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Prime Minister of France visits U of T

The Prime Minister of France, His Excellency Jean-Marc Ayrault, at the University of Toronto (photo by John Guatto)

Academic collaborations and new student exchange opportunities were just a few of the items on the agenda March 14 when the Prime Minister of France, His Excellency Jean-Marc Ayrault, visited the University of Toronto.

After meeting Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne at Queen’s Park, the prime minister headed next door to U of T’s downtown campus where he toured a research laboratory specializing in cancer research and signed a memorandum of understanding between the university and the French Embassy.

“Our two countries have long worked together as close friends to advance our shared interests and principles,” said Cheryl Misak, U of T vice-president and provost. “The relationships and partnerships between France and the University of Toronto are a very important part of this crucial work.”

Strong areas of collaboration between U of T and the leading institutions of France include astronomy and astrophysics; physics; biochemistry and molecular biology; and oncology. Faculty from U of T and their colleagues in France have coauthored almost 2,000 publications in the past dozen years, Misak said.

“In the modern world, increasingly the challenges we face are global challenges requiring global solutions," Misak said. "To find these solutions we must work together and sustain and extend our networks of collaboration and cooperation."

U of T has eleven university-wide agreements and nine divisional agreements with leading universities in France, Misak said.

Ayrault was accompanied by his wife and several ministers from France. The delegation toured the cancer research laboratory with Molecular Genetics professor and principal investigator Sachdev Sidhu, and post-doctoral fellows Frederic Fellouse and Satra Nim.(See photos of the visit.)

“By requesting to visit the University, touring one of our laboratories and engaging so wonderfully with our faculty and students, His Excellency has shown his commitment to higher education, and to global collaboration in research and innovation,” said Misak.

In addition to the lab tour, the delegation took part in a panel discussion with five U of T researchers from a range of disciplines about inter-institutional collaboration between France and U of T. Panellists included Professor Sylvain Baruchel of the Department of Paediatrics, Associate Professor Paul Cohen of the Department of History, Assistant Professor Rayjean Hung of the Dalla Lana School of Public Health, and three post-doctoral fellows from the Rotman Research Institute, Department of Physics and Department of Earth Sciences.

The Embassy of France in Canada also signed an agreement with U of T that will create more opportunities for student exchanges in science and technology.

“We share the benefit of student exchange programs and University of Toronto students are enriched by our summer abroad program in France,” Misak said. “Indeed, the University as a whole is enriched by the presence of faculty members and undergraduate and graduate students from France.

“As a result of the agreement being signed today, in two weeks’ time the first two master degree students from France will arrive through our newest program, with placements in laboratories studying diabetes, obesity, and metabolism.”

Ayrault was in Canada for an official visit that included a meeting with Prime Minister Stephen Harper as well as stops in Ottawa, Montreal and other locations in Toronto.