Top Ten

April 4, 2012

NS budget invests in student aid, job growth

Through its 2012 budget, the Nova Scotia government will invest a further $5.5 million in student aid. Awaiting details on this investment, the Canadian Federation of Students hopes the new funding will go toward increasing up-front needs-based grants. The budget outlines a decreased investment in the Graduate Retention Rebate, from approximately $25 million to $11.2 million. Calling the rebate program "wasteful," the CFS points to data showing that less than half of eligible graduates filed for the rebate in 2009, and less than a third did so in 2010. Nova Scotia Community College has received a 1.13% increase in its operating grant as a result of a $2.75-million provincial investment to help NSCC prepare for shipbuilding-related training. Job-related investments outlined in the budget include $3 million to increase the number of trade apprenticeships, $1.8 million to boost the number of work placement opportunities for PSE students, and $1 million to set up career kiosks in high schools to help students think about jobs after graduation. NS Budget Speech | Budget 2012 (jobsHere) | Budget 2012 (For Students) | NSCC News Release | CFS-NS News Release

uWindsor café closure to result in part-time job cuts

The University of Windsor will close Café Chez Vanier this September to save about $300,000 in direct costs and balance Food Services' budget. Students were consulted on the decision, which allows Food Services to reserve funding for capital projects designed to improve the student experience. The decision will see the elimination of 40 part-time positions, while all full-time positions from the restaurant will be absorbed into other food outlets. The move is part of a larger realignment exercise the whole campus is undertaking to find $4.2 million in savings from uWindsor's operating budget. uWindsor Daily News | Windsor Star

Camosun to cut over 40 positions to help balance budget

Camosun College officials say the institution will have to cut more than 40 jobs this year in order to balance its budget. Camosun expects to eliminate most of the jobs through attrition and early retirements, but 15 to 20 employees could get layoff notices. The college plans to eliminate 6.6 administrative positions, 22.5 support staff, and 17 faculty members. The job cuts will be offset in part by the addition of 12.6 positions in new areas, such as a medical radiography program that received $3.4 million in start-up funding from the BC government. Camosun president Kathryn Laurin says the institution was facing a $2.5-million shortfall largely because the province provided no additional funding to address rising costs over the past 3 years. Camosun tried to offset the shortfall by raising money in other areas, but that revenue also dipped, Laurin says. "We're at a juncture now where we can no longer preserve and protect all of our program offerings and services." Victoria Times-Colonist

uSask to decrease expenses to address projected multimillion-dollar shortfall

The University of Saskatchewan announced Tuesday that it will need to reduce its expenses over the next 4 years in light of budget pressures. At a public town hall meeting, uSask's provost and VP of finance and resources outlined how the 2.1% increase in the university's operating grant for 2012-13 affects financial projections for the future. uSask had requested a 5.8% increase in its grant. Before knowing what its grant would be, the institution projected a $10-million shortfall over the next planning cycle, which is 2012-16, says the provost. Now that uSask knows what the grant is, he says the projected gap is more likely $12 million to $15 million in 2012-13, and $20 million to $40 million per year until 2016. uSask News Release

2 CÉGEPs cancel summer courses due to students' walkout

Collège de Valleyfield and Collège Montmorency announced late last week they are annulling their summer courses in light of the ongoing student strike against tuition fee increases in Quebec. In announcing its suspension, Montmorency urged the provincial government to negotiate with students. Meanwhile, a Université Laval student was granted a temporary injunction Tuesday to give him access to his anthropology class. The injunction is valid until 6 pm on April 12. La Presse (in French) | uLaval News Release (in French) | Montreal Gazette

SFU official expensed over $2,000 to attend BC Liberal fundraisers

The Vancouver Sun reports that a former BC Liberal MLA now working as Simon Fraser University's director of government relations has used his SFU expense account to attend  Liberal events. Documents obtained by the paper show that in just over one month earlier this year, Hurd expensed $2,045 to attend 7 party fundraisers. An SFU spokesman says the university had no official policy but has allowed the practice for years. He says the institution will no longer allow such donations. "For many years we have attended events of both parties, NDP and Liberal, to further the university's interests," the spokesman says, adding that questions from the Sun have sparked an abrupt revision of policy. The BC Liberal Party's executive director says the party will return all funds to the SFU employee in 2012. BC's Elections Act does not specifically prohibit donations from public-sector organizations; however, the province says it clearly bars such activities. Advanced Education Minister Naomi Yamamoto calls the matter "serious" and says she will be talking to all provincial PSE institutions to ensure they have proper policies in place. A CBC investigation revealed last month that some Alberta PSE institutions also expensed attendance at political events for the province's Progressive Conservatives. Vancouver Sun

$5-million gift creates new arts centre at UBC

Through his family foundation, arts philanthropist Michael Audain has made a $5-million gift that will establish a major new visual arts centre at the University of British Columbia. The donation will create the Audain Art Centre, an important new facility for the institution's Department of Art History, Visual Art Theory. Tying with the largest donation UBC's arts faculty has ever received, the gift brings Audain's total donations to UBC to more than $10 million. UBC News Release

uOttawa profs seek ban on electronic devices in classroom

The University of Ottawa will vote next month on a proposal that would give faculty members the power to prohibit laptops and other electronic devices in the classroom. "(Students) are distracted and we are competing with that for their attention," says a professor who voted in favour of the policy. "You see one student who is really not listening, would be watching the video and then it's kind of contagious." Many students say they learn better with a laptop, and the student federation's VP says it's an important tool. The professor supporting the proposal says he wants to conduct an experiment with his students, not ban the devices outright. He wants to challenge students to leave their devices outside the lecture hall and take a quiz, and is confident he would see higher test scores. The professor says the cost of "distracted learning" is hefty when considering some students are losing out on a pricey education. CTV

AFMC outlines recommendations to transform postgraduate medical education

The Association of Faculties of Medicine of Canada released last week a report that contains 10 recommendations for transforming postgraduate medical education -- the second phase of Canadian medical education where learners with an MD degree train to become clinicians. Each recommendation is backed by a key transformation action and other strategies that will need a collective will to implement. The recommendations are: ensuring the right mix, distribution, and number of physicians to meet societal needs; cultivating social accountability through experience in diverse learning and work environments; creating positive and supportive learning and work environments; integrating competency-based curricula in postgraduate programs; ensuring effective integration and transitions along the educational continuum; implementing effective assessment systems; developing, supporting, and recognizing clinical teachers; fostering leadership development; establishing effective collaborative governance in postgraduate medical education; and aligning accreditation standards. AFMC News Release | Report

$25-million investment supports initiative to create elite US university

Backed by a $25-million investment from Benchmark Capital and a star-studded list of advisers (including former Harvard University president Larry Summers), the man behind the Minerva Project aims to create "the first elite American university to be launched in a century." Ben Nelson, the CEO of the photo-sharing site Snapfish, says Minerva plans to define "elite" differently from Ivy League and other highly selective institutions, at a lower price. Students will be admitted through a rigorous 2-step process based on academic credentials and an interview to test an applicant's drive, analytical skills, and goals. Factors that may help a student get admitted to a highly selective institution -- such as money -- will not be considered at Minerva, Nelson says. Geography will also not be an admissions factor, so he expects the vast majority of students will come from outside the US. Minerva aims to hire top professors to develop their own online lectures and course materials, and students will also sift through that material in 25-student interactive seminars led by instructors. A residential option will allow students to reside in dormitories in major cities worldwide, where they can experience the same kind of peer encounters that enhance the education at liberal arts and other residential institutions. Inside Higher Ed | Minerva Project