In recent years DAE teaching staff have been reaching out to different countries in a constant search for relevant academic partners. Such partnerships are established to offer our students exchange possiblities but also to get inspiration, enrich our own curricula and offer post-graduate programs to the DAE alumni.
Different European partnerships already have been established and today DAE students can follow Erasmus Exchange Semesters in 8 European countries: Belgium, Netherlands, France, UK, Sweden, Austria and Finland. Gaming related Master Programs for our Alumni have been found with partners in the UK, Sweden and the Netherlands.
The gaming sector is a global business, our alumni work all over the world so it wouldn’t make sense to solely focus on the European market. Therefore several intercontinental partners have been scouted. At the North American West Coast several partners have been visited in San Francisco, Seattle and Vancouver. Towards the East Turkey, India and China were already on our longlist. In the South we scouted partners in Mexico, South Africa and Uganda.
Each time different issues (distance, timezones, tuition fees, cultural differences, …) prevented us from establishing successful partnerships.
Montréal, of all places…
During the Belgian Royal mission to Canada early 2018 the first contacts between Howest and Quebec were established. In Montréal we visited Ecole des arts Numériques, de l’animation et du design (NAD). Having an excellent reputation in the industry, a European-like attitude and only 6 hours timezone difference NAD turned out to be a great prospect.
The city of Montréal is located in Quebec, a province of Canada. Montréal is located at 48° north latitude, which is 3° to the south of Belgium. Opposite to Belgium the climate is not moderate but continental. That means hot summers and cold, very cold winters. Our prospect trip was just before winter kicked in, which meant clear sunny skies, a chilly wind and beautiful coloured maple trees. In Quebec the official language is French although almost every person we speak, from the Uber driver to the shopowner around the corner is bilingual French – English. But French remains the official language and they’re pretty strict on that.
Games are booming business in Montréal
Having 1,6 mio inhabitants, Montréal is the second largest city in Canada. 1 out of 6 inhabitants is a student and that gives the city a very young, dynamic but still relax atmosphere. In recent years the digital sector in the city boomed. In the past students fled the city once graduated. In recent years Montréal somehow managed to turn that brain drain into a brain gain.
Ubisoft was the pioneer in 1997 and now employs more than 3.000 people in the largest single game studio in the world. Indie game studios and VFX are booming and currently employ over 22.000 people in more than 200 companies. VR/AR business is growing and through the launch of an AI supercluster the city aims to further foster AI related research and business.
Why is Montréal attractive for IT type of businesses?
Catherine Lareaux, Commissaire industries creatives et culturelles summarizes: “American tech companies are starting to move in. They appreciate the highly qualified universities and excellent start-up programmes and incubators. They highly rank the quality of living in our city. The Canadian way of life is somehow more relax than the American. Quebecois highly valuate their work life balance. And, last but not least, in Montréal, we have affordable and available office space”
Montréal is a member of the Unesco Creative City Network. The city council puts a lot of effort in stimulating creative entrepreneurship. Infrastructure, tax benefits, incubation programs and start-up initiatives have fostered a dynamic atmosphere throughout the city.
The renewed dynamic can be felt in the city. Construction sites are everywhere and nearly every street is blocked due to roadworks. My Uber driver explains: “They did nothing in the past 30 years and now they started working everywhere. Je pense qu’ils cherchent du pétrol ou des diamants.”
That’s also typical Montréal, switching fluently between French and English.
Study in Montréal
There are 284.000 post-secundary students in Montréal. Aproximately 100.000 of them are following their CEGEP (a 2 year preparation to be done before you can go to the university). 184.000 follow their Bachelors or Masters at different universities: 110.000 in the Urban Francophone Universities (UQAM, NAD, …) and the remaining 74k study at the Urban Anglophone Universities (Mc Gill, Concordia, …).
The cost of living in Montréal is similar to Europe. Renting a student room can be done at 500 Canadian dollar (+- 330 EUR) a month.
In 2017 Montréal has been elected as the best student city in the world.
The index was based on a number of factors, including diversity, affordability and employment prospects. Montréal was choosen above Paris, London, Seoul and Berlin!
When going from one appointment to another I feel the typical vibe of student city: student vibe: young, hip, vibrant, lots of nationalities and languages and… a lot of coffee shops. to me Montréal feels like a blend between Ghent, Paris and Brooklyn.
NAD: Ecole des arts Numériques, de l’animation et du design
NAD is a Montréal based branch of the francophone University of Quebec à Chicoutimi (UQAC). When we enter the Game development floor in the NAD campus we feel at home immediately.
NAD has 300 Bachelor students. Half of them study game development, the other half study VFX. 75 of them are Internationals.
Similar to the DAE curriculum, the NAD students work a lot on group projects. In order to simulate their future work conditions in 3A studios, teams can go up to 30 (!) students. NAD regularly pairs students with development students of their partner university in Chicoutimi. As common in the industry, those teams collaborate remotely.
All programs are French taught but with English software. In the international programs coaching is done in English, projects and papers can be handed in English.
NAD offers two international programs:
- a 2 year Master Program focused on research projects in a gaming environment
- a 1 year specialisation graduate in Video Game Narrative Design.
To be accepted to the international programmes candidates must formally apply before April 1st. Admission is based upon portfolio, previous study results and a motivation letter.
There are agreements between Quebec and Belgium government that can reduce the yearly tuition fee from 15.000 CAD (10k EUR) to 3.750 CAD (2.500 EUR) a year.
We feel there is a match with the NAD teaching staff. Jocelyn Benoit, the game program coordinator describes it as follows: “C’est assez rare de trouver une partie que est si similaire en filosofie et modèle d’éducation.”
In the coming months we will further investigate the collaboration and exchange possibilities with Howest – DAE and NAD-Montréal.
To boldly go to… Montréal!