Top Ten

January 30, 2012

3 doctors file $150-million lawsuit against uOttawa

3 Saudi doctors have launched a lawsuit against the University of Ottawa, seeking more than $150 million in damages for alleged discrimination, defamation, and malfeasance in public office, among other things, reports the Ottawa Citizen. Last March, the doctors filed a human rights complaint against uOttawa, claiming discrimination, reprisal, and intimidation. The 120-page statement of claim asserts the treatment of the doctors is part of an overall corporate culture of oppression, bullying, intimidation, and false allegations within uOttawa's medical school. As a result, the doctors claim they have suffered loss of income and reputation, mental distress and suffering, loss of future employment as surgeons, and loss of time and opportunity to pursue other medical specialties. None of the allegations has been proven in court. "The University stands by its exceptional Faculty of Medicine leaders, who have the duty and responsibility to graduate physicians and specialists who attain the standards required of the profession," says uOttawa in a statement. "The University denies all allegations of wrongdoing made in the suit. The claims are entirely false, and the University will be vigorously defending itself against this suit, and defending the quality and the integrity of its medical education programs." Ottawa Citizen

Dal looking at $6.9-million shortfall

In the Dalhousie University Budget Advisory Committee's first report of 2012, some key assumptions for next year include a 3% reduction in the institution's operating grant from the Nova Scotia government; flat enrolment overall, with a first-year class similar to last year, a 5% increase in energy and water costs, and a 3% tuition increase in most programs. When the numbers are crunched, Dal is looking at a $6.9-million shortfall. Closing that gap through cuts alone could mean a 3.1% reduction to all operating units, comparable to last year's 3.5% cut. Dal will also consider tuition fee increases in dentistry, law, and medicine, as well as an increase to the international differential fee. Dal's VP of finance and administration says the university is in a better position to cope with the environmental factors facing Canadian PSE -- funding cuts, pension deficits, and declining high school populations -- thanks to strong enrolment growth. Dal's population has grown by 9% since 2004-05. Dal News

CNC faces $1.8-million shortfall

The College of New Caledonia faces a projected budget shortfall of about $1.8 million next year. According to a budget development update report, costs continue to climb at the institution, while government funding and total student tuition revenues -- CNC's 2 major sources of income -- are not expected to increase in 2012-13. Reports presented at last week's board meeting also indicate that college administration plans on asking the board to approve a 2% tuition increase for the 2012-13 academic year. The college's VP of finance and administration says CNC intends to offer a limited number of one-time early retirement incentives and voluntary severance packages to full-time regular employees. The board will decide if layoff notices must be issued during the in-camera portion of its next meeting. The notices would then be delivered to affected employees by March 31, as required in CNC's collective agreement with the faculty association. CNC News Release

Former UBC staffer who stole from university sentenced to house arrest

A former University of British Columbia financial manager has been sentenced to 2 years of house arrest for stealing $460,000 from a university medical department. The 42-year-old man pleaded guilty in October to theft over $5,000 for stealing the money over the course of 7 years while working out of BC Children's Hospital as a financial manager for the pediatrics department. He was caught writing fraudulent cheques in summer 2010 when UBC installed a new program designed to detect employee fraud. The man confessed immediately after auditors confronted him. In court, the man apologized to UBC, the public, and colleagues, blaming the theft on debt incurred through student loans. CBC

The advantages of Canadian community colleges

Canadian community colleges get most of the credit for making the country among the top nations in the world in the proportion of 25- to 34-year-olds who hold some sort of post-secondary degree. By contrast, community colleges in the US are a drag on the country's PSE standing, which the OECD now puts at 16th in the world. One reason is that US community colleges have to deal with students who are less well prepared, while in Canada colleges increasingly attract students who already possess a university degree or who are transferring from university. Canadian colleges benefit from other advantages, such as youth more ready for the demands of PSE than their peers in most other nations, a comparatively cheap price for higher education, and immigrants placing a high value on PSE. What's driving the success of Canadian colleges as much as anything is the notion that at a time when PSE costs so much, it should lead as directly as possible to a career. "The last few years has really put this under the microscope, that learning has to lead to something," says Centennial College president Ann Buller. "The idea of education for education's sake, I love that. I hope that never goes away. But in a world where taxpayers pay and students pay to go here, in the end, I want my graduates to get jobs." The Hechinger Report

Ontario Online Institute still far from opening

First announced in the Ontario government's 2010 throne speech and touted on a government website last May as coming "in late summer 2011," the Ontario Online Institute still has not materialized, despite a feasibility report delivered to the province last spring. A government spokesperson says the institute has been neither shelved nor given the go-ahead. While there has been no announcement about why the institute did not launch last summer, Training, Colleges and Universities Minister Glen Murray has mused publicly that one of the government's proposed 3 new campuses might be "online." Surprised and disappointed by the lack of progress on this project, the Canadian Federation of Students and the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance do not want the province to create an actual online university, preferring instead a "portal" to serve as a clearinghouse for the online courses now offered by PSE institutions -- a place where students could do one-stop shopping to find the course they need. Toronto Star

uManitoba completes renovation of science facilities

On Friday, the University of Manitoba opened its renovated and redeveloped Biological Sciences building and Buller Building Sciences Laboratories, projects that were funding by the federal and provincial government through the Knowledge Infrastructure Program. Renovated at the cost of $13.26 million, the Biological Sciences building has 5 new teaching labs and two 40-seat lecture rooms that will serve 2,600 students a year from the Faculties of Science, Nursing, Kinesiology and Recreation Management, Human Ecology, and Medicine. Housing the microbiology department and part of the biological sciences department, the Buller Building's $4.75-million renovation project included restoration of the facility's classic envelope and upgrades to laboratories and teaching spaces. uManitoba News

UoGuelph working group to examine college transfer student retention, accelerated programs

The University of Guelph has set up a working group that will focus on increasing enrolment from students transferring from colleges inside and outside Ontario, reviewing and recommending changes to practices and procedures affecting prospective students coming from colleges. The working group will also examine the feasibility of offering 3-year accelerated honours degree programs. Composed of program counsellors, admissions staff, faculty, and administrators, the working group will consult with the campus community, in particular faculty, staff, and students involved in academic advising, financial aid programs, orientation, and registration. UoGuelph Campus Bulletin

Half of workers don't have access to company-sponsored training, study finds

New research from Memorial University's Faculty of Business Administration observes that close to 50% of workers do not have access to employer-sponsored training. In addition to employees not offered training, a further 16% of those offered training do not take full advantage of the opportunities. The study also notes that it is often low-skilled workers with poor prospects in today's economy who are excluded from training opportunities. Women, older workers, less educated employees, and employees of very small, small, and medium-sized businesses were substantially more prevalent in the excluded category, while most of those who participated in employer-sponsored training were highly-education managers and professionals -- likely secure in their occupations. MUN News Release

KnowThyProf.com allows prospective students to ask instructors questions

A 20-year-old student at Boston-based Northeastern University has created a website called KnowThyProf.com, where individual professors can share information with prospective students by answering questions within a limit of 160 characters. The site's founder says students often have an incomplete picture of instructors before they decide on a class. He calls it an "imperfect information" situation, where the information available may not be relevant or polarized and anonymous, as is the case with sites like Rate My Professors. "There are no ratings or rankings. It simply tells you what kind of person the professor is," the student says of his site. Currently, more than 15 professors from 5 different PSE institutions have registered on the site and answered questions. Inside Higher Ed | KnowThyProf.com