Top Ten

April 12, 2012

Quebec students stage rolling protests

Quebec students hit the streets in a series of rolling protests Wednesday in their latest challenge against the province's planned tuition fee increases. Hundreds of chanting demonstrators marched throughout the day during hourly protests in Montreal, crisscrossing the downtown area and paralyzing traffic. Some protests led to clashes with police, including a confrontation in which officers used chemical irritants to disperse demonstrators after several students blocked access to a National Bank of Canada building. Student protests yesterday resulted in Collège de Valleyfield dropping plans to resume classes, and in delays in final exams scheduled at Concordia University. Student leaders have also proposed a series of cost-saving measures they say will allow the government to "cut into the fat" from university budgets. A document released by the Fédération étudiante universitaire du Québec identifies possible budget savings of $300 million over 5 years. Having reviewed the document, the Conference of Principals and Rectors of Quebec Universities points to a methodological error it says distorts the conclusions reached by FEUQ. CREPUQ argues that the federation's proposals would have a harmful effect on teaching and research. Canadian Press | CBC | Montreal Gazette | CREPUQ News Release (in French)

UBC faces potential strike action by unions

The University of British Columbia is warning students who are now writing final exams about the possibility of strike action at the Vancouver campus by one or more of its unions upset with the government's net-zero mandate for public-sector contracts. A mediator has been appointed to assist with bargaining in the dispute involving 2,300 teaching assistants, language instructors, and tutors represented by CUPE. Job action is not permitted while the mediator does his work, says a UBC spokeswoman. Another CUPE local, whose members include nearly 2,000 custodial and maintenance staff, also has a strike mandate but has not issued a strike notice. The spokeswoman says all has been quiet recently at that table. Vancouver Sun

Camosun students occupy campus radio station to protest program suspension

Camosun College students have taken over Village 900 CKMO, the campus radio station, to protest the institution's decision to suspend its 2-year applied communication program as part of cost-cutting efforts to balance its budget. Camosun's VP of Education says the institution targeted areas that require updating and would affect the fewest students. He says the program had approximately 40 students and needed renewal. The suspension gives college officials a year to contemplate options such as introducing a digital media program. Camosun is also cutting its learning skills program, reducing English language development, and suspending network electronics. Victoria Times-Colonist

Foreign Affairs scales back grants for Canadian Studies at US institutions

Canadian Studies departments at some US universities face cutbacks this year with the rollback of a grant program administered by Canada's Department of Foreign Affairs, which is facing a $72-million budget cut. Although funding is usually modest -- $11,000 to $15,000 spread out to a dozen projects -- the results they produce are "off the charts," says the associate director of Canadian Studies at the Seattle-based University of Washington. Without the grants, some Canadian Studies departments will have to reconsider program content, cancel special projects, or even admit fewer students. Foreign Affairs is still accepting applications for grant funding, with submissions assessed on a case-by-case basis, says a department spokesperson. With regard to the potential impact on the grant program, the spokesperson says that "details about the measures unveiled in the Budget will be announced over the coming weeks and months." Vancouver Observer

UoGuelph celebrates first phase of new Engineering Complex

On Wednesday, the University of Guelph officially opened the first phase of its new Engineering Complex. The new 50,000-square-foot space features design studios, machine shops, and a sustainable energy lab. It houses new programs in biomedical, computer, and mechanical engineering, offered along with existing programs in engineering systems and computing, environmental and biological engineering, and water resources. UoGuelph's School of Engineering aims to double enrolment and faculty numbers over the next few years, particularly in sustainability and innovation. The university also announced Wednesday a $1-million gift from alumnus and Skyjack Inc. founder Wolf Haessler that will enhance the institution's engineering facilities and fund 20 new scholarships. UoGuelph News Release

Mount Allison releases designs for arts centre

On Wednesday, Mount Allison University revealed designs for its $30-million Centre for the Arts, whose tentative opening date is scheduled for fall 2014. The 50,000-square-foot facility will feature a large atrium with double-height ceilings linking 3 distinct spaces: the School of Fine Arts, a studio hall, and a 100-seat black box theatre. The centre will house Fine Arts and Drama programs, which are currently spread throughout buildings on campus. The university is contributing $10 million toward the cost of the centre and running a fundraising campaign to raise the remaining $20 million from private donors. Mount Allison has been criticized by some students, alumni, and community members for its decision to tear down its historic Memorial Library to make way for the new centre. The institution plans to save elements of the library to be used around the centre. Mount Allison News Release | Centre for the Arts

Lakehead, school board sign MOU to encourage PSE participation

Lakehead University and the Lakehead District School Board signed an MOU Wednesday with the purpose of opening doors for students throughout northwestern Ontario who face major obstacles to a university education. The partners aim to raise $10 million in 10 years to support the initiative. The Achievement Program is "about changing attitudes and expectations," says Lakehead president Brian Stevenson. "It’s about giving young people, especially Aboriginal youth, the opportunity to realize their dreams." Under the program, students in Grades 4 through 12 will be able to earn money to go toward tuition fees at Lakehead by participating in yearly activities that are geared to give children the skills to become community leaders. The program will also include financial support for mature students. Lakehead News

Western U, school board partner on "School Within a University" program

Western University and the Thames Valley District School Board (TVDSB) have partnered on a new program that will give 25 TVDSB students the opportunity to complete their final secondary school courses needed for graduation, as well as earn a university credit at no cost. The first program of its kind in Ontario, "School Within a University" will allow students to complete up to 6 senior high school credits while earning a university credit -- all on Western U's campus. Eligible students will be selected by school staff and must meet criteria set by the school board and the university's Admissions Office to demonstrate that they are academically capable. The students will be supported by mentors to facilitate their success. The new program builds on the success of the TVDSB's "School Within a College" program created in partnership with Fanshawe College. TVDSB News Release

TDSB to allow laid-off education assistants to retrain as early childhood educators

Struggling to cope with a large projected deficit, the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) decided Wednesday to cut 430 of 493 education assistant positions, but will offer individuals doing those jobs the chance to stay on as they train to become early childhood educations for full-day kindergarten. Those laid-off education assistants interested in the retraining will have special permission from the Ontario government to work in full-day kindergarten classes while they pursue early childhood education diplomas from Humber College over the next 2 years. The college will offer the necessary courses in the evenings and during school holidays. The one-time deal was hammered out in recent weeks between the TDSB, Ontario's education ministry, CUPE, and Humber as a way to soften the blow of layoffs for education assistants, whose positions do not require formal training. Toronto Star | Globe and Mail

Australian premier inundated with complaints from Chinese students on social network

Last month, Ted Baillieu, the premier of the Australian state of Victoria, opened an account on the popular social network Weibo to connect with Chinese-speaking voters and international students in his state. Within hours of registering, he was inundated with complaints, most focused on the lack of public-transport concessions for foreign students. (Victoria is one of 2 states that do not extend public-transit subsidies to international students). Baillieu told his Chinese audience that his government had no plan to offer subsidized fares and touted Victoria's "world-class higher education system" as attractions. Some Weibo user comments published in The Age criticize soaring tuition fees and the quality of education in Australia. The Age