A longitudinal study on the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Scholarships-Advanced Scholars programme

Students (Credit - Image by Jacob Ammentorp Lund at iStock)

Launched in 2014, the first phase of the Canadian Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Scholarships program (QES) is providing international education opportunities for over 2000 young global leaders from Canada and abroad through 48 distinct projects led by Canadian universities. Programme focus areas include diverse projects that strengthen health systems across countries of the Commonwealth, enhance indigenous community development in New Zealand and Canada, and evaluate forestry and agroforestry ecosystems.

Universities Canada, in partnership with the Rideau Hall Foundation and Community Foundations of Canada, has initiated a second phase of QES, the 'Advanced Scholars' programme (QES-AS), that aims to develop solutions to complex national and global challenges by investing in doctoral researchers, post-doctoral fellows, and early career researchers from Canada and lower-middle income country (LMICs). With the generous funding of the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, 23 additional projects submitted by Canadian universities, with an anticipated 450 scholars, and numerous Canadian and international institutions will participate in the second phase of the programme from 2017 to 2020.

The QES and QES-AS programmes aim to activate a dynamic community of global leaders across Canada and the world, and create lasting impacts through cross-cultural exchanges encompassing international education, discovery and inquiry, and professional experiences. QES-AS will build on the success of QES by identifying scholars who show leadership potential and supporting them in acquiring world-ready research experience through a university, in collaboration with a non-profit organisation or industry. Through these networks, QES-AS aims to strengthen university linkages with industry, community and international partners, explore new opportunities, and better position Canadian universities to engage in solutions to complex global development challenges.

Designing a research framework

With the support of the IDRC, Universities Canada will carry out longitudinal research drawing on the experiences of the QES-AS scholars and participating institutions to assess the impact of international scholarships. Preliminary research results will be fed back, as much as possible, into the ongoing QES programme, and the findings will be communicated to fellow scholarship decision-makers to help improve the design and implementation of effective international scholarship programmes.

The implementation and outcomes of the QES-AS programme will be examined by:

  • Longitudinally studying the four-year gains accrued by QES-AS scholars in terms of leadership skills, global competences, career paths, networking and community involvement;
  • Studying the design and implementation of gender-sensitive, equitable and inclusive international scholarship programming; and
  • Studying the gains accrued to stakeholders through QES-AS enabled research placements.

Each of these objectives feed into the following three hypotheses, respectively:

Hypothesis 1: With the support of QES-AS, scholars benefit from enhanced leadership, career paths, global competencies, networking with research placement partners, and linkages with communities.
Scholars will help define and qualify terms such as leadership, community, and global competencies to highlight discerning perspectives and account for these variances in the design of interview questions and survey tools. These areas will then be measured with survey tools, which will be developed over the next few months, and will be complemented by focus group discussions and interviews with programme administrators, QES-AS scholars and non-scholarship recipients.

Hypothesis 2: The QES-AS programme is being implemented in a gender-sensitive, inclusive way and promotes equitable outcomes.
The research hopes to identify ways to ensure scholarship programmes, such as QES-AS, are truly gender-sensitive, promote equitable outcomes and are implemented in an inclusive way. Through surveys and interviews, researchers aim to identify ways scholarship programmes can promote and ensure these important elements are prominently featured in the QES-AS programme.

Hypothesis 3: Universities and research placement partners supported by QES are building new opportunities on the basis of strengthened linkages.
Strengthened networks and the effects they have on improving and supporting collaborative processes will also be measured and studied through the perspectives of the scholars, programme administrators, Canadian universities and institutions abroad. The research aims to gain insight on the advantages accrued by QES-supported research placement partners and universities through these enhanced linkages.

To test these hypotheses, the proposed study will be a mixed methods design, using surveys, focus groups and interviews. Baseline data will be collected at the QES-AS cohort selection stage and follow-up data throughout the four-year project. Surveys will be conducted online, primarily using existing tools as much as possible. Semi-structured interviews will be held on Skype, by telephone, or in-person. The study design, surveys, focus groups and interview questions will be finalised by the end of May 2017, in consultation with Catherine Beaudry, Professor at École Polytechnique de Montréal, and other university members in our network, in anticipation of beginning data collection in August 2017.

Site visits will also be conducted on an annual or semi-annual basis to allow for direct programme observations. Universities Canada will make informal site visits to the Canadian institutions to connect with programme administrators, meet the scholarship recipients and better understand the project implementation process. Site visits will be determined based on the data collected from the baseline surveys and conversations with Universities Canada's QES programme administration team.

Research participants will include QES-AS scholars, participating university representatives, and research placement institution representatives. The study aims to recruit approximately 200-450 QES-AS scholars as participants. In addition, a comparison group of non-QES-AS scholars will be selected in 2018 once we have more concrete information about the participants, including factors such as their areas of study, research experience, and demographics. Points of comparison between QES-AS scholars and their counterparts will focus on leadership skills, career paths, global competencies, networking and community linkages. A plan for the composition, size and recruitment of the comparison group will be finalised after the first year of the programme, in May 2018.

Aims and aspirations

The longitudinal research aims to complement the QES-AS programme's monitoring and evaluation framework by providing deeper qualitative analyses of programme outcomes. For example, while the programme evaluation will track the number of women and men scholars, the longitudinal research will generate qualitative data on how to implement an international scholarship programme that actively reduces gender inequities, promotes inclusiveness, and delivers insight on the factors that aggravate or reduce inequities in international scholarship programming.

Universities Canada hopes that this longitudinal study of QES-AS will make a welcome, unique and innovative contribution to the field of scholarship evaluation and research. As the study will be conducted alongside the programme's implementation, we have a rare opportunity to collect baseline data about the participants, before the programme begins. Using a comparison group of similar scholarship recipients and non-recipients, researchers hope to draw stronger conclusions about the programme's benefits and shortcomings.

Given the increasing interconnectivity of the world, emerging challenges such as climate change, health, and security cannot be addressed by single state actors. We hope this study demonstrates the unique benefits global collaborations and international scholarship programmes contribute to addressing these increasingly complex challenges.

Image by Jacob Ammentorp Lund at iStock

The authors:

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Anne Seifried

Anne Seifried is an Analyst, International Relations at Universities Canada in Ottawa, Canada. She received a Bachelor of Arts from McGill University, a Master of Arts from McMaster University and a Master of Public Health from the University of Alberta. Previously, she was a Program Officer at Universities Canada (2015-17) and a Program Management Officer at Canada's International Development Research Centre (2010-2015). She led the development of the research proposal for the project highlighted in this blog piece. Her research interests centre on equity in higher education and public health.

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Cate Lawrence

Cate Lawrence has recently joined Universities Canada as a Research Officer for the QES program. She received her MA in dispute resolution from the University of Victoria, Canada, and BComm from Queen's University, Canada. Her previous work and research experience has focused on internship and scholarship administration, rights-based programming in South Asia, and collaborative processes and movement building in Asia.

The Measuring Success blog series draws from the ACU's experience in scholarship design, administration, and analysis, and our connections in the sector, to explore the outcomes of international scholarship schemes for higher education.