Advancing research for all
When Sir George Williams University and Loyola College joined forces to form Concordia University in 1974, they were distinct in many ways, yet shared an important quality: a strong emphasis on undergraduate education.
The mission of the university is all about knowledge, both transferring and creating it.
While that objective has remained constant throughout Concordia’s history, more recently the university has prioritized graduate education and research.
Enrolment figures bear that out: in the past five years alone, Concordia has seen the number of students in master’s, doctoral and graduate diploma and certificate programs jump by 28 per cent, to about 7,900, accounting for about 18 per cent of all students at the university.
In 2013-14 Concordia awarded 166 PhDs, a 34 per cent increase from five years before.
“The presence of grad students changes the whole feeling of their departments,” says Paula Wood-Adams, Concordia’s dean of Graduate Studies. “They interact with undergraduate students and professors, creating a more stimulating atmosphere.”
About a third of grad students conduct thesis-based research — developing insight into a wide array of fields, ranging from art education and accountancy to mechanical and industrial engineering and theological studies.
“The mission of the university is all about knowledge, both transferring and creating it. And graduate student research is an important factor in creating new knowledge,” Wood-Adams says. “It brings benefits beyond our walls, such as helping develop new industries or influencing government policies.”
The success of Concordia’s graduate education push has put the need for graduate student support in relief, she adds. “About 70 per cent of our thesis students receive financial support from the university. On average, the funded students receive $14,000 per year — other similar Canadian universities typically offer between $18,000 and $20,000 per year for their thesis students.”
The university has been a leader in offering new information to the general public. As part of its open access philosophy, Concordia launched Spectrum, a thesis repository freely available online, in 2009. Since then more than 500 new theses are placed on the site each year.
“As soon as a thesis is accepted, it is added to Spectrum, and within a day or two it’s picked up by Google,” Wood-Adams says. “This makes the information enormously accessible.”