Chris Cooter: «Canada now offers a brand new joint degree with the UoM»

1 year, 8 months ago - March 26, 2022
Chris Cooter: «Canada now offers ...»
We got hold of Canadian Ambassador to Mauritius Chris Cooter while he was on a visit to the island to present his credentials to the president of the republic.

Lexpress talk about the ties between the two countries, the collaboration as well as some very interesting opportunities opening up for students who would like to study and work in Canada.

>You presented your credentials to the president of the republic and met several ministers. How did that go?

Indeed, I had the honour to present my credentials to the president on March 9. We had a very good discussion, followed by in-depth conversations with the prime minister and a number of other ministers and senior officials. I took advantage of my visit to your country to also meet with business, education and civil society leaders. Across all these discussions, there were consistent and very encouraging themes. 

>Ok. Let’s take those themes separately and talk about business ties first.

Well, the overall size and rapid growth in ties between our countries was really striking. Although Mauritius has a small population and is physically distant from Canada, you host significant investment from our businesses, and we are looking at ways to enhance our role in your economy. Many people I spoke to, for example, stressed the importance of Canada engaging with Mauritius on the emerging Blue Economy, a wide sector in which Canada has a lot of expertise and which is linked as well to combatting climate change, a priority for both of us.

>There is a substantial number of Mauritians living in Canada as we speak. Why do you think that is the case?

The strength of the people-to-people connection is no doubt because we are both bilingual countries. Also, being members of both the Francophonie and Commonwealth, we are natural friends. But I was delighted to learn during my visit that it goes well beyond that. The number of Mauritians living in Canada is already at least 15,000. The number of students going to our universities was well over 1,000 a year just before COVID hit, and I’m sure that number will grow as the news spreads that a Canadian education offers top-level, affordable quality, in a safe and welcoming environment. And, in my discussions, we looked at new ways to make these connections with Canada even deeper, ensuring that both countries benefit from them.

>Are there many job opportunities for Mauritians wishing to work in Canada today?

Yes, Mauritius offers a pool of bilingual talent that is attractive to Canadian employers and educational institutions. Mauritius and Canada share a common linguistic plurality. Like Mauritius, Canada is both a member of the Commonwealth of Nations and La Francophonie, offering a bilingual environment in which to live, work and study. Students, workers, and prospective permanent residents from Mauritius may find it easier to adapt to Canada due to their language abilities. Likewise, employers and education institutions may favour candidates who are already fluent in Canada’s official languages.

>Is there any advantage that Canada has over other countries offering a similar type of education?

Mauritius represents a growing market for Canadian post-secondary institutions. International students who study in Canada can choose to complete their programmes in English, French, or even both languages depending on their post- secondary institution. Studying in Canada offers students the opportunity to gain a high-quality education in the official language of their choice. Fostering the vitality and development of minority language communities in Canada is a priority for the government of Canada. Canada has a number of programmes to encourage francophone mobility and migration to Canada for both temporary employment and for permanent residence. Canada offers an attractive opportunity to Mauritians to live in the official language of their choosing in a diverse and multicultural community. 

>You mean the linguistic flexibility is the selling point?

Yes. Studying in Canada offers a multicultural experience at world-class Canadian learning institutions in a diverse environment. It allows students the option to study in either official language: English or French (or even both if they choose). What is also attractive is that, depending on the institution and programme of study, students may have the ability to work part-time during their studies and full-time during school breaks, gaining valuable employment experience while also helping to subsidise their cost of living. Canadian postsecondary institutions also offer a variety of co-op programmes where students complete paid work placements as part of their programme of studies, gaining practical skills that can be applied directly to the labour market. Likewise, students may be eligible for a Post-Graduate Work Permit following their graduation, which allows them to continue to gain Canadian employment experience. Finally, studying in Canada offers a pathway to permanent residence in Canada through the Canadian Experience Class.

>Are there any scholarships offered by Canadian universities to Mauritian students to encourage that trend?

Canadian post-secondary institutions offer a variety of scholarships, bursaries, and financial awards to students, including international students. These vary from one institution to another, and from one province to another. Some scholarships and bursaries may be based on academic merit, on extracurricular activities and involvement, or on the basis of financial need. There are also scholarships, fellowships, and funding opportunities made available to international students by Global Affairs Canada and other Canadian federal government departments.* 

>The weather in Canada is quite harsh for Mauritian students. What makes up for that?

It’s true that the weather for some of the year, in some parts of Canada, can be a little different than it is Mauritius – a few places can reach minus 40! On the other hand, in the summer, temperatures are not too different from, and can even be hotter than those in your country. The great thing is that we have four distinctly beautiful seasons. Canadians love the outdoors and most visitors and students find that there are many ways to enjoy each season: in winter, skiing and skating, even in places like downtown Ottawa, our capital, come to mind. Canada is the second largest country in the world, with coasts bordering three oceans, and is home to vibrant multicultural cities, so there is plenty for Mauritians to explore. l

Your colleges seem to be attracting as many students as your universities. What kind of courses do they offer and what kind of flexibility?
Colleges can equip students with practical skills along with their theoretical courses. Many of these programmes are well-connected within their industries, providing students with valuable contacts for employment post-graduation. Many colleges also offer a co-op work placement as part of the programmes of study, giving students the chance to gain paid employment experience in their field before graduation. Canadian designated learning institutions offer a variety of programmes and course lengths. Many college diploma and certificate programmes are between one and two years in length, compared to four to five years for an undergraduate degree. These programmes can help students to upgrade their credentials or to gain further practical skills sought by employers in a shorter period of time. These programmes focus on ensuring that graduates are equipped with the practical and technical skills sought by prospective employers, both in Canada and abroad.

I understand that there is a project of cooperation in the field of education in the pipeline. What kind of students would benefit from that?
We are very excited at a brand new cooperation between the University of Prince Edward Island in Canada and the University of Mauritius. In February 2019, the leadership of UPEI visited Mauritius and signed a memorandum of understanding signalling the intention of the two institutions to cooperate more closely in a diverse range of areas, such as researcher and student exchanges. At the time, they also began a process of assessing each other’s programme offerings towards a joint degree.

>So where are we in that cooperation today?

In 2021, the two universities launched a joint Bachelor’s degree in Science – specifically a BSc (Hons) in Applied Climate Change and Adaptation. The field of study was chosen as both jurisdictions are acutely aware of the impacts of climate change and rising oceans on small island jurisdictions, so it was felt that the shared experiences and expertise would lead to meaningful results. Under the programme, students are meant to spend two years in Mauritius and two years in PEI. 

>Is it the first time this joint degree has been offered?

Yes, it is the first of its kind for the University of Mauritius with any international partner in any field. So while we recognise that this is a great programme for Mauritius, we are also very proud of our Canadian contribution.**

>Would students graduating from this programme have a better chance of working in Canada?

Together with their Canadian credentials, these programmes help to prepare students to join the labour market upon graduation. Having a Canadian education credential can make it easier for a graduate to obtain employment, whether in Canada or in Mauritius. The Post-Graduation Work Permit Programme (PGWPP) allows students who have graduated from eligible Canadian designated learning institutions to obtain an open work permit after graduation. This work permit is not restricted to one employer, allowing the student to gain valuable work experience in the Canadian labour market for up to three years. Certain types of skilled Canadian work experience under the PGWPP helps graduates qualify for permanent residence in Canada through the Canadian Experience Class. Canada also has permanent resident and work permit programmes to encourage francophone mobility and migration to minority language communities. These programmes help to foster Canada’s minority language communities across the country.


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