4.3 Three cross-cutting themes

4.3.1  Internationalization

As expressed by the Principal’s 2011 Annual Report, “McGill is a truly international university, built in an international context and on the meeting of cultures. Not only are we importing diverse cultural perspectives by increasing our international student and faculty recruitment efforts. We are continually exporting new knowledge around the planet through a wealth of new and established partnerships and initiatives.”1           

For the purposes of ASAP 2012, “internationalization” refers to an evolving and dynamic educational and research environment that is being continually reshaped by the world-wide context in which McGill and its peers operate. The term “globalization,” on the other hand, refers to the world-wide interdependence, and scholarly interchange that is manifested in the knowledge, economic, political, cultural and social spheres. The increased mobility of goods, services, and people and the accelerating use of information and communications technologies are central to this process.2

These trends are manifest in a competitive global marketplace for faculty and students, international research partnerships and collaborations, and translation of scientific discoveries with far-reaching implications and locations.

McGill embraces both internationalization and globalization in ways that inform every aspect of University life. Ours is one of the most international universities in North America, with 20 per cent of our undergraduate students, and an even higher proportion of our graduate students, coming from countries other than Canada, and with nearly half of our students reporting a mother tongue other than English (and the considerable number who can converse fluently in three or more languages).3

Sixty per cent of McGill’s tenure-track faculty members and half of the postdoctoral fellows and other research collaborators who have joined the McGill community over the last decade have been recruited from outside Canada, including the repatriation of Canadian academics from abroad. Another strong international connection comes from the fact that McGill alumni now reside in over 180 countries around the globe.

As noted above, contributing to this international character, McGill is located in bilingual Montréal, where 31 per cent of the city’s 1.6 million residents are from other countries and in Québec with a very fast growing foreign-born population in the Canadian context which is already very accommodating to large numbers of immigrants and foreign workers.

International engagement is clearly prevalent in the University’s research, teaching, service to the local, national, and global communities, and in outreach to members of the McGill family wherever they are located. McGill fosters a remarkable richness of learning, social and research experiences, and has a truly global outlook and reach. Students are involved internationally through internships and study abroad exchanges. Faculty members in every unit collaborate with research partners across the globe. ASAP 2012 builds on McGill’s inherent international strengths and relationships with a timely and renewed vigour appropriate to the changing demands of the Canadian and the global environment in which we operate.4

4.3.2  Sustainability

In recent years, an over-arching emphasis for McGill has been on achieving sustainable stewardship of financial, human, and natural resources. Since 2006, the University has become a proud leader among campuses that have implemented sustainable practices through day-to-day activities, in facilities and operations, and outreach to the broader community.5

We have furthered sustainability through teaching, research, and through creating a sense of shared responsibility.6

McGill advances these principles through investment in energy efficiency in the physical development of our campuses. The culmination of these efforts is McGill’s “Sustainability Policy”, drafted by a work group of students, faculty and administrative staff that was approved by Senate and by the Board of Governors in spring 2010.

ASAP 2012 reaffirms the campus commitment to all that sustainability encompasses—social equity, diversity of origin and ideas, environmental management, and economic sustainability. This approach encourages us to take responsibility for the present as well as the future by enhancing the quality of life for all people, sustaining the natural environment, and reinventing our capacity to thrive in a diverse and changing climate. As such, sustainability provides a timely theme for this iteration of McGill’s strategic academic plan.

4.3.3  Innovation

Innovation is the third cross-cutting theme that informs ASAP 2012. Since 2006, the landscape of higher education has been characterized by transformative, or some are beginning to say “revolutionary,” change. Future historians and sociologists of science may refer to this period as one in which higher education has undergone a true paradigm shift, with technology and access to information as the main drivers. Social innovation has led to “the development and application of new or improved activities, initiatives, services, processes or products designed to address social and economic challenges faced by individuals and communities.”7

A potentially bewildering array of options—online communication, social media tools, technologically supported collaborations through electronic networks—connect individuals internationally in distant locations, from varied backgrounds and disciplines, with varied interests and expertise, to facilitate advances in research, teaching and learning, and community engagement.

McGill must continually renew efforts to identify best practices for harnessing these technological tools to support and advance our research, teaching and community outreach. In particular, we are integrating technology into pedagogy and practice to encourage students to become authentic learners who discover, create, collaborate and inspire.

Universities must demonstrate a capacity for innovation in the way in which they do research, teach, and provide service in order to survive, thrive, and continue to be the drivers for societal and economic advances. Recognizing innovation as a third cross-cutting theme, McGill will respond to the fundamental shifts that are defining the emerging transformation that is itself predicated on research, teaching and learning models that are new to the information age.

It is important to acknowledge, however, that the three cross-cutting themes of internationalization, sustainability, and innovation are not goals in and of themselves. Rather, they provide lenses through which we can monitor the achievement of a variety of valued ends—enhancing the quality of scholarship and discovery, producing globally aware, competent and informed graduates, alumni who are sensitive to the communities around them, who embrace service that addresses, and possibly contributes to, solutions for world problems. In this way, these themes are contributors to the development of a strategic plan that furthers overall institutional effectiveness.



1. PDF icon Principal's Annual Report 2010-2011
2. International Association of Universities (April 2012). Affirming academic values in the internationalization of higher education: A call for action. http://globalhighered.files.wordpress.com/2012/04/affirming-academic-values-in-internationalization-of-higher-education.pdf; for information about internationalizing curricula and student experiences, see  Greene, M.F.(2005). Measuring internationalization at research universities. Washington, D.C.: American Council on Education, http://www.acenet.edu/news-room/Documents/Measuring-Research.pdf
3. Deputy Provost (SLL) Student Demographic Survey 2011 
4. See Advisory Panel on Canadian Innovation.(2012). International education: A key driver of Canada’s future prosperityhttp://www.international.gc.ca/education/report-rapport/strategy-strategie/index.aspx?lang=eng&view=d
5.PDF icon Vision 2020 : Creating a Sustainable McGill Situation Analysis
6. Vision 2020 Sustainability Policy (from the Secretariat's Website)
7. Goldenberg, M. 2004. Social innovation in Canada, Ottawa: Canadian Policy Research Networks. For further discussion, see Goldenberg, M., Kamoji, W, Orton, L. & Williamson, M. 2009. Social innovation in Canada: An update. Ottawa: Canadian Project Research Networks.
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