Top Ten

June 6, 2012

Universities face tougher credit conditions

Maintaining "sound credit profiles" will be more challenging for Canadian universities in the near term, observes a new report from Dominion Bond Rating Service. "DBRS expects operating conditions to remain tight going forward, as rising labour costs and pension challenges add meaningful spending pressures, while opportunities for revenue growth remain limited," states the report, noting that some universities have responded through cost-containment methods and new multi-year budget planning models. "Such prudent management approaches will become increasingly important in a constrained funding environment." The reason for the constrained funding environment stems from the fiscal challenges faced by senior levels of government. Those challenges have already impacted funding: in 2010-11 operating grants increased at 5% compared to an average of 6.2% over the previous 5 years. Financial Post

Montreal mayor, FEUQ president want tuition dispute to end soon

A meeting on Tuesday between Montreal Mayor GĂ©rald Tremblay and FEUQ president Martine Desjardins ended with both parties expressing hope that the 4-month tuition dispute is settled as soon as possible. Tremblay has voiced his concerns over the effects the student protest is having on Montreal's economy. Desjardins hopes the dispute will be settled "while being respectful of citizens and merchants." She says students would continue "to be mobilized over the summer," but that the protesters would "respect...different events and their participants by maintaining constant communication with the city and...event organizers." Montreal Gazette

TRU tries to work around salary cap when recruiting a president

Thompson Rivers University president Alan Shaver, whose institution is considered a teaching university by the BC government, is paid less than his counterparts at research universities, which are allowed to offer a higher salary cap to their presidents. Furniture, moving costs, and mortgage interests are among the incentives TRU has used to help entice good presidential candidates. A member of the Research Universities' Council of BC, TRU has tried to get BC to recategorize it as a research university, but has not had much success, says TRU's board chair. "We would like to fight for Alan, but we are stuck...There is not balance as far as paying university presidents," the board chair says. "We are really lucky to have Alan and keep him here. I support him as much as I can in his work." Kamloops Daily News

CMEC report examines ESD in education faculties

In a new report the Council of Ministers of Education, Canada explores what Canadian education faculties are doing in response to the UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development and the implementation of Education for Sustainable Development (ESD), which encourages learners to develop active citizenship and participation, in teacher-education programs. One of the report's findings is that there is a modest yet promising progress toward reorienting teacher education to address ESD. The report outlines several areas for further consideration, such as education faculties promoting increased dialogue and networking on ESD in pre-service education. Report

BCDASP sign agreement to advance collaboration

In April, the BC Deans of Arts and Science programs (BCDASP), a consortium of 21 public and private PSE institutions in BC and the Yukon, signed an agreement that focuses on the values and practices of sharing, openness, and innovation. The signatories have agreed to work on developing a sustainable platform of innovation and collaboration; shared delivery of courses and programs; new collaboration credentials; innovative entry and transfer agreements; sharing faculty, curricula, and resources; online learning; sharing technical resources; and sharing approaches to avoid duplication and waste. COTR News Release

Full-time Canadian university profs report high job satisfaction

Full-time Canadian university faculty members work harder than their counterparts in other developed nations and also report higher levels of job satisfaction, according to new research from the University of Toronto's Ontario Institute for Studies in Education. Canadian faculty surveyed reported working over 50 hours per week on academic activities when classes were in session, which is more than their peers in the US, Australia, and the UK. Canadian respondents had the highest job satisfaction rates of any nation, with 75% describing their job satisfaction as high or very high, compared to 64% in the US, 55% in Australia, and slightly more than 45% in Britain. However, about 40% of Canadian faculty surveyed agreed with the statement: "My job is a source of considerable personal strain," a larger share than in the US, but well below levels reported by their Australian and British peers. University Affairs

McGill Jewish Studies department receives $1-million gift

McGill University and its Department of Jewish Studies have received a $1-million donation from the estate of Simon and Ethel Flegg. The donation will be used to support postdoctoral fellowships as well as an education initiative in conjunction with McGill Hillel. McGill News Release

SAIT adopts blended learning to address labour shortage

SAIT Polytechnic's blended learning program for apprentices is going from pilot to regular programming as the Alberta government explores ways to address the impending labour shortage. SAIT's program allows electrical, plumbing, and welding apprentices to stay on the job and still complete their education. Students complete their theory online over a 12-week period before participating in hands-on labs at SAIT. SAIT News Release

uWindsor sport management program places third in international ranking

The University of Windsor's Master of Human Kinetics program in sport management has placed third in SportBusiness International's Postgraduate Sport Course Ranking 2012. uWindsor's program is the only Canadian one to make the ranking of 20 programs worldwide. A uWindsor kinesiology professor says a major contributing factor to scoring so high on the list is the fact that 85% of the program's graduates find work in their field. uWindsor Daily News | SportBusiness International

Surveys gauge MOOC demographics

Early data from 2 major massive open online course (MOOC) providers hint at what type of student takes these courses and why they decided to do so. Among 14,045 students in Coursera's Machine Learning course who responded to a demographic survey, half were professionals currently working in the tech industry, and many were enrolled in some kind of traditional PSE. The most common response to a question about why students chose to take the course was that they were "just curious about the topic." Across all Coursera courses, nearly three-quarters reside outside the US (the biggest foreign markets have been Brazil, Britain, India, and Russia). Udacity reports that more than 75% of the students enrolled in the company's first course, Artificial Intelligence, last fall were looking to "improve their skills relevant for either current or future employment." Udacity says "a great majority" of students registered for its 6 current courses live abroad. Inside Higher Ed