Top Ten

August 22, 2011

Ontario college support staff could soon strike

More than 8,000 support staff at Ontario colleges have been in contract talks since June and with negotiations at a standstill, staff could go on strike on September 1. Pleading with both sides to "consider the students," the College Student Alliance is "asking each college administration to have a plan in place to minimize disruptions to the students." The chair of the bargaining team for OPSEU says "students should be very aware that the start of the school year will be jeopardized as long as college management refuses to negotiate seriously." Both parties will resume negotiations today in hopes a collective agreement can be reached before the strike deadline. QMI Agency

Former uOttawa colleagues go to court over defamation claims

According to a document filed in court, a statement of defence from former University of Ottawa physics professor Denis Rancourt who is being sued for defamation by Joanne St. Lewis, a law professor at uOttawa, only aggravates the damages caused to her reputation. St. Lewis is suing Rancourt for $1 million in damages for allegedly making racist statements about her on his blog in discussing her professional relationship with uOttawa president Allan Rock. She is also asking the court to compel Rancourt to apologize and remove the statements. "The continued presence of the defendant's defamatory statements will have a chilling effect on future students, colleagues, community members and those who might seek Professor St. Lewis for speaking engagements or consultations in government, organizations and corporations," the court document says. Rancourt contends that the suit is intended to silence him and his criticisms of institutions such as the university. Ottawa Citizen

Quebec student leaders plan fall protests over tuition fee increases

Quebec post-secondary students will demonstrate in force this fall against looming tuition fee hikes, vow student leaders. The Fédération étudiante collégiale du Québec and the Fédération étudiante universitaire du Québec say protest actions will intensify through November 10, when a massive demonstration is planned in Montreal. The student organizations will launch information campaigns on campuses to let students know about the ramifications of the Quebec government's decision to increase tuition fees by nearly 75% over the next 5 years. Student leaders will tour the province as part of the effort, stopping at several Université du Québec campuses and the Université de Sherbrooke, where protests and rallies are planned. CBC

Ontario Tories pledge fairer OSAP access for middle-class families

Yesterday Ontario PC Leader Tim Hudak announced that a Tory government would make Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) funding available to more middle-class families in the province. If elected, the Tories would cancel the governing Liberals' foreign scholarship program and reinvest those funds in families badly needing support. The party would adopt the same standard for OSAP eligibility that the federal government uses to assess how much parents have available to contribute to their child's education. Under this formula, a student from a middle-class Ontario family earning $65,000 would receive $300 more in OSAP loans. The Tories say a student whose parents earn $39,000 and $46,000 would receive about $2,500 in OSAP support, but the Liberal government does not give that family any OSAP at all. Ontario PC News Release

Canadian universities experiencing boom in Indian student enrolment

More than 12,000 students from India are expected to attend Canadian universities this fall, almost 4 times the number that attended Canadian institutions in 2008. Nearly 700 Indian students studied at the University of Alberta in 2010 -- a 311% increase since the 2008 academic year. Appearing on CTV's Canada AM last week, uAlberta president Indira Samarasekera, who has made Indian student recruitment an institutional priority, said the enrolment boom is due in part to school shortages in India, where less than 10% of students have a chance to study at home. Indian students have turned to Canadian universities for their high quality and lower cost compared to US institutions, said Samarasekera. While not all students will remain in Canada following graduation, Samarasekera said she envisions the development of a "brain chain," as students who go back home or move elsewhere maintain links to the Canadian economy. Canada AM

Polytechnics Canada outlines priorities for next federal budget

In its pre-budget submission, Polytechnics Canada recommends that the federal government establish a Research Mentorship pilot program for foreign-trained professionals already in Canada. Another recommendation is to establish an Entrepreneur-in-Residence pilot program at colleges and polytechnics. Polytechnics Canada also recommends that Ottawa provide the same tax relief for apprenticeship students that is offered to post-secondary academic students. These recommendations, the organization says, will help the government meet its objectives of a more highly skilled, adaptable, and inclusive workforce for a more productive economy. Read the pre-budget submission

RRC president discusses big plans for college

In an interview with the Winnipeg Free Press, Red River College president Stephanie Forsyth says she would like a huge indoor soccer complex at the Notre Dame campus, just like the 4-field complex at the University of Manitoba and the one planned for the University of Winnipeg. "We can't have all those sports facilities on university campuses," says Forsyth, whose institution will add men's and women's varsity soccer this fall. RRC will launch a new strategic plan in November, which Forsyth says will have a strong Aboriginal focus. She has also struck a task force to boost the number of international students at the college. As the Manitoba election approaches, Forsyth would like to hear the parties address renewing the 1960s infrastructure at the Notre Dame campus, improving student mobility, encouraging a greater community college participation rate by all Manitobans, and strategies to attract more Aboriginal and foreign students to colleges. Winnipeg Free Press

Ottawa Citizen sums up "the new U"

Saturday's Ottawa Citizen reports on some of the social revolutions that have swept over Canadian campuses: female students outnumber males; more students are living at home; and both students and parents have more clout. An amenities race on US campuses has moved north into Canada, with students seeking Wi-Fi, luxury units, and themed residences. "Students are paying a lot more in tuition, so they expect more in terms of services," says Academica Group's Ken Steele. One of the biggest differences on campuses, Ken observes, is that while many students are often enrolled full-time, they are more likely to be working. The new schoolwork-life balance means commuter students are not as interested in an "immersive" student experience. Ken notes there is a lot of concern about mental health on campuses, which are stepping up initiatives in this area. For example, the University of Ottawa is launching a new online magazine devoted to mental health, with self-surveys for students on issues such as depression, alcohol abuse, and eating disorders. Ottawa Citizen

uToronto, Ryerson want to maintain pedestrian space indefinitely

Tables, chairs, and huge planters have substituted traffic on roads running through both Ryerson University and the University of Toronto's St. George campus, and the institutions hope to maintain the rare pedestrian space indefinitely. "In an urban campus like ours, there aren't that many places you can just wander around and have that feeling of being in the middle of a university," says a Ryerson official. The City of Toronto, universities, and business are trying to balance their needs before a decision is made on whether to keep the roads closed permanently or to end the experimental closures on September 30. Originally there were 2 closings at uToronto, but one was discontinued after a few months due to lack of pedestrian traffic, according to the city. A uToronto official agrees it just was not attracting students as well as have the other spaces. Globe and Mail

UBC earns Canada's first "gold" in new institutional sustainability assessment

The University of British Columbia has received Canada's first gold rating in a new global program assessing sustainability achievements in PSE. A gold rating is the highest achieved to date in STARS (Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System), a sustainability evaluation tool created by the US-based Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education. So far 117 institutions -- including 8 out of 22 participating Canadian universities -- have received ratings. STARS inaugural ratings are currently slated to be completed by next August. UBC News Release | AASHE STARS