Top Ten

February 28, 2012

2 people believed dead after fire strikes Nunavut Arctic College student housing

2 young adults are missing and presumed dead and dozens of people are homeless following a fire Sunday evening that broke through an Iqaluit townhouse complex, nearly all of whose units were leased to Nunavut Arctic College as student housing. The missing individuals -- aged 20 and 22 -- were children of an Arctic College student. A college official says the institution cannot confirm if all students have been accounted for following the fire. Arctic College president Michael Shouldice says the institution is working to meet all the affected residents' immediate needs, adding that the institution will arrange permanent housing as soon as possible. The RCMP is treating the fire as suspicious until the cause is determined. Nunatsiaq News | Globe and Mail | CBC

MPs support motion to end First Nations education funding gap

On Monday, the House of Commons voted unanimously in favour of an NDP motion calling for funding that would put First Nations schools on par with provincial schools. The motion was named for Shannen Koostachin, who through an active community-based campaign brought much attention to the plight of schoolchildren in Attawapiskat, the reserve home to Koostachin, who died in a car accident in 2010 at the age of 15. Her best friend, 16-year-old Chelsea Edwards, is now working with opposition MPs and Aboriginal advocates to carry on Koostachin's work. Although the motion passed with the government's support, it is not binding. NDP MP Charlie Angus, whose riding includes Attawapiskat, hopes the Conservatives will make a concrete commitment to fund First Nations education in the forthcoming federal budget. The Assembly of First Nations estimates it would cost an extra $500 million annually to bring reserve schools up to provincial standards. Canadian Press | Canoe | CTV

Algonquin College union protests employee's suspension over criticism of labour relations

OPSEU members held a protest Monday in response to Algonquin College's decision to suspend a financial aid officer for 30 days for writing a letter to the Ottawa Citizen criticizing the college administration for wasting money. In reaction to media reports describing a "spectacular level" of grievances at Algonquin, the employee called labour relations at the institution "toxic." Algonquin's VP of human resources says the letter drew a suspension because "when you start to say things that are unfounded and untruthful and that damage the reputation of the college, we feel we have to answer that because that's not freedom of speech," adding that "when someone crosses the line we have to take action, based on the legal advice we obtained." "There are substantial labour relations issues at this college, and management will not solve them by disciplining and gagging those who speak out about it," says OPSEU's president. "We will vigorously defend our members, and not allow Algonquin management to sweep their dirty secrets under the rug." The Algonquin VP says labour relations are not that bad at the institution, and they are improving. "We're very fortunate that, irrespective of what was happening (Monday), I think we maintain an excellent working relationship with our support staff union." OPSEU News Release | Ottawa Citizen | Metro Ottawa

Concordia students organize sleep-in to protest tuition fee increases

On Monday, a group of Concordia University students began a 5-day sleep-in in the atrium of a campus library in a bid to raise awareness of the tuition fee increase issue and a vote on March 7 to boycott classes for a week. If students support the boycott, another vote would take place after a week to extend it. Approximately 30 students were expected Monday night, and more as the week progresses. "This is not an angry form of protest," says the Concordia Student Union's president, who praises the institution for working with students rather than against them. "We have been co-operative and will help them set up in a secure fashion," says a Concordia official. Approximately 48,000 students in Quebec are on an unlimited strike to protest the fee increases, but so far Anglophone institutions have not joined the boycott. Meanwhile, Cégep de Saint-Laurent students, who were locked out last Friday, have voted overwhelmingly to continue their boycott of classes for at least another week. Though the campus is open, classes have been suspended, says the CÉGEP's director general. Montreal Gazette

Ryerson unveils plans for new private student residence

Ryerson University announced Monday a new student residence project in downtown Toronto that will add more than 500 spaces to its residence spots -- the first wave of a plan to have 2,000 additional residence spaces by 2020. The residence is the focus of a public private partnership; the private developer will cover all the construction and development costs while Ryerson will provide the student tenants for the building as well as a range of residence student life services. Preliminary plans for the residence feature a 2-storey podium providing retail and other services, and a 20+ storey building offering a mix of one, 2, 3, and 4 bedroom units. Slated to open in September 2016, the residence's amenities will include laundry, shared kitchens, modern open concept living spaces, open terraces, and glassed-in lounges. Ryerson News Release

MUN president to initiate space planning initiatives

"The St. John's campus is at capacity, in terms of space and infrastructure for academic and administrative, service delivery and research activities -- we have to own this problem," says Memorial University president Gary Kachanoski. While MUN continues to work with the Newfoundland and Labrador government to identify infrastructure priorities, Kachanoski says the St. John's campus space crunch must also be addressed directly by campus staff. The Vice-Presidents' Council will form a Capital Planning Committee to oversee development of space, infrastructure priorities, and a plan. Advisory committees will be struck to address issues such as optimization of current space, the use of available and affordable off-campus space where appropriate and effective, the development of a plan/vision for anchor facilities, and the development of Aboriginal space. MUN News

Yukon College becomes member of Alberta Transfer System

Yukon College has been accepted into the Alberta Transfer System of the Alberta Council on Admissions and Transfer (ACAT), making it easier for students at the college wanting to transfer to an Alberta PSE institution. "This is a huge development in the life of the College," says Yukon College president Karen Barnes. "Admission into the ACAT system is a real feather in our cap." In the coming months, the college's registrar will work with ACAT officials to fully integrate Yukon College programs into the Alberta system. Students still have to work with college staff to determine individual program transferability. Yukon College has also been a member of the BC Council on Admissions and Transfer since 1993. Yukon College News

Evaluation of Queen's academic support pilot finds more positive effect on engagement than on grades

Evaluating a pilot program at Queen's University that pairs upper-year undergraduates who have completed a particular course with students currently enrolled, new research published by the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario found that students who were female, of full-time status, Canadian-born, and in their first year of study were the most frequent participants of the Supported Learning Groups (SLG) sessions, believing that attending a session would help improve their grades and understanding of the course content, or keep up with course material. However, those students who could most benefit from the SLG sessions did not participate very often, or at all. The research found little evidence in many cases to suggest the sessions improved students' grades as the difference between participants' and non-participants' final marks were not statistically significant. Many students said the sessions did not have the desired effects on their academic performance. Still, the sessions showed positive effects on student engagement. On average, participants were more likely than non-participants to ask questions in class, draw on a range of concepts and ideas, discuss course concepts outside of the classroom, and include diverse perspectives in assignments and discussions. The researchers suggest that SLGs play an important supplementary role to traditional lectures, labs, and seminars, yet they cannot serve as stand-alone approaches to instruction. Research Summary | Full Report

EduNova produces new international marketing videos

A co-operative industry association of education and training providers in Nova Scotia, EduNova has produced 8 videos to help promote Nova Scotia to international students who are considering studying in the province. 7 students from Brazil, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, St. Lucia, Turkey, and the US are featured in the videos, with the eighth film providing an overview of the students' videos. The videos highlight the 7 students' lifestyles in Nova Scotia. For example, Hamood, an ESL student from Saudi Arabia, says what he likes most about his experience is that he feels Canadian, that he is at his home, and calls the Canadian family he lives with not his homestay, but his family. EduNova's videos complement a new marketing brochure and website updates. Nova Notes (page 3 of PDF) | EduNova's YouTube Channel

Report urges internships for all British undergraduates

According to a government-commissioned review of links between university and business, all British undergraduate students should be offered 10- to 12-week internships to improve their employability, and PhD and postdoctoral research students should be offered work experience placements of 8 to 12 weeks. The report recommends that universities should disclose the job destinations of recent full-time taught postgraduates, broken down by department, "as soon as possible." The review states that the creation of "distinctive" Key Information Sets (KIS) for postgraduates "should be a priority development" for the Higher Education Funding Council for England (Hefce). KIS data for undergraduate students are being introduced in the fall and cover areas such as student satisfaction, employment and salary figures, accommodation costs, and fees. The report also calls for more sandwich courses, stating that the "evidence that a placement year improves employability opportunities is strong." The review recommends a maximum fee of £1,000 for the sandwich year, a suspension on student-loan interest during the period, and that Hefce encourage an increase in the number of sandwich programs "through changes to the student numbers controls that it operates." Times Higher Education