Top Ten

April 10, 2012

NSCAD faculty, student unions slam sustainability framework

A report recommending fewer faculty members and higher fees at NSCAD University is generating backlash from the institution's faculty and student unions, who argue that such measures would harm the classroom. Released last Thursday, the sustainability framework recommends reducing NSCAD's workforce by 26 employees this fiscal year through early retirement, incentives, and severance packages. The report states that of those 26 positions, the majority should not be replaced, and those that are should be paid at a lower rate. "I think people are going to be very angry when they read it and they're going to feel betrayed," says the faculty union's president. "We were told over and over and over again in public meetings and in private conversations with representatives from the board that there would layoffs of employees." The report also recommends increasing tuition fees and introducing some student fees, resulting in a $900 increase in the current full-time undergraduate tuition rate. "I don't feel like I can afford to pay that much more of tuition and still be able to live," says the student union's president. Canadian Press

Finances tight at Manitoba PSE institutions

Some PSE schools in Manitoba do not expect that provincial funding and tuition will be enough to cover their costs without cutting positions, programs, and services. The University of Winnipeg faces up to $4 million in cuts, three-quarters of it due to ongoing pension issues. If the government does not provide a loan or agree to some other arrangement to come up with the money, uWinnipeg will have to look at the entire budget again, says the VP of Finance. Facing an $11-million shortfall, Red River College is seeking tuition parity with Assiniboine Community College and University College of the North. The University of Manitoba will have to reallocate some funding on campus, says president David Barnard, but "I don't think it's going to be dire. We're definitely not making across-the-board cuts." Brandon University will have to cut 4% to balance its budget, largely through leaving jobs vacant, and it expects a 5% enrolment drop next year as a result of the faculty strike this past fall. Winnipeg Free Press

Algoma U senate turns down Block Plan

At a special meeting on March 30, Algoma University's senate voted against adopting the Block Plan as the standard delivery for university courses. Algoma U president Richard Myers had proposed the adoption of the one-course-at-a-time delivery format as a way of promoting better retention, more experiential learning, and more study-abroad. "The block plan has a lot of advantages, but I think people here felt that it would be problematic for some of our part-time students and faculty," Myers says. While a strong majority of senators voted against making the Block Plan the institution's standard platform, 55% supported a motion encouraging proposals for the development of block-based programming as an alternative stream in disciplines where faculty think it works well. Algoma U will use the block plan at its new extension operation in St. Thomas, Ontario. Algoma U News Release

Alberta PCs pledge $650-million investment in PSE capital projects

With a provincial election approaching, Alberta's PC party announced yesterday that if re-elected, it would enhance PSE facilities across the province through a new 3-year, $650-million capital project funding commitment. The funding would support capital projects at the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology, the University of Calgary, NorQuest College, Lethbridge College, and Mount Royal University. The PC party is pledging $200 million for a Centre for Applied Technologies at NAIT, $142 million for an expanded engineering school at uCalgary, $170 million for NorQuest's downtown campus development, $55.6 million for a trades & technology renewal and innovation project at Lethbridge College, and $85.5 million for a Library and Learning Centre at Mount Royal. PC Alberta News Release

CALDO institutions launch one-stop service for Brazilian scholarship recipients

The CALDO consortium (uAlberta, uLaval, Dal, and uOttawa) have established a one-stop program-matching service to link prospective Brazilian students participating in the Science without Borders scholarship program to the CALDO university that best fits their research interests. Graduate students interested in full doctoral degree programs, in short-term visiting graduate research placements, or in postdoctoral fellowships can make inquiries at the central CALDO office, be matched, and then formally apply to the best-suited university at the same time they apply for the scholarship. Undergraduates can take classes at a CALDO institution for a year and follow up with a research internship. Undergrads apply for the scholarship first, and recipients are then matched with the best-suited CALDO institution. CALDO News

US state support of public PSE drops by more than 25% over 20 years

Adjusted for inflation, state support for each full-time public PSE student fell by 26.1% from 1990 to 2010, forcing students and their families to bear more of the cost of PSE at a time when family incomes were largely stagnant, observes a new US report. Over the same 20-year period, the report states, the published tuition-and-fee price of a 4-year public-college education rose by 116%. The report recommends that states revise their tax systems to make more funding available for PSE, direct funding to need-based aid rather than to merit aid, and make college completion a goal of their spending. The Chronicle of Higher Education (free access) | Report

Chicago community colleges to link some profs' salary to performance

The 7 institutions of the City Colleges of Chicago system join a small but increasing number of US public colleges in tying at least some faculty pay to performance. As per a new contract with the union representing the system's part-time adult-education instructors, the instructors will no longer get automatic 3% pay increases for remaining in the system, but they can get bonuses of up to 8% linked to the performance of their students. Contracts tying faculty pay to performance are now also in place at the University of Akron and Kent State University. Texas A&M University has launched a controversial program that awards faculty members cash bonuses based on student evaluations. The Chronicle of Higher Education (free access)

Survey finds differentiation in "holistic" admissions policies at US elite institutions

Most elite PSE institutions in the US describe their admissions policies as "holistic," suggesting they evaluate the totality of an applicant, but a new survey of admissions officials at the 75 most competitive institutions observes that there are distinct patterns that differentiate some holistic institutions from others. Most schools focus solely on academic qualifications first, and then consider other factors. The research found that 21% of elite colleges begin with measures of "institutional fit." These schools do the initial cut based on student essays, recommendations, and specific questions of whether particular students will thrive at and contribute to the institution in various ways. This approach results in a focus on applicants' non-academic qualities, and tends to favour applicants who are members of minority groups underrepresented on campus, as well as those who can afford to pay all costs of attending. Inside Higher Ed

Students grow less interested in promoting racial understanding over course of college education, study finds

New US research suggests that as undergraduate students progress through PSE, they become less interested, on average, of promoting racial understanding. For the study, students were asked "how important to you personally is helping to promote racial understanding?" upon arriving at college, at the end of their first year, and at the end of their senior year. Researchers ranked the importance of promoting racial understanding on a 4-point scale, and found that all 4 groups -- African American, Hispanics, Asians, and whites -- ended up at a lower point than where they started. The study's authors say the results challenge the conventional wisdom about college and race: the data suggest that for students, PSE has no impact on a desire to promote racial understanding, and that those who change do so in the direction of being less committed to intergroup understanding. Inside Higher Ed

India may ask universities to double enrolment by 2017

To produce greater numbers of qualified job-seekers to feed a growing economy, some Indian universities may have to double their student intake in the next 5 years, with students per acre of university campus serving as a measure of efficiency. The University Grants Commission (UGC), which regulates PSE in India, says the majority of 556 universities do not enrol enough students despite their large campuses. In a document that seeks to chart the course of university education in India, UGC says a 100% intake increase is feasible in 30 central universities. Any plan that looks at just boosting numbers is "ridiculous," says a former vice-chancellor of the University of Delhi. "Authorities should not equate number with quality, though we understand that a service economy needs to get enough human capital to sustain the growth rate," he says; however, he is in favour of compact universiti es, stating that "there should be a maximum utilization of resources." Mint