Mississauga, March 11 (CINEWS):After making huge contributions as vice-president of the University of Toronto and principal of the University of Toronto Mississauga since 2010, Professor H. Deep Saini will be off to take a new challenge Down Under at the University of Canberra (UC). He assumes his new position on September 1st.
In an exclusive interview with Can-India, the highly acclaimed and innovative-minded Professor Saini said he was looking forward to the challenges this new position will throw at him. “The plan and vision I have applied at UTM and UFT as well as earlier at the University of Waterloo (He served as dean of the Faculty of Environment) cannot be replicated. The University of Canberra is very different from UFT and UTM. It is very career focused, applied research focus and its growth trajectory will be my preoccupation,” he said.
Professor Saini completed his Master’s at the Punjab Agricultural University in Ludhiana before immigrating to Canada. He is a life-long learner and extremely academic-oriented. He began his academic career at the University of Alberta as a post-doctoral fellow, later he joined the Universite de Montreal as director-general of the Plant Biology Research Institute before moving to the University of Waterloo.
As an academician and visionary, Professor Saini has his work cut out for him at UC. “It is very internationally focused, it offers innovative education programs in many countries including Bhutan and Singapore and there are plans to create nodes elsewhere. I will transplant from here my rich experiences and ideas. UC has a campus of 300 acres, while a lot has been developed, the future development is a very interesting concept- bringing the community and university together, “ he said.
And this focus of integrating the university with the surrounding community and making it a central and integral part of the city is something Mr Saini knows a lot about having worked along the same lines in his role here.
Since assuming his role in 2010, he has overseen plenty of development, notably the Terrence Donnely Health Sciences Complex and the beginning of the $75 million reconstruction of the North and Davis Building as well as the construction of the $35 million Innovation complex. At the U of T Mississauga, he has steered the Boundless Campaign, a $60 million goal and established the Institute for Management and Innovation, a new sector-specific model of business school and the Centre for South Asian Civilization.
He has also focused on an increasingly important component- foreign students. Professor Saini created a new tri-campus model focused on increasing the number of international students on campus. Something that is equally the focus of UC.
“Today the largest number of foreign students come from China and India. The number of students seeking post-graduate education has sky-rocketed and discerning students are spreading across the world looking for quality education. They have the money to pay for it. It will take a while before China and India can improve the quality of more of its educational institutions but it will happen eventually and colleges should be mindful of that reality. While many students go to countries like Canada and Australia for an education they can use back home, a large number seek it as an immigration tool,” he said.
On a different note, we ask Professor Saini what he thought about the very future of higher education for students on campuses versus online courses and attending classes via Skype. “Technology won’t and cannot replace everything. You can’t teach chemistry online or perform a credible dissection. The place-based university will always be there. There will be changes in the way knowledge is transferred- one enriches the other. When I was a student, the professor was looked upon as a fountain of knowledge, today students are bombarded by course information from many sources and come to the classroom equipped and informed. The professor’s role today is to act as a filter of education, to make sense of information and separate the good from the bad,” he said.
Professor Saini will spend the next few months winding down his operations here in the city. There will be an endless stream of farewell parties. After all he has been a very active member on and off campus and within the community. He is currently a member of the City of Mississauga’s Economic Development Advisory Board and also serves as member of the Board of Directors of the Research, Innovation, Commercialization Centre and the United Way of Peel Region.
Prof. Saini will leave for Canberra with his wife and possibly their dog, but that is something yet to be decided. “We have two daughters, one lives in Waterloo, the other in Ottawa, we may end up leaving the dog with one of them,” he said. His departure will be a loss for the city but a matter of pride as he takes on even greater challenges on another continent.