Top Ten

October 23, 2007

Canadian universities in debt $3 billion

A recent study by the Dominion Bond Rating Service, which tracks the credit ratings of 13 Canadian universities, reports that many universities have borrowed heavily through bond issues to finance major expansion and renovation projects, and -- to the dismay of some analysts -- to refinance bank debt. The Vancouver Sun singles out top borrowers UOIT, UQAM, and Wilfrid Laurier University. DBRS has downgraded the credit ratings of uToronto, uGuelph, and UQAM.

Arrests made in Winnipeg copycat graffiti threats

Two teenagers have been arrested in connection with the threatening graffiti scrawled on the bathroom walls of two Winnipeg schools.  A 13-year-old male is facing charges of uttering threats and mischief under $5,000.  An 18-year-old female has been arrested regarding graffiti at another school.  Threats have been popping up at Winnipeg schools since a similar incident occurred at uWinnipeg in September.  There has been no arrest made in that case.

Applications to uSherbrooke increase 79%

Université de Sherbrooke saw a 5.3% increase in applications this year -- a larger increase than seen at any other large university in the province.  uSherbrooke currently has 19,506 students signed on for the Fall term.  Applications have increased a staggering 79% over the last 7 years, and enrolment has increased by 24%.  The school points to their co-op program, access to public transit, a human approach and a capacity for innovation. 

Campus safety becomes increasingly important to prospective students

The Fall 2007 term started with a series of sexual assaults at several Ontario universities (Carleton, York and Laurentian), causing schools across the country to announce new security measures being put into place.  According to Academica Group's annual applicant survey, prospective students gave campus safety a rank of five in a list of factors considered during their application process.  Safety was significantly more important to female applicants.  6 years ago, campus safety didn't even break into the top 10 factors.

uWaterloo reopens cutting-edge facility after devastating fire

uWaterloo has reopened its $5 million high voltage engineering laboratory two years after it was damaged in a major fire.  The university will celebrate the reopening tomorrow with a three-hour event and live lab demonstration.  The facility is one of the "most research-intensive facilities in North America."

St. Catharines accused of targeting students with new nuisance bylaw

The City of St. Catharines, Ontario has announced a list of "nuisance" offenses and related fines that students at Brock University claim unfairly target them. Spitting or vomiting in public will earn a $300 ticket -- as will throwing bottles, knocking over mailboxes or being noisy.  The City has recently been pressuring Brock to implement a student code of conduct, like those in London, Ontario (UWO and Fanshawe College) and Calgary, Alberta (SAIT, uCalgary, Mount Royal College).

Mayor says arts and science must remain at UNB-SJ

A mayor's task force on the future of UNB-Saint John agrees that the university must remain in the city.  While the PSE Minister has promised that the school will remain a university, despite the recommendations of a controversial report issued a month earlier, there has been no commitment to preserving the institution's liberal arts and science focus.  According to a city representative, the land used by the university was donated by the city on certain conditions that might be violated if the school's focus shifts.

Fanshawe proposes collaboration on London Performing Arts facility

The president of Fanshawe College has formally expressed interest in collaborating with the City of London on a possible performing arts centre. (By contrast, the University of Western Ontario recently indicated that it would not contribute funds toward a facility off its own campus.) Fanshawe sees advantages to expanding its programs into the core of the city, and could use the facility for instruction during the day, as well as performances at night.

uManitoba resolves staff strike

University of Manitoba's food, trades and maintenance workers are back to work after a deal with administration was approved this past weekend, after 19 hours of negotiations.  The new contract received a 92% approval rating.  Staff earned pay increases, as well as increases to health-care spending and changes to sick leave.  Union members had been on strike since October 10, 2007. 

SFU says national design strategy is needed to compete with developing countries

 The Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada and researchers at Simon Fraser University's Canadian Design Research Network are calling for a national design strategy if Canada wants to remain competitive in the future.  Other countries are "putting significant resources into design promotion and research" and the two groups feel Canada's federal government needs to "make good design part of its procurement process." 

Marine Institute launches cross-Canada high school blog

Memorial University's Marine Institute has launched a blog that will follow two representatives to high schools across the country.  The blog will be used to chat with secondary school students about life "as a Marine Institute student, including careers, academic life, extra-curriculars and living on campus."  The blog will also announce where the two are headed, so that interested students can plan to meet them in person. 

Toronto's young adults stay at home until 34 years old

58% of Toronto's "twentysomethings" live with their parents -- more than in any other Canadian city.  According to new data, Torontonians are staying at home until they turn 34.  Kids say it's because they simply can't afford to live in the megacity without the money saved by living at home.  Moms dish about kids having it easy and enjoying more than just financial perks -- while admitting that the salary of a young adult or student simply doesn't leave much money to spare.

US tuition continues to climb

Similar to Canadian tuition rates, fees in the US continue to rise, but at a slower rate than in previous years.  A private four-year program in the US averages $32,307 (including room & board) -- an increase of 5.9%.  Federal loans made up 40% of financial aid received in 2006-07.  Grants from institutions made up 21%.  Two-thirds of students report receiving aid.

Laurentian offers digital library to distance students

Laurentian University's JN Desmarais Library is the first in Ontario to offer electronic delivery of single copies of articles and book chapters.  Requested materials are emailed to students and faculty at their library loan account.  The program follows the guidelines set by the Canadian Copyright Act, and the software was configured by the library systems librarian.  Laurentian has a significant distance education program whose students will benefit greatly from the new initiative.

Israel starts school year with faculty strike

Israel's academic year began last weekend with a faculty strike across the country.  Prior to the strike, university leaders had been threatening to keep campuses closed because of the government's failure to deliver $75 million that was promised to the schools.  $55 million was given and schools opened.  120,000 students are impacted by the faculty strike.  Teaching staff are pushing for a 20% pay raise.  Last term, Israeli students went on strike for 41 days over fees.

Harvard launches "Humanities course of the future"

Harvard professor Stephen Greenblatt, founder of the New Historicism and author of the bestselling life of Shakespeare, "Will in the World," applied the "insane resources of Harvard" this summer to transform his scholarship into a revolutionary new multimedia-enhanced course, "Travel and Transformation." Integrating Google Earth and 17th-century woodcuts, Greenblatt and a team of tech whizzes have created a deep, rich media website designed to bring his students into the minds of early explorers and slave traders. Student blogging counts for 20% of the grade. Harvard is aiming to create hands-on, interdisciplinary courses that represent a "huge leap" and evolution in teaching methods. The course even gets a 13-minute "trailer" every bit as flashy as a PBS series promo.

Students spend less on gadgets than we think

More than half of students spend less than $250 US of their own funds on technology or electronics each year.  Less than a third of 18- to 24-year-old students report spending more than $500 on electronics in a year.  It is suggested that students are misrepresented as a lucrative target market for electronics spending.

Online delivery drives US enrolment increase

In 2006, 3.5 million students (19.8% of total PSE enrolment) took at least one class online.  This 9.7% increase looks good for online delivery, but keep in mind that the year before the increase was more to the tune of 36%.  The number of institutions launching online education is slowing significantly. A recent report suggests that online education represents a large part of the overall 1.3% enrolment increase. 

New Facebook apps tie in Second Life alter egos

"Second Life Link" and "Second Friends" are two new applications for the Facebook platform that allows users to display their Second Life avatars and favourite locations on their Facebook profile, connect with SL friends on Facebook, and track dynamically who is "in-world" in real time.

Field report from yet another PSE Fair

Ken Steele attended Monday's Ontario College Information Fair, at the CNE grounds in Toronto, and his blog includes commentary, photographs, and some things he thinks colleges could learn from the Ontario University Fair (as well as some things universities could learn from the College Fair).