Top Ten

November 20, 2006

AUCC Honours uAlberta for Internationalization

Last week, University of Alberta political science professor Dr. Andy Knight and UofA's Global Education in Peace and Governance program received the ScotiaBank-AUCC Award for Excellence in Internationalization. The award is "designed to recognize university achievement in internationalization" and "to help develop Canadian leaders who understand and appreciate the growing complexity of a rapidly-changing world." Program activities include simulations like a model United Nations, various internships, and research symposia on international policies and relations. uAlberta ExpressNews

UBC's Sustainability Strategy Recognized

UBC is the only Canadian recipient of the inaugural Campus Sustainability Leadership Awards, from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education. UBC has already achieved its Kyoto targets, and has saved $3.8 million in energy costs over the last three years by completing the largest energy retrofit in Canadian history. "Ecotrek" will continue to save UBC $2.6 million annually, funding a sustainability department of 7 staff and 10 students. UBC has 68 targets and actions for achieving 9 major sustainability goals; more than 300 UBC courses deal with sustainability, and several academic departments have adopted sustainability as a core value. In March, UBC is launching a two-day workshop to help other institutions address sustainability. University Business 

"Girl Power" Wins CASE Award

Bishop Strachan School, a private school for girls near Toronto, is the only Canadian institution with an entry featured in the 2006 CASE Circle of Excellence Awards, in the November/December issue of Currents. BSS's memorable "Girls Can Do Anything" campaign included an ad showing a dodge ball crashing through a glass ceiling, and one promising a "brilliant, happy, well-adjusted daughter, yours free with tuition." Admission open houses garnered record attendance, and applications rose 11% in one year as a result. BSS website | CASE Currents (requires professional membership)

Student Tasered by UCLA Campus Police

Last Tuesday night, a student who could not produce identification at a University of California at Los Angeles campus library was repeatedly shot with a taser gun and subdued by campus police in an incident that was captured on video by astonished fellow students -- and quickly distributed via YouTube, MySpace and Facebook, from which it was picked up by news services worldwide. Some witnesses say the victim was cooperating and was nonetheless stunned at least five times. Over 30 student bystanders objected, and several were threatened with being tasered too. UCLA's police department has been fielding media calls from around the world, and has announced an investigation. InsideHigherEd 

Student Newspaper Faces "Wall of Silence" from UBC President

The latest Ubyssey, the University of British Columbia student newspaper, complains that student journalists have been unable to secure an interview with UBC president Stephen Toope in the five months since he took office. Presidents of UofT and Simon Fraser have made themselves available to the students within a day -- "it reflects terribly on our school when other university presidents will talk to us, and yet our own gives us the cold shoulder time and time again." Toope's predecessor, Martha Piper, spoke to the Ubyssey only once last year. The editorial also points out that "the National Survey of Student Engagement recently demonstrated that UBC students are anything but engaged. UBC scored lower than the benchmark in five out of five categories for senior students and three out of five for first-year students." It ends with the request, "stop talking about engagement and start becoming engaged." Ubyssey editorial, "We've been Tooped!" 

Public Funding for Private Religious Schools in Ontario?

Since 1984, Ontario has funded Catholic school boards on constitutional grounds, but not other religious or private schools. Last week, the Ontario chapter of the Canadian Jewish Congress adopted a position that Ontario faith-based schools should be treated equitably, regardless of religious affiliation, so long as they meet approved provincial criteria and accountability requirements -- and they hope to rekindle a two-decade-old debate. Ontario's opposition party has promised to address "the fairness issue" in funding for religious schools. The Toronto Star argues that the Ontario government may be forced into policy changes. Toronto Star 

UK Universities Attract Radical Islamists

British higher education minister Bill Rammell says that "universities have become focal points of Islamist extremism and are potential recruiting grounds for radicals of all kinds." Critics say the government is risking "Islamic McCarthyism" after urging lecturers and library staff to spy on Asian and Muslim students. The British Muslim Forum apparently "welcomed" the proposals, but urges equal attention be paid to right-wing anti-Muslim extremism. The Guardian 

Standardized Testing to Combat Grade Inflation

In the US, high school grades are rising faster than SAT scores -- suggesting that it is grade inflation more than a scholarly work ethic that is causing the shift. Average GPAs rose from 2.68 to 2.94 between 1990 and 2000. The number of freshmen reporting A grades in high school has doubled. Almost half the applicants to UCLA this fall had GPAs of 4.0 or higher. Colleges and universities can no longer depend on grades as a "measuring stick" for admissions, when the bell curve is distorted and some high school graduating classes have up to 40 valedictorians. America's most selective colleges are depending more and more on SAT and ACT scores to assess applicants, although many wish it were otherwise. AP story 

UK Undergrads Demand Value for Tuition

The Observer reports that British undergraduate students are drawing up charters of consumer rights detailing their expectations of universities -- including more contact time with lecturers and increased resources -- as a sort of "warranty." Students have "an incredible feeling of injustice" as a result of tuition increases combined with cutbacks. "Once fees were introduced, higher education became a marketplace and it was inevitable that students' behaviour was going to change in line with their new role as paying customers." Some university administrators warn that students are expecting too much. Baroness Ruth Deech, the Independent Adjudicator, says going to university is not like buying a vacation package, but "is more like joining a gym. You pay money and they provide the facilities and trainers. Obviously they have to meet the quality promised, but after that it's up to you." The Observer 

High-Tech Entrepreneur Turns Serial Philanthropist

79-year-old Fred Kavli made his fortune in navigational sensors for the defense and aircraft industries, but always managed to keep a low profile. In the past few years, his $600 million Kavli Foundation has launched 14 Kavli research centers at some of the world's top universities, and is establishing a "21st-century version of the Nobel Prize," the $1 million Kavli Prizes in nanotechnology, neuroscience and astrophysics. Boston Globe