Top Ten

November 22, 2012

Gender equity challenges remain in university research ranks

Despite significant progress in female representation in academia, there are still gender equity challenges to overcome and the passage of time will not be sufficient to ensure parity. This conclusion appears in a new report, commissioned by the federal government in 2010 after women were shut out of the inaugural Canada Excellence Research Chairs. Released by the Council of Canadian Academies, the report presents an assessment of the factors that influence women's university research careers. The key factors impacting women's career paths begin early in life with socialization and stereotypes defining social roles. The report notes female students report lower levels of self-confidence in STEM fields, and that there is a disconnect between the subjects students study in secondary school and their career goals, particularly in science and math disciplines. Other findings observed in the report include: biases in recruitment and evaluation of female academics can negatively affect career trajectories; a persistent salary gap can have long-term impacts, including in pension payments; and women in universities spend more time than men on childcare, and promotion and tenure processes lack exit and re-entry points that would allow more flexibility in a career. The ad-hoc committee that reviewed the CERC selection process has tweaked it to attract more women in the next round of 11 chairs, currently being recruited. Universities must provide names of women they will actively pursue, while 4 CERCs have been allocated to non-science fields where the talent pool of women is currently deeper. CCA News Release | Western News | Globe and Mail | Executive Summary | Full Report

University leaders to debate CIS reform

At least 10 university presidents and other Canadian Interuniversity Sport officials will gather in Toronto this weekend to debate a proposed reform of CIS to halt the exodus of elite athletes to US institutions. A task force composed of representatives from 10 universities in CIS's Canada West conference released a report last spring that found CIS "is failing by an unacceptable margin" in being a destination of choice for top athletes. Sport stars are choosing to attend NCAA schools, where there is better competition, greater support, and financial aid. Major changes proposed in the report include the addition of athletic scholarships, as well as partnerships with national sports organizations and the federally funded Own the Podium program. These proposals, along with a proposition to establish tiered divisions for some sports, will be up for discussion this weekend. The task force's report was universally endorsed by Canada West members this past May. Now, the aim is to get buy-in from university presidents across the country. Globe and Mail

Humber proposes Ontario Centre of Excellence in Teaching and Learning Outcomes

In its draft strategic mandate agreement, Humber College states its Centre of Teaching and Learning should be designated and supported as a provincial resource -- the Ontario Centre of Excellence in Teaching and Learning Outcomes. Humber says the move would lead to further student-centred innovation that supports student success and boosts overall satisfaction and retention levels across Ontario. The college says the centre would develop and implement a system-wide Web channel to broadcast innovation and exemplary teaching and learning practices that could be accessed from anywhere; enhance the virtual Communities of Practice through which faculty can share best practices and foster collaboration in teaching and learning across the system; and continue to build and distribute a collection of case studies for non-traditional case courses, as case-based teaching supports active learning and critical thinking skills development. Humber SMA (Summary) | Humber SMA (Full Report)

uSask grant supports pair of teaching and learning projects

The University of Saskatchewan has awarded 2 projects $10,000 each under the Provost's Project Grant for Innovative Practice in Collaborative Teaching and Learning. One project will match uSask students with nontraditional learners from a local gang initiative called Str8Up and with mature students from an Aboriginal-focused high school in Saskatoon. The goal is to allow participants to be co-learners and co-creators of knowledge as they "challenge ideas about knowledge, learning and societal assumptions about which 'types' of people should come together in a common project of discovery," says one of the project's leaders. The second project aims to connect nursing students in remote communities with uSask professors in a way that allows faculty to see what the students are seeing. This will be done through a robot called the PR-7, which incorporates a flat-screen monitor, cameras, and on-board audio. The PR-7 also has specialized equipment such as a stethoscope and otoscope for physical assessments that both the student and professor can see. uSask On Campus News

Cambrian strives to attract underrepresented learners

Cambrian College's Learning Account, a tuition-credit program aimed at those least likely to attend college, reaches out to students who are still in elementary school. With this program, Cambrian is trying to tackle one of the greatest challenges facing Canada's PSE system: educating the children of poorly educated parents, particularly when parents have not completed high school. Fixing the issue depends on its cause, which in Canada differs by region. In provinces such as Alberta and Saskatchewan, the challenge to PSE is the strong economy, notes Academica Group's Ken Steele. When students can earn a good salary working in the oil and mining industries with a Grade 12 education, there is little incentive to invest time and money to attend university. That's a particular problem among male students, whose enrolment rates tend to drop when unemployment goes down. That has also been an issue for Cambrian, where Sudbury's local mining sector has drawn students out of school. This year, the institution began offering students a 15% tuition rebate upon graduation and plans to survey its dropouts to find out how many left because they found work. Steele says the biggest barrier is simply that parents' own level of education closely reflects their priorities for their children. The correlation with parental education is greater than with parental income or tuition costs, he says. "If my parents were educated, wherever I live in the country, I'm more likely to go on to university." Maclean's

UBC makes Grade 11 marks permanent part of admissions process

Following recent approval by UBC's senate, a temporary policy that let the institution admit BC students based on their Grade 11 marks is now a permanent part of UBC's admissions process, reports the student paper Ubyssey. The university has been able to consider final Grade 11 marks in admissions since last March, when the senate approved an early admissions process due to a teachers' strike at the time. UBC's registrar says the policy is being kept in place to provide applicants earlier offers of admission. "Our research, and certainly feedback that we get from applicants to UBC, is that our offers of admission often arrive much later than our major competitors' offers of admission," the registrar says. "Part of the reason for that is all of our major competitors make offers of admission factoring in Grade 11 marks." The registrar stresses that Grade 12 marks will still play a significant role in the final admissions decision. Ubyssey

Western U touts academic experience in new ad campaign

"The Western Experience combines academic excellence with life-long opportunities for intellectual, social and cultural growth in order to better serve our communities," states Western University. With these experiences totalling in the thousands, the institution is sharing a few of them in a new advertising initiative. The campaign website includes profiles of various Western U academic opportunities -- such as the Alternative Spring Break, modular degree structure, and study-abroad programs -- along with PDFs of experience posters. Examples of the Western Experience are being shared with commuters in select subway cars and stations in Toronto, across Canada and the globe through print and online ads in the Globe and Mail as well as Western U's Twitter account and Facebook page. The Western Experience

WLU's China office celebrates fifth anniversary

Wilfrid Laurier University has marked the fifth anniversary of the opening of its China office at Chongqing University (CQU) by renewing its agreement with the institution, while also strengthening its ties with other PSE schools in China. In 2007, WLU was the first Canadian university to launch an office in mainland China; since then, more than 200 WLU students, faculty, and staff have participated in projects and activities coordinated by the Chongqing office. WLU's future plans at CQU include creating new opportunities for student internships and faculty visiting-scholar programs in Chongqing as part of WLU's Global Engagement Initiative. WLU News

Brock student union develops campus safety app

The Brock University Students' Union has created a free mobile app that will connect students and staff directly with Campus Security. The app eliminates the cumbersome process of dialing on a mobile phone Brock's 10-digital number, waiting for the automated attendant, and then punching in the extension to reach Campus Security. With the Campus Security Hotline app, one click brings up a large red button with a phone receiver. The app works anywhere, but it connects with Campus Security only. "It's not a substitute for 911," says a student union executive. "This is for on-campus issues that happen." The app is available for download from Android and BlackBerry app stores, as well as through QR codes appearing on posters around campus, on buses, and on Campus Security vehicles. A version for the iPhone is in development. Brock News

Court rules Michigan ban on race-conscious admissions is unconstitutional

Last week, a narrowly divided US federal appeals court struck down a vote-passed prohibition on the use of race-conscious admissions by Michigan's public colleges, ruling that the ballot measure has unconstitutionally put racial-minority members at a distinct legal disadvantage in seeking from public colleges the same preferential treatment enjoyed by other categories of students. Michigan's attorney general plans to appeal the decision to the US Supreme Court, and the lawyer who mounted the challenge against the measure does not intend to discourage the Supreme Court from taking up the case. The Supreme Court is currently weighing the constitutionality of a race-conscious undergraduate admissions policy at the University of Texas at Austin. It is possible the Supreme Court could hand down a ruling next year broadly striking down such policies as discriminatory, which probably would render moot the legal debate over state bans on race-conscious admissions. The Chronicle of Higher Education (free access)