Canada was recently named the world’s most educated country, with an astonishing 50 per cent of the population completing some form of post-secondary education. In terms of university completion, however, we rank seventh in the world. This is no mere quibble if we hope to create the knowledge economy to which we aspire. Relatedly, we are not as inclusive as we need to be in attracting students from diverse backgrounds – consider, for example, the significant under-representation of Indigenous students, women in the STEM fields, racialized groups, mature students and people with disabilities.
We are at a moment when Canada has the opportunity to be a leader in mobilizing an inclusive response to the complex problems facing the world. Today’s 21st century knowledge economy requires lifelong learners who are curious, willing to develop new skills at every stage of their careers, and adaptable enough to face local and global challenges with creativity, confidence and compassion. In a rapidly changing labour market that is profoundly affected by disruption, automation and the globalization of economic markets, greater campus-community engagement and collaboration is needed to advance shared interests and to ensure that our organizations and communities are inclusive, resilient and sustainable.
York University has long been a leader in providing a broad demographic of students access to a wide variety of learning experiences both within and outside of the classroom to meet the educational and professional needs of an ever-changing workforce. To accommodate significant growth and support the creation of even more innovative programs for recent graduates, working professionals, international students and new Canadians, we recently announced the addition of a new School of Continuing Studies building for our Keele Campus. When completed in 2021, this new facility will enable us to create even more lifelong learning opportunities, build connections with local and international communities, and help students of all ages and backgrounds to achieve their fullest potential. We are also opening a new, state-of-the-art Student Centre this year that will offer our student community access to additional multifunctional and student-focused spaces, including meeting rooms, group study areas, recreational spaces and multifaith prayer rooms.
Though the world we are preparing our students for may look drastically different than it did at the time of our founding in 1959, our mission remains the same: to pursue, preserve and disseminate knowledge, to value diversity and to be open to the world. As a community of higher learning, we must always be thinking about what actions we can take to advance post-secondary education in a way that is inclusive and accessible for all, and also how can we mobilize or apply that learning and action to enhance the public good.
By providing technology-enhanced and student-centric learning environments for our students, as well as access to experiential learning opportunities to develop their practical skills and civic understanding, we are continuing our tradition of providing educational experiences that will shape the next generations of globally minded citizens and leaders – graduates who are driving change, pursuing excellence and creating positive and meaningful impact in the world.