Top Ten

January 3, 2012

uOttawa health sciences dean urges new health facility

The dean of the University of Ottawa's health sciences faculty alleges that president Allan Rock has broken a promise to prioritize a much-needed facility for the faculty. In a March 2011 letter, Rock told the Undergraduate Nursing Students' Association (UNSA) that a new building to bring the faculty under one roof would be "the biggest priority" in the implementation of uOttawa's next 5-year plan. In the health sciences faculty's December newsletter, the dean stated that members of the administrative committee have decided not to proceed with the consolidation project for the time being. UNSA has been hoping for a new facility so students would not have to commute back and forth between downtown and another campus in Ottawa's southeast end. The lost time from this extra travelling is affecting nursing students' grades, says the association's president. "Chronic space needs have led to the scattering of our Faculty while many of our students are still 'homeless'," wrote the dean in the newsletter. "This situation is unacceptable." Newsletter | Ottawa Citizen

Ottawa eliminates interest on loans for part-time students

New and existing loans for part-time PSE students are now interest-free during study. Before the changes came into effect on January 1, an interest rate of prime plus 2.5% applied to part-time student loans. The federal government states that by removing the interest on part-time loans during study, on average, students will save close to $350 annually. HRSDC News Release

CNC celebrates new technical education centres at Prince George, Quesnel campuses

Late last month, the College of New Caledonia opened its new technical education centres at its Prince George and Quesnel campuses. The 7,000-square-metre facility in Prince George houses training programs for trades such as auto collision repair, industrial mechanic/millwright, machinist, plumbing, and welding. The new building in Quesnel more than doubles the number of spaces available of trades and technical training in programs such as carpentry, electrical, horticulture, plumbing, and welding. CNC received nearly $30 million from the BC and federal governments for these 2 projects. BC News Release

NorQuest plans downtown campus development

Edmonton-based NorQuest College revealed last month plans for its downtown campus development, which includes the construction of a new North Learning Centre and a retrofitting of the current main campus building. NorQuest's vision is to consolidate all teaching and learning from its 6 dispersed facilities into one downtown campus. The college currently serves 9,000 students annually, and this number is expected to increase to an estimated 12,500 students by 2024. NorQuest News Release

BC institutions ensuring foreign students have health insurance until MSP coverage comes into effect

Some PSE institutions in BC are taking measures to ensure their international students are protected by health insurance from the time they arrive in BC until they qualify for coverage under the Medical Services Plan. Simon Fraser University became concerned after a few foreign students who had not bought temporary health insurance were hit with large medical bills for services delivered during their first 3 months in BC. Recently, SFU issued a request for vendors capable of administering a mandatory health plan for foreign students. Thompson Rivers University revised its rules recently to require international students to provide proof of short-term health insurance after conceding it did not know if all of its new students had "bridge" insurance to cover them for 3 months. The University of British Columbia already requires foreign students to buy a temporary basic insurance plan as a condition of registration. Vancouver Sun | Kamloops Daily News

Universities aim to stop flight of "Christmas graduates"

To stop the flight of "Christmas graduates" -- students who drop out after winter break -- some universities screen students based on their fall midterm grades and offer help that attempts to focus on the deeper issue behind poor marks. At Carleton University's Science Student Success Centre, first-year science students who receive a 60% or lower on their midterms are immediately sent an e-mail to set up an appointment with an upper-year mentor. Since the program's launch in 2008, the centre found that students who sought help had a much greater chance of passing the course, with 70% passing, compared to 65% of students who did not participate. Carleton is expanding the service this month to all undergraduate students and will enrol at-risk students in a voluntary 9-week "Bounce Back" program. A University of Guelph program gives 5 students with the most improved marks a $1,000 tuition credit each. In the most recent cohort, participating students saw their marks improve by more than 5% compared to the 1% improvement among non-participating students. Globe and Mail

"Block plan" teaching method gaining appeal among small Canadian institutions

The "block plan" -- a one-course-at-a-time delivery format -- is making inroads at some smaller universities in Canada. Acadia University, Algoma University, and the University of Northern British Columbia have started toying with block schedules. BC-based Quest University is the only university in Canada on an entirely block curriculum. Instructors with block plan experience swear by it, saying students are more engaged when they can concentrate on a single class at a time, and the flexibility within the timetable to include fieldwork enhances the educational experience. There are logistical limitations when it comes to the block plan: assignments must be completed and graded quickly; illness can jeopardize a whole block, as making up a lost week is not possible; and the rigorous schedule can be an obstacle to part-time learners and instructors with other commitments. Once a skeptic of block teaching, Quest U president David Helfand finds it "liberating," and thinks feedback from his faculty members -- all but one of whom came from conventional semester systems -- warrants attention from even the most traditional institutions. Globe and Mail

McGill students protest institution's insistence on club name changes

Rules about usage of the McGill name in campus clubs have always existed, but now they are being more stridently enforced and McGill University students are feeling slighted by the institution's contention that they might be an impediment when it comes to branding, reports the Montreal Gazette. It's a question of clarity, says McGill's deputy provost of student life and learning. The university is just asking student clubs to specify that they are students so there is no ambiguity. The president of the Students Society of McGill University says students can understand the institution wanting to control its brand, but McGill is not going about it the right way. "Requiring 130 groups to change their names is not making anything 'easier,' but rather requires that they devote time and resources to changing their websites, T-shirts, banners and email addresses instead of focusing on each group's mandate to enhance student life." Montreal Gazette

Alberta predicts shortage of 114,000 workers by 2021

Alberta's latest occupational demand and supply outlook predicts the province could face a cumulative labour shortage of up to 114,000 workers across all sectors by 2021, up from the previous shortage of 77,000 workers predicted 2 years ago. Labour shortages are expected in the trades, among health-care workers, financial services, retail, public service, and the restaurant and tourism industries. PSE institutions such as SAIT Polytechnic and Bow Valley College are working with industry to try to identify what skills will be needed and when. BVC is developing new programs to address anticipated demand and adding sections to existing programs to accommodate the number of people applying for courses. The challenge is how to know what positions will be in demand 2 years out, says the dean of SAIT's School of Transportation. "You could see there's room to open up more seats in the full-time program, but are there going to be jobs for them?" says the dean. "Employers want to get ahead of that, but how do we do that?" Alberta News Release | Calgary Herald | Occupational Demand and Supply Outlook 2011-2021

More uSask business grads working in province

According to a recent employment survey, 84.3% of recent University of Saskatchewan business graduates accepted jobs in the province, compared to 63% in 2006. Overall employment rates rose for fall 2010 and spring 2011. Of graduates who were looking for work, 86.6% have secured employment, compared to 78.6% in 2009. More than 97% of former co-op students are now working, the survey found. The survey results show business graduates are also seeing higher wages. Mean starting salaries rose from $40,580 in 2008 to $42,554 in 2011, an increase of nearly 5%. Graduates who majored in marketing and human resources reported the highest earnings. uSask News Release