Top Ten

February 17, 2010

uAlberta faculty accept furloughs in exchange for budget input

Last week, University of Alberta faculty voted 71% in favour of accepting 6 furlough days, with a turnout of 36%. The furlough days are scheduled for the winter break at the end of December, when the school will be closed. Faculty will see the pay reduction spread out over 9 months. In exchange for the furloughs, academic staff have the opportunity to review and critique previously confidential financial planning documents. Meanwhile, non-academic staff will soon vote on 8 furlough days, with ballots to be counted during the first week of March. Senior administrators, who are members of the academic staff association, have promised to take 6 extra furlough days. Each campus-wide furlough day saves uAlberta about $1.5 million. Edmonton Journal

Dal faculty worry Navitas partnership could harm school reputation

In an open letter to the university community, the Dalhousie Faculty Association states "we all stand to lose" if the school goes ahead with a proposed partnership with Navitas, an Australian-based for-profit education company. Under the proposal, Navitas would set up a preparatory college on campus to instruct international students who don't meet the university's admission standards, but can take regular courses at Dal if they pass the college courses. The letter argues that because Navitas is a private company, "it seeks to pass along as many students as possible while keeping its costs as low as possible," and thus the partnership could jeopardize Dal's academic standards. The letter points to criticism about Navitas's presence at the University of Manitoba, where students and faculty have complained the company "bumped" regular uManitoba classes out of the best facilities. UNews | Read the letter

NS anticipates labour shortage by 2014

Addressing the Halifax Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday, Nova Scotia Labour Minister Marilyn More, who also holds the education portfolio, stated the province's labour force is expected to shrink by 18,500 jobs by 2014, at which time 40,000 people are anticipated to retire. Compounding the problem is that many workers are unqualified for the jobs available. More said about 38% of the current workforce is undereducated and lacks the skills needed to move ahead in the knowledge-based economy. Students need encouragement to get the training required to enter the labour market, as over 55% of all new jobs will require some level of PSE. Former Seneca College president Rick Miner warns that more than 700,000 Ontarians will be unemployable by 2021 due to inadequate skills and education. Halifax Chronicle-Herald

British writing academy to open in Toronto

British literary house Faber & Faber is planning to establish a creative writing school in Canada. Expected to open in October, the Faber Academy Toronto will offer a selection of long and short fiction and poetry courses, with notable Canadian writers serving as instructors. An offshoot of Faber's core publishing business, the Faber Academy launched 18 months ago in Paris, and has since expanded in Europe. Faber is already looking to introduce its academy model in Montreal and Vancouver. Globe and Mail

Spring construction date for new Nunavut Research Institute

Earlier this month, heavy equipment crushed the Nunavut Research Institute main building in Iqaluit, paving the way for the construction of a new institute headquarters and training facility this spring. The institute received $11 million last April as part of the federal government's $85-million Arctic Research Infrastructure Fund. The new headquarters will provide more laboratory space, offices, and conference rooms, and will include an expanded scientific library. The headquarters and training facility are expected to open in March 2011. Nunavut Arctic College News

Schools see benefits to hiring academic couples

Acknowledging the potential for recruitment, retention, improved faculty quality of life, and greater diversity, more post-secondary institutions are making economic investments in hiring spouses as professors. For example, the University of Western Ontario has allocated special funding for partner positions when their creation is possible, with 20 academic couples having been hired within the last decade or so. Should suitable employment not be available on campus, UWO makes every effort to find a position for a new hire's spouse in the area. In a 2008 Stanford University study, 88% of faculty who successfully negotiated a dual hire reported that the first hire would have turned down the position if his or her partner had not found appropriate employment. CanWest News Service

Durham College to discontinue mandatory laptop lease

After hearing from its students in its mobile learning program, Durham College has decided to let them shop around for the own laptop computers this fall. Currently the college operates a mandatory laptop lease program for students in the program, with leases ranging from $1,300 to $1,600 per academic year. With the revision, students can still access advice and support from the college's IT service, and loaner laptops are available at a nominal fee. Durham Region News

Welland considers student rental bylaw

At a meeting last week, Welland city councillors approved a report that could lead to the adoption of a bylaw giving the city better control of housing commonly rented out to Niagara College students. The proposed bylaw would require property owners to be licensed if they wish to convert residential property into rental housing. The bylaw would also allow the city to set limits on the number of tenants. The bylaw would apply to all homes used as rental property, not just to those rented to students. Welland will schedule 2 public meetings to discuss the bylaw and new licensing requirements. Welland Tribune

Graduation rates among STEM majors lagging

Despite more students choosing to major in science, technology, engineering, and math, their graduation rates are falling behind, particularly among underrepresented minorities, according to a new research brief from the UCLA Higher Education Research Institute. Among fall 2004 first-year students surveyed, just below 31% reported plans to major in a STEM field, up from less than a quarter in the mid-1980s. For both white and Asian-American students, the study found a 20-percentage-point gap in graduation rates between students who started as STEM majors and those pursuing other fields. For both Latino and black students, the report uncovered a 26-percentage-point gap in completion rates between STEM and non-STEM majors. Inside Higher Ed

Americans skeptical about colleges' cost-effectiveness, study finds

In a joint study between the Public Agenda and the National Centre for Public Policy and Higher Education, 60% of Americans surveyed say that colleges today operate more like a business, caring more about their bottom line than students' educational experience. Another 60% agree that colleges could enrol a lot more students without lowering quality or raising prices, and 54% believe colleges could spend less and still maintain a high quality of education. 64% of those surveyed think colleges and states receiving federal stimulus funds should use all or a portion of the money to hold down tuition and fees. While 55% believe higher education is essential to success, just 28% think college is available to the vast majority of qualified, motivated students. New York Times | Read the report