Top Ten

March 20, 2012

Quebec budget reaffirms tuition fee increases

Quebec's finance minister said Tuesday he is determined to introduce previously announced tuition fee increases of 75% over the next 5 years. "Some students are opposed to it and it's their right, but we've taken our decision and it's irrevocable," the minister said. "We've believe students need to pay their fair share," he said, adding that they are going to account for 17% of the cost of a higher education. The new budget provides for an extra $976 million for Quebec universities over the next 5 years. The province will add $493 million under that plan, with $141 million from other sources and $54 million in corporate funding. The tuition increase will account for $279 million of the total. The president of the Fédération étudiante universitaire du Québec says striking students are not returning to class and have plans for additional demonstrations and a campaign targeting Liberal MNAs. An hour-long student demonstration yesterday morning blocked an access ramp to the Champlain Bridge into Montreal. CTV reports that 94 students were fined for blocking the bridge. A large-scale demonstration is set to take place in Montreal tomorrow. Quebec Budget Plan | Montreal Gazette | CBC | CTV

BC budget may mean service cuts, say PSE leaders

In a letter to BC's advanced education minister, the presidents of the province's 25 public PSE institutions argue that it is "unrealistic to assume that the (funding) reductions contemplated by Budget 2012 can be achieved without implications for service levels." The letter also expresses concerns about PSE being the only sector that received an overall funding reduction. The presidents also say in the letter that the province's mandates regarding collective bargaining are going to add more pressure to institutional finances. The presidents did, however, praise the province for providing more funding for capital maintenance and that overall funding would stay stable for the next year. Kamloops Daily News | The Ubyssey (student newspaper)

uWinnipeg department chairs raise concerns over austerity measures

2 University of Winnipeg department chairwomen are worried austerity measures will eliminate courses and threaten the integrity of the institution. The sociology department chair says 12 full courses will be cut for next year, which means there won't be enough courses left for students to pick from in order to graduate. The modern languages and literature department chair says the German-language program is in danger of closing in 2 years. She has initiated an e-mail campaign to get students and other professors to pressure president Lloyd Axworthy to free up funding. In an open letter to the media, Axworthy says uWinnipeg faces an annual funding hurdle, different from other Manitoba PSE institutions. While uManitoba and Brandon U receive $12,000 per student from the province, uWinnipeg receives just below $6,500 per student, which Axworthy calls "a historical imbalance that goes back decades and now exists for no reason." He concludes his letter stating that "it is my sincere hope that the broader community joins me in this request" for an equal funding formula, "so that collectively we can continue to nurture our leaders of tomorrow." Winnipeg Free Press | President's Letter

Council clears UBC of animal cruelty in deaths of research monkeys

The Canadian Council on Animal Care (CCAC) states it has found no evidence to support allegations of animal cruelty against a UBC research team in relation to the deaths of 4 macaque monkeys. Stop UBC Animal Research's allegations stemmed from an experiment involving the injection of a drug to induce Parkinson's-like symptoms in order to test treatments against the disease. A letter to the activist group concludes by saying that "CCAC certification indicates that the animal care and use program at the institution is in compliance with CCAC policies, guidelines, and other relevant standards." The activist group says it still has concerns about a lack of transparency regarding operations of the council and the treatment of monkeys used in research. The SPCA says it has no information to suggest an offence has been committed. UBC News Release | Vancouver Sun

STM expansion focuses on students

St. Thomas More College, federated with the University of Saskatchewan, is preparing to construct a 3-storey facility that will serve to improve the STM student experience and also help uSask address classroom shortages. The building, which will include classrooms, study space, offices, and research space, is largely oriented to students, says the college's CFO. STM students can take only about 40% to 50% of their classes at the college, while the rest are spread out across campus. STM aims to increase to about 75% the number of classes available in the new building. Another focus is to provide social and study space for students, which are lacking in the current facility. Construction of the estimated $8-million expansion is expected to start this June, with a completion date slated for August 2013. uSask On Campus News (page 5 of PDF)

King's set to begin construction of Student Life Centre

Site preparation will begin this week for King's University College's $14.7-million Darryl J. King Student Life Centre. The 40,000-square-foot facility at the Western University affiliate will feature a 490-seat performance theatre, a learning commons, and a student leadership suite. The institution is raising $9 million through philanthropic support for the centre's construction. The student community has already pledged $2.4 million. King's News

LSAT test-taking down 16%

The number of Law School Admissions Tests administered this year has fallen by more than 16%, the largest drop in over a decade. In all, the number of LSAT takers has dropped by nearly 25% in the past 2 years. The decline reflects a spreading view that the US legal market is in terrible shape and will have a difficult time absorbing the approximately 45,000 law students who are expected to graduate in each of the next 3 years. Class-action lawsuits have been filed against more than a dozen law schools in recent months over allegedly deceptive job-placement rates, and more suits are expected. For some law schools, the dwindling number of LSAT takers represents a serious long-term issue. "What I’d anticipate is that you’ll see the biggest falloff in applications in the bottom end of the law school food chain," says one law professor. "Those schools are going to have significant difficulty because they are dependent on tuition to fund themselves and they’ll either have to cut class size to maintain standards, or accept students with lower credentials." New York Times

Institutions worldwide adopt Western model of student support services

Long and dearly held in Canada and the US, the notion that PSE should involve personal growth is gaining traction on other continents. To meet the challenges of serving a broader -- and needier -- population, universities in many countries are establishing services to support students. To prepare creative, independent alumni, Abu Dhabi's Zayed University is fostering students' leadership and citizenship through clubs, celebrity meetings, an honour code, teambuilding exercises, and a student council. Such efforts have encountered resistance and criticism. Many educators and students do not believe personal development is a PSE institution's responsibility. Yet greater forces at work -- such as increasing tuition fees and competitive pressure to recruit the best students -- may drive the trend of offering more than just academics. The Chronicle of Higher Education (subscription required)

More US students turn to Lebanon for semester abroad following Arab uprisings elsewhere

While uprisings have toppled governments in some Arab nations and led to crackdowns in others, the Lebanese capital of Beirut has remained relatively calm, and is drawing more US students seeking a safer semester abroad. Approximately 700 US citizens and 2,000 Westerners now attend American University in Beirut (AUB), which has experienced a 50% increase in its Western population every year since 2007. Some 15 students in Egypt transferred to Lebanon last spring when violence erupted, says an AUB official. While the institution does not have an official position on the US travel warning in effect for Lebanon, the AUB official says she believes the benefits of studying in Lebanon outweigh the risks. Some students interviewed by Inside Higher Ed say they've had positive experiences studying in Lebanon, where they have felt safe. Inside Higher Ed

Students' tablet ownership on the rise, US survey finds

According a Pearson Foundation survey, tablet ownership has tripled among college students (25% vs. 7% in 2011) and quadrupled among high school seniors (17 vs. 4% last year). 36% of college students and 26% of high school seniors surveyed said they intend to purchase a tablet within the next 6 months. This includes nearly half of tablet-owning college students who plan to purchase another device, and one in 5 who are first-time buyers. 94% of college student tablet owners believe these devices are valuable for educational purposes. Three-quarters of college student tablet owners use their devices daily for school-related activities, and 3 in 5 say they use them for school purposes multiple times a day. 63% of college students and 69% of high school seniors surveyed believe that tablets will effectively replace textbooks within the next 5 years. Pearson Foundation News Release