Top Ten

November 15, 2012

One of uAlberta's CERCs returns to Oxford

After only 7 months at the University of Alberta, Patrik Rosman returned to England, resigning from his $10-million Canada Excellence Research Chair (CERC). Rosman, who has revived his diabetes research at Oxford University, says he had been "quite excited about the potential adventure" when uAlberta contacted him. In addition to the $10-million offer, negotiators gave assurances his family would be accommodated, and some of his research staff could be "fast-tracked" through immigration and join his lab in Canada. However, reality was a little different, Rosman says. In hindsight, the CERC program "delivered on most points," says Rosman. "It just had to be finessed a little more to make the ride a little bit smoother." A uAlberta official says the research projects begun during Rosman's time at the institution have continued under the leadership of other uAlberta researchers, and that the institution's 3 remaining CERCs are making "excellent progress." The CERC program's executive director says casualties were to be expected. "We never expected we would have 19 completely happy successful chairholders for 7 years." She says the remaining chairs are settling in. "For some of them, it's amazing the amount of productivity that they have been able to achieve given the period of transition," the CERC official says. "I didn't expect things to go so well, so quickly." A critic of the CERC program, the Canadian Association of University Teachers is calling on Ottawa to stop searching for scientific "all stars -- as if science were a baseball or hockey game," and invest instead in Canadian researchers and facilities "starved" for funding. Postmedia News

Canadian universities ramping up mental health initiatives

Working on the knowledge that university-age youth are among the most susceptible to mental illness, Canadian universities are taking concrete steps to deal with mental health issues on campus. Practices include programs such as UBC's Early Alert to identify student distress very early in the transition to PSE, and training programs for campus leaders, such as one in development at WLU. Other initiatives include peer-to-peer outreach programs, tutorial services, and summer orientation programs to mitigate the pressure of the fall semester for first-year students. Carleton, Ryerson, and Queen's are among institutions centering their mental health efforts on a detailed strategy or framework. Faculty-specific initiatives include an office in uMontréal's medical school to assist medical students and residents who are having difficulty coping. A 7-member working group of university presidents formed last winter to examine the role universities can play in addressing and dealing with mental illness on campus. Since then, a checklist to guide presidents in leading an institutional response and a toolkit were developed and are housed at an AUCC member-only website. University Affairs

Quebec continues to lag in university education, report finds

In the past 50 years, Quebec has made considerable progress in secondary schooling, yet it has lagged in university education, observes a new report from HEC Montréal's Centre for Productivity and Prosperity (CPP). Today, just 16.5% of Quebecers ages 15 and up have a university degree, compared to 20.5% in Ontario and 19.3% in BC. Quebec also comes far behind many OECD nations, the report notes. For instance, the proportion of male degree-holders in the US, the Netherlands, and Japan is up to 50% higher than in Quebec. Women do not fare much better: in 2009, of the countries in the CPP's sample, only Japan, France, Spain, and Germany had lower levels of university education for women than Quebec. The CPP states that despite a university system that is among the most financially accessible in the western world, Quebec is having difficulty boosting university enrolment. "There are universities in many Quebec regions, and Quebec students enjoy both relatively low tuition and fairly generous student aid," says CPP's director. "The cause of Quebeckers' lack of interest in university studies must certainly lie elsewhere, and it is urgent that we identify them." CPP News Release | Report

uCalgary president on the institution's evolution

A multimillion-dollar academic hiring spree is part of an ambitious plan by the University of Calgary to become a major player on the North American university scene. The institution's immediate goal is to be among the top 5 Canadian research-intensive universities by its 50th anniversary in 2016. "This is an exciting time in the evolution of the city of Calgary, and our goal is to become a global intellectual hub in what is Canada's most enterprising centre," said uCalgary president Elizabeth Cannon in an interview with the Globe and Mail. She hopes the institution can leverage its massive brain capacity and expertise to tackle some of today's greatest challenges. "The goal is to get beyond the model of the individual researcher with their grant and scaling up to address the bigger problems," said Cannon. "That's how we're going to have a greater impact and, frankly, reach our goals." uCalgary is also launching a new Institute for Teaching and Learning, designed to explore innovative teaching methods at the university level and to enhance the campus and classroom experience for undergraduates. The institution has a small team currently travelling across North America examining some of the teaching and classroom innovation going on at other PSE schools. "This is another statement that we're serious about making the University of Calgary one of the top schools anywhere," Cannon said. Globe and Mail

MUN signs agreement to buy St. John's hotel

Yesterday Memorial University and Battery Hotel announced they have entered into a purchase and sale agreement for the acquisition of the hotel. Closing will take place in about 60 days pending a detailed inspection of the property, a satisfactory closing arrangement, and approval from the government for MUN to take possession of the property. Facilities and buildings at MUN's St. John's campus and the Marine Institute are operating at capacity, and the institution currently leases significant space off-campus. MUN says space at the hotel would allow it to consolidate a number of units that would be appropriately located closer to the city centre. The building and operations will be cost-neutral to MUN, which says funding will come from redirecting lease expenditures for off-campus space and revenue generated from university activities at the facility. MUN News

Ottawa announces $4 million for projects to end violence against women on campuses

On Wednesday, parliamentarians across Canada joined Rona Ambrose, federal minister for the Status of Women, in announcing local projects that engage young people in addressing violence against women on university and college campuses. The federal government is providing 21 organizations with nearly $4 million to carry out projects that tackle a wide range of issues relating to violence against female students, such as sexual assault and harassment. Organizations will work with approximately 30 college and university campus communities to undertake their projects. Individual news releases on the projects are available on Status of Women Canada's website. Status of Women Canada Media Room

PEI program to connect recent grads with potential employers loses federal funding

Ottawa is discontinuing funding for a program that connects recent PSE graduates on PEI with prospective employers. Career Development Services (CDS), a private Charlottetown company, conceived the Career Gateway program after discovering that an alarming number of recent graduates were having difficulty securing jobs because they did not have any experience. The company received funding in 2011 for a pilot project under the federal Youth Awareness Program. CDS is now starting the second round of the program, and it is hoping this round is not the last. CBC

Adequate funding needed to support alternative delivery formats, says Cambrian

In its draft strategic mandate agreement, Cambrian College argues that the current funding model in Ontario does not recognize or reward alternative delivery formats for programs. The college states a policy is needed to ensure adequate funding to support the delivery of viable alternative delivery models. Without such support, Cambrian says, it will continue to be challenging for colleges to open up new educational pathways to meet learner and industry needs. Cambrian is looking to expand its Flex Learning model by creating Flex Learning options for all programs and deploying a Flex Learning mobile application. Cambrian SMA | Flex Learning

Queen's, UBC, uSask part of new alliance to improve undergraduate teaching, learning

The New York-based Alfred P. Sloan Foundation has granted nearly $804,000 over 4 years to support the launch of the Bay View Alliance (BVA), a new network of 7 North American universities conducting research to improve undergraduate teaching and learning. Network members include Indiana University, Bloomington; Queen's University; UBC; University of California, Davis; University of Kansas; University of Saskatchewan; and University of Texas, Austin. The BVA project aims to understand the types of leadership practices that can best support the widespread adoption of effective teaching methods, with a focus on STEM fields. The alliance will explore leadership practices at its partner institutions by developing and implementing a range of pilot intervention efforts, followed by a study of the results of these interventions to gauge their effect on the adoption rate of evidence-based teaching approaches. Sloan Foundation News Release | Bay View Alliance

Financial stress affecting college students' academic activities, NSSE finds

Results from the 2012 National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) illustrate how financial challenges affect college students. A majority of respondents worried about paying for education, and as many as one-third frequently opted not to buy required academic materials because of cost. The more hours full-time senior students worked, the more they faced financial stress. About two-thirds of students who worked 6 or more hours per week frequently worried about having enough money to cover regular expenses, and those who worked more hours worried more often about paying for their education. 3 in 5 students who worked more than 20 hours a week believed their work interfered with their academic performance, yet just as many had considered taking on more hours. Despite the perceived negative impact of work in academic performance, students with heavy work commitments were more likely to consider increasing their work hours than borrowing more money. These findings suggest that financial concerns may outweigh academic ones for a large number of students. Yet irrespective of the number of hours worked, 75% of full-time students agreed that college is worth the cost. NSSE News Release | 2012 Results