Top Ten

July 15, 2010

uToronto ArtSci faculty releases academic plan to address deficit

Faced with a deficit poised to reach $60 million by the end of the coming academic year, the University of Toronto's arts and science faculty cannot afford any "sacred cows" in its efforts to find savings and preserve the quality of education, says the faculty's dean. A new 5-year academic plan released Wednesday recommends shutting down or consolidating high-profile units, including the Centre for Comparative Literature. The plan states the faculty, which is the largest in Canada, "is now engaged in more activities than it can properly sustain." The dean says the faculty must erase the shortfall between its revenue and expenses, which totalled $22 million in the most recent school year. In addition to savings and revenues expected from the plan, the dean estimates over half of that amount will come from increased revenue from a flat fee structure, and from increasing the number of international undergraduate students and cutting domestic students. With the plan now public, there will be a chance for debate at town hall meetings and when it goes before uToronto's governing bodies for approval. uToronto News | Globe and Mail | Read the academic plan

Banting Fellowship priorities "misplaced," says CAUT

The Canadian Association of University Teachers has raised concerns about the federal government's "misplaced priorities" in the new Banting Postdoctoral Fellowship Program, which will create 140 fellowships per year, valued at $70,000 annually, for Canadian and international postdoctoral applicants. CAUT executive James Turk questions whether it makes sense in a country with about 6,000 postdocs to give a massive pay raise to just 2.3%, while leaving the rest financially insecure. "This program is another step toward the creation of elite tier of scholars in Canada," says Turk, noting that the program also disadvantages small and medium-sized universities, which will be less successful at justifying to the government why they should host the fellowship recipients. CAUT News

uSask questions StatsCan's figures on university enrolment in Saskatchewan

According to new Statistics Canada figures, total enrolment at the University of Saskatchewan in 2008-09 was down 4.7% from the previous academic year. uSask says it is uncertain of StatsCan's methodology, as the university's numbers show a relatively minor enrolment decline in 2008 and an uptick in students numbers in the 2009 school year. uSask is the only provincial university included in StatsCan's annual report on Canada's university enrolment numbers, giving Saskatchewan the largest drop in enrolment in any province in the report. A uSask registrar says because of system issues, the school had not reported to StatsCan for some years before "back-reporting" the numbers for 2008, meaning the previous years in the report on based on estimates by StatsCan. Saskatoon Star-Phoenix

UBC starts consultations on Land Use Plan

The University of British Columbia is inviting the public to participate in the university's Land Use Plan amendment consultations, which began yesterday with an open house, followed by online consultations from July 19 to 30. UBC is proposing to update the plan to advance its vision of creating a model university community that is vibrant, livable, and sustainable, and to support UBC's academic mission. UBC has identified some barriers to achieving its vision, and proposed amendments will address these barriers by creating more affordable housing and a more sustainable community; changing the UBC Farm's land use designation from "Future Housing Reserve" to "Green Academic" to support sustainability teaching, research, and innovation; and regularizing land use to better align with UBC's academic mission. More consultations will take place in the fall, followed by a public hearing in late 2010/early fall 2011. UBC Media Advisory

Queen's community discusses vision for university's future

At a town hall meeting on Monday, over 60 Queen's University faculty, staff, and students offered their input on the future direction of the university. Much of the discussion focused on the experience of undergraduate students in arts and science. One student said Queen's should consider how better to support all instructors because students place a high value on teaching excellence. That discussion raised the issue about whether the institution should use professors who only teach. Faculty and students at the meeting cited interdisciplinarity as an important element of a rich education. Several faculty members warned that department heads, concerned about maintaining their budgets during times of financial difficulty, might hinder interdisciplinary efforts. Queen's News Centre

Nipissing launches Centre for Flexible Learning

Yesterday Nipissing University formally launched its new Centre for Flexible Learning (CFL), which will be housed in the new Learning Library and at the 2 regional campuses in Brantford and Bracebridge-Muskoka. The CFL team will work with the Nipissing community to advance teaching and learning in 3 areas: curriculum development, instructional design, and the scholarship of teaching; learning technologies, online and blended course development; and information literacy and research skill development. Nipissing says that with support from philanthropist Seymour Schulich's benefaction to the Schulich School of Education, the CFL will further establish the university as an innovator in PSE. The education school's dean says the centre will allow faculty across Nipissing to build a scholarship of teaching and learning that will enhance student engagement and improve achievement and success. Nipissing News Release

Ignatieff proposes plan for young Canadian to work overseas

On Wednesday, the second day of his summer-long cross-country tour, Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff said he would like to develop a federally funded program to allow young Canadians to work abroad and gain international experience. Ignatieff is contemplating a program in which the federal government would provide subsidized placements with Canadian institutions or partners overseas to "internationalize" an entire generation of young people. The Liberal leader said that international experience is not something that should be frowned upon. "I don't want Canadians to think the only good Canadian is someone who's never left these shores." Ottawa Citizen

Dual enrolment programs effective in helping students succeed in PSE, report finds

Dual enrolment programs, through which high school students enrol in courses for college credit, can be a key element in the transition from high school to college, according to a new report commissioned by the US-based Blackboard Institute. Examining various configurations of and studies on dual enrolment, the report finds that these programs, when properly implemented, can be effective in helping all students, not just high achievers, succeed in higher education. While such programs have shown evidence of increasing college attendance and success rates, they are sometimes hampered by state policies that do not provide the support necessary to leverage these programs. Blackboard Institute News Release | Read the report

What students want in a professor

A pair of British academics think they may have found the recipe for what students believe to be the perfect university instructor. The formula is based on an analysis of over 400 student submissions to the University of Hertfordshire's annual "Tutor of the Year" award. A ranking based on the number of times the most valued traits were mentioned indicates that "great teaching" is the most sought-after quality in a lecturer. The research highlights the growing importance of the "edutainer" -- an instructor who is able to combine education and entertainment. A professor interviewed by Inside Higher Ed argues this trend may in part be due to a decline in students' attention span, pointing to the growing popularity of "infotainment" shows among students. Inside Higher Ed

Youtube's "Leanback" offers TV-like viewing

Last Wednesday marked the debut of a YouTube format called "Leanback," which picks out high-definition clips most likely to draw an individual's attention and then automatically serves up a one video after another. Leanback is part of the video-sharing site's effort to evolve into a "video operating system" that is as ubiquitous and as easy to use as television. In addition to making its site easier to watch, YouTube has been trying to line up more compelling content from movie and TV studios to supplement the millions of amateur clips in its library. Associated Press | YouTube Blog