Top Ten

December 9, 2012

Quebec demands universities cut $124 million in spending

Quebec universities say they have been blindsided by a directive from the PQ government demanding they cut $124 million in spending by April. The government says it is only asking the institutions to stay within spending estimates set out by the previous Liberal government. Had they done so, the universities would not be $124 million in the red. "It's not as if they didn't know how much money they were getting," says Quebec's Treasury Board president. A spokesman for the higher education minister cited an internal letter written by the Liberals and dating from June in which the Treasury Board called on the education ministry to reduce $265 million in spending at all education levels. University leaders and budget officers are adamant they never received the missive. "It never filtered to the universities. I guess they forgot about it. They didn't put that into effect," says Université Laval rector Denis Brière, who notes the move leaves his institution short $21 million in government funds. "Never, never, never were we asked to have a budget reflecting what the minister is saying right now." The Conference of Rectors and Principals of Quebec Universities says university leaders will participate in the higher education summit in February, but that it "is very concerned" about how the cuts may affect university core functions -- a worry echoed by student organizations. "This will have an impact on students, for sure," says FEUQ's president. "[They will have to cut] services, teaching also...We'll have bigger classes, less possibility for bursaries for students." Globe and Mail | Montreal Gazette | CBC

York U urged to do more to address sexual assaults

York University students say the institution needs to do more than boost security personnel on campus to address a series of sexual assaults, following the report of another sexual assault on campus last Wednesday. The university has added 10 new security members to its team of 24 and raised the amount spent on safety and security-related expenses, according to its November online safety fact sheet. Toronto police patrols have also expanded. In a November 26 mass e-mail, York U president Mamdouh Shoukri told students he's deeply concerned that "despite the significant investments and security enhancements that have been made to create a safe campus, incidents continue to occur." However, one student who helped organized a recent protest on the matter points out more ways the institution could improve safety: invest in better lighting; key cards to access buildings; and more security cameras with staff to monitor them. He says some students feel more secure with the additional staff, but he feels students' concerns were dismissed at a recent open forum on campus safety. Although personally she feels safe, a York Federation of Students executive says the institution needs to examine the causes of the assaults. "We're working to fight the forms of racism, misogyny, sexism; all these things that contribute to violence happening on campus so that we can adjust all aspects of safety," she says, adding that York U has taken steps but it "can always do more." The institution will hold another safety forum, for parents of students, tomorrow. Globe and Mail

Construction underway for residences at Georgian College Orillia campus

After a brief delay at the start of fall, construction of new residences at Georgian College's Orillia campus is now underway. At least 2 of the four 28,000-square-foot brick buildings will be completed for the beginning of the 2013-14 academic year. It has yet to be determined whether the third facility will be ready in time, and the fourth will be dependent on demand for on-campus housing. The Orillia Packet & Times reports that in the past, students have opted not to attend Georgian in Orillia due to a lack of on-campus accommodations. "Some have been discouraged when there's not been on-campus housing for them," says Georgian's VP administration, who anticipates the residences will positively impact enrolment, though he does not foresee a drastic change in numbers. Orillia Packet & Times

Ontario's PSE system must boost productivity to maintain quality, report argues

While Ontario's PSE schools are already quite productive, constrained resources and rising demand mean the system must boost productivity to maintain quality, observes a preliminary report by the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario. While the province's universities have received increased absolute levels of funding and funding per student since 2002, they are teaching more students per full-time faculty member with less funding per student than all other Canadian provinces, the report notes. Ontario universities also lead Canada in research profile and output. HEQCO states the information available for colleges does not generally allow for inter-provincial comparisons, but Ontario colleges are now teaching and graduating more students per faculty member with more funding per student than they were a decade ago. In research competitions targeting the college sector, Ontario gets a level of funding proportionate to the province's share of the population. HEQCO notes that further critical information is needed to better assess productivity and determine the most promising methods for improvement, such as measurement of the quality of education, better information on graduation rates, and more input from employers on their satisfaction with PSE graduates' knowledge and skill sets. Summary | Report

NS universities place second among province's top export sectors

Nova Scotia universities now generate an estimated $840 million in annual export revenue, putting the university sector in second place in a comparison of the province's traditional top exporting goods sectors. This new data is provided in an update of key findings of a 2011 study on the export value of NS universities. The total export component of these institutions' direct expenditures is largely attributable to increased out-of-province enrolment and differential tuition fees for foreign students. Out-of-province and international students accounted for 45% (19,287) of total university enrolments in NS (42,911) in 2010-11. Preliminary enrolment figures for 2012-13 indicate that the province's universities experienced another 12% increase in international student enrolments (+695). AAU News Release

Report urges greater investment in Asia-related education, skills training in Canada

Canada must invest heavily in Asia-related education and skills training if it hopes to compete in the new global economy, argues a new report from the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada. Based on a survey of 374 Canadians who are engaged in Asia through professional and research interests, the report found that, among various initiatives, strong emphasis was placed on putting a greater priority on the teaching of Asian languages in Canada's elementary and secondary schools (91%), as well as creating greater mobility opportunities for PSE students (35%). More than 70% of individuals polled expressed the need for more to be done to promote Canada as an education destination. Respondents working in PSE schools supported a priority focus on developing and improving exchange programs with Asian institutions (27%), as well as developing joint/dual/double programs (20%). APF Canada News Release | Vancouver Sun | Report

Brock to launch fall reading week in 2013

At its December 5 meeting, Brock University's senate adopted a fall reading break as a 3-year pilot project, at the end of which its impact will be assessed. The mid-term break, which will launch in 2013, takes place during Thanksgiving week. Introducing a fall reading week was recommended in the institution's Mental Health Strategy and by Brock's student union, and is seen as a mental health break for students to help alleviate stress. Brock News

"Love at first SAIT"

SAIT Polytechnic's new institutional video showcases the campus and opportunities through the eyes and testimony of a recent graduate. The 2-minute video depicts a text exchange between the graduate and her cousin. "Man! You gotta go to SAIT! It'll change your LIFE!!!" says the graduate, who recalls her first day -- "It was like love at first sight!" -- and touts the institution's location, facilities, and amenities. The video captures the hallmark of a SAIT education -- hands-on learning, small classes, instructors who know their stuff, caring employees, and opportunities for students to connect with industry. SAIT News

Youth employment rises in November

Statistics Canada reports that employment among 15- to 24-year-olds increased by 16,000 last month, and their unemployment rate dropped 0.7 percentage points to 14%. With this growth, the employment level for this group was similar to that of 12 months earlier, the agency states. 15- to 24-year-olds in PEI made the most gains in November with a 3.5 percentage point increase in their employment rate, while Saskatchewan recorded the highest youth employment rate, which sits at 61.2%. Statistics Canada | Labour Force Survey

US survey gauges students' opinions on campus libraries

Students are satisfied overall with the role their campus libraries play in their lives, but more than a third do not consider the libraries crucial to their academic success, according to a new US survey. Gathering data from 2,516 students at 2- and 4-year colleges, the survey found that 55% of students typically find what they are looking for on a typical visit to either libraries or library portals. At the same time students seemed indifferent to the role of the library in their lives. More than 30% of respondents said they would be unlikely or only somewhat likely to use the library again, and just one-quarter "strongly" agreed that their library meets their expectations. "Of notable concern is the decrease in assurance that the academic library helps students understand what is being learned in class and offers unique support," the researchers say. Inside Higher Ed