Top Ten

December 4, 2012

Heated debate on university financing at McGill Higher Education Summit

Some McGill University student societies held a forum Monday and Tuesday for the university community to discuss key issues relating to the Quebec Summit on Higher Education taking place in February. The Montreal Gazette reports that Monday's afternoon session on university financing got a little heated, with a pair of economists disputing the students' argument that accessibility would suffer with a tuition hike and arguing that students -- the primary benefactors of a university education -- need to contribute more to the cost. After an executive of the student group FEUQ said lower tuition is needed because students are so stressed about their debt level, the president of the Centre for Interuniversity Research and Analysis on Organizations (CIRANO) interrupted to ask why someone else should pay. "If not the students, why put it on someone else, on taxpayers?" he demanded. He said the province acknowledges it is a beneficiary of universities by currently contributing more than 85% of the cost of education. CIRANO's president said after the panel discussion that he is disappointed and discouraged by the level of the debate from student leaders, and is consequently "pessimistic" about any real solutions coming out of the February summit. The Counseil du patronat du Québec's head economist also argued the cost of education needs to be more proportionate. "It should be proportional to the beneficiary," she said. "Society gets a big benefit, but so does the graduate." But the FEUQ executive maintained that tuition hikes are a big deal for students and that the province needs to invest in their youth to ensure the future. PGSS News Release | Montreal Gazette

University admissions not at risk in light of Ontario teacher labour dispute

As the labour dispute between the Ontario government and thousands of public school teachers and educational workers enters its fourth month, some students worry the absence of extracurricular activities could derail their chances of getting into a good university or winning a generous scholarship. But when it comes to applying to university, students' academic performance is far more important than their non-classroom activities, university admissions officials say. "Marks are much more important than extracurriculars, to be honest," says uOttawa's financial aid and awards director. uOttawa awarded 5,200 entrance scholarships to first-year students this year, but only a dozen were based, in part, on a student's extracurricular resumé. UBC, which in September welcomed 350 Ontario students directly out of secondary school, requires applicants to complete a personal profile to help the institution learn more about the applicant and their goals. "We're really looking for more about what the students have taken away from the experience, so the fact that the basketball season got cut short is not as much the issue as is what you have learned being on a team," says UBC's associate registrar for undergraduate admissions. The Ontario Universities' Application Centre's executive director says his office has noticed no difference this year due to the labour dispute but will respond quickly if problems emerge. "If there was something that impacted the application deadline, then we'd all get together as a group of universities and the application centre to mitigate that." Ottawa Citizen

How Windsor institutions are addressing student stress during exam time

Windsor PSE schools are ramping up services to help their students cope with rising stress. Because the exam period is often a tipping point for many students, St. Clair College is boosting mental health support services by offering after-hours counselling, student peer and tutoring support, having the Distress Centre of Windsor-Essex County on campus, running yoga classes, and handing out free health snacks and water in an effort to lower stress. At the University of Windsor, demand for counselling centre services has more than doubled since the centre first opened in 1999, and rose 15% to 20% over last year. Along with students struggling at exam time, many first-year students at uWindsor are also at great risk, says a university official. The institution has enhanced support efforts for that group that include having residential advisers available, plus a growing array of peer and educational programs. Windsor Star

McMaster breaks ground for Health Campus

McMaster University held a groundbreaking ceremony Monday for its Health Campus in downtown Hamilton. To open in 2014, the campus will see 5,400 patient visits as well as 4,000 McMaster students each year. The 195,000-square-foot facility will be the base for the Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine's Department of Family Medicine, the McMaster University School of Nursing's nurse practitioner program, and the McMaster Continuing Health Sciences Education Program. The $84.6-million project is a partnership between McMaster, the City of Hamilton, and the Ontario government. McMaster Daily News

Edmonton reaches tentative deal to purchase MacEwan Jasper Place campus

Edmonton city council has tentatively approved a $36-million deal to purchase MacEwan University's Jasper Place campus for a community arts centre. MacEwan president David Atkinson says money from the sale will help fund the institution's planned 4-storey, $120-million Centre for Arts and Culture in downtown Edmonton. The tentative agreement would see the 800 to 1,000 Jasper Place students move out and the municipality take possession when the new structure is completed in late 2015. Edmonton Journal

Huron unveils 10-year strategic plan

As part of Huron University College's Founder's Day activities last Friday, principal Stephen McClatchie introduced the institution's new 10-year strategic plan. The document focuses on 5 key directions critical to attaining the Western University affiliate's strategic destination over the next decade: focus on student engagement and advantage; emphasize critical thinking; increase public awareness; mobilize alumni support; and safeguard the institution's future. Goals outlined in the plan include working to integrate all facets of the student experience at Huron, both curricular and co-curricular, to maximize student engagement and ensure that students are supported in all areas of their Huron experience; increasing Huron's profile and reputation provincially, nationally, and internationally, in order to attract more applicants; and maintaining an enrolment level that allows Huron to achieve its strategic directions and ensure its ongoing sustainability. Huron News | Strategic Direction Statement

NS universities propose culling library stacks

Nova Scotia's public universities have proposed culling their library collections and shipping some of their lesser-used materials to a central repository where they will be stored in a climate-controlled, secured facility until they are needed. The idea of a central library storage facility is one of the proposals submitted for consideration under the NS government's $25-million University Excellence and Innovation Program. Earlier this year, the province's advanced education department invited universities to submit proposals for projects that would see the institutions work together and reduce costs. In the initial round of proposals, the department approved approximately $700,000 for a feasibility study for the library repository, another study on collaborative data services, and an analysis of university spending. Another $712,453 was approved for 7 energy-related projects at 6 institutions. Proposals for a second round of funding consideration were due last week. Chronicle-Herald

UBC officials on options to boost revenue

In an interview with UBC Reports, the university's VP Finance, VP Human Resources, and vice provost cite some options the institution is considering to increase revenues. These options include: making the most of UBC's facilities during the summer by offering more courses, and looking into developing 12-month programs whenever this makes academic sense; welcoming a greater number of international students; expanding programs for mature students and improving professional programs; and exploring online learning opportunities, either by blending courses or offering more complete online experiences. "Any option we launch must clearly benefit our students," the vice provost says. "A stronger summer offering can accelerate degree completion. A more international campus provides richer experiences. Blending courses offers a more integrated and effective experience to our students." UBC News

Limiting admissions among UVic fellow's suggestions to reform universities

Assuming that universities' role is to prepare students for professions in the broadest sense, there are methods of doing so more economically, efficiently, and successfully than at present, writes Jordan Paper for University Affairs. A fellow at UVic's Centre for Studies in Religion and Society, Paper's suggestions include dividing subject matter content and understanding into discreet units rather than classes, having graduate students teach introductory courses, and limiting university admissions to those who can show their readiness to benefit from the educational experience through meaningful exams and essays. On the latter suggestion, Paper writes that this would force secondary schools to prepare students for study at PSE institutions. "Potential students should have unlimited chances to demonstrate their readiness for university and should not be encouraged to enter universities directly from secondary schools." University Affairs

US campus crime rankings spur new debate on their validity

One publication's list of "dangerous" US colleges has revived debate over whether the information on which it was based reflects actual danger or safety levels, and whether any crime data alone can evaluate campus safety. Business Insider recently published its list of the 25 "most dangerous colleges in America," based on FBI data, and the links and local newspaper articles began to spread. Then, facing considerable criticism from the California institutions that appeared on the top of the list, the publication calculated the most dangerous colleges using data required by the Clery Act, the federal law that requires PSE schools to report certain types of crime. Business Insider stands by the original rankings, noting that the Clery-based list "contains many of the same schools" as the FBI-based list. However, many of the institutions are in very different positions on the lists. There is the question of whether either ranking should be used, by itself, to judge PSE institutions. The director of The 32, the National Campus Safety Index of the VTV Family Outreach Foundation (a group of family members of victims and of survivors of the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting) says "you cannot look at statistics in a vacuum and say that any colleges are the most dangerous. I think these lists do a disservice to the consumer." Inside Higher Ed