.
When deciding where to study, the international aspect of a university is a factor in one way or another. It may be because we want to know if there will be other students from our home country, or maybe we just want to know what kind of community we will be able to find. Regardless, the benefits of “international” education are endless. Almost a year ago, in March 2018, Times Higher Education made a list of the 200 most international universities in the world. Seven on this list were Canadian universities, all of them among the first hundred.
In this context, speaking of an international university doesn’t refer only to the number of international students. It’s more about how international students and staff work on respectable research and other projects together. This ranking takes into account the ratio of international versus domestic students, international students versus staff, and the collaborations that ensue. It’s not just that there are international students, but that they are an active part of the university’s academic achievements. Times Higher Education really takes into account how said research is cited, so how it has influenced the field and other aspects of the learning environment.
The seven universities on this list are:
- University of British Columbia (24th)
- McGill University (34th)
- University of Alberta (40th)
- University of Montreal (44th)
- University of Toronto (50th)
- McMaster University (54th)
- University of Waterloo (60th)
The first six of these are also among the Top 200 on their World University Rankings list of 2018. But this made me wonder, do these portray themselves as “International”? And, in what ways can they show this through their websites alone? For that purpose, I looked into the first three’s websites.
University of British Columbia
From the start, UBC promises prospective students “academic faculties and research facilities globally recognized for their influence and impact.” This university also prides itself in its diverse cultural, recreational and social activities. It explains that the way each person will experience “student life” in UBC will depend on how each individual student decides to build and create it, which honestly applies to any big university. This also implies there is less “separation” from the university’s eyes between what the experience should be like for international or domestic students. The opportunities will be there as long as the student is open to taking them.
UBC prioritizes “international engagement,” and the current areas they are focusing on are China, India, and Europe. Their strategic plan is available on their website, but they make it clear that while this is the current area of focus, they expect it to change within three to five years as they keep moving on to other areas as possible.
As for the international student experience, they offer a guide that answers questions concerning: immigration, health insurance, taxes, help with academics, managing money, campus safety, diversity and equity resources, among others. Their International Student Advisors are also all Regulated Citizenship and Immigration Consultants.
One of the first things McGill Universities is proud to tell prospective students is that not only do they have students from over 150 countries, but also their student body “is the most internationally diverse of any research-intensive university in the country.”
McGill states it is committed to fostering “the very best,” and says it has won more national and international awards than other Canadian universities. The average grades of the students they admit to McGill are also the highest from other universities in Canada, but don’t let that intimidate you. International students make up 31.3 percent of the student population.
To make the transition a little smoother, McGill has a Buddy Program that they promote on their International Student Services section. This system has been connecting new international students to current students for 31 years now. This “buddy” can help the incoming student by showing them around campus, Montreal, talk about housing and possible neighborhoods, or simply have a friendly face as soon as they arrive.
University of Alberta
UAlberta has 7000 international students from over 130 countries. This university takes pride for their high rank on international employability as well so their grads will have the best chances of getting a job in Canada.
One of the main reasons that UAlberta gives students to apply, besides its high rankings, is that it is an internationally regarded research institution. Moreover, its international efforts focus on promoting education abroad as well as well-founded global partnerships. UAlberta considers international students “an integral part of [the] university. They enrich the classrooms with different perspectives.”
Overall, trying to categorize universities according to how international they are can be quite subjective. While this is how Times Higher Education thinks of “international,” others may prefer a more student-focused approach rather than an academic approach. What sorts of clubs are popular for students in this university? What kinds of cultural activities get attention? How do current international and domestic students feel about their community?
Based on these questions alone, perhaps the list would change so don’t let lists and rankings be a limitation. Consider them, look beyond, and then decide.