Top Ten

July 27, 2010

Malfunction at Fleming results in lost grades

Hundreds of students' grades have been lost following a backup system failure at Fleming College, leaving staff and faculty scrambling to find hard-copy marks so students can finish the summer term uninterrupted. Fleming has been experiencing power outages due to construction on campus, and at some point the learning management system, which houses grades and course material, went offline. After the system came back online, staff discovered its backup mechanism had failed and data had been lost. Fleming's chief information officer admits there will be some students whose grades cannot be recovered. IT staff hope to conclude their investigation of the incident within a week. Peterborough Examiner

Milton campus still uncertain, says WLU president

In a midsummer update, Wilfrid Laurier University president Max Blouw states it remains uncertain whether a Milton campus will be part of WLU's future, but ongoing discussions include the Ontario government, the Town of Milton, and the Region of Halton. These remarks follow a description of a 5-year enrolment projection, which estimates 2,027 students by 2015 for the proposed Milton campus. WLU is projecting an increase of 819 foreign students by 2015 for a total enrolment of 12,962 undergraduates at the Waterloo campus, while the Brantford campus is expected to grow from 2,000 students to 4,500 over this period. WLU has also submitted to the Ontario government a 10-year capital plan, which includes the construction of the first phase of a campus in Milton on the 150-acre parcel of land the Town of Milton will donate to WLU if the campus goes forward. WLU Campus Update

Capilano agrees to land swap for Oceanfront development project

After years of hoping for educational institutions on Oceanfront lands, the Squamish Oceanfront Development Corporation (SODC) has signed a letter of intent with Capilano University that would bring the university into the middle of Squamish's peninsula project. Capilano and the SODC have agreed to exchange 4.9-acre parcels of land on opposite ends of the Cattermole Slough to facilitate the SODC's hoped-for Oceanfront learning centre. In exchange for the SODC lands, which are in the centre of the Oceanfront lands, the corporation would receive Capilano's downtown lands at the end of Second Avenue. SODC News Release | Squamish Chief

CCL report examines gender differences in pursuit of science-related careers

A new report commissioned for the Canadian Council on Learning demonstrates that gender differences in the choice of science-related pathways are still evident, even when controlling for achievement and engagement factors. Drawing data from the 2004 School Achievement Indicators Program (SAIP), the analysis found that women, especially those who performed below criterion in the SAIP science test, had post-secondary plans that did not involve science. Meanwhile, male lower achievers were more likely to have no PSE or career plans. Among the higher achievers, men were more likely to intend academic careers in hard sciences, engineering, and technology, while women preferred other scientific fields such as health and science education. The report observes gender differences in how students position themselves affectively with respect to school and science learning. Female students score better on science academic factors and are even more persistent in dealing with difficulties in science courses. However, even if female students do better in science courses, SAIP science performance is slightly below the level of their male peers. Read the report

Adjuncts prosper at VCC

In its special report "Great Colleges to Work For," The Chronicle of Higher Education includes a feature on Vancouver Community College, which the article states is often held up as an example of how to treat adjuncts. At VCC, instructors who are hired by the term but work at least half time for 19 out of 24 months obtain "regular" status -- a form of job security providing a level of protection largely unheard of for faculty who are not tenured or on the tenure track. Experts on adjunct issues say that perhaps the most important feature of VCC's system is that it allows instructors who were initially hired term-by-term to be promoted into jobs with more-secure status. The president of the college's faculty association says part-time employees feel like an integral part of the VCC community. "If you want to work at VCC, it can be a career when you're hired for the first time." The Chronicle of Higher Education (free access)

University overcrowding in Ontario requires immediate solution

Ontario's push for a 2-year wage freeze at universities won't help the bottom line as long as the province continues to "shove" tens of thousands of students into an already "bloated" system, argues an Ottawa Citizen editorial published yesterday. The editorial suggests inflated enrolment has resulted in student housing shortages, a diluted quality of education, and a fall in public spending per student, leading to higher tuition fees. What students get in return for their financial sacrifice is a "degree that is worth less than it was before bloated universities created 'credential creep.'" There is little indication that adding tens of thousands of BA degrees a year will make for a better workforce, the editorial states. With Ontario and other jurisdictions facing shortages in the skilled trades, Canada could always use more workers and entrepreneurs in these and other areas. "Education, training and development are good things," the editorial says, "but they don't necessarily have to be delivered through the vehicle of an expensive BA program." Ottawa Citizen

Class size cap frustrates uManitoba nursing students

Some fourth-year nursing students at the University of Manitoba are fuming about their studies being put on hold after their faculty introduced a new cap on class sizes. The nursing faculty's dean say the cap is meant to benefit fourth-year students, but such students told the Winnipeg Free Press they were unable to enrol in key courses because they were full. The students sought help from the registrar's office, but "the best thing they could do is put us on the waiting list, but really, nobody's going to drop out." The dean says students were told in early spring that class size changes were coming, but some students say they did not realize the announcement was definite. The faculty decided to try capping student numbers based in part on previous problems with unpredictable enrolment figures and class sizes getting too large. Winnipeg Free Press

Postscript: Sep 15, 2010
The University of Manitoba reports that its nursing faculty was able to accommodate 43 of the 50 students impacted by class size caps on fourth-year clinical experiential courses. The cap -- initiated due to problems with unpredictable enrolment figures and growing class sizes -- was designed to benefit fourth-year students, but such students reported that they were unable to enrol in key courses because they were full. The remaining students could not be accommodated because of problems relating to academic progression. uManitoba Faculty of Nursing Enrolment Management Strategy

SFU to build observatory, science outreach centre

Simon Fraser University has approved the construction of a $4-million observatory and science outreach centre on Burnaby Mountain. With $2 million in the observatory's coffers from a private donor, the university needs just another $2 million to construct a facility SFU says will rival Vancouver's H. R. MacMillan Planetarium in terms of scientific community outreach. SFU says that unlike other university observatories in Canada, its will give equal weight to both undergraduate teaching and community outreach. SFU News Release | Vancouver Province

StFX, Kwantlen to remove credit cards from tuition payment options

St. Francis Xavier University and Kwantlen Polytechnic University will join a number of Canadian institutions that have stopped accepting credit card payments for tuition. By eliminating costs associated with credit card transactions, StFX, whose new measures come into effect September 30, can reinvest the savings back into supporting high-quality education. Effective August 3, Kwantlen will no longer accept credit card payments for domestic registration and tuition fees. The $250,000 Kwantlen expects to save will be put towards additional scholarships and bursaries for students this year. The University of Saskatchewan recently announced it will no longer take Visa for tuition payments, and will accept MasterCard online only. StFX News | Kwantlen News

US colleges increasing marketing spending, survey finds

According to a new US survey, median spending on marketing at midsized post-secondary institutions -- those with 2,000 to 5,999 students -- had increased by over 100% between 2001 and 2010. Similar increases were seen at smaller colleges and larger research institutions. The survey found that colleges have also increased the amount of their marketing budgets directed to interactive and social media in recent years. 71% of schools that allocated 6% or more of their marketing budgets to research and planning stated that their marketing efforts had a positive impact on the quality of their applicants, while 52% of those who spent less on such activities reported a similar effect. The Chronicle of Higher Education (free access) | Read the report