Universities and students will benefit from nine projects that will spur innovation, attract and support international and aboriginal students, and make it easier to apply to university. Labour and Advanced Education Minister Kelly Regan was at Cape Breton University today, May 9, to announce the latest round of Excellence and Innovation Fund projects. Cape Breton University will work with its Unama’ki College to make post-secondary education more accessible for aboriginal learners across the province. Cape Breton, Saint Mary’s and Acadia universities will study ways to create a Nova Scotia-China learning campus to offer local academic programs in the city of Zhuhai. Jeff Ward, a soon-to-be bachelor of arts in community studies graduate, said Unama’ki College provides aboriginal students support that offers opportunities for enriched post-secondary experiences. “I’m glad more students across the province will be able to enjoy that experience,” said Mr. Ward. “These opportunities allow the students to flourish and grow as strong, confident aboriginal community members, who can then give back to their own communities in positive ways.” Mount Saint Vincent University will enhance its International Education Centre to improve services for students. The University of King’s College will pilot a new approach to recruit and retain students from the United States. The fund will support ongoing projects involving all universities that directly benefit students: an electronic transcript system will streamline the application process a transfer credit portal will simplify the process of transferring credits from one university to another an online application portal will help students find information and apply to universities more easily “Our universities are facing demographic and economic challenges, and are looking for ways to do things differently,” said Ms. Regan. “That’s what these projects are all about – using technology in new ways, expanding learning opportunities, working together to bring more international students to Nova Scotia, and letting the bright minds in our universities bring new ideas to life.” All universities will see savings from a shared IT service, including a common e-mail, calendar and collaboration tool. The fund also supports four sandbox projects, including an Island Sandbox. Sandboxes are environments where students, innovators and industry can develop new ideas that could become businesses. Cape Breton University president David Wheeler said the university aspires to be an entrepreneurial and multicultural campus, where students in all disciplines are inspired to address and solve the world’s most pressing social and environmental challenges. “Working with our partners, we want to harness CBU’s expertise in clean technology, culture, aboriginal learning and community economic development to promote opportunities for all our students,” said Mr. Wheeler. “We’re proud to play a role in the innovation fund investments, and we are committed to delivering great results for our province and Cape Breton Island.” The Excellence and Innovation Fund helps universities deliver high-quality education while exploring new ways to encourage collaboration and reduce operating costs. Government is investing $5 million in this round of projects. Government also recently announced other new efforts to help students, including the elimination of the interest on Nova Scotia student loans, research and innovation scholarships, and more career-related summer and co-op jobs.