Top Ten

March 22, 2012

CBC investigation finds some Alberta PSE institutions made illegal donations to PC party

The CBC reports that Athabasca University made more than $10,000 in illegal donations to Alberta's Progressive Conservative party between 2006 and 2008. The university's board chair says the institution made the donations because it was "trying to develop a relationship with the government at the time, trying to further our needs as far as funding and the like." The board chair says Athabasca U officials who made the donations did not know it was wrong. "I believe that people made an honest mistake," he says. "They did it in good faith. The moment we found out it was illegal, we stopped the practice." Calling the matter "pork-barrel politics," an Athabasca U political scientist says if officials did not know it was illegal, they should have recognized it was wrong to use public funding for private political purposes. Athabasca U ended its practice of donating to the PC party in October 2008, adopting a policy banning them. The board chair says the Athabasca-Redwater PC Association has reimbursed the university (whose secretariat is also president of the local PC riding association), but he does not know if the party has refunded the thousands of dollars it received. The CBC investigation found that Portage College and Grande Prairie Regional College variously used public funding to attend numerous PC fundraisers between 2004 and 2011. These institutions say all the public money used for political donations has been repaid either by the individuals who attended the events or by the PC party. CBC (Athabasca U) | CBC (College Donations)

York U faculty urge institution to halt agreement with CIGI

More than 200 York University professors have signed a letter petitioning the institution to suspend progress on an agreement with the Centre for International Governance Innovation to fund chairs in international law, which they argue gives CIGI "unprecedented influence over the University's academic affairs," until York U's senate can modify it to better protect academic autonomy. The university's provost calls the arrangement with the Waterloo-based think-tank "a model approach" as it "brings significant resources to the university and yet preserves university autonomy." He was expected to make the same argument when York U's faculty group presented its motion at yesterday's senate meeting. Globe and Mail | Toronto Star | National Post

SFU e-mail mistakenly suggests applicants have been admitted

Simon Fraser University's registrar says a computer glitch resulted in an unknown number of applicants getting an e-mail late Tuesday mistakenly suggesting they had been admitted. "It actually was encouraging them to apply for residence, and had indicated, by being congratulatory...that they had been admitted, and unfortunately it went to some people that it should not have gone to," the registrar says. The e-mail went out due to an error involving the use of e-mail listservs, she says. SFU learned of the issue Tuesday night and sent another message within the hour indicating that the students had received the first message by mistake. A third e-mail sent Wednesday went to the affected applicants indicating the appropriate information for each individual. Vancouver Sun

Kwantlen Richmond campus opens expanded library

Last Friday, Kwantlen Polytechnic University celebrated the completed expansion of the Richmond campus library. Improvements to the facility provide more space for reading and research materials -- allowing them to be housed on campus -- and improve the learning environment for students. Kwantlen received a combined $1.2-million investment from the federal and BC governments to support the project. BC News Release | Kwantlen News Release

Study of global faculty salaries finds Canada offers the best pay

A new analysis of faculty salaries at public universities around the world observes that Canada offers the best faculty pay among 28 nations evaluated, ranking first for entry, average, and top salaries. Instead of comparing pure salaries, researchers used the "purchasing power parity index," in which salaries reflect what it takes to buy similar goods and services in different countries. This allows nations with relatively low salaries (in pure finances) but also with low costs of living to be competitive with others where there is a much higher base pay. That's why it's possible for nations like South Africa and India (which rank third and fourth, respectively) to appear above the US (which places fifth). Because the US figures are based on full-time positions and exclude most adjuncts, the US comparative position may be lower than is listed. Inside Higher Ed

Tuition fees worldwide rose by 2.58% in 2011, report finds

A report tracking trends in tuition fees in the "G-40" nations that account for more than 90% of the world's PSE enrolment and research finds that, on average, university tuition fees increased around the world by 2.58% last year. However, because of significant inflation in many part of the world, the global tuition fee index actually dropped by 1.76%. Also examining student aid trends, the report observes that student aid rose significantly in Chile, Colombia, Singapore, South Africa, Indonesia, and Nigeria in 2011. Taking tuition fees and financial aid trends into account, the report concludes that overall PSE affordability increased last year in Colombia, France, Germany, Saudi Arabia, and Sweden. Decreased affordability was observed in the Philippines, Spain, and the US. The report states that affordability declined somewhat in Canada, as large tuition fee increases were only partially offset by boosts to financial aid. News Release | Full Report

Brazil launches Science without Borders-Canada Scholarships

The Canadian Bureau for International Education announced Tuesday the launch of Brazil's Science without Borders Program for Canada-bound undergraduate students. Science without Borders will offer 101,000 scholarships to Brazilians to study, intern, and conduct research in selected nations over a 4-year period. The Canadian program will initially focus on undergraduates who will study or intern for up to 12 months in Canada, with a possible 2 additional months of language study. Students will return to Brazil to finish their degree programs. Working in collaboration with the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada and Languages Canada, CBIE has an agreement with Brazil's 2 major granting agencies to support the implementation of the Canadian component of this initiative. CBIE News Release | AUCC News Release

UPEI co-op programs earn national accreditation

The Canadian Association for Co-operative Education has accredited the University of Prince Edward Island's co-op programs in Business Administration and Computer Science. The 6-month accreditation process entailed an in-depth review of UPEI Co-operative Education policies and procedures by an external review team, which consists of practitioners from UBC, Dal, uWaterloo, UNB, and NIC. UPEI president Alaa Abd-El-Aziz says the accreditation is "an endorsement of UPEI’s commitment to high standards in academic programming and is great news for both our students and our partners in the employer community." UPEI News Release

BCIT to deliver transcribing project to better support hard-of-hearing PSE students

The BC government is providing $150,000 to BCIT's Post-Secondary Communication Access Services (PCAS) for the delivery of the TypeWell Transcript Project. With the help of a transcriber in the classroom, the TypeWell transcribing system gives hard-of-hearing students an accurate, real-time text transcript of a lecture or seminar. This type of service is increasingly in demand among students with hearing loss, and there is a need to recruit, train, and deploy transcribers to meet the demand. PCAS will use the investment to support the expansion of transcribing services at BC PSE institutions by recruiting, training, and mentoring transcribers, and by coordinating equipment, software licenses, and technical support. A remote TypeWell service delivery will respond to student needs in regions and situations where having a transcriber in the classroom is not possible. BC News Release

Ontario high school students surveyed reject some Drummond recommendations on education

In a survey of 1,367 Ontario secondary students, nearly two-thirds of respondents picked health care when asked to choose which major government sector should remain a priority before any other, while nearly 23% chose education and 2.48% selected PSE and training. The majority of students surveyed rejected some Drummond report recommendations related to education. More than 62% rejected class size increases, nearly 60% opposed the cancellation of the province's tuition grant, and over 59% rejected removing a fifth year of high school for graduates. CIVIX News Release | Survey Results