Top Ten

December 13, 2012

uCalgary developing $240-million residence master plan

The University of Calgary is working on a new residence master plan designed to increase on-campus housing and enhance the student experience. Still at the preliminary stages, the plan -- currently pegged at a $240-million estimate -- entails 4 phases that could span the course of 15 years and would involve renovations and new construction. The first phase, which would see 580 new residence beds in new buildings, is proposed to be completed prior to uCalgary's 50th anniversary in 2016. A key tenet of the university's academic plan is to increase on-campus student housing to 15% of undergraduate enrolment by 2022 and also focus on new graduate housing. The plan also includes accommodation for international students, families, and graduate students. This would increase the number of beds to 3,677 from the current capacity of 2,523. UToday | Metro Calgary

Alberta opposition parties weigh in on Mount Royal budget discussions

Calgary's second university is that "in name only" without the government funding to fund 4-year degree programs, remarked the Alberta Liberals' education critic Wednesday while opposition parties weighed in on Mount Royal University's looming budget shortfalls. In its spring budget, the province committed to 2% operating grant increases for all PSE institutions over 3 years. But Mount Royal president David Docherty recently said his institution is still dealing with the aftermath of the PC government's decision in 2010 to trim its advanced education budget. The Wildrose Party's education critic said it is tough seeing PSE schools in the red when the province is "blowing through money quicker than Kim Kardashian." Calgary Herald

Better information needed on university professor teaching quality, says Ontario auditor general

Ontario universities have tools to ensure their professors excel at teaching, but they are not using them, observes the province's auditor general in his 2012 annual report. The audit, which focused on Brock, UOIT, and uToronto, found most faculty members do a good job of teaching, though it acknowledged that measuring instruction quality is difficult. The auditor general criticized institutions for not aggregating the results of student course evaluations. He says professors getting low scores for their teaching do not seem to be getting help to improve their skills, and most professors are not taking full advantage of available teaching supports. According to the audit, at 2 of the institutions surveyed, the average professor spent less than an hour per year in teaching workshops. The report says the findings "suggest a need to better ensure teaching quality is valued, encouraged and rewarded." The surveyed universities mostly accepted recommendations that they encourage training and ensure teaching is valued in promotion decisions. 2 of them said they are already working on standardizing and aggregating student evaluations, and plan to make the results available. Ontario Auditor General News Release | Globe and Mail | Report

How some institutions respond to students committing off-campus crimes

In September, Dalhousie University launched a restorative justice program for students who commit smaller crimes like public intoxication and minor property damage. "The program asks students to accept responsibility, gives victims a voice, creates a sense of community, and hopefully changes behaviour more than anonymously paying a ticket does," says Dal's manager of student dispute resolution. Other PSE institutions seem less keen to follow Dal's example, reports Maclean's. When some UBC students faced prosecution for participating in the Stanley Cup riot in 2011, the institution took no disciplinary action, as punishing off-campus crime was not viewed as within UBC's mandate. Fanshawe College suspended 8 students involved in this year's St. Patrick's Day riot while their criminal proceedings were still ongoing. Fanshawe president Howard Rundle argued the college's code of conduct extended to egregious behaviour off campus. The Dal law professor who spearheaded her university's new program says she can understand why UBC decided not to get involved if the only option was further punishment. As for Fanshawe, she considers its swift discipline as "both too little and too much. Punitive measures are a blunt instrument. They don't really let us understand what went wrong and address it." Maclean's

Major overhaul in store for uSask libraries

More than one million books will be taken off the shelves of the University of Saskatchewan's 7 libraries, according to planning documents obtained by the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix. 4 branches will be emptied of books should the plan be realized as described in the documents. The Veterinary Medicine Library will be the first branch affected, in September 2013, followed by the Engineering Library in September 2014. The Education and Music Library and Law Library will be affected at a later, to-be-determined time. The pared-down print collection will fit into 3 branches, the documents say. Action is being taken partly due to students taking out 42% fewer books than they were a decade ago, state the documents. A uSask official says the space freed up by removing bookshelves will be used to make learning spaces, group study areas, and "visualization centres." Saskatoon Star-Phoenix

Report explores Contact North's successes, challenges during first 25 years

Over the past quarter century, Contact North -- Ontario's distance education and training network -- has made a significant impact on the lives of residents in small, rural, and remote communities, observes a new report. "Contact North: A Case Study in Public Policy, Lessons from the First 25 Years" identifies 3 specific successes: changing the face of education in northern Ontario; extending opportunities for francophones and Aboriginal peoples; and dramatically increasing PSE participation. From just 1,522 registrations in its first year of operations, Contact North generated and supported more than 35,000 registrations from across Ontario in 2011-12. The case study also identifies a number of continuing challenges that persist to this day. These include the funding model, establishing an identity, and retention in northern Ontario. Contact North News | Report

$2.5-million bequest funds new UNB bursary

A $2.5-million bequest from Shirley Cooper is supporting a new bursary program at the University of New Brunswick. The J. Roy and Shirley L. Cooper Bursaries provide students with tuition for one year and are renewable. The bursaries are awarded on the basis of financial need to students who have earned at least an overall "B" average in their previous academic year in an undergraduate degree program. The bursaries are open to all faculties with the exception of the Faculty of Arts. UNB News

York U law school to launch Disability Law Intensive Program

York University's Osgoode Hall Law School has approved the creation of a new experiential education program to help law students understand the issues of people with disabilities. The first of its kind in Canada, the Disability Law Intensive Program will provide second- and third-year Osgoode Juris Doctor students with an opportunity to learn about a vast scope of law that mostly affects individuals with disabilities. In partnership with ARCH Disability Law Centre, the students will engage in the practice of disability law through involvement in individual client advocacy and systemic policy-based advocacy. Beginning next September, up to a dozen students will participate in the program throughout the 2013-14 academic year. Components of the 15-credit program will include a skills training week, a bi-weekly academic seminar, and a major research paper. York U News Release

1/5 British university courses cut following tripling of tuition fees

The Daily Mail reports that nearly one in 5 degree courses in England have been cut since the tripling of tuition fees to £9,000-a-year. Universities are concentrating on popular subjects and scrapping courses that have too few applicants or are too expensive to run. Official figures indicate a drop of more than 2,600 in the number of courses available to applicants planning to start their university education in 2013. More than 5,200 courses have already been cut for students starting this year -- the first cohort to face the increased fees. News of the closures come as application figures published last week indicated that the number of students in England applying for university spots in 2013 has dropped by nearly 10% already. Daily Mail

A-B Tech to evaluate students' "soft skills," issue workplace readiness certificates

Marks earned by many students at Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College (A-B Tech) will soon factor in "soft skills," such as whether they arrive to class on time or work well in groups. And next year the North Carolina-based institution will issue workplace readiness certificates alongside traditional credentials to recognize those skills. A-B Tech has produced a template that helps instructors determine how to incorporate 8 primary workplace expectations into grading, including emotional intelligence, interdependence, and personal responsibility. College officials say soft skills should count for 8% to 10% of grades in courses that adopt those guidelines. The main goal is to encourage students to take personal responsibility and demonstrate a strong work ethic, says an A-B Tech official. That's because the institution wants its students to believe that "I've got to give it my very best," the official says, both in class and on the job. Inside Higher Ed