Cyndi Mcleod, Global University Systems Canada

Published 23/07/2021

Cyndi Mcleod has been chief executive officer, Canada for Global University Systems since 2017. She spoke to The PIE about the company’s growth in Canada, its focus on preparing students for employment and its role in filling the country’s labour shortages.

The PIE: Can you tell us about Global University Systems Canada‘s brands?

Cyndi Mcleod: Global University Systems Canada brands are strategically placed in some of the major cities across Canada. University Canada West, in downtown Vancouver, now has one of the largest MBA programs in Canada. This year we bought a new school called the Canadian College of Technology and Business, also in Vancouver.

They’re in the downtown centre of Vancouver, which is amazing for students for transportation and ease of getting to the schools and ease of living.

And also in Vancouver and Toronto, we have the Language Gallery, which supports a number of our brands for ESL pathway.

The Trebas Institute in Montreal was new acquisition for us about two years ago, and it’s a creative industry school really focusing on film and sound engineering, but also a number of business programs with skills, like E-commerce and Business Administration. We also have a Trebas location in Toronto so students have two choices.

Then we’re very proud of our Toronto School of Management, which is really in the centre of the city and opened about four years ago, with a large array of programs in business, technology and hospitality. Our new partnership brand is called Niagara College – Toronto, in partnership with Niagara College, where we’re delivering four of their programs in collaboration with the Toronto School of Management. We’re securing a brand new location for that joint initiative, which will also be downtown Toronto.

The PIE: GUS has seen quite a lot of growth in the past five years.

“We’re making good investments to make sure our students and faculty have the best teaching and learning spaces”

CM: We’ve worked very hard during Covid, and it’s been a challenge for everybody for sure. But I’m very pleased that our numbers have continued to grow across the GUS Canada brands. We’re looking forward to a very positive year next year if everything goes well with the borders opening and the vaccines.

We’ve really invested in high quality facilities. We are going to launch the new University Canada West building in Vancouver, with our fantastic teaching and learning space at Vancouver House. The space is outstanding and it’s got a lot of visibility in the city.

We’ve just taken a new building in Montreal as well to expand the Trebas Institute. So we’re making good investments to make sure our students and faculty have the best teaching and learning spaces. We’re very committed to quality of education, and of our spaces.

The PIE: How have borders not being open affected GUS teaching modes during Covid-19?

CM: Like all institutions across Canada, we’re all looking forward to the day when we can have students back in the classroom. We were able to pivot all of our programs into online delivery, which actually served us very well.

“Ultimately students still want to be in the classroom with a professor in front of them”

We have included a lot of support systems for students and faculty to ensure that they are comfortable with online learning, and we’ve been very creative with scheduling and delivery.

But ultimately students still want to be in the classroom with a professor in front of them or a hybrid flipped classroom model where they have some face-to-face and then some online learning.

The PIE: Do your locations in Canadian cities give GUS an advantage in the market to attract more students?

CM: Students like to be in the downtown areas, the different amenities they offer I think is really attractive. And yes, I still believe that Canada is a very popular study destination.

We’re still well respected for our government policy, for safety, for employment opportunities. And the quality of education still remains one of the best in the world.

In Montreal, we’re able to issue postgrad work permits, and with our collaboration in Toronto with Niagara College Toronto, students will also have access to postgrad work permits. And UCW can offer postgrad work permits.

“We’ve tried to build an ecosystem, where students can move across the GUS institutions across the globe”

We have laddered all of our GUS Canada brands. So if students finish a diploma at Toronto School of Management, they have a pathway to finish their degree at University Canada West. Everything is linked and there are pathways between Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal, which is really beneficial for students.

The PIE: What sort of advantages does that give you over other education providers?

CM: It gives GUS Canada students options to stay within the GUS education family as well as having the opportunity to perhaps go study in Germany or with LSBF in London, if their program aligns. We’ve tried to build an ecosystem, where students can move across the GUS institutions across the globe.

Then with the Canadian College of Technology and Business, we’re actually working on a new strategy through the British Columbia PNP fast track tech related programming. Across Canada, we have a severe labour shortage right now and it’s difficult to hire people. We probably need a million skilled professionals in the next two years.

Through the BC PNP fast track, successful students can actually move forward very quickly right into employment. There’s 29 categories that are tech related occupations that British Columbia and the rest of Canada needs, and our CCTB team is really focused on building those programs around the needs of the workforce.

The PIE: When you’re programming courses, how much do you consider those skills shortages?

CM: All of our new programs are very much aligned to labour market needs, whether it’s in Ontario, British Columbia or Québec. Our goal is always that our students, once they graduate, they’ll be successful in securing employment.

Before Covid, we did some studies at University Canada West, and at one point we had 100% employment for our MBA program grads. One of the focuses for GUS Canada right now is very much around technology, business and the creative industries. And those are the areas where Canada is looking for skilled professionals.

“Micro credentials is an area where the GUS global group has a lot of expertise”

We’re also very focused on micro credentials. This is an area where the GUS global group has a lot of expertise and we were able to bring that to Canada. And we’re collaborating with business and industry around micro credentials, and stackable ones that are of value to students as they go out into the workforce.

At UCW, we’re very excited about our next generation innovation hub, where we’re working with a number of tech related partners and students are able to have some hands on experience, real life projects and working in that tech sector and around micro credentialing, where we have about 140 partnerships with partners such as the Digital Marketing Institute.

The PIE: And talking of tech, could you tell us about the STEM scholarship for female students?

CM: Our women in leadership scholarship at the University of Canada West was particularly around the challenges women have faced during Covid. Many women with children have seen their careers impacted because there was no day-care. And so we set out to create opportunities for them to come back and get their MBA so that when the economy begins to open up, they are far better positioned to actually move up in the workforce.

And the first year we gave $550,000 to women for this program. We actually launched it a second time, and we’re seeing incredible female leaders come through this program. We have many scholarships for students, but I think it’s one of the most meaningful that we’ve actually put forward. I think we’ll see some incredible success stories around this investment in people.

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