Top Ten

June 7, 2007

$200 million class action suit against Ontario colleges

Queen’s Park and Ontario’s community colleges have been served with a $200-million class action lawsuit by students, who claim they were charged fees above what is allowed by province’s tuition freeze.  Queen’s Park joins the fray under charges that the “illegally” high fees were known to them from 2004 onwards, and yet nothing was done to remedy the matter. The Toronto Star | Maclean’s

Israel student walkout planned today

College and university students across Israel are planning a national strike starting today, in protest of the rising cost of PSE -- according to an Israeli newspaper.  Students want more than $243 million in cuts to be restored, and proposed tuition increases to be withdrawn.  As many as 250,000 students will participate in the strike, which is not anticipated to be a short struggle.  Lecturer associations and faculty members support the protest. The Chronicle of Higher Education (Subscription Required)

Ontario universities offer larger athletic scholarships

17 of Ontario's 18 universities will be offering larger first-year athletic scholarships this fall -- up to $3,500 for student athletes who graduate with at least an A average from high school. (According to an article in the Kitchener-Waterloo Record, Trent University is the "lone holdout.") The sudden increase in cash offers is an effort to secure athletes who are being actively recruited by schools in other provinces and in the US, where larger first-year athletic scholarships are more common. The KW Record

TRU opens Williams Lake campus

Thompson Rivers University opened its new $15.2 million Williams Lake campus last week, creating space for 1,000 additional students.  The campus will hopefully fuel the Williams Lake area, and build a local skills base in the community in fields such as nursing, child and youth care, and trades.  The campus received $12 million in provincial funds, covers almost 7,000 square feet, and is completely wireless.  BCMAE News Release

Green education is a hit with GenX applicants

The Globe & Mail reports that an unprecedented number of Canadian students are applying to environment-related university programs this year, including science, engineering, sustainability, resource management, environmental policy and green tourism. UBC and Dal have seen programs double in size in recent years. While parents are worried their children may never find employment, the students are confident their generation will solve global warming. The Globe & Mail 

uToronto quits tobacco

The University of Toronto has acceded to the demands of student petitions and protest groups, and announced that it will divest all tobacco industry investments.  uToronto will be the first higher education institution in Canada to do so.  23 US institutions have already divested, including Harvard, Stanford and John Hopkins.  In 2005, uToronto held just over $10.5 million in tobacco industry stocks.  The student group E-BUTT (Education Bringing Youth Tobacco Truths) hopes more Canadian institutions will follow.  The Globe & Mail  | E-BUTT News Release  |  CTV Health 

Student debt in Manitoba down by 26%

Bursaries from the Canada Millennium Scholarship Foundation and the Manitoba government have contributed to a 26% reduction in debt level among the province’s graduating students, according to an announcement by both parties yesterday.  Average debt level at graduation was $20,000 in 1999-2000, and just $15,000 in 2005-2006.  CMSF News Release

April Fool's edition of UWO Gazette offends widely

Women's activists and general readers alike are saying that the UWO Gazette's "Spoof" issue was inappropriate and offensive.  The issue of the student newspaper, which is not archived on the paper's website with its other issues, is accused of satirizing rape, violence against women and homosexuality.  57% of voters on the Gazette's website poll said the issue was either offensive or "stunk!"  Jenna Owsianik, who is believed to be the inspiration for the story's "Jennifer Ostrich," says she feels raped by the portrayal, and that the severity and violence of the article shocked and terrified her.  | Post-Secondary Blog  |  The Gazette

uRegina maintains faculty retirement policies

Retirement at 65 will no longer be required in Saskatchewan, but uRegina will not be following suit. Universities in other provinces that have repealed mandatory retirement quickly adopted the policy, allowing aging faculty to remain on staff beyond ago 65.  At least half of Ontario’s universities abandoned mandatory retirement within a year of the province’s announcement.  John D. Whyte, a senior fellow at uRegina, criticizes the decision and says allowing faculty to stay on after 65 shows support and celebration of their research careers and accumulated academic prestige. The Regina Leader-Post

Watch JMSB construction on webcam

As announced last October, the John Molson School of Business at Concordia University is getting a new building -- 15 floors and 2 basements, in fact, to be completed by 2009.  $60 million from the province supports the project, with a mandatory requirement to spend some of the funds on artwork.  The building will include classrooms, lounge areas, special event spaces, study areas and a "floating" events area above the atrium, as well as a 300-seat auditorium.  Construction has already begun, and progress can be seen via a time-lapse webcam on the project website.  Concordia News Release |

Streaming video of convocation, athletics online

Webcasting graduation has yet to stumble across any downfalls, other than the technical glitches of getting it set up smoothly initially. Once in place, it can be a powerful way to connect across distance with students, parents, alumni, and others.  US colleges are also starting to webcast sports events, for the same purposes.  It allows those beyond the immediate local area to participate in campus events and feel like an active part in the community.  The Chronicle of Higher Education (Subscription Required)

Students more confrontational over grades

uAlberta professor Mike Harrington is shocked by how comfortable students are contacting him personally to complain about their grades.  As final grades are handed out this month, instructors expect to receive phone calls, emails and personal visits from students who disagree with the results.  Two key drivers of the trend are increased competition for the same number of scholarships, and pressure from home -- some moms and dads even make the phone calls themselves, demanding higher marks from profs.  The current Canadian student population is confident and comfortable challenging an instructor's marking logic, or making a deal. The Vancouver Sun

English becoming lingua franca in more overseas schools

English is rapidly becoming a linguistic meeting point for many industries, and colleges in other countries are starting to offer increased programming in English to meet market demand.  Business programs are leading the conversion to English-language offerings, but undergraduate institutions are following closely behind.  In South Korea, up to 30% of courses are offered in English.  At the Lille School of Management in France, English is not even considered a second language.  The International Herald Tribune

BC workforce seeks disabled workers to avoid shortfall

BC's "10 by 10 Initiative" asks the province's employers to increase employment of disabled persons by 10% by 2010.  Kwantlen University College has been offering employment services to disabled persons for the last 20 years, and is promoting its Access Programs for People with Disabilities Job Placement Services as ready to help the province meet its goal.  Without tapping non-traditional demographics, the BC workforce is in danger of falling short for the demand created by the 2010 Olympics.  Kwantlen Email News Release

Social media hit and miss case studies

Our favourite new verb is “flog.”  Flogging is a tragic violation of social trust that occurs when companies or institutions misrepresent controlled or PR content as if it were an independent blog.  BL Ochman has published a study entitled “What Kills a Social Media Campaign.”  She reviews campaigns by Ford, Wal-Mart, Microsoft and others, and points out lessons to learn in your own approach to social marketing.  IBM, Lego, P&G and Netflix are studied as those “getting it right.” IMediaConnection

Provinces recruit international grads

A Malaysian website happily reports that universities in Ontario, Quebec, Alberta and British Columbia are specifically targeting international students to their grad programs, and have "set up measures to attract top students, including giving out various financial aid packages."  uOttawa's VP Academic (International) says the school's research budget is very healthy, and they are able to offer more grants and student funding. He also states that international students lead schools to international research, which is where his school wants to be.  uCalgary has stated that their goal is to guarantee funding for any research-based masters or PhD student.  TheStar (Malaysia)

Handhelds at age 6.7 according to new study

The average child is using electronics at 6.7 years of age; in 2005, the average was 8.1.  New and cool gadgets appeal to kids the same way they do to adults: children “appear to have no fear of technology and adopt it easily and without fanfare, making these devices part of their everyday lives.” Information Week

UBC budget cuts mean larger classes, fewer programs

UBC's student newspaper reports that $20 million in spending cuts are to be spread proportionally across UBC's faculties, with each facing a 4.4 to 5.2 % budget decrease.  The Faculty of Arts has apparently frozen 30 positions because of its assigned $3.2 million cut -- meaning that 120 class sections will not be taught next year. The Dean says that increased class sizes are "inevitable," and smaller classes face being eliminated completely.  Other faculties are offering fewer electives, and the film program may not be offered to future students.  The Ubyssey (Student Newspaper)  

Cell-phone-based distance learning comes to China

: Watch out Athabasca University , China has cell phone courses too!  The New Oriental Education & Technology Group in China has announced that China ’s students will be able to use Nokia cell phones to access English courses, test-prep and other educational content. Phones can be bought ready-to-go, or can be modified with courses downloaded from  The Chronicle of Higher Education (Subscription Required)