Top Ten

January 10, 2013

Private vocational colleges raise concerns over proposed student visa reforms

A lack of clarity from Ottawa over whether private vocational colleges will still be allowed to accept international students beginning in 2014 is prompting 7 of them to withdraw from an important spring trade show in China. "I cannot go and take money from our association and attend a trade show when we may be shut out at the end of the year," says National Association of Career Colleges CEO Serge Buy, whose concerns stem from proposed new federal measures to prevent student visa fraud. Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) is asking the provinces and territories to submit a list of approved institutions allowed to host international students. If these jurisdictions don't step up, however, Ottawa will designate institutions. That worries Buy, who believes the provinces are not likely to create extra work for themselves. As for the federal plan, Buy says there is no mention of private vocational colleges anywhere. Seeking clarification in an e-mail exchange with CIC, Buy was told in a response that should provinces and territories not designate institutions for the purpose of hosting international students, CIC would only issue study permits to public PSE schools or private degree-granting PSE institutions. "The bottom line is that CIC does not have the ability to assess private educational institutions, as this is the jurisdiction of provinces and territories," the response said. Buy argues Ottawa is familiar with career colleges as many of them are accredited for the purposes of employment insurance and federal student loans. He says the uncertainty is bad for business and bad for Canada's bottom line as international career college students contribute an estimated $350 million to the economy. Postmedia News

"No sacred cows" when it comes to budget cuts, warns uSask president

In an interview with the CBC, University of Saskatchewan president Ilene Busch-Vishniac said she is prepared for unpopularity as the institution prepares for cuts to address a $44-million shortfall. "Everything's on the table for inspection," she said. "There are no sacred cows here. We are looking everywhere for places we can trim without offering a decline in the services we offer and our education and discovery mission." Busch-Vishniac also committed to examining uSask's expenditures on administration, although the institution's board chair has said it is unlikely administrators will have to face a pay cut as uSask deals with the shortfall. "I am motivated to do the right things for the organization, for the people of Saskatchewan," Busch-Vishniac said. "I am not motivated by how popular I am." CBC

McGill student files grievance over provisional protocol on demonstrations

A McGill University student has filed a grievance against the institution's provisional protocol on demonstrations, arguing McGill is trying to control and intimidate potential demonstrators and is violating human rights in the process. The grievance comes as the protocol is set to go to senate for approval at the end of January. The student is demanding the protocol be nullified and that McGill administration issue a formal apology for "possible violations of students' human rights covered under international and provincial law." The provisional protocol has been in effect since last February, following a 5-day student occupation of McGill's James Administration Building. Although the protocol was revised in November, and was the subject of consultation, many campus groups have opposed it, with unions arguing it will be used to criminalize labour protests and students stating it violates their legal right to non-violent protest. Montreal Gazette

Postscript: Jan 22, 2013

McGill University announced last Wednesday it was removing its controversial protocol on demonstrations from the agenda of this week's senate meeting -- where it was expected to be approved in spite of much opposition -- and launching a third round of consultations on a new protest management policy instead. The protocol aimed to set parameters for acceptable and unacceptable forms of activism on campus, but many argued it was far too restrictive and would unfairly limit free speech on campus. Montreal Gazette

Ontario law schools examining ways to adapt programs to meet new licensing option

Ontario law schools are contemplating their role in running the new Law Practice Program (LPP), which the Law Society of Upper Canada approved in November as a second option for law school graduates to become lawyers in light of Ontario's growing articling position shortage. The LPP, which launches in 2014, involves 4 months of extra classroom education and an unpaid co-op placement. The dean of York University's Osgoode Hall Law School is already looking ahead to how the school's professional education arm could offer innovative LPPs. He hopes existing Osgoode programs, such as the poverty and law program where students volunteer at a legal services clinic, could count as a co-op placement. Enrolling its first 55 students next fall, Lakehead University's new law school expects its future graduates to take advantage of the new licensing option, as there are no more than 15 articling positions in all of northern Ontario. Western University's law dean says his faculty is looking at modifying its curriculum "quite apart from these new licensing requirements but following on them" to include more experiential components, such as a mentorship program with practising lawyers. University Affairs

Majority of Ontarians polled oppose cuts to university funding

According to a new poll, Ontarians do not want the provincial government's austerity agenda to compromise the quality of university education in the province. While most Ontarians think it is important to reduce the provincial shortfall, more than two-thirds of respondents oppose any cost-cutting measure that reduces the quality of education students receive. 79% of those polled oppose cuts to university funding, and 79% oppose shifting the cost of PSE onto students and their families through increased tuition fees. 52% of respondents believe that a university funding freeze by the Ontario government would harm the quality of PSE in the province. OCUFA News | Poll Results

SMU commerce degree receives CFA Institute recognition

The CFA Institute has recognized Saint Mary's University's Bachelor of Commerce (major in Finance), offered in the Sobey School of Business. The program has been accepted into the CFA Institute University Recognition Program. This status is awarded to institutions whose degree program(s) incorporate a minimum 70% of the Chartered Financial Analyst Program Candidate Body of Knowledge (CBOK), which provides students with a solid grounding in the CBOK and positions them well to take the CFA exams. Sobey's Master of Finance program is also pursuing the CFA recognition. Sobey News

MacEwan looks to join Canada West conference

MacEwan University is pursuing the transition from the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference to the Canada West Universities Athletic Association. Officials with the Canada West membership review committee visited MacEwan yesterday to assess elements pertaining to its athletic operation. MacEwan first took steps in applying for Canada West membership in 2010, but did not pursue that bid as "we had to get our fiscal house in order," says the university's athletics director. Canada West has expressed open hesitation on accepting any new members, but the conference did opt to proceed with the MacEwan review process. If the university's bid does enough to impress the committee, MacEwan will need approval from 75% of the membership to be granted probationary status. Edmonton Journal

Hybrid learning forecast to drive online education growth in Canada in 2013

In his 2013 Outlook for Online Learning, Contact North research associate and online learning expert Tony Bates sees this year as a terrific one for online learning, where it moves from the periphery to the centre of a PSE institution's operation. What will primarily drive the move, Bates says, is hybrid learning. "This is being driven by dissatisfaction with very large lecture classes in first and second year university courses, the need for increased productivity/better learning in times of economic austerity, and faculty's increasing familiarity with online learning in supporting regular lecture-based classroom teaching." Bates expects to see online learning increasingly appearing as strategic initiatives within institutional plans. He notes several factors that will drive this trend during 2013, including political pressure from boards and governments seeking greater productivity and innovation, massive open online courses, and shifting student demographics. Contact North News | 2013 Outlook for Online Learning

Lumina Foundation launches strategic plan to boost PSE attainment

Yesterday the Indiana-based Lumina Foundation announced a new 4-year strategic plan outlining actions it will pursue to meet its goal of increasing the percentage of Americans who hold "high-quality degrees and credentials" to 60% by 2025. Among the strategies is to mobilize PSE institutions and systems to boost the adoption of data- and evidence-based policies, partnerships, and practices that close attainment gaps for underserved students and improve overall completion rates. Other strategies outlined in the plan include creating new models of student financial aid that make college more affordable, creating new PSE business and finance models that significantly expand the country's capacity to deliver affordable, high-quality education, and creating new systems of quality credentials and credits defined by learning and competencies rather than time. Lumina Foundation News Release | The Chronicle of Higher Education (free access) | Strategic Plan Executive Summary

uMinnesota adopts new approach to graduate program assessment

Traditional, external reviews of graduate programs track things such as time to degree and completion rates every 5 to 10 years at large research universities, but students and professors are rarely asked deeper questions regarding curriculum relevance and program goals. A new effort at the University of Minnesota aims to change that by establishing ongoing, qualitative models of assessment focused on students and action. 8 departments across 8 uMinnesota colleges signed on to the pilot Graduate Review and Improvement Process (GRIP) last year in both doctoral and master's degree programs. Designated students and professors work within each department, as well as with a core group of GRIP student and faculty leaders at the university level, to establish program-specific assessments and action items centered on 3 themes: program goals and whether curricula reflect those goals; engagement with qualitative and quantitative evidence of program success; and creation of an internal "state of the graduate program" report and focused plan for improvement. Inside Higher Ed