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Centennial College Nurtures Asia’s Global Denizens

Jul 09, 2015

Centennial College opened its doors in 1966 as Ontario’s first publicly–funded college of applied arts and technology to provide Canada’s rapidly evolving economy with a new generation of technologists and community service practitioners.

Nearly 50 years later, Centennial College has clearly outgrown its original mandate of serving the Greater Toronto Area alone.

Today, with four campuses and four community learning sites, the college mirrors Toronto’s development as a city that has embraced its highly diverse multicultural population of six million inhabitants, as well as the innovative and creative industries that have taken root in the region.

Centennial College’s globalized perspective and approach have attracted thousands of foreign students seeking an engaging education in one of the world’s most cosmopolitan capitals. More than 80 languages are spoken on campus by students representing approximately 100 nations.

Over the last seven years, Centennial has earmarked almost $380 million to expand its facilities and provide state-of-the-art classrooms and laboratories for its 19,000 students.


Centennial College President and CEO Ann Buller

“We’ve really tried to make this institution not just about attracting international students, but also about becoming truly internationalized,” said President and CEO Ann Buller, who has overseen the college’s evolution into a globalized institution since she took over in 2004.


In its “Book of Commitments,” Centennial College reaffirms its strategic goals and its obligations to its students, which include an education that nurtures entrepreneurial and innovative thinking.

Established in 1987, the college’s Center of Entrepreneurship has incubated more than 3,600 small businesses and boasts an outstanding 98 percent success rate. It recently earned Canada’s national Colleges and Institutes Canada (CICan) Entrepreneurship Award in the Entrepreneurship in the Community category for its remarkable OSEB business mentoring program.

To extend its global reach, Centennial College engages with international students via its satellite offices outside Canada. For its brand expansion abroad and its service to internationally-minded students, Centennial received two nationally recognized awards: the Gold Medal for Internationalization from CICan, and the Director’s Award for Internationalization from the Canadian Bureau for International Education (CBIE).

With Asia growing more prosperous, Centennial College opened seven satellite offices in the region – four in China, and one each in India, South Korea and Vietnam – to engage with prospective students and their parents exploring the benefits of studying in Toronto.

Office staff provides free advice on Centennial College’s programs and answers all questions about the requirements needed by international students who want to study in Canada.

“In 2016, we will mark 20 years in China. Our experiences working in Asia have been remarkable. We are all for supporting our international students in bringing the expertise and experiences that they acquired here at Centennial College back to their homeland for the betterment of societies there,” Buller explained.

Centennial College also provides students with pathways to live and work in Canada.

As it seeks to grow its global network, the college is open to partnerships with other institutions around the world for student exchange and research programs.

Centennial College’s network of international partners offers opportunities for learning experiences through “global service learning” and work abroad. For example, students traveled to Peru to help construct a preschool in a village high in the Andes Mountains, organized jointly with language school Maximo Nivel.

The college’s international student satisfaction survey boasts an 85 percent satisfaction rating, demonstrating why Centennial College has gained strong recognition abroad and has been such a popular choice among Asian students.

To create a realistic learning environment for its students, Centennial College adopted a new model and culture for its students.

While the traditional classroom setting remains a necessary component, the model incorporates simulations of the work environment and situations designed to gauge a student’s development. Paired with state-of- the-art facilities, Centennial’s teaching model has given students the confidence and skills necessary to navigate the fast-changing global marketplace.

“The global network that we’ve established with academe and students benefits Canada and the rest of the world. Education with a global perspective is what the world needs. We want to be seen as true partners and be part of the world’s supply chain of students.”

Centennial College’s post-graduate International Business Management program, with a focus on doing business in China, is delivered in three countries. Students take their first semester in Canada, followed by a semester in Panama’s City of Knowledge and the final semester in China. There, students learn Mandarin Chinese culture and business practices, and complete an internship in an industrial setting.

Students also have an opportunity to earn a Master of Arts in International Business and Centennial College’s post-graduate Business Management Certificate through a joint program with Italy and India. The first semester is completed in Italy, followed by a semester in India, and a final semester and internship in Canada. Graduates have the opportunity to work in Canada for one year.

With the international business landscape growing increasingly diverse and challenging, the college believes it is vital for its graduates to learn how to adapt quickly in an immersive environment and with a community of students drawn from a vast spectrum of cultures.

Centennial College boasts training in courses such as aviation and provides its students with comfortable and conducive surroundings for learning.

“For the future, I’d like to see additional partnerships as more of our students pursue interning and practical programs, and acquire international experience,” said Buller.

To stay competitive and relevant amid continuous globalization, Centennial College will not hesitate to challenge the norm and establish new instruction models as it promotes its own brand of education around the world.

Aside from strengthening its brand and business, the college also takes it upon itself to promote the image of Canada as a country of innovation and inclusiveness, and as a responsible member of the international community.

As Canada’s future prosperity increasingly relies on its ties with governments and businesses in Asia, Centennial College serves as a quasi-ambassador to the region and, through its alumni, fosters global citizenship in this interconnected world of diverse cultures.

“Asia is a significant market for us. Based on our projections and on the extraordinary quality of students from Asia, we have learned just as much from them as they from us. We believe that the global network that we’ve established with academe and students benefits Canada and the rest of the world,” Buller said.

“Education with a global perspective is what the world needs. My main message is we want to be seen as true partners and be part of the world’s supply chain of students,” she added.

Canada 2015 was prepared for and originally printed in Forbes Asia magazine.

PDF of the printed report

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