Top Ten

March 31, 2012

Federal budget boosts funding for innovation

The 2012 federal budget, tabled last week, increased funding for research and innovation, and encouraged closer ties between universities and private companies. AUCC welcomed continued funding of SSHRC, NSERC and CIHR, an additional $500 million over 5 years for CFI, and $275 million for on-reserve First Nations education: “the government showed leadership by continuing its investments in research, innovation, research infrastructure and university-private sector collaborations.” On the other hand, CAUT cautioned that an emphasis on commercial research, rather than pure scientific inquiry, “will stifle rather than promote growth and scientific advancement,” and expressed concern about $9.6 million cut from Library and Archives Canada. However, both the CAUT and the AUCC were pleased that the federal government did not reduce education transfer payments to the provinces.  Budget 2012  |  AUCC News Release  |  CAUT News Release | Globe and Mail

Quebec education minister unwilling to meet with students until they accept tuition increases

Line Beauchamp, the Quebec Minister for Education, offered to meet with students to discuss potential changes to loan and bursary programs – but not until students accept that tuition will increase by $325 per year for five years. Beauchamp argued that the leaders of the opposition parties support some sort of fee increase, and that the students’ position “does not reflect the position of the majority of the National Assembly, elected by the population.” The students rejected the offer, and argued that executive pay should be addressed in order to lower university costs.  Montreal Gazette

SMU announces $15 million “School of Global Learning”

Last Friday, Saint Mary’s University announced a new 3-storey, 26,000 square-foot building on their Halifax campus, to house state-of-the-art facilities for SMU’s programs in Applied and Experiential Learning, Leadership Development, ESL and Business Development. Construction on the “School of Global Learning” building will commence in May 2012, with completion scheduled before September 2013.  SMU News Release

Humber opens new Applied Technology Design Centre

Last Wednesday, Humber College celebrated the grand opening of its new Design Centre for the School of Applied Technology, which will accommodate students in Architectural Technology, Design Foundation, Industrial Design, Interior Decorating and Interior Design.  Located on Humber’s North Campus, the Centre’s layout is similar to many design and architectural firms, with 7 large open studios, a computer lab and a resource room with the latest in design technology. The School’s Dean says their “collaborative learning approach creates synergies among our programs, faculties and students, creating an educational environment that is reflective of the way professional design firms operate.” The Centre is part of a campus expansion that will add 2,200 students to the North Campus by 2017.  Humber News Release

Trent releases new academic plan for “radical recovery”

Last Friday, Trent University’s Board of Governors approved a new academic plan for 2012-15 entitled “Radical Recovery.” The action-oriented plan showcases 4 signature programs (Sustainability/Environment, Canadian/Indigenous Studies, Life/Health Sciences, and Critical Cultural Inquiry), and is built around 5 principles and 10 overarching goals. The plan’s goals are to maintain Trent’s tradition of a liberal arts and science university, while building on existing research capabilities. Strategies include continuing teaching excellence with small classes, developing research at the undergraduate and graduate level, creating new undergraduate programs in Health Sciences and the Environment, reducing unsustainable programs, and emphasizing interdisciplinarity and multidisciplinarity. Trent will also encourage student-centred interactive pedagogy, and introduce more online course delivery.  Trent News Release 

CUFA-BC opposes bill regarding board members

The Confederation of University Faculty Associations of BC (CUFA-BC) is criticizing the provincial government’s proposed Bill 18, which allows university and college boards of governors to request the removal of board members over conflicts of interest. Robert Clift of CUFA-BC says “Bill 18 is squarely aimed at bullying and intimidating the professors, students and staff members who serve on university and college boards.” Bill 18 would allow “any elected board member who dissents from [the] party line [to] be given the boot without being given a fair hearing and with no right of appeal.” The government has argued these provisions are necessary to prevent conflicts of interest on university and college boards. CUFA-BC has vowed to continue its opposition to the legislation.  CUFA-BC News Release

uVic accepts Privacy Commissioner’s Report

BC’s Information and Privacy Commissioner released a report on the January 2012 theft of a USB key containing the banking information of 12,000 University of Victoria employees. The report argues that the university “failed to implement reasonable safeguards” to protect the stolen data, but that it satisfied its legal obligations once the breach was discovered. The recommendations include updating privacy and security policies every 3 years, increasing the physical security of buildings that store personal information, stronger security measures for laptops and USB keys, and an external review of uVic’s privacy policies. uVic has accepted the findings, and has already implemented many of the suggestions, including alarming the Financial Services wing, and requiring all new laptops to be encrypted.  uVic News Release  |  BC Information and Privacy Commissioner News Release (PDF)

Postscript June 5, 2012 : UVic external review argues that the privacy breach was avoidable: A review commissioned by the University of Victoria suggests methods to increase security after a USB key containing payroll information was stolen in January. It suggests improved training and education, a wider use of encryption for sensitive data, enforcing existing policies, and developing campus-wide security standards. UVic has accepted this report and has already implemented many of its recommendations. UVic News Release


Declining numbers of female STEM grads from US colleges

A new report from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research raises alarm over women’s declining representation in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) degrees from US community colleges. Women earned 33.8% of STEM degrees in 1997, but only 27.5% in 2007. Women in STEM fields earn one-third more than women in non-STEM fields, and jobs in STEM fields are expected to increase by 17% by 2018. The report urges colleges to encourage women, especially low-income women with children, to participate in STEM fields by providing scholarships, childcare, peer mentoring, and targeted marketing. The report concludes that doing so “can provide an important pathway to economic security for student parents and their families, while contributing to the future competitiveness of the US economy.”  IWPR News Release  |  The Chronicle of Higher Education (free access)

“McGill State of Mind” music video celebrates community

A new video, “McGill State of Mind,” highlights the benefits of attending McGill, including the strong community and extracurricular activities, in order to counter negative portrayals of McGill over the last year. The video, which includes original lyrics to the Jay-Z song “New York State of Mind,” includes 300 students, staff and faculty, and 40 student groups. The goal of the video was to “portray this ‘community’ feeling that could be shared among active McGill members, alumni who wanted to relive fond memories, and prospective students interest[ed] in attending one of the best extracurricular universities in the world.” The YouTube video has been viewed more than 32,000 times.  McGill State of Mind Website  |  YouTube 

Blackboard launches Moodle consulting division

E-learning giant Blackboard has acquired Moodlerooms and NetSpot, a pair of companies that provide support for Moodle, the leading open-source alternative to Blackboard's proprietary online learning management software (LMS) platform. Blackboard says it will not replace any of the leadership personnel at the 2 companies, nor will it try to assimilate or rebrand them, as the firm as done in prior acquisitions. Blackboard has also unveiled an "Open Service Support Group" aimed at selling support services to PSE institutions that use free, open-source LMS systems.  Presswire News Release  |  Inside Higher Ed