Top Ten

December 7, 2009

Colleges Ontario sets out recommendations to make province world leader in PSE

In a new position paper from Colleges Ontario, the presidents of the province's 24 colleges propose the Ontario government adopt 4 goals to successfully implement a new vision for higher education in the province. These goals include improving student mobility and expanding student choice; increasing PSE participation and attainment rates; aligning PSE with the needs of the transforming economy; and funding critical priorities to achieve sustainable outcomes. Recommendations listed in the report include eliminating a ban that prohibits colleges from offering programs that compete with career-oriented university programs; setting 10-year provincial targets for participation and attainment rates in higher education; making apprenticeship more accessible, attractive, and cost-efficient by bringing it more under the purview of colleges; and committing to a reliable and predictable operating and capital funding model. Read the full report

McMaster's pitch for isotope-producing reactor rejected

An expert panel advising the federal government has ruled out McMaster University's nuclear reactor as a long-term solution to the medical isotope shortage. Earlier this year, McMaster presented to a federal committee a $30-million plan for its reactor to produce medical isotopes. McMaster's reactor could still be considered a short-term option. The major reason the university's reactor was excluded as a permanent solution is that it uses highly enriched uranium. Although HEU optimizes production of isotopes, it can also be used in nuclear weapons, which makes civilian use inadvisable. However, the use of HEU would not preclude this project from being considered as a short-term solution. Security and safety concerns were also raised about storing and transporting materials on a university campus before and after irradiation. Hamilton Spectator

Universities remain cautious despite endowment rebounds

Due to a rebound in financial markets, Canadian university endowment funds have recouped much of the losses they suffered during the downturn. For example, the University of New Brunswick saw its endowment rise to $166 million in late October, up from $135 million in February. Despite gains, universities remain cautious about endowment spending and will continue with the money-saving measures introduced in the last year, as schools are worried about reductions in provincial operating funds and anxiety lingers about another possible dip in financial markets. UNB lowered its payout rate from its endowment to 4.25% from 4.5%, and may maintain the lower rate to allow the fund to fully recover. The University of Alberta, whose endowment rose from $600 million at the end of March to $700 million in late October, will likely maintain its payout rate at 3.5%, compared to 4.25% last year. University Affairs

Gender gap on campus could have profound social implications

On Canadian campuses, there are now 3 female undergraduates for every 2 male students, and a recent UNESCO study found more women than men have graduated with post-secondary degrees in 75 of 98 nations. This trend could have profound social ramifications, experts say. Women are expected to obtain more power in public and corporate life and more financial independence, and researchers suspect more women may forgo the traditional family, while more men may find themselves tending to hearth and home. Some university leaders say the gender gap reflects a larger societal puzzle in which boys lag behind girls in academic achievement long before reaching PSE. Ryerson University president Sheldon Levy says some tough questions need to be asked about men's high school graduation rates and why they are not attending university. University of Alberta president Indira Samarasekera, whose comments about advocating for young white men drew controversy on campus, warns that men's failure to go on to PSE in the same proportion as women is a "demographic bomb" that will hinder Canada's ability to compete and limit men's potential. Globe and Mail

Red River College president to head Sheridan

Sheridan College announced yesterday that Dr. Jeff Zabudsky has been appointed president and CEO of the institution. He succeeds Dr. Robert Turner, who is retiring after leading the school since 2001. Zabudsky comes to Sheridan having served as president and CEO of Red River College since 2004. Zabudsky brings nearly 25 years of experience in PSE administration and in educational broadcasting. He will begin his new role on February 1. Sheridan News Release

Universities focusing more on writing skills development

Staff at Brock University have designed a new Web tutorial called Essay-Zone, which uses graphics, jokes, and quizzes to teach students how to write a post-secondary-level essay. It's one of many tools or programs universities are using to try to bridge students' gap in writing skills. 2 years ago, the University of Toronto's arts and science faculty launched a new training program for teaching assistants to better help students figure out how to map out thoughtful essays. The faculty is incorporating more writing assignments into first-year courses so students get to practice more of the type of writing each discipline demands. Meanwhile, an informal survey of Ontario math and engineering professors and deans finds that many of them feel students' numeracy skills are lacking. Toronto Star (writing) | Toronto Star (math) | Essay-Zone

EPI report examines several options for administrating PSSSP

A new report from the Educational Policy Institute explores 5 possible administration arrangements for the future of the Post-Secondary Student Support Program, which is under review by Indian and Northern Affairs Canada. The report examines the advantages and disadvantages of the PSSSP being administered by individual First Nations (as is the case now); administered by Regional First Nations' Education Organizations; administered by a pan-Canadian First Nations Foundation; directly administered by INAC; and directly administered by Human Resources and Skills Development Canada. The First Nations Education Steering Committee says the lack of consultation with First Nations in developing this report is a major concern. While the committee agrees it's time to overhaul the government's "archaic" PSE policies, any review and reforms should be undertaken in partnership and with detailed consultation with First Nations. First Nations Education Steering Committee News Release | Read the full report

High school completion rate of Aboriginal students in BC "nothing to be proud of"

According to new provincial figures, the high school completion rate among Aboriginal students in BC reached a record high of 49% this year, gains the provincial government is pleased with. The president of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs says BC should not be happy with the results, especially given the 30% gap between the overall student completion rate and that of Aboriginal students. Grand Chief Stewart Philip says of those Aboriginal students who do graduate, some are not able to pursue PSE due to cuts to student-aid programs. He says there are many barriers for Aboriginal students, all of which trace back to the issue of "crushing poverty." BC News Release | Canadian Press

Ottawa invests in Olds College's Botanic Gardens and Treatment Wetlands project

Through the federal government's Community Adjustment Fund, Olds College has received $2.6 million to develop a wetland and botanical research site on campus. The federal funding will cover over half of the project's cost, and the Alberta government has matched a portion of funding already generated through the college's fundraising campaign. The first of its kind in Alberta, the project will entail the college creating a 6-acre wetlands area on its land that will treat the campus's storm and grey water, as well as provide an outdoor laboratory for research into wetlands' ability to purify grey water. Olds College News Release

uOttawa names winners of French immersion video contest

At a gala in Toronto late last month, the University of Ottawa crowned the winners of its "Are you part of the best French immersion class in Toronto?" video contest. The Grade 11 classes at Richview Collegiate Institute and Bishop Allen Academy, both in Toronto, tied for first place. Each student in both winning classes earned a $2,000 admission scholarship to uOttawa. Students from the 3 finalist classes each received $1,000 admission scholarship. The contest was launched in October for grade 10 and 12 French immersion classes in the GTA. Students had to produce a one- to 2-minute video showing how their class stands out for its bilingualism, its leadership, or its service to the community. uOttawa News Release | Watch the videos