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Partnerships in Post-Secondary Education: A New Era of Cooperation Between Canada and India

Jun 11, 2015
Photo of Mark Robbins

Mark Robbins
Research Associate
Industry and Business Strategy Research

Douglas Watt

Industry and Business Strategy Research

Interesting developments are under way in Canada–India relations. In November 2014, Prime Minister Stephen Harper visited India in what was his longest official foreign visit, a hint of the importance Canada places on its relationship with India. This past April, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi reciprocated, becoming the first Indian prime minister to visit Canada since Indira Gandhi addressed the Canadian House of Commons over four decades ago. Mr. Harper and Mr. Modi had much to discuss, as each country is looking to build new trade opportunities, partnerships, and the skills and talent of their workforces.

Emerging Trade Opportunities

Trade Between Canada and IndiaIn 2014, total bilateral trade estimates between Canada and India sat at a relatively modest $6.3 billion. (In comparison, trade between Canada and China was $77.3 billion.1) While the total value of trade between Canada and India is relatively small, it is growing (see chart), albeit at a lower rate of increase than for many other countries trading with India. There is a wealth of opportunities for Canada and India to establish new partnerships and trade activities (including in agriculture, automotives, aviation, finance, engineering and architectural services, telecommunications, and post-secondary education).

The Rise of Post-Secondary Education Partnerships

One area in which India and Canada are looking to forge new relations is the post-secondary education sector, with a focus on greater student exchanges and faculty mobility.2 India has ambitious plans to increase the supply of skilled youth in the market place by training and up-skilling approximately 500 million people by 2022 (approximately 350 million people trained through India’s existing and new PSE institutions, and approximately 150 million trained through public-private partnership arrangements, and initiatives integrated closely with workplaces).3, 4 Canada’s reputation in post-secondary education is recognized in India, presenting an opportunity for the two countries to work together.

Much is already being done. Just last month, for example, new memoranda of understanding (MOUs) were signed with the National Skill Development Corporation India, 12 Canadian post-secondary education institutions (including colleges and institutes), and ECO Canada (a Canadian-based environmental professional training and certification organization). The purpose of the MOUs is to establish Academies of Excellence for trainers and assessors, and to create transnational standards in different occupations and sectors.5 Recently, Canada became a partner in the Global Initiative of Academic Networks of India, enabling Canadian researchers, scientists, and entrepreneurs to engage with institutes of higher learning in India and cooperate in learning, teaching, and research.6

Leading by Example—Ryerson University and the Bombay Stock Exchange Institute

One of the partnerships paving the way for expanded bilateral cooperation between Canada and India in the education sector is between Ryerson University and the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) Institute. In 2013, the BSE Institute looked to Ryerson University for guidance on ways to enhance its research commercialization system by starting a business incubator. A team from Ryerson helped the BSE Institute found Zone Startups India, which is based upon Ryerson’s DMZ (one of Canada’s largest business incubators for emerging tech start-ups, and Canada’s top-ranked university incubator). This partnership between the two institutions provides start-up companies in both countries with access to:

  • capital from affiliated business accelerators (Ryerson Futures and Chokhani Group);
  • start-up mentoring services;
  • connections to professional networks and peer organizations;
  • support facilities and infrastructure to help start-ups enter new markets (e.g., office space, Internet).

In its first year of operation, over 40 new start-ups were founded and incubated in Mumbai alone. And at both institutions, new start-ups have the advantage of beginning international activities and opportunities early on in their development. The mindset of going global is more the norm rather than the exception. The Zone network of incubators and start-ups has been expanded and now includes other countries and institutions, such as South Africa’s University of Witwatersrand and Stellenbosch University, and it is proving to be very effective. For example, in 2014, Ryerson’s South African Zone Fellowship program, gave seven South African student entrepreneurs the opportunity to “develop [their] businesses, network with industry professionals, receive mentorship from experts, and gain experience in the international arena.”7

The partnership between Ryerson University and the BSE Institute is a model for global cooperation and collaboration among post-secondary education institutions, and points the way forward for future Canada–India post-secondary education partnerships. In May 2014, the Conference Board took a group of Canadian university leaders to India and visited the BSE Institute.

This initiative is the topic of a full length “Spotlight Study” called Innovation in India, by the Conference Board’s Centre for Skills and Post-Secondary Education.

For additional resources on how to build and maintain effective collaborations, see the Conference Board’s work on post-secondary education-business partnerships.

Related Webinar

Related Briefing

1    The High Commission of Canada in India, Fact Sheet: India, (accessed May 20, 2015).

2    The High Commission of India, Ottawa, Canada–India Joint Statement, (accessed May 20, 2015).

3    David J. Hill, “India Plans to Create 12 Times the Number of Colleges as the U.S. by 2020,” Singularity Hub, March 13, 2012. (accessed May 26, 2015).

4    ICEF Monitor,To Upskill 500 Million Workers, India Goes International,” February 8, 2013. (accessed May 26, 2015).

5    The National Skill Developme India Signs 13 MoUs With Canada to Scale Up Its Skill Development Initiatives,nt Corporation India, news release, April 16, 2015. (accessed May 25, 2015).

6    The High Commission of India, Ottawa, Canada–India Joint Statement, (accessed May 20, 2015); Indian Institute of Technology Indore, Global Initiative of Academic Networks (GIAN) Cell. (accessed May 26, 2015).

7    Will Sloan, “DMZ Welcomes South African Entrepreneurs,” Ryerson University, January 28, 2015.

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