Top Ten

January 30, 2013

Financial issues signal tough times at NSCAD

The Chronicle-Herald reports that tensions are rising at NSCAD University, which is facing financial troubles, pressures from government, and labour negotiations. Last week, more than 100 students filed into a board meeting to present a new manifesto calling for staffing and program offerings to remain at current levels, a document acting president Daniel O'Brien has described as "a declaration of the status quo." NSCAD has been under pressure from the Nova Scotia government to get its finances in order. A government-commissioned report released more than a year ago pegged NSCAD's debt at $19 million. The institution has until March 31 to present a long-term plan to the province on how it will achieve financial stability. That plan follows NSCAD's first sustainability framework, which was submitted to the government last March. That framework called for fewer faculty and staff, higher tuition fees, program reviews, and possible affiliation with Dalhousie University or Saint Mary's University. The board had considered offering early retirement packages to reduce its "staffing footprint," with the help of provincial funding, but O'Brien says the government was not interested. Meanwhile, studies will soon be underway into how partnerships with either Dal or SMU might work. Although those studies will take 3 to 5 months and won't be completed by the March deadline, O'Brien says NSCAD should have a good idea "where they are pointing." But many within the NSCAD community worry that terms like "collaboration" and "affiliation" could be euphemisms for a merger or the loss of the institution's autonomy. Chronicle-Herald

CAQ leader proposes two-tier university tuition system in Quebec

Coalition Avenir Québec leader François Legault is proposing a two-tier university tuition system in the province that he says will ensure the quality of Quebec's top 4 universities (uMontréal, McGill, uLaval, and uSherbrooke), while maintaining PSE access in the remaining 14 universities. The top 4, which Legault describes as "research" universities, would be allowed to set their tuition fees, with the goal of increasing revenues so they can retain top faculty members and attract new stars. With some exceptions, Quebec universities now have a policy of charging the same tuition fees for all degree programs. Under Legault's plan, there would also be tuition hikes at the 14 "teaching" universities. Fees would be adjusted to cover between 15% and 20% of the actual cost of a student's education, rather than fees currently covering as little as 10% for programs like engineering and 40% for the humanities. The research universities would also be allowed to institute differential fees. Legault says the higher fees at the research universities would not be an obstacle for students from low-income families as they would still benefit from Quebec's generous student loan and bursary program. Montreal Gazette

Report suggests youth unemployment in Canada will cost $10.7 billion in lost wages

A new report by TD Economics estimates that the rise in youth unemployment in Canada will cost approximately $10.7 billion in lost wages over the next 3 years, and that the period of underemployment that follows could cost an additional $12.7 billion in lost earnings over the next 18 years. The study found that the impact on the Canadian economy is relatively low compared to some European countries. While youth unemployment has remained close to 14% over the last 2 years in Canada, it reached a high of 57% in Spain and 58% in Greece. When other costs associated with unemployment -- such as higher crime rates, poorer health, and unemployment benefits -- are taken into account, the true cost to the economy would be even higher, the report concludes. Toronto Star | Report

Study finds potential savings for students, government in college-to-university transfer

According to new research published by the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario, students who transfer from college to university to complete their undergraduate degree are likely to save themselves and the government money, and they often earn grades equivalent to students who enter university directly from secondary school. The study observes that in most jurisdictions outside Ontario, the total cost to students and the government of a degree obtained through 2 years of college and then 2 years of university (2+2) is lower than the cost of a 4-year university degree, with possible savings of between 8% to 29% per student over a 4-year period. The study's author notes the 2+2 model is rare in Ontario, with most college-to-university transfer agreements requiring extra courses that reduce or eliminate potential savings. The author says better college-to-university pathways could make an important contribution to meeting the rising demand for undergraduate education at an affordable cost. The report identifies 3 pathways for consideration: establishing 2-year university transfer programs at colleges in arts and business; expanding pathways from college career-oriented programs to university; and expanding pathways from college career-oriented programs to college degrees. Research Summary | Full Report

CMU raises more than $8 million in CONNECT Campaign

Canadian Mennonite University's board of governors has decided to move forward with plans for building the CMU Library & Learning Commons and Bridge this year -- a decision prompted partly by positive momentum in fundraising that saw donations and pledges increase from about $5.4 million in October 2012 to $8.4 million as of January 1, 2013. The CONNECT Campaign will support the construction of the Library & Learning Commons at the heart of CMU's Shaftesbury campus in south Winnipeg. The project includes an integrated book and resource centre, café, and a pedestrian bridge to connect the library to CMU's south side campus. Next steps in the project are for architects to complete final drawings by March 1. CMU News Release

Former head of uCalgary's ISEEE calls institute a failure

Climate scientist David Keith -- the former head of the University of Calgary's Institute for Sustainable Energy, Environment and Economy (ISEEE) -- is calling the institute a failure because of poor management on the part of uCalgary and too much influence from corporate donors. Keith says uCalgary removed an academic at the request of Enbridge. In a statement to the CBC, Enbridge says it was not involved in the recruitment process, the appointment nor changes to leadership roles at uCalgary and "any claims to the contrary are categorically false." The Alberta Liberal Party is calling for an investigation into Keith's claims, but leader Raj Sherman says the underlying issue is a lack of funding from the provincial government. "Our academic institutions, our universities are being forced to go to private industry to run their operations and with that brings into question the integrity and independence of all the wonderful work they're doing." In a statement to the CBC, uCalgary says it is confident ISEEE is delivering on its mandate to develop cost-effective solutions to the environmental challenges of energy production and use. CBC (Jan. 28) | CBC (Jan.29)

Report urges BC to do more to prepare for surge in tech jobs

A new report from the Applied Science Technologists and Technicians of BC forecasts high demand for skilled jobs in technology and technical trades over the next several years, and argues BC is not adequately prepared to train enough young people to fill those jobs. According to the report, an estimated 25,000 new jobs requiring advanced technology or technical education will be created by 2020. The report makes 44 recommendations, including a call for the BC government to develop a STEM education and training strategy. Too few students enrol in PSE leading to applied science careers, the report warns, and a major wave of retirements of older tech personnel is approaching. BC is urged to focus attention on tech training programs in the north, Interior, and Kootenays that can then feed into second-year programs at larger PSE schools such as the British Columbia Institute of Technology. Surrey Leader

NB One-Job Pledge to create new opportunities for recent grads

In an effort to help businesses create quality jobs and career opportunities for recent PSE graduates, the New Brunswick government is launching a new initiative called the One-Job Pledge. As part of the Workforce Expansion Program administered by the Department of Post-Secondary Education, Training and Labour, the One-Job Pledge would provide a one-year wage incentive to qualifying businesses when they hire a permanent full-time employee who has graduated from a PSE institution in the past 4 years. Businesses that qualify must pay a minimum salary of $14 per hour, and the initiative will allow for the reimbursement of 70% of the salary to a maximum of $10 per hour for one year. The province is investing $13.5 million in the program. NB News Release | Canadian Press

Enrolment in TRU Open Learning continues to grow

Thompson Rivers University reports that enrolment growth in its Open Learning Division surpasses the rates of other BC universities. Since last May, TRU Open Learning has recorded a 7% growth in enrolments within BC and 15% growth in Canadian students from outside BC for an overall growth rate of nearly 9%. "We see this 'outside B.C.' growth as a positive indication of the growing national reputation of TRU," says the vice provost of TRU Open Learning. "Furthermore, the overall growth demonstrates the value that TRU is providing to students who are looking for distance and open education." TRU News

PSE "league" would level playing field among US colleges, suggests report

A new US paper suggests the nation’s colleges should model themselves after the NFL as a means of tackling the imbalance in the US higher education system. The NFL restricts competition by enforcing salary caps and sharing revenue among its 32 teams which offsets the advantages that wealthier franchises would otherwise enjoy and thus benefits teams in smaller markets. By forming a "league" of member institutions that agree to common admissions goals and practices, as well as the sharing of resources, colleges might better serve the public -- and curb their drive for institutional glory. "Our colleges are engaged in an unbridled, no-holds-barred competition -- one that places them in constant danger of valuing prestige and ranking over mission attainment; market position over educational results," says the paper's author. The Chronicle of Higher Education (subscription required)