Top Ten

March 14, 2012

Quebec students against class boycott petition government, gather on social media

The division among Quebec students on unlimited strikes is growing as those against class boycotts have been trying -- and not always with success -- to secure their right to an education. With her department striking since February, a UQAM law student who has been e-mailing the premier and education minister says "the Liberals aren't backing down (from tuition hikes) but they're not doing much to help students who don't support the strike and whose rights are being infringed upon." The education ministry has said that universities have an obligation to provide classes, but students say that obligation is not being respected. The Montreal Gazette reports that there appears to be little consensus among university administrations about what can and should be done about the matter. Students opposed to the strike are also turning to social media; students can follow @strikethestrike on Twitter, and there is a Facebook page devoted to Concordia Students Against a Strike. Meanwhile, Quebec's 2 largest labour unions announced Tuesday that they are throwing their support behind striking students. Montreal Gazette (anti-strike students) | Montreal Gazette (union support)

uWaterloo, WLU and York U face CAUT censure over ties to CIGI

The Canadian Association of University Teachers has served notice that it intends to censure the University of Waterloo, Wilfrid Laurier University, and York University over their joint collaborations with the Centre for International Governance Innovation, a private think-tank founded and chaired by BlackBerry co-founder Jim Balsillie. CAUT's academic freedom and tenure committee has informed the universities' faculty associations of its unanimous decision to put forward a censure motion for CAUT's executive committee to consider at its general meeting on April 26. CAUT executive director James Turk told the National Post that CAUT's "overriding concern is that any collaborative agreements signed between universities and third-party donors maintain, protect and ensure the academic integrity of the university and that it not compromise its academic integrity in order to get the money." The association hopes its professional rebuke will motivate the institutions to renegotiate or amend sections of their agreements with CIGI before CAUT's next general meeting in 6 months. uWaterloo and York U officials told the Post that they are prepared to discuss their respective deals but see no reason to modify them. National Post

Health authority investigates whether CEO abused position in lobbying son's UBC application

Vancouver Island Health Authority's chairman is looking into whether the organization's CEO abused his position by lobbying to get his son into UBC's medical school. The CEO had Liberal cabinet minister Ida Chong write a letter to the medical school dean in 2010, when his son was trying to gain admission. The son, who was attending university in Ontario, did not meet BC residency requirements and was not admitted into the school. Chong has publicly defended writing to UBC on behalf of a constituent, yet property records show the CEO does not live in her riding. Admitting that she was the science and universities minister when she wrote to UBC, Chong wrote the letter on MLA letterhead. An NDP critic says the fact Chong was in charge of universities at the time makes her involvement "absolutely inappropriate." Victoria Times-Colonist

Layoffs pending as Selkirk College faces shortfall

Tight budgets and sustained low enrolment at BC-based Selkirk College means administrative and teaching staff layoffs will occur in the coming months. "We are looking through some reductions in some of our services and programs and we’re just working through right now to determine the extent to which we’ll have to adjust the workforce," says president Angus Graeme. He says the institution faces a structural deficit each year from static provincial budgets, and some implications from the most recent budget "make the challenge a little bit more significant." With his institution currently facing a shortfall of more than $1 million, Graeme says the most significant impact will be a reduction in the number of university-level second-year science courses at the Castlegar campus, as well as a few revisions to Kootenay School of the Arts' studio programs. Selkirk College News | Nelson Star

Employment at PSE institutions continues to decline

According to preliminary data from Statistics Canada, employment fell by 4,000 in universities and colleges during the fourth quarter of 2011, continuing a downward trend. Since its peak in the fourth quarter of 2010, employment in the PSE sector had dropped by 11,000. In its data check, the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations notes that since 2010, the average number of people employed in the higher education sector fell by 14,000. Nearly all that decline took place in Ontario, where 12,000 jobs were lost -- a 7.5% reduction in the PSE workforce. Statistics Canada | OCUFA Data Check

Following employee concerns, uCalgary tests Craigie Hall for health risks

Amid health complaints and concerns about air quality at the University of Calgary's Craigie Hall, campus health and safety officials have conducted a series of tests to see if the 50-year-old building meets occupational health standards. Asbestos concerns were first raised in 2003 when the facility was renovated and several floors were under construction, exposed to falling ceiling tiles and dust. In 2004 uCalgary tested air quality and found everything to meet health and safety standards; however, complaints from faculty and staff have continued on and off. Third-party experts conducted comprehensive air quality and other environmental testing last week to ensure the facility meets occupation health standards. The CBC reports that an employee in the Spanish centre at Craigie Hall died in November of pulmonary fibrosis, a scarring of the lungs. Her husband says doctors did not determine what caused the disease, but he suspects it was her work environment. A uCalgary official says the institution has a comprehensive asbestos management program that clearly outlines procedures for managing activities that may include handling or distributing asbestos-containing materials. uCalgary Statement | Calgary Herald | CBC

High school students' applications to Ontario universities approaching 400,000

New figures from the Ontario Universities' Application Centre show that the number of applications secondary school students have submitted to Ontario universities sits at 399,773, up 2.4% from March 2011. The number of applicants totals 91,363, up from 89,650 recorded last March. This month's application and applicant figures are the highest recorded since 2003. OUAC Undergraduate Application Statistics -- March 2012

Queen's moves to blended learning for arts and science courses

The format of traditional lectures in large auditoriums for the 1,800 Queen's University students enrolled in Psychology 100 has been replaced with a blended learning model. Students attend one lecture per week in which professors explore a provocative question or discuss their own research. Students then apply the concepts they have learned online in small learning labs facilitated by fourth-year and master's students. "Rather than supplementing the traditional lecture format, we are transforming the way courses are designed and delivered based on what we know about student learning and engagement," says the Faculty of Arts and Science's associate dean (studies). The move to blended learning is a faculty-wide initiative that will eventually be adopted by other arts and science courses. Queen's News Centre

Portage College grads surveyed report great experience

In a survey of Portage College's Class of 2010-11, 87% of respondents said the Alberta-based institution provided them with the knowledge and skills required to pursue a career, with 85% of graduates now in the workforce. 100% of business diploma graduates surveyed said they are now working in business-related careers. 94% of health program graduates and 92% of career program graduates reported being employed. Graduates of Portage's newest program -- Natural Resources Technology -- reported a 100% satisfaction rate and 100% employment rate, with some earning very close to 6-figure incomes. 91% of university studies program graduates surveyed are continuing on in their studies at the university of their choice. Portage College News Release

India to be top nation sending students to US by 2020, report predicts

A new British Council report states that by 2020, India will have replaced China as the country sending the most people to study in the US. The report estimates that 118,000 Indians will be enrolled in US institutions then, compared to 101,000 Chinese students. Although Chinese students represented one-third of the growth in students travelling abroad to study from 2002 to 2009, the reports states that pace will slow considerably. The report predicts the US will remain the top destination for international students, but Australia will encounter the fastest growth in the number of foreign students. However, given the rise of Asian destinations, the council cautions that predictions are far from certain. The Chronicle of Higher Education (free access)