“A Lot to Learn from Each Other”: Faculty of Law Establishes International Connections with Chinese Universities

Posted on Thursday, November 5, 2015

Dean Lévesque and Dean Nathalie Des Rosiers of the Common Law Section have established an international vision for the Faculty of Law, and they view China and its many law schools as important potential collaborators.  One of the priorities in these international collaborations is developing opportunities in the area of health law and policy.  As two of the law school’s most renowned experts in the field, Professors Colleen M. Flood and Steven J. Hoffman were happy to join Dean Lévesque on the trip.

Health law is a hot topic in China at the moment.  Just as Canadian law schools have been developing an increased capacity for health law over the last 20-30 years, Chinese law schools are currently interested in the field as China forges ahead with the development of new legislation for national health insurance, while trying to ensure a better level of universal access to health care for all of its residents.  Health law is a key focus, not only for government officials, but for the country’s law schools, which are eager to develop the capacity to participate in this big legal reform moment.

“What they do right now will set the course of history for their access to health care for a long time to come,” says Prof. Flood.  “They can learn from what we’ve learnt.  And we can learn from watching them develop.  I think it’s a really interesting moment in time in China right now.  And the chance to witness and even be involved with creating something of that magnitude is very enticing.”

Naturally, this is not the Faculty of Law’s first foray into China.  The law school has had a strong relationship with the South West University of Political Science and Law (SWUPL), one of the top ranked law schools in China, since 2008, as well as exchange agreements with other Chinese schools.  But this trip served as an opportunity for the delegates to more thoroughly introduce uOttawa and all of its unique offerings to a far broader range of Chinese researchers and students.  While health law served as one focus of the trip, it was clear to the delegates that there are many opportunities for collaboration with a wide variety of schools across a whole host of different legal disciplines.  China is a civil law regime with some parts of its system inspired by common law, so the unique bijuridical and bilingual nature of uOttawa’s law school is very attractive for Chinese students and researchers.

“I think we have a lot to offer,” says Dean Lévesque.  “uOttawa is very international in its outlook, and we’re very interested in comparative law.  The combination of that with the diverse environment of the Nation’s Capital, makes our Faculty of Law a very compatible match with many of the schools we visited.” 

The visitors discussed the possibility of traditional collaborations, such as student exchanges, but they also explored other innovative opportunities.  Among their key objectives was developing collaboration at the graduate level, and increasing the potential for research collaboration.  As part of their trip, the delegates were fortunate to attend the White Coat Ceremony for the Ottawa-Shanghai Joint School of Medicine (OSJSM) in Shanghai on October 17.  The ceremony marked the one-year anniversary of a pioneering partnership between uOttawa and the Shanghai Jiao Tong University to establish the OSJSM, which is the first school in China to offer a North American medical education program.  University of Ottawa President Allan Rock, who presided over the ceremony, singled out law as an area ripe for future collaboration between the two Universities, and initial discussions with the KoGuan Law School were very positive. 

The OSJSM’s incredibly innovative example of international collaboration served as inspiration for the law school delegates, providing a model they hope to build on.  The Deans envision the possibility of creating an integrated Master’s degree together with Chinese schools, allowing students to split their time between China and Canada.  A more short-term possibility would allow schools in both regions to increase their recognition of each other’s degree programs, making it easier for students to move from one region to the other.  A model like this could be integrated across a variety of different schools, focusing on a range of topics, from health law, to law and technology, environmental law, international trade and investment and many more.  For instance, Dean Lévesque’s visit to Xiamen University confirmed their law school’s pre-eminence in international law and offers great potential for collaboration in an area that is also a uOttawa trademark.

“What was most striking to me was how different our two countries at first appear yet how similar we really are,” says Prof. Hoffman.  “In the area of health law, both countries struggle to figure out the best way to structure our health systems, to decide what treatments will be funded, and to hold healthcare providers accountable. We have a lot to learn from each other.” 

For uOttawa students eager to experience life at a Chinese school in the short term, SWUPL offers its partner universities a unique two-week summer program that allows students to learn more about China. The program is delivered in English with a combination of lectures, seminars, activities and field trips that explore the Chinese legal system, economy, society, language and culture.  Students are responsible for their own travel costs, but SWUPL will cover all living expenses during the two-week program.  For more information, visit the SWUPL website in 2016.

The Faculty of Law looks forward to building upon the budding relationships cultivated during this important trip, expanding the law school’s reach with its new and existing Chinese partners in the spirit of learning from one another.  

Back to top