Top Ten

July 2, 2010

Decline in staffing hurting education, say Manitoba universities

With many positions at Manitoba's 3 largest public universities left vacant due to attrition, "there will not be the richness of offerings, the same class sizes" as students have seen in the past, says University of Manitoba president David Barnard. He and the presidents of Brandon University and the University of Winnipeg say they can't maintain, let alone improve, the quality of education on a 2% increase in provincial grants and a 5% cap on tuition increases. Calling the situation a classic case of death by a thousand cuts, Brandon U president Deborah Poff notes that at universities, "most of your budget is human beings; you really need those teachers in front of students." "The universities here can't continue doing this," says uWinnipeg president Lloyd Axworthy, whose institution has asked all its faculties and departments to cut 3.5%, and on top of that is saving another $2.6 million through vacancy management. Winnipeg Free Press

uAlberta departments lose office phones in budget cutbacks

Some University of Alberta professors have lost or will lose their office phones due to 5% department cuts at the institution. When over 60% of the English and film studies department's non-salary budget was cut this year, eliminating the phones for 60 faculty members and shared phones of 50 other instructors was an obvious answer. In the philosophy department, each professor has voice mail on the main department line, and a message will be transferred as an audio attachment to their e-mail accounts. The chair of the modern languages and cultural studies department says most people have cellphones and faculty should be able to receive a tax deduction if they use a personal cellphone for work. Edmonton Journal

Dawson College to hold conference on school violence

Dawson College and the Association of Canadian Community Colleges will stage an international conference on school violence at Dawson in September 2011, which will coincide with the fifth anniversary of the shooting at the Montreal CÉGEP. The conference will explore what teachers, particularly those in post-secondary education, can do to reduce violence in schools and the larger community. It will also focus on youth violence and how violence prevention can be integrated into colleges and universities. Given that Montreal has had 3 shootings at post-secondary schools (the others at École Polytechnique and Concordia University), "it seemed like it's an appropriate theme for a Montreal conference," says one of the event's co-ordinators. Montreal Gazette

Quebec launches new phase of research and innovation strategy

The Quebec government released last week a 2010-2013 update of the Quebec Research and Innovation Strategy, the new phase representing over $1.16 billion in investments. The challenges the province is facing include its ability to attract the best researchers and matching of post-secondary training programs with the needs of business. Among the objectives outlined in the report are obtaining a significant share of federal funding for Quebec university research and increasing the number of outstanding foreign students who decide to pursue their studies in the province. After its first review of the strategy, the Conference of Rectors and Principals of Quebec Universities considers the new phase excellent news for the province, although it has reservations about the amalgamation of 3 existing research funds. Quebec News Release | CREPUQ News Release | 2010-2013 Quebec Research and Innovation Strategy (summary)

WSIB Ontario overhauls "wasteful" injured worker re-training program

The Workplace Safety & Insurance Board of Ontario has scrapped a "wasteful" $150-million worker retraining program and replaced it with a streamlined system provincial officials say will protect vulnerable workers and save money. A Toronto Star investigation last year revealed the Labour Market Re-Entry program, which had been outsourced to the private sector, failed to lead close to half of its participants to jobs. The investigation found injured workers were being sent to for-profit schools charging high tuition to prepare for menial jobs. The new Work Re-integration Program, to begin later this year, will put WSIB managers back in charge of injured workers' rehabilitation, increase worker input and choice in their vocational goals, make greater use of Ontario's public education to retrain injured workers, and aim to provide workers with marketable skills and valid credentials. WSIB Ontario News | Toronto Star

BC invests in health education access

The BC government announced last Wednesday funding of nearly $1.7 million provided to 6 public post-secondary institutions across the province for new student spaces to train practical nurses, health care assistants, and medical office assistants. The funding will allow Camosun College to train 96 practical nurses and health care assistants, Nicola Valley Institute of Technology and Vancouver Community College to train 38 Aboriginal health care and medical office assistants, Northern Lights College to expand its health care assistant program, North Island College to train 30 practical nurses and 30 health care assistants, and College of New Caledonia to double the spaces in its health care assistant training program. BC News Release (Camosun) | BC News Release (NVIT/VCC) | BC News Release (NLC) | BC News Release (NIC) | BC News Release (CNC)

Accreditor takes tougher stance on "accreditation shopping"

Prior to 2008, the US-based Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (HLC) acquired a reputation for allowing flexible standards for the growing for-profit education industry. Now, the accreditor is saying "not so fast" to for-profit entities purchasing financially struggling non-profit colleges, then holding on to those schools' regional accreditation, even if their missions change -- a practice called "accreditation shopping." The HLC recently rejected 2 "change of control" requests to have accreditation to continue with the purchase of non-profit colleges by for-profit organizations, leading one of the schools to be shut down after the buyers no longer considered the deal viable. HLC based the decisions on new policy designed to prevent accreditation shopping, a practice to which the commission is very much opposed. "Accreditation is not like a liquor license." Inside Higher Ed | The Chronicle of Higher Education (subscription required)

US community colleges cut marketing budget over booming enrolment

Several American community colleges have reduced their advertising budgets because they don't have any trouble recruiting students, especially with the poor economy helping to drive up enrolment. Florida-based Brevard Community College, where enrolment has grown by a third in the last 3 years, cut its advertising budget by 62% this fiscal year, shifting its marketing efforts to target non-traditional students. Many marketing experts say it's a major mistake for community colleges to cut back on marketing just because students are flooding in, with one potential downside being losing ground to for-profit institutions (Apollo Group, parent company of the University of Phoenix, spent nearly 25% of its $1-billion net revenue on "selling and promotion" expenses last quarter alone). Community colleges interviewed by Inside Higher Ed are not worried about competition with for-profits, though. One college president says the lavish advertising spending by for-profit schools brings up the issue of quality -- if they have a terrific product, they wouldn't need to advertise so much. Inside Higher Ed

Few students interested in using Twitter to learn about colleges

Twitter is more popular with admissions officers than it is with students, according to a recent US study. A survey of 200 prospective students and 70 admissions offices found that while 40% of college admissions offices are active on Twitter, just 15% of prospective students expressed interest in using Twitter to learn about colleges. The study's author calls this disparity "the Twitter anomaly" -- most high school students are not active on Twitter, but admissions officers typically fall into the 30-to-40 age demographic the microblogging site attracts. According to the study, Twitter is second behind Facebook as the most popular form of social media used by admissions offices. 35% of admissions officials plan to start accounts in the next year. The Chronicle of Higher Education (free access)

International-student security should be a policy priority

Foreign students have the same needs as domestic students and should be accorded equivalent rights and protections, with a few exceptions, writes University of Melbourne education professor Simon Marginson in The Chronicle of Higher Education. The fundamental problem in trying to improve the safety and security of international students lies with nations' regulatory frameworks. We must find ways of pushing international-student security up the policy agenda for national governments, multilateral forums, and global agencies, Marginson writes. He suggests a more comprehensive and rights-based approach to the security of foreign students could be obtained through bilateral negotiations between the nations that send and receive them. The Chronicle of Higher Education (free access)