On Tuesday 13 March, as part of the state visit to Canada, UCL and the University of Ottawa signed a dual degree agreement in multilingual communication. On the same day, the two universities organised a research seminar on language learning.
On 13 March, King Philippe opened a research seminar on multilingualism at the University of Ottawa. The seminar, which was coordinated by UCL in collaboration with UOttawa, was an opportunity for various university teams from Belgium and Canada – two countries with a long tradition of multilingualism – to present recent research results on immersion education. On behalf of UCL, Professors Arnaud Szmalec and Philippe Hiligsmann presented the first results of a five-year ARC (collective research initiative) project carried out in collaboration with UNamur, looking at immersion in English and Dutch in French-speaking Belgian education. In French-speaking Belgium, the number of schools which use immersion is constantly increasing: in 2015-2016, 191 primary schools and 100 secondary schools offered an immersion programme to some 32,000 students in the Federation Wallonia-Brussels. The researchers were interested in the effectiveness of this programme for second language acquisition, but also in the level of learning of general subjects in a language other than the mother tongue. The seminar also allowed Professor Bertrand Hamaide, Vice-Rector for Education and International Relations at Université Saint-Louis, to present the results of a study on success in multilingual programmes, which is one of his university’s areas of strength.
Following the seminar, UCL and UOttawa signed an agreement concerning a dual degree in multilingual communication. In concrete terms, this will enable five UCL students and five UOttawa students to benefit from a one-year exchange at the other institution in order to experience Belgian-style or Canadian-style multilingualism. The agreement will boost student mobility between Belgium and Canada, which is already very dynamic: in 2016-2017, 160 UCL students made an exchange trip to Canada and UCL welcomed 88 Canadian students. This year Canada became the top exchange destination for UCL students.