Developing International-Focused Graduates – Ian Telfer Comments on Importance


As thousands of university students begin to descend on campuses across Canada, the quality and value of the education post-secondary students receive is once more a focus.  Over the last decade, thanks to the prevalence of digital tools and the internet, the skills graduates need to succeed has changed immensely.


In order to have a competitive advantage in today’s international and hyper-connected business world, students need skills that were considered specialized knowledge only a few short years ago. Bilingualism and multilingualism are among the most in-demand skills for business school graduates, after all, many of them will work in a global, increasingly border-transparent market.


In order to ensure Ontario students are on par with other business leaders around the globe,  the province announced last year they would invest more funds in french language programs at post secondary institutes.


Part of the new commitment to a bilingual education also saw the University of Ottawa receive the official designation as a French-language services provider, which came into effect in January 2016.


“This designation recognizes the University of Ottawa’s ongoing commitment to provide francophones and francophiles with unique opportunities to pursue their studies in French,” said  Madeleine Meilleur, Minister Responsible for Francophone Affairs in a press release.

“This designation will have a significant and positive impact on the development of Ontario’s francophone community and the future of all Ontarians.”




As the only university outside of Quebec to receive the dual language designation, the University of Ottawa is paving the way for bilingual postsecondary training across Canada.


In 2012, students at the University of Ottawa’s Telfer School of Management were the first in the country to be  eligible for the school’s new French MBA program in Europe.  The program offers a francophone MBA for working professionals, replacing an earlier francophone program that was discontinued in 2000.


The new and improved francophone MBA program is viewed as a strategic way to better train multilingual business leaders of tomorrow, while also helping the school expand its footprint in Canada and Europe, as well as foster international collaboration.


Unlike the English-based MBA program, which is also offered at the Telfer School of Management, the francophone program uses a mix of in-class and online learning.  The students accepted into the two-year program must already possess business skills, as there is a prerequisite of three to seven years of work experience.


“We needed to find a new formula to make the francophone MBA for this market more accessible, more flexible and more relevant,” said Alain Doucet, The Telfer School of Management’s Assistant Dean of External relations.


Last year, the Telfer School ranked second in terms of Canadian business programs and the school is working hard to maintain the good standing, in part through building and introducing programs that prepare students for the business realities of the future.


“One of our competitive advantages is our bilingual nature and our ability to offer end-to-end francophone management programs,” noted Doucet.


With more companies doing business in international marketplaces, today’s graduates must have quantitative, analytical and strategic thinking skills, as well as a global mindset.


Having that kind of mindset requires possessing the technical skills necessary for operating successfully in an international environment and being able to apply those skills effectively. The ability to work on global virtual teams and achieve results is part of the mindset and includes soft skills such as flexibility, influence management, curiosity and an openness to learning new things.


According to Business Because, an online resource for Business Schools, in addition to having a broader mindset, foreign language skills help set MBA grads apart in the business world and can lead to greater opportunities.


“Learning multiple languages is a clever way to give your CV an edge,” writes Business Because writer, Seb Murray. “Bilingual qualities are prized among MBA recruiters, and many students become fluent in their business school’s native language.”


Murray is absolutely correct.


In the annual CBI-Pearson Education and Skills Survey for 2014, researchers found that 65 percent of global firms identified a need for foreign language skills. The survey went on to point out that this trend is expected to increase over the next decade.


The emphasis on language at the Telfer School of Management aligns with this new expectation that graduates are able to conduct business in a variety of languages. The school’s ongoing commitment to top tier education is what namesake, alumnus and mining executive Ian Telfer envisioned when he made his $25 million dollar donation to the school in 2007.


“I strongly believe that in order for Canada to keep pace with the rest of world economically, we need to invest in offering our young people the skills to succeed,” Telfer said.  “That includes robust language skills and providing our next generations the skill to communicate effectively with others from different backgrounds,” Ian Telfer added.


Telfer, who graduated from the University of Ottawa’s MBA program himself, put the knowledge and skills he learned at the school to good use in building a thirty-year plus mining career, a career that had Telfer conducting business in many countries outside of Canada.


“I credit the University of Ottawa with a lot of my success, partially because it focused and help propel my ambitions as a business leader and made me more well-rounded …  I gained a lot of confidence and a lot of momentum at the school and I never discount how important that was to my later career,” said Ian Telfer.