Top Ten

December 13, 2007

Ontario universities face $1.6 billion in deferred maintenance

Ontario's university buildings require $1.6 billion in repairs, according to a report by the provincial Auditor-General.  Ontario's 18 public universities own a total of 918 buildings, not including residences.  The average age of these buildings is more than 30 years, and the cost to replace them is estimated at $14.4 billion.  The Auditor-General reported that the universities do not have the funds to cover their maintenance costs but also are not making the most of the resources that they do have.

UofT sale of Dunlap Observatory goes against donor terms

The heir of a uToronto donor feels that land donated by her grandmother is being "confiscated" by the university.  The university decided last month to "scrap" the David Dunlap Observatory, which is built on land donated by Jessie Donalda Dunlap -- land which will now be sold to the highest bidder for up to $100 million.  Mrs. Dunlap's granddaughter reports that she was contacted 20 years ago regarding the sale of the land, but that she was able to oppose it until the Ontario Supreme Court set aside Mrs. Dunlap's wishes.  The donation specified that the land and its improvements were to revert to the donor and her heirs in the event that the facility ceased to be used. 

CCL calls for national student ID system

In its report on higher ed, the Canadian Council on Learning suggests that a nationwide system of student IDs would improve measurement of PSE success by allowing more consistent tracking of dropout rates, transfers between schools, and student movement across regions.  CCL estimates that 45% of students do not complete their PSE programs, and feels that it is important to find out what happens to them and why.  Currently, BC is the only province to track student movement within the system.

StatsCan releases 2007 Education Indicators report

More than half of Canadian students over age 16 work while attending school.  The majority of 15-year-olds have the Internet at home, and "university graduates earned more than twice the salary of employees who dropped out before graduating from high school," according to a new report from Statistics Canada and the Council of Ministers of Education of Canada (CMEC).  The most growth in university enrolment between 1994 and 2005 was in graduate studies, with a 32% increase.  Undergraduate program enrolment increased by 19% over the same period.

Western Christian College receives historic $1 million donation

Regina's Western Christian College & High School has received an anonymous $1 million gift from an alumnus, the largest in the school's history.  Part of the donation has been earmarked for the school's Reach program, which sponsors students to finish up their high school careers at the school.  The gift has also funded a new heater, ventilation and air conditioning unit in the high school. 

New US report on low-income, first-generation applicants

Low-income and first-generation students can have a hard time finding "reliable" information when considering PSE. First-generation learners tend not to think seriously about PSE until the last two years of high school, which critics say is too late.  A new report by the National Center for Education Statistics calls for more classroom career talks by local professionals at the elementary level.  The report also reminds schools not to assume all potential students have Internet access, and to include clear bottom line pricing, including books, board and fees.

5 Albertans experience anaphylactic reaction to mumps vaccine

Alberta Health & Wellness has suspended the province-wide mumps campaign after 5 reports of serious allergic reactions to the vaccine.  Those who have received the vaccination are told not to worry, as the reaction occurs within 30 minutes of vaccination.  Anyone showing mumps symptoms is advised to stay isolated at home.  The 5 individuals who experienced reactions had a history of other allergies and have fully recovered thanks to prompt medical attention.

Canadian youth more political -- Quebec youth even more so

A uMontreal researcher has found that Canada's young people aged 15-25 are more "political" than their American peers, and young Quebecois are even more politicized than the average Canadian youth.  The study also found that education contributes to increased politicization.  That being said, overall political knowledge even in the most "politicized" areas was weak: 55% of US students were unable to name one permanent member of the UN Security Council; in Canada, only 30% were unable to do so.

Icelandic PSE makes leaps towards gender equality

Iceland's higher ed system was recently profiled in the Guardian for its success at equalizing education for women.  Reykjavik University has spent the last 12 months reviewing staff salaries and eliminating all unexplained differences between men's and women's pay.  The university has had success with a mixed gender board offering "differing dialogue and perspectives": "Innovation in teaching is different.  Our approach to student services is different."  A US study of Fortune 500 companies found that "women in leadership positions provide higher long-term financial return." 

New training island for Second Life professors

Last week's Chronicle of Higher Education ran an article emphasizing the difficulties of teaching via Second Life.  Georgia State University has plans to launch a Second Life "island" accessible to faculty at any institution, which will offer free tips on how to set up your SL classroom, best practices for teaching virtual students, and other topics that are unique to the increasingly popular online world.  One supporter of Second Life reminds us that the platform allows instructors to "give their students an experience that might be too expensive or dangerous in the real world."