Top Ten

July 15, 2011

$12 million donated to UBC Law School

Peter Allard, a University of British Columbia alumnus, lawyer and investment manager, has donated $11.86 million to UBC’s Faculty of Law, the largest single donation in the school’s history. The money will help UBC reach its campaign goal of $56 million for its new state-of-the-art learning facility, now called Allard Hall. $9.825 million of the donation will go towards the new facility, with the rest coming from UBC and private fundraising. $1.75 million of Allard’s donation will establish the annual Allard Prize for International Integrity, recognizing recipients for their worldwide fight for freedom and human rights, and against corruption.  UBC News  |  Globe and Mail

Camrose Alberta’s Gardner College closing

Gardner College gets set to permanently close its doors this fall because of rising debt, increasing costs and low enrolment. In operation since 1933 (when it was founded as Alberta Bible Institute), the faith-based college, offering Biblical studies in Camrose, has formed a transition team that will help accommodate students who are in the midst of their programs. The college is considering providing courses through distance learning, offering pastoral programs through churches. This past year Gardner had only 20 students enrolled, producing fewer than 10 graduates – and with “more students in the child care programs than in the theology programs.” The building will be up for sale soon in hopes of recovering some costs and paying down the debt.  Camrose Canadian  |  Camrose Booster 

Gains and losses in Ontario undergraduate confirmations

The Ontario Universities Application Centre (OUAC) released its July 2011 confirmation statistics this week, reaching an all-time high of 89,208 confirmations – besting the double cohort of 2003. Enrolment growth at Ontario universities over the past decade has been driven primarily by high-school-direct applicants, and for those students the biggest gains this year were at the University of Guelph, McMaster, Carleton, UOIT and UWO. The universities showing the steepest percentage growth over last year include Algoma (17%), Brescia (17%), UOIT (14%), Guelph (11%), McMaster (9%), and Carleton (9%). The steepest declines in confirmations appear to be at King’s (-15%), Laurentian (-10%), Nipissing (-8.5%) and Huron (-8%). By program, the biggest percentage gains this year over last appear to be Forestry, Landscape Architecture, and Administration; the biggest drops are Music, Education, Fine and Applied Arts.  OUAC July 2011 Stats

uOttawa in “exploratory discussions” with Ottawa Art Gallery

The University of Ottawa is reportedly in the early stages of discussions to grant $6 million to the Ottawa Art Gallery to create a black-box theatre, as part of a $36-million expansion. Ottawa’s city council has agreed to move forward with the expansion, which will triple the space of the gallery to 31,000 square feet, including a 350-seat presentation area, a 120-foot screening room and more space for other tenants. The proposal is still in its preliminary stages, and other funding has yet to be finalized. The project is slated for completion by 2014.  Ottawa Business Journal

Canada faces “innovation gap” between research and commercialization

The VP Research at McGill, Associate Scientific Director at MITACS, and VP Quebec for IBM co-authored an op-ed piece in yesterday’s Montreal Gazette urging greater industry-university cooperation to drive innovation. Canada currently ranks 14th among OECD nations for business investment in R&D, and last for the number of PhDs we produce. Fiscal pressures have both universities and industry looking to each other for research investment, but both are “leery” of collaboration. Industry and universities need to start seeing themselves as part of the same research continuum – with universities providing breakthrough ideas and industry having the mindset needed to commercialize them.  Montreal Gazette

Brescia videos highlight student experience

Brescia University College has released a series of 11 professionally produced videos, building on the “Brescia Bold” brand and adding to the 9 videos produced last year.  The videos address a variety of frequently-asked questions, and focus on educational experience, not just academics. The videos show people talking about experiential aspects of university like their favorite spaces on campus, classroom and teaching styles, and a community atmosphere.  All the videos are available on Brescia’s YouTube channel, and shown in rotation on the Brescia homepage.  Brescia News  |  Brescia YouTube channel 

Grade inflation rising on US campuses

An article published Wednesday in the journal Teachers College Record, called “Where A is Ordinary,” observes that 43% of all grades given at 135 four-year colleges and universities in the US are A’s -- an increase of 28% since 1960. According to the study, private colleges tend to be more generous with grades than public institutions with similar admission standards, and A’s are rarer in some less-selective institutions and southern institutions. The researchers argue that this abundance of A’s is a problem, as it may discourage ambition, and at the same time forces grad school admission offices to rely more on standardized tests. “Over a period of roughly 50 years… America’s institutions of higher learning gradually created a fiction that excellence was common and that failure was virtually nonexistent.”  InsideHigherEd  |  Chronicle of Higher Ed 

Blackboard Partners with Publishers

In addition to last year’s partnership with McGraw-Hill, Blackboard has now partnered with 4 more major textbook publishers – Cengage, Macmillan, Pearson, and John Wiley & Sons – in order to better link their course-management system with advanced e-textbook platforms. This will allow students to get to the publishers’ e-textbook and online assignments through the campus network without having to create new logins and passwords. It will also make providing grades to online quizzes from the publishers’ e-textbook systems to the gradebook on the Blackboard system much simpler for professors. These links are expected to be completed in about a year.  Chronicle of Higher Ed  |  InsideHigherEd 

Open questions about open courseware

In the wake of the announcement of the de-funding of the National Science Digital Library, Eric Jansson observes that open courseware and OER initiatives may also be vulnerable. Jansson argues the issue is not merely the lack of a viable business model, but also that today’s OCW is essentially just a partial archive of a traditional or hybrid course – not a resource designed for effective self-directed learning. Best practices would demand interactivity, rich media, simulations, adaptive learning systems with formative assessment, and an effective mobile platform. Although “the best lectures are high art,” the medium is limited and outdated.  InsideHigherEd

Muggle Quidditch at Canadian universities

(Just in time for you to get in line to see the premiere of the final chapter of Harry Potter.) Two UBC students have brought the game of quidditch to Canada’s west coast, joining more than 200 American colleges already playing organized matches. In the earth-bound version of quidditch, players keep a broom between their legs at all times, while they attempt to put volleyballs through hoops, smash other players with dodge balls, and ultimately capture a rogue player dressed in yellow (the "golden snitch") who disappears at the start of each game and can go anywhere on campus. By the fall, the students hope to have 50 to 100 members play in weekly games, and compete with newly-formed teams from uVictoria and UBC Okanagan. Across the country, Dalhousie University has had an existing quidditch team since 2008.  Vancouver Sun