Top Ten

June 15, 2012

3 armoured-car security guards killed on uAlberta campus

Late Thursday night, 3 employees of an armoured-car company were shot and killed on the University of Alberta campus during an attempted robbery. A fourth person is in the hospital in critical condition. The victims, employees of the company G4S Cash Solutions Canada, were shot in the HUB Mall complex which houses a shopping mall and student residence. uAlberta announced that no students were harmed and with the exception of the HUB Mall, the uAlberta campus was operating normally on Friday. Weekend reports indicate that police suspect a missing fifth G4S employee of attempting an "inside job." Globe and Mail | Edmonton Journal | CBC

Queen's releases discussion paper on mental health strategy

The Principal's Commission on Mental Health at Queen's University has released a discussion paper to get feedback from the campus and broader communities before finalizing its report this fall. "Towards a Mental Health Strategy" outlines a 4-level pyramidal framework for university mental health strategy to promote a healthy community; support the transitions inherent in university life and foster resilience; promote help-seeking and helping behaviour; and provide effective response, service, and care. Queen's News Centre | Principal's Commission on Mental Health

uToronto grad declines degree

A University of Toronto graduate declined his degree at his convocation ceremony on Thursday as an act of solidarity with the Quebec student protesters. When his name was called, Michael Vipperman, 26, raised a sign with the word “No,” and said, “I hereby renounce this degree.” Vipperman argues that Canadian PSE education has become too elitist as “only certain people [are] able to afford it.” Toronto Star

US report calls for stable funding for research universities

A new report from the National Research Council argues that US PSE institutions must receive predictable funding in order to maintain their positions as global leaders. The report was written by a committee of CEOs and university presidents that included McGill Principal Heather Munroe-Blum. It suggests 10 actions that the US government, businesses and PSE institutions should take to strengthen existing institutions. Overall, the report argues universities must receive stable funding while becoming more efficient and developing more partnerships with the private sector. Dr. Munroe-Blum argues that Canada can also benefit by following the recommendations, especially reforming graduate education, increasing participation of gifted international students and funding research. She concluded that, "As research universities outside of North America aggressively move into the top global ranks of higher education, Canada must also position itself to be as ambitious as the U.S.” Inside Higher Ed | McGill News Release | Read the Report

Who is to blame for higher tuition in the US?

A new article in The Christian Science Monitor tackles the issue of rising tuition in the US. Tuition at public 4 year colleges rose by 73% between 1999 and 2009, while the median family income declined by 7%. The article highlights an “academic arms race,” in which institutions attempt to increase their ranking by hiring prestigious (and costly) faculty and investing in large capital projects. Public schools face funding cuts from cash-strapped state legislatures, and have responded by raising tuition. The availability of large student loans may have exacerbated the problem, as more students have the means of paying for tuition, even if they do not have the means of paying off their loans. Christian Science Monitor

Colleges struggling to help students find employment after graduation

As tuition and youth unemployment rates remain high in the United States, many colleges are now faced with students who request help in their job hunt after graduation. The Chronicle of Higher Education highlights some of the strategies liberal arts colleges are using to increase the employability of their students. First, schools can focus on skills development, such as financial management and conflict resolution skills, during the undergraduate degree. Another strategy is to cultivate experience in the professional world, such as a year-long internship with a nonprofit organization to develop skills before entering into the job market. Lastly, schools are beginning to provide more data for potential students, including salaries and job placements for recent graduates, rather than information for graduates of all ages. The Chronicle of Higher Education (free access)

Prior Learning credits for MOOCs

While massively open online courses currently do not grant credits in the US, there is a method available to American students who want their participation in MOOCs to contribute to their degree. Prior learning assessment (PLAR) allows students to earn a credit for learning outside a traditional classroom setting. If a student chooses this route, he or she must produce a portfolio of the material learned. The portfolio is then inspected by a Council for Adult and Experiential Learning affiliated faculty member, who would recommend to the American Council on Education (ACE) that credit be granted from a regionally accredited college. This would permit the student to enrol in a college that accepts ACE’s recommendations, such as George Washington University. However, since the process is labour-intensive, students may decide to simply take a similar course at a traditional college instead. Inside Higher Ed

Many international students have few close friends in US, survey finds

In a survey of more than 450 foreign students at US colleges, nearly 40% said they had no close friends and would have liked more meaningful interaction with people born in the US. International students in the South were more satisfied with the number and quality of close friendships with Americans than those in other parts of the US. Respondents from English-speaking nations were most likely to report having 3 or more close American friends, whereas East Asian students often had no close American friends. Nearly half of respondents cited some "internal factor" -- such as limited language proficiency and shyness -- as a reason they find it hard to make friends with Americans. International students also cited American factors, such as superficiality or lack of interest in other cultures. National Communication Association News Release | Inside Higher Ed | The Chronicle of Higher Education (free access)

Seton Hall University giving smartphones to all incoming students

New Jersey-based Seton Hall University announced plans to provide free smartphones and cell phone plans to all incoming students. The phones include a “Freshman Experience” app which provides housing information and encourages students to connect with fellow freshmen and academic advisors. The school will continue its policy of giving out laptops to students, who pay $32,000 in tuition per year. Seton Hall will use the smartphones in the classroom to examine how mobile technology is changing and how it can be incorporated into the workplace.

Can behaviour nudges help students complete college?

Persistence Plus is banking on that hope with a new service that directs nudges to mobile phones. Billing itself as "the Weight Watchers of college completion," the start-up company draws on behavioural research to send personalized messages to students through text messages or an iPhone application. The company also aims to help users persevere in the face of initial failure. One of Persistence Plus' founders says the program tries to help students understand that challenges such as getting a bad grade are part of the typical college experience. The Chronicle of Higher Education (free access) | Persistence Plus