Canadian universities are heralding a major new scholarship program that will facilitate study and internship exchanges between university students in this country and their counterparts in the Commonwealth. The Canadian Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Scholarships will be awarded to some 2,000 students from Canada and other Commonwealth countries to fund academic study and internship programs at home and abroad. Canadian students will take part in internships and academic study opportunities in various Commonwealth countries and international students from those countries will pursue graduate studies in Canada.
The scholarship program was created in June 2014 by Prime Minister Stephen Harper as a tribute to mark Queen Elizabeth’s 60-year reign. He appointed Former Prime Minister Jean Chrétien to lead the fundraising efforts in support of the program. The program is a joint initiative of the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada, the Rideau Hall Foundation and Community Foundations of Canada and it has financial support from the federal government, provincial governments and the private sector.
Canadian graduate students will be eligible to study abroad in a Commonwealth country for up to a year; both undergraduate and graduate students will be eligible to take part in overseas internships with NGOs and other organizations. The awards will allow international students to pursue master’s and PhD programs in Canada for up to four years.
In the first round of scholarships, awards were allocated to 37 Canadian universities. Of those scholarships, about 80 percent will go Canadian students and the remainder, to international students. It is the universities that will select the students who will receive the scholarships.
The prestigious scholarship program, the first major one introduced in years, is designed to allow universities to build on their existing expertise and partnerships, said Philip Landon, director of partnerships and programs at the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada. “We’re pleased that a number of universities chose to work with [partners in] developing and emerging economies,” he said.
The scholarships are valued at about $40 million. About half of that was provided by the QEII scholarship program and the remainder by the recipient institutions in cash or as in-kind contributions. A second call for proposals is expected to be announced but no date has been set for the announcement, said Mr. Landon.
The scholarships will provide recipients – to be known as Queen Elizabeth Scholars – with valuable international experience, said Josée Lavoie, associate professor at the University of Manitoba’s department of community health services. “Working internationally is one of the richest opportunities we can provide our trainees because it allows students to challenge their own assumptions,” she said. It also gives them an opportunity to form lifelong research partnerships.
U of M received about $450,000 for 75 scholarships in the field of global public health and Indigenous health. Selected Canadian students will pursue studies and internships at U of M’s partner institutions in Kenya, India, New Zealand and Australia. Students from those and other Commonwealth countries will pursue graduate studies at the Manitoba university.
Another component of the program requires recipients and institutions to engage with local community groups. At U of M, researchers will work with various First Nations groups in the province to ensure that the research “is relevant to these communities,” Dr. Lavoie said.
Among the more innovative initiatives, the University of Prince Edward Island was awarded $500,000 for several projects that aim to improve the livelihoods of smallholder dairy farmers in northern Kenya. UPEI’s partners include Farmers Helping Farmers, a Canadian non-profit agency, as well as Kenyatta University, the University of Nairobi and Kenya’s Naari Dairy Cooperative Society. UPEI veterinary and nutrition students will develop and deliver training programs in cattle health management and family nutrition in Kenya. Several Kenyan scholars will conduct research on drought-tolerant crops and investigate methods of improving cattle reproduction and welfare.
McGill University received $1 million to support two projects in medical genomics and in the social factors and policies that affect the health, equity and wellbeing of citizens in Canada and abroad. The funding will support the work of McGill’s Genome Québec Innovation Centre and its partner institutions in England, Kenya, Uganda, Ghana and South Africa. It will also assist 18 Canadian students to train for up to a year at Oxford University and other partner laboratories. In addition, McGill’s Institute for Health and Social Policy will provide internships and scholarships in the arts and sciences for both Canadian and Commonwealth students.