Binational Great Lakes Higher Education Consortium Launched

Universities of Toronto and Illinois System to Serve as Co-Founders and Co-Chairs

For Immediate Release

October 29, 2020

TORONTO, Ontario and CHICAGO, Illinois – Today, the Council of the Great Lakes Region (CGLR), the University of Toronto, and the University of Illinois System signed a Memorandum of Understanding officially creating and launching the binational Great Lakes Higher Education Consortium, which will provide a unique platform for higher education institutions to connect across borders to discuss a range of regionally significant socioeconomic and environmental issues. The creation of the Consortium is a key recommendation from the Council’s recent report, Great Lakes, Great Minds: Setting the Stage for Higher Education, Business, and Government Collaboration in the Great Lakes to Drive Talent Development, Innovation & Entrepreneurship, which was funded by the United States Mission in Canada.

The Great Lakes. Great Minds report, co-authored with John Austin, Director of the Michigan Economic Center and Senior Non-Resident Fellow with the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and the Brookings Institution, highlights the strength of the region’s world-class teaching and research institutions, one of the largest higher education networks in the world, and the role they can and must play in positioning the region to compete and win globally and ensuring its long-term competitiveness, development, and sustainability.

The formation of a Great Lakes Higher Education Consortium, which will be administered by the Council and co-chaired by the University of Toronto and the University of Illinois System, will also provide the impetus for building more regular, impactful, cross-border collaborations amongst Great Lakes higher education institutions, first and foremost, and then between these institutions, companies and government, in order to develop partnerships and programs that seek to find solutions to the challenges identified by the Consortium.

In this regard, in addition to the launch of the Great Lakes Higher Education Consortium, the Council has received funding from the United States Mission in Canada to test the value of establishing a dedicated Great Lakes Higher Education Partnership Fund and Grant to facilitate the creation of binational partnerships and programs in the region. Thanks to the funding, which is earmarked for supporting a series of pilot partnerships, the Council will soon be announcing a call for proposals to solicit partnership ideas and applications from Great Lakes institutions.


“Great Lakes higher education institutions have played a vital role in building the region’s companies, industries, workforce and cities, turning the Great Lakes into the lynchpin of the United States – Canada relationship and North American commerce. By launching the binational Great Lakes Higher Education Consortium, the stage is set for positioning the region as a global leader in producing the talent of the future, solving global challenges through innovation, and supporting a new generation of entrepreneurs that will transform the region and drive commerce,” said Mark Fisher, president and CEO, Council of the Great Lakes Region

“Learning, discovery and innovation are fundamentally collaborative endeavours. To address the big challenges and opportunities facing the Great Lakes region, our two countries and our world, we need to work across disciplines, sectors and borders. That’s why partnerships such as the one we’re launching today are so important – and so hopeful,” said Professor Meric Gertler, President, University of Toronto 

“The Great Lakes region is home to some of the world’s most admired and accomplished universities. Bringing them together to explore the region’s distinctive challenges and opportunities will create a pipeline of world-class talent and innovation that will pave the way to progress, sustainability and economic growth for generations to come,” said Tim Killeen, president of the University of Illinois System.

“The launch of this MOU is a vital step towards developing relationships that are necessary to solve global challenges.  By anchoring our cross-border initiative through academic partnerships in the Great Lakes region, we are also directly supporting the economic well-being of both of our countries,” said United States Consul General Susan Crystal

About the Council of the Great Lakes Region (CGLR)

CGLR is a binational network of organizations comprised of CGLR Canada, CGLR USA and the CGLR Foundation. It is dedicated to deepening the United States-Canada relationship in the Great Lakes economic region, and focuses on creating stronger, more dynamic cross-border collaborations through dialogue, policy research, and advocacy in order to find new ways of harnessing the region’s economic strengths and assets, improving the well-being and livelihoods of the region’s 107 million citizens, and protecting the environment for future generations. Through its work, CGLR is striving to turn the binational Great Lakes economic region into the most prosperous, innovative, sustainable, and welcoming region in the world.

About the University of Toronto

Founded in 1827, the University of Toronto has evolved into Canada’s leading institution of learning, discovery and knowledge creation. We are proud to be one of the world’s top research-intensive universities, driven to invent and innovate. Our students have the opportunity to learn from and work with pre-eminent thought leaders through our multidisciplinary network of teaching and research faculty, alumni and partners.  The ideas, innovations and actions of more than 560,000 graduates continue to have a positive impact on the world.

About the University of Illinois System

The University of Illinois System is a world leader in research and discovery, with more than $1 billion in total sponsored projects this year. It is Illinois’ largest educational institution with more than 90,000 students, about 26,000 full-time equivalent faculty and staff, and universities in Urbana-Champaign, Chicago and Springfield. The U of I System awards more than 23,000 undergraduate, graduate and professional degrees annually, and its operations contribute $17.5 billion to the Illinois economy every year.

Media Contact

Mark Fisher

President and CEO

Council of the Great Lakes Region

613-668-2044 /

Philippe Devos

Director, Media Relations

University of Toronto

416-450-5048 /

Tom Hardy

Executive Director, Office of University Relations

University of Illinois System

312-543-7476 /

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