Top Ten

April 11, 2012

IBM, 7 Ontario universities, and government partner on $210-million R&D network

IBM Canada Ltd. and a consortium of 7 Ontario universities will collaborate on a multimillion-dollar initiative to create new research capacity using supercomputing and cloud computing. IBM will invest up to $175 million by 2014 in the partnership, complemented by a $20-million federal investment and a $15-million contribution from the Ontario government. The university consortium will use new state-of-the art high performance and cloud computing systems to process data in research areas with significant commercialization opportunities, such as infrastructure, neuroscience, and resource management. IBM will recruit 145 employees for its R&D centre, and negotiate research projects with private partners and the 7 institutions: the University of Toronto (which will house a new supercomputer), Western University (which will host major new cloud-computing infrastructure), plus McMaster, Queen's, UOIT, uOttawa, and uWaterloo. Each university will have access to a large data centre being constructed in Barrie. FedDev Ontario News Release | Globe and Mail | Western U News Release | uToronto News

Collège de Valleyfield orders students to return to class

Collège de Valleyfield director Guy Laperrière has ordered striking students to return to class, despite a vote to extend a campaign to force the Quebec government to withdraw plans to hike university tuition fees. "The situation is critical. We don't have a choice," says Laperrière, who notes that his CÉGEP is the first to order students to return to school. Leaders of the coalition representing striking students condemn the order and are calling on students from across Quebec to march on Valleyfield today. Feeling the heat from students concerned they will lose their term, Laperrière says he had a duty to act. The college recently announced it would annul its summer courses in order to meet the required class hours for its current semester. Meanwhile, Concordia University president Frederick Lowy said at a town hall meeting Tuesday that while students have a right to protest, "it doesn't mean it will be without consequences." While Concordia does not have the power to grant academic amnesty, which is something that has to be worked out on a course-by-course basis, Lowy said the institution is considering waiving a $20-per-course fee for incomplete grades. Montreal Gazette

uManitoba support staff at odds with administration over salary freeze

The University of Manitoba is facing a potential strike by thousands of support workers, even though the institution says its offer is better than the union's proposal. uManitoba is offering the support staff's union $215,000 in cash plus the same overall wage hikes the union seeks. The key in the dispute is the union has rejected uManitoba's proposal to begin a 4-year deal with a 2-year wage freeze. The university is offering zero, zero, 2.9, and 2.9, plus $215,000 for adjustments in some job levels. The union is seeking zero, 2.9, zero, and 2.9 over 4 years. The union has a strike mandate, though it received only 55% support with its 2,626 members. "I realize that" is a low support rate, says the union's president, but the union has called another membership meeting for next Thursday, at which it will ask "for a resounding vote of support for strike action." Winnipeg Free Press | AESES-UM Bargaining Update

uSask medical college still searching for new dean

As it works on an accreditation standard action plan, the University of Saskatchewan's College of Medicine has not yet appointed a new dean. The CBC reports that before any hiring decisions were made for the replacement of the current dean, who will retire in a few months, 2 of the 3 shortlisted candidates accepted positions in Alberta. uSask's provost says he does not think the 10 shortcomings identified by the Committee on Accreditation of Canadian Medical Schools deterred the applicants for dean. "To the best of my knowledge from talking to the candidates, it did not play a role," he says. "Other medical doctor universities across the country compete for the same people. We know we're in that kind of race. We're happy to compete. We don't like it when we don't win." The college invited faculty, staff, and students to a meeting yesterday to outline a new clinical-academic structure. The provost says that if a new model is not in place by the summer, the new dean will not be able to lead and the medical school's accreditation will be pulled. CBC | uSask News Release

BC seeks suggestions to improve quality assurance at PSE institutions

BC's advanced education ministry is soliciting ideas on enhancing quality assurance at the province's public and private PSE institutions. The ministry is encouraging students, parents, employers, and others with interest and/or experience in the PSE system to visit the BC Jobs Plan website and join the conversation by answering the following question: "What does a high quality post-secondary education mean to you and how will you know you received one?" The ministry states that individuals' experiences and comments, along with input from PSE schools and stakeholders, will be used to inform and improve the existing system. BC News Release | BC Jobs Plan Forum

UBC launches personalized service for incoming students

The University of British Columbia is the first large Canadian university to implement a personalized service model, which will see each incoming first-year student at the Vancouver campus assigned a student service specialist to guide and assist them through their entire UBC career. Trained to assist students with admissions, fee assessment, registration, student financial support, and student records, the specialists -- known as Enrolment Service Professionals (ESP) -- can customize their advice for each student and situation. UBC states that the potential for students to get to know their ESP over the course of their education will allow Enrolment Services to be more proactive, both in making suggestions that will enhance the student experience and in solving any problems that may surface. UBC News Release

Ontario universities receive nearly 521,000 undergraduate applications

New figures from the Ontario Universities' Application Centre show the number of undergraduate applications received sits at 520,968, up from 503,803 recorded in April 2011. The number of applications submitted by secondary students totals 401,085, an increase of 2.4% over last year. Non-secondary students have submitted 119,883 applications, up 7% over last year and the highest figure recorded in the last decade. This month's total application numbers are the highest recorded since 2003. OUAC Undergraduate Application Statistics -- April 2012

New uRegina residence policy prioritizes first-year students

Starting this fall, the University of Regina will have a new policy for students living in on-campus residences. First-year students will get top priority for residence spots, while returning students will have to enter their names in a lottery to try to secure accommodations. uRegina's VP of external relations says the revised policy is meant to help first-year students transition to campus life. It's important for students' well-being and for retention, she says. The VP says she understands why many students would be upset about being displaced from their on-campus housing, but says that if it's any consolation, in a couple of years uRegina will add 700 more beds, bringing the total number of residence spaces to nearly 2,000. CBC

uToronto mobile app lab a first in Canada

A new lab in the University of Toronto's Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering invites members of the university community to explore the new possibilities that smart applications for smartphones and tablets can offer. The Mobile Applications Lab is open to all faculty, staff, and students at uToronto, irrespective of their academic discipline. One of the faculty members leading the lab says the intention is to harness the multidisciplinary power of uToronto to identify new needs and approaches for intelligent mobile applications. The lab is the first of its kind in Canada and uToronto joins just a small number of PSE institutions, including MIT and Stanford University, in providing such a facility. uToronto News

Regent College launches new website

Regent College has unveiled a new-look website, whose redesign involved focusing the message on the core audience -- the future graduate school student. The VP of external relations at the UBC-affiliated Christian graduate school says user testing and strategic enrolment management became critical factors in the redesign project, and, given the rise of mobile usage, Regent chose to develop a responsive website rather than create a separate mobile platform. The homepage features 4 videos that provide an introduction to the institution. Separated under the themes of "cultivate," "intelligent," "joyful," and "vigorous," the videos feature students discussing their experience at Regent and how it has shaped their identities, their relationships with each other and with professors, and life in Vancouver. Although the site is primarily geared toward prospective students, Regent also engaged current students in the research process to develop a tool that functionally meets all their needs. Regent College News | Regent College website