Top Ten

October 3, 2006

Ontario Universities Fair

There was no Newsbrief yesterday since I was away at the OUF in Toronto this weekend. More than 80,000 prospective students and parents streamed through the exhibits and sat through presentations. I myself took more than 50 pages of notes, which I’ll have to digest before I share my thoughts. Some universities had very compelling presentations and innovative booths. As always, the whirlwind experience gave me more empathy for applicants, who are increasingly deluged with information and choices...

UBC Installs New President

Last Friday, Stephen Toope was installed as UBC’s 12th president and vice-chancellor.  He simultaneously announced $8 million in research and teaching funds, including the establishment of the Martha Piper Research Fund, to honour his predecessor. (For more details, links to biography and video, see )

Strike Countdown at McMaster

According to a media release Monday from CUPE, the McMaster University administration “is setting the stage for a crisis at McMaster, pulling the plug on negotiations and starting the countdown to a lockout or strike that will affect thousands of students, staff and faculty.” Tuition increases, CUPE says, “translate into an effective pay cut of between $177 and $500 each year, for TAs and RAs.” (Media Release: )

Transcripts from Mom & Dad

Some US universities (notably Stanford) have begun actively courting the highest achievers among the estimated 2 million home-schooled students in America, says CNN.  Some institutions have created custom sections of their recruitment websites, or arranged special recruitment sessions. These “homebound high achievers” often exhibit the intellectual curiosity, independent study habits and critical thinking skills that will ensure they succeed in higher education. (See article at )

Discrimination Against College Grads

  Seneca College, Canada's largest, has accused the federal public service of discrimination because its hiring strategies and policies exclude college graduates from applying for positions across several federal departments. ''I don't think it's intentional, but it is discrimination,'' said Seneca president Rick Miner.  Most postings list a university degree as the minimum educational requirement for entry-level jobs.  Seneca's graduate employability lobby campaign is part of a larger push to put the priorities of polytechnic institutions on Ottawa's radar. The newly created Polytechnics Canada is an alliance of Canada's eight leading colleges and institutes of advanced technology, including Seneca. (News story: )

Skype Sucking Bandwidth on Campuses

  Founded in 2002, the free internet-based long-distance service Skype has tripled in the past year to 113 million users, many of them university and college students. But campus administrations are concerned about a feature of the software that can turn a user’s computer into a relay station for other users, bypassing security and consuming university bandwidth exponentially. Several universities have enacted policies discouraging the use of Skype, while others have negotiated satisfactory arrangements with eBay, Skype’s owners. (See the article at )

Ontario's Best Lecturers

  TVOntario, the province’s public broadcaster, will soon announce the finalists in the 2006 “Best Lecturer Challenge” – and 30 of the shortlisted 71 professors are faculty at the University of Toronto. So far, the shortlist has been generated by student nominations – a judging panel including columnists from the Globe & Mail and Maclean’s magazine will chose 10 finalists shortly, and the general public will vote on their televised lectures, a la Canadian Idol. (UofT news item at )

Academic Misconduct Major Problem in Canada

  A recent survey of almost 15,000 undergraduate students found that cheating, deceit and plagiarism are serious problems in Canadian high schools and universities. As many as 73% admitted to instances of serious cheating on written work in high school, and 53% while undergraduates. More than half had cheated on an exam by copying from another student without their knowledge, or using cheat notes. “Students may engage in these behaviours simply because they don’t believe they’re wrong. These results may be indicative of a clash between a collaborative student culture and a more traditional, individualistic faculty culture.” UoGuelph News Release

Brock Appoints Academic Integrity Officer

On a related note, this week Brock University announced the appointment of Troy Brooks as its first Academic Integrity Officer. Brooks will be responsible for addressing student cheating and plagiarism and advancing academic integrity in workshops with faculty, teaching assistants and students. (With thanks to Jeffrey Sinibaldi, UofG. News item at )

University Ranking Trends

  Since US News & World Report introduced their university rankings more than 20 years ago, rankings have proliferated in more than a dozen countries, including Canada. Recent innovations outside the US have tended toward “institutional disaggregation” (by field of study), decreasing reliance on institutional sources of data (which can be “skewed”), and online customizability (the user weights the factors). The Educational Policy Institute and the Globe & Mail will launch a Canadian interactive university ranking website, “The Navigator,” on October 31, just in time for Hallowe’en. (More info when it becomes available. A brief review of international ranking trends appears at )