Top Ten

June 18, 2012

Carleton ordered to explain blackout on $15 M donation to politics school

Carleton University has been ordered to explain its refusal to release unredacted information about a $15-million donation that created the Clayton H. Riddell Graduate Program in Political Management. The program was named for the donor, Clayton Riddell, a Calgary businessman, and was backed by former Reform Party leader Preston Manning. The Canadian Press filed a freedom-of-information request to view the donor agreement last year but has only received a heavily redacted copy. An adjudicator has ordered that the school explain its position by Tuesday. York University, the University of Waterloo and Wilfrid Laurier University have recently struggled with balancing donor requests and academic freedom. Canadian Press

This digest has been revised for improved accuracy.

Queen’s Tricolour Venture Fund provides venture capital fund experience

Queen’s University's Tricolour Venture Fund is the first student-advised venture capital fund in Canada. It allows Bachelor of Commerce and MBA students to meet with potential companies, assess the opportunities and present their recommendations to an Investment Advisory Board made up of entrepreneurs, investors and venture capitalists. Companies selected for investment can receive up to $150,000, and all profits are reinvested into the program. The program runs from January to April each year, and was seeded with $5 million in donations from alumni. Queen’s News Centre | Tricolour Venture Fund

Convicted fraudster enrolled for PhD at UVic under alias

A man convicted of fraud received a master’s degree from the University of Victoria and is currently enrolled in a PhD program at the institution. Richard Ernest Wainwright, who was convicted of fraud and sentenced to one year in prison, was awarded a master’s degree in 2010 under the name “Richard Perran.” His sentence prohibits him from receiving any educational degrees, making his status at UVic unclear. UVic spokeswoman Denise Helm said that while the university usually does not prevent people with a criminal record from enrolling at the university, it “takes allegations of misrepresentation very seriously” and will investigate the matter. Vancouver Sun

Vancouver educators warn that struggling students are buying better grades

The Vancouver board of education is concerned that students who fail English-language classes are paying private schools large fees for credits. Vancouver educators say that students from immigrant families are eager to attend university at 18, and attend private schools at night or during the summer to “buy” English credits rather than delay their education to improve their language skills. The head of the University of British Columbia’s Department of English, Stephen Guy-Bray, argues that the BC Education Ministry must ensure that public and private schools have the same standards for language proficiency, as too many students have “managed to get into university without basic English skills.” Alberta has also recently faced grade discrepancies between public and private schools. Vancouver Sun


Postscript: Vancouver school officials contradict reports of buying grades: After reports of students purchasing English credits at private schools surfaced this week, Vancouver school board officials responded that they have no proof of this practice. However, Simon Fraser University’s admissions director admitted that she may need to review applicants’ English marks, since too many first year students lack English language skills. Vancouver Sun

OECD says lower tuition is not the best way to improve access

A recent OECD report argues that low tuition will not necessarily decrease barriers to participation. The study found that the most significant determinant of whether Canadians attend university was if their parents attended, which made them 4.6 times more likely to attend than those whose parents did not attend university.  The report also suggests that loans may not increase the participation of low income students as many are reluctant to accept debt and underestimate the lifelong benefits of a university education. The report found that tuition did not seem to be the only factor preventing rural students from attending university,  as rural students are equally likely to attend college as urban students, but far less likely to attend university. In order to increase university attendance, the report recommends reducing education tax credits in favour of means-tested grants. Globe and Mail | Report Overview

New Trent-Loyalist Journalism program approved by MTCU

Trent University and Loyalist College announced on Thursday that the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities approved the new Trent-Loyalist Journalism degree program. Starting in September, the program will allow students to earn a joint-major Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science in Journalism and another discipline from Trent. Students will also earn an Ontario College Advanced Diploma in Journalism, Online, Print and Broadcast from Loyalist. The program can be completed in 4 or 5 years, depending on the discipline. Loyalist News Release

Online courses provide students with new ways to cheat

A recent Chronicle of Higher Education article highlights the problems facing online course developers who try to prevent cheating. For example, while multiple choice tests are designed to select random questions for each student, students can pool the questions they are allotted and work together to find the correct answers. Currently it is difficult to verify that an enrolled student is the individual completing online assignments, and while researchers are exploring identification methods like keystroke or sentence structure analysis and webcam logins, these are only preliminary studies. Instructors must work to ensure that there are no weaknesses in online courses, as “students will find them.” The Chronicle of Higher Education

Student protesters are winning the social media battle

Students protesting the Quebec tuition hikes are successfully using social media to organize their protests and publicize their message while the Quebec government is lagging behind online. A recent study showed that 3 Twitter hashtags related to the protests garnered 700,000 posts in only one month. The Quebec government has relied on traditional media and has not communicated as effectively with the public. For example, when Bill 78 was passed, the students immediately organized massive protests, while the government did not respond to public criticism for 4 days. Unlike the government, the Montreal police have embraced Twitter, using it to update the public about protest routes and to find and release detained journalists. Canadian Press

Niagara Falls, NY offers to pay student loans of new residents

In order to combat a population decrease and to attract young professionals, Niagara Falls, New York, is offering student loan holders $291 per month for 2 years if they live in designated downtown areas. The pilot project is open to 20 people who graduated in the last 2 years and will cost $200,000. Niagara Falls’ population has declined steadily over the last 50 years, from 102,394 people in 1960 to 50,193 in 2010. Seth Piccirillo, director of community development, argues that the city is attempting to transition into the new economy, but it is “difficult to do that without young people, without knowledge professionals.” Toronto Star

52 fun facts about social media

A list of 52 statistics about social media sheds light on how social media sites are used and consumed. Some of the most interesting facts include: the average Facebook user has 130 friends, the average YouTube visitor spends 15 minutes per day on the site, 30% of Twitter users report an income above $100,000 and it took only 2 years for tablets to reach 40 million users in the US. PR Daily