Top Ten

July 27, 2012

Profs counter speculation connecting grad-school pressures to Colorado theatre shootings

2 professors who taught James E. Holmes in a graduate neurosciences program at the University of Colorado at Denver's medical campus are raising concerns over the media's portrayal of what may have spurred the killing spree that Holmes allegedly carried out in a movie theatre. The professors say it is unfair for people to draw any conclusion, much less speculate that graduate-school pressures may have played a part in precipitating the shootings, until a medical diagnosis of Holmes is known. The professors and a campus administrator say they are worried the shootings and the medical campus's ties to Holmes will unfairly brand the university and the field of neuroscience. They also fear it would tarnish Aurora, the Denver-area city where both the cinema and the medical campus are located. The Chronicle of Higher Education (subscription required)

Carleton post-docs vote to form union

Post-doctoral fellows at Carleton University have voted in favour of forming a union. The ballots, which were cast last month, had been sealed until more than week ago due to a dispute over who rightfully belongs in the bargaining unit and whether post-docs are employees of Carleton. During a hearing with the Ontario Labour Relations Board, Carleton agreed that internally funded post-docs are employees of the institution. The board then counted the ballots, finding that 80% of those cast were in favour of unionizing. The bargaining unit is small: fewer than 75 people, of whom only 20 voted. Carleton continues to object to the inclusion of externally funded post-docs in the union and will present its case at another hearing scheduled for September. Ottawa Citizen

Olds College enhances PSE offerings for Aboriginal, rural students

The signing of a new agreement between Olds College and Credenda, a virtual high school and college, will offer education opportunities for surrounding Aboriginal and rural based northern Alberta communities. Starting this September, the college's Business Administration Diploma will be available online to Credenda students. Aboriginal students enrolled in the program through Credenda can use their credits to transfer to other PSE institutions. Olds College News Release

StatsCan paper compares immigrants' PSE participation rates in Canada and Switzerland

In a new paper Statistics Canada explores differences in PSE participation rates between students with and without immigrant backgrounds in Canada and Switzerland. In Switzerland, students with immigrant backgrounds typically have lower levels of PSE participation than students with Swiss backgrounds. The study observes that this difference can be accounted for almost entirely by poorer high school performance among students with immigrant backgrounds, with the poor performance explained partly by differences in family and socio-economic backgrounds of immigrant students compared to students with Swiss-born parents. In Canada, students with immigrant backgrounds have a much higher rate of PSE participation than those with Canadian-born parents. Unlike in Switzerland, differences in high school performance in Canada account for little of the difference in PSE participation rates among students with and without immigrant backgrounds. Report

What Canadian universities' international role should be

Writing for University Affairs, Lorna Jean Edmonds, executive advisor to the VP of research at the University of Ottawa, states that aided by government strategy, the international role of Canadian universities should be to form international networks and associations that will mobilize talent in support of global research and knowledge transfer, share information and advance policies for boosting investment and measuring impact; produce talent across the disciplines and from around the world to serve, manage, govern, and innovate in the public and private sectors; conduct research that could lead to discovery and understanding of complex issues; contribute to cultural, social, organizational, and scientific innovations through knowledge translation and commercialization; and foster international relations. University Affairs

AcademicPub signs textbook agreements with SFU, York U

AcademicPub, a provider of custom books in the North American PSE market, announced last week CUSTOM COLLEGE PLUS agreements with Simon Fraser University and York University to provide affordable print and digital textbooks and other course materials to students, starting in the 2012-13 academic year. The agreements, along with a dozen other deals in place at Canadian PSE institutions, will result in nearly 350,000 students having access to more affordable course materials that can be created by their professors. Institutions participating in CUSTOM COLLEGE PLUS receive a co-branded AcademicPub Web portal; custom-designed book covers with institutional colours and logos; font, alignment, and trim-size options; eBook and professionally published output choices; and a repository of all custom course materials created. AcademicPub News Release

Moody's provides bleak outlook for US PSE

Moody's Investors Services' US Higher Education Mid-Year Outlook paints a bleak picture for PSE in which existing challenges of heightened competition for students, shrinking revenue sources, and deferred maintenance worsen, while new problems emerge. These problems include the following: endowment portfolios will decline for fiscal year 2012, the first decline since 2009; an increase in outcomes-driven state and federal funding, federal regulation, a review of the tax-exempt status for non-profit institutions, and a demand for better disclosure for all universities; an increased level of political attention on PSE affordability and student loan burdens through the presidential election; and a greater number of warnings and sanctions imposed by accreditation agencies as those organizations look to avoid tighter regulations from Congress. Inside Higher Ed

What will be the state of PSE in 2020?

On Friday the Pew Internet & American Life Project revealed a survey of academics, entrepreneurs, IT workers, and various other "experts and stakeholders" that was designed to glean whether PSE institutions are likely to undergo significant changes by 2020. 60% of respondents predicted that the following scenario is likely to be true: "self-paced learning, online 'hybrid' courses will have become par for the course at most universities, and assessment will have shifted to 'more individual oriented outcomes and capacities that are relevant to subject mastery'." 39% of respondents endorsed an alternative scenario: "not much will have changed, aside from the proliferation of certain mobile and classroom technologies, and 'most universities will require in-person, on-campus attendance of students most of the time at courses featuring a lot of traditional lectures' and assessment methods." The report notes that respondents revealed many shades of grey in their qualified responses, and that "a significant number of survey participants said the true outcome will encompass portions of both scenarios." Inside Higher Ed | Report

The top 10 IT issues in PSE

Updating IT professionals' skills and roles to suit new technologies and evolving IT management and service delivery models is the top issue facing today's PSE institutions, according to an Educause report that analyzed the top 10 IT issues in higher education, as identified by a research panel of 19 member institutions from across the US. In second place was the need to support "the trend toward IT consumerization and bring-your-own-device (BYOD)," while the third most pressing issue was "developing an institution-wide cloud strategy." The remaining IT issues are: improving the institution's operational efficiency through IT; integrating IT into institutional decision-making; using analytics to support critical institutional outcomes; funding IT strategically; transforming the institution's business with IT; supporting the research mission through high-performance computing, large data, and analytics; and establishing and implementing IT governance throughout the institution. Campus Technology | Report

New iTunesU policy allows anyone to post materials on platform

Apple announced last week that everyone can now use the iTunesU platform to deliver course material. Previously, only professors at a university working with iTunesU could post audio and video clips, syllabi, and documents via the platform. With the change, any user, irrespective of affiliation, can distribute content for up to a dozen different courses. The courses must be private and capped at 50 students each. Professors must use the iTunesU app to deliver the course, but students can access the content via the PC-compatible iTunes software. The Chronicle of Higher Education (free access)