Top Ten

January 5, 2007

Concordia Unions Stage Protest

Yesterday at noon, three CSN unions at Concordia University staged a press conference and demonstrations at the Loyola campus and downtown Montreal, to protest "contract negotiations that have dragged on for over three years." More than 640 library workers, technicians and support staff at Concordia are "losing patience with an administration that believes it can build gleaming new towers while abusing and neglecting the people who staff them. They say Concordia should expect increasing disruption in 2007 if the administration continues to demand employees work more for less in these times of prosperity." The union press release also asserts that Concordia administration tried to "bribe" staff "with their own money" before Christmas, offering a $4,000 lump sum payment for a quick agreement. Union media release

Simon Fraser Continuing Education Attracts Seniors

A front-page story in the Globe & Mail's BC section yesterday profiled a 35-year-old program for seniors in the Continuing Studies department at Simon Fraser University for students 55 years and older. Some 200 students are currently enrolled in degree programs in the humanities, arts and religion, while another 2,000 take either non-credit courses or courses toward a certificate in liberal arts. Tuition is free for students 60 and older. "You don't stop learning when you grow old; you grow old when you stop learning." Globe & Mail

The Promise of E-Learning in Canada

Most Canadian universities began implementing technology strategies and learning-management systems, or e-learning, in the mid-1990s, inspired by leaders in distance education and the need to increase efficiencies and attract adult learners. By the year 2000, pundits like Larry Ellison and Peter Drucker were warning universities that they faced "an end to their monopoly" if they didn't become more technologically innovative and consumer-oriented. Drucker predicted the end of physical campuses by 2010. A recent article in OCUFA's journal, Academic Matters, explores the unrealized expectations for e-learning in Canada, and growing cynicism about "McUniversities" and the commoditization of faculty. OCUFA Academic Matters (PDF)

Quick, What Word is Associated with Your Brand?

Academica Group's 2006 University Applicant Survey asked 45,000 Canadian applicants for their top-of-mind word associations with dozens of universities. The results were revealing. Frequently, what came to mind for applicants were negative aspects of location, specific subject areas of strength, various aspects of academic quality and social life, assumptions about the student body, and a wide range of beliefs about cost. The 2007 UAS will be going to field shortly -- for more information, see the study overview (PDF), or contact Ken Steele.

Applicants "Clamor" for Higher-Tech College Recruitment

A recent survey of 1,000 American high school juniors by the National Research Center for College and University Admissions, entitled "Engaging the Social Networking Generation," reports that 43% have created "Facebook-esque personal profiles on college websites," while another 26% wished they could. Apparently 54% said they would gladly download college podcasts, 63% said they would read a professor's blog, and 82% said they would consider responding to an instant message from a college admissions officer. Only 9% had participated in an online chat or downloaded a podcast, but 51% and 54% respectively said they would. 56% preferred web to print, while 44% preferred print to web. 68% own a cellphone, and 64% use instant messaging. Diverse Education

Demography May Not Be Destiny for Colleges

In the US, high school graduating cohorts are on the rise for another two years, which will be followed by 30 years of declining demographics. An article in this month's University Business argues that colleges can still maintain or grow their enrollment, so long as they avoid appearing stagnant. Colleges should establish "a galvanizing vision," develop a reputation for something that students value, and narrow course offerings to differentiate themselves from competitors, focusing on programs of keen interest to prospective students. In a shrinking marketplace, colleges should also pursue diverse markets, such as continuing ed, distance ed, and part-time students. University Business

US PSE Participation Depends Upon State of Residence

A report released on Wednesday by Education Week measures the "Chance for Success" of young people at key points in their education, and finds that most states need to do much more to help with the transition from high school to college. Only 11 states have adopted a formal definition of "college readiness," and just 6 states have aligned their high school tests with some definition of college expectations. "Smart states... try to make the most of their investments by ensuring that young people's education is connected from one stage to the next -- reducing the chances that students will be lost along the way or will require costly remedial programs to acquire skills or knowledge they could have learned right from the start." Southern states performed poorly in the report, including New Mexico, Alabama, Arizona, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee and Texas. Chronicle of Higher Education (subscription required) | Report available online

US Losing Ground for PSE Participation Rates

A number of recent studies suggest that the US is losing its international competitiveness where rates of college enrollment and completion are concerned. The OECD ranks the US near the top for the proportion of 35- to 64-year-olds with higher education, but 7th for education of younger adults. The US spends $1.4 billion a year on community college remediation for high school grads who aren't adequately prepared for PSE. College affordability has declined dramatically since the 1990s. Class disparity in PSE participation is widening, with only 7% of low-income students earning a degree, but 52% of high-income students. A study of 1,827 grads from 80 US colleges found that 20% of university grads still struggled with basic tasks such as calculating a tip or balancing their chequebook. Education Week

US Foundation for Gay Students Grows

The Point Foundation, a small nonprofit group that started giving scholarships to gay and lesbian students in 2002, has raised enough money to hire a new executive director and staff, and open its first office, in Los Angeles. It can now start awarding 30 scholarships a year for gay students in financial need, or whose families have cut them off because of their sexual orientation. Applications for the scholarships, which can total as much as $90,000 US, have increased from 268 in 2002 to more than 1,300 last year. Inside Higher Ed

Academica Group Welcomes Melissa Cheater

Today Melissa Cheater joins the Academica team as Communications Assistant, one of several new positions being created to better serve our clients and support our expanded consulting and web services. Melissa will be augmenting our communications and media relations efforts, and among other things will be a contributing editor to this newsbrief starting next week. She holds a BA in Media, Information & Technoculture with a specialization in media and public interest, has worked for the University of Western Ontario and has conducted extensive research on privacy and the internet. Welcome aboard, Melissa!