UBC has offices in Hong Kong and New Delhi — but what do they do for the academic community?

UBC India Liaison Office (ILO) Director Faisel Beg works for UBC from over 11,000 kilometres away. Beg is part of a far-flung cohort of UBC’s international offices that comprise a small but crucial component of the university’s complex global engagement strategy.

According to the 2011 International Strategic Plan, China and India represent “significant potential engagement for UBC.” One way they realize this potential is through international offices.

Europe, India and China form the three focus regions of the plan, with two goals in mind: increasing “the capacity of UBC students, faculty, staff, and alumni to engage internationally” and strengthening “UBC’s presence as a globally influential university.”

The International Strategic Plan specifically prioritizes developing regional offices to keep pace with other universities and governments that maintain nodes overseas. For example, the BC government has a business development office in Bangalore to aid with transnational economic connections. UBC, as an institution with an undergraduate population of 60,000 and a $2.3 billion endowment, has similar international aspirations.

UBC in Hong Kong

The Hong Kong-based Asia Pacific Regional Office (APRO) was established in the early 2000s and serves to engage alumni, meet with university donors and connect university partners in the region with UBC researchers, according to Cheryl Dumaresque, the managing director of the vice-provost international’s (VPI) office.

UBC’s Hong Kong and New Delhi offices, along with Go Global, St. John’s College, Vantage College, the Vancouver Summer Program (VSP) and other global partnerships, are facilitated by the VPI office under the leadership of VPI Rumnee Ahmed.

Damara Klaassen, the executive director of the International Student Initiative (ISI), said the ISI uses APRO as a hub for staff working in the region, not for the purpose of recruitment. According to its website, the ISI “supports recruitment of international undergraduate students from a diversity of countries and school systems.”

UBC students wishing to participate in corporate education terms or other initiatives may work in and gain experience at the office, according to Dumaresque.

Ultimately, APRO emerged from an existing relationship UBC had in Hong Kong with the Hong Kong Foundation for UBC Limited. The Foundation’s website describes the organization’s work as aimed at increasing public awareness of the university, as well as soliciting donations with its tax-free charitable status. Its financial statements and reports fall within the mandate of the Board of Governors.

UBC in New Delhi

While the APRO office focuses on alumni and donor relations, the ILO in New Delhi focuses on “UBC’s engagement in India.”

“The India Liaison Office is much smaller, it’s literally one person,” said Dumaresque.

Dumaresque said Beg and the ILO support “faculty researchers that want to go into the region.”

The VSP and ILO also provide support for UBC students attending global seminars. The ILO organizes meetings for faculty members and supports various groups: faculty researchers wanting to go into the region or who are seeking advice by collaborating with partners.

Both regional offices contribute to the VSP.

The program, established in 2013, invites international post-secondary students who do not attend UBC to experience “socio-cultural activities” and take part in academic learning for four weeks on campus.

The VSP’s website said it will “nurture your academic pursuits, build friendships, and expand your perspective of the world around you.”

“UBC is at a turning point in terms of its international engagement,” read the report. “While the scale and scope of our engagement in some areas puts us in a leading position — for example we have the largest student exchange program in Canada — we have not effectively harnessed that to assert UBC as an international leader.”

Twelve years after the International Strategic Plan, UBC’s international offices are guided by In Service, UBC’s 2020–2030 Global Engagement Strategy. It focuses on teaching “in global contexts” and “enhanc[ing] the impact” of UBC’s work.

The plan does not mention any specific areas of focus, and it remains to be seen whether ILO and APRO will transform to meet these goals.