Top Ten

February 12, 2013

Ontario PCs propose "college first" policy

In a new white paper, the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party puts forth a "college first" policy that would give Ontario students more flexible options to pursue PSE at a reduced cost. The party says too many students are going to Ontario universities as a result of "unfettered enrolment growth" that is eroding quality, and proposes encouraging secondary students to seek a college education if that would better fit their needs. PC Leader Tim Hudak says the party would like to see colleges offering a greater array of applied 3-year degrees and to make it easier for secondary school students to pick up credits that will also count at college. The party's PSE critic says student financial aid should be tied to how well students do in their courses as a way of instilling "market discipline" and incentives to succeed. The paper states funding for PSE institutions should be tied to the rate at which graduates find jobs. The Council of Ontario Universities welcomes the paper's suggestion that colleges and universities need to enhance their partnerships that allow students to move successfully through the PSE sector, and prepare them for success in life and the job market. COU notes there are currently more than 500 credit transfer agreements between Ontario's college and universities. Institutional strategic mandate agreements sent to the province last fall outlined new initiatives that are underway, and being planned, to help students streamline their studies between colleges and universities and to transfer credit more easily. Ontario PC News | CBC | Toronto Star | COU News Release | Paper

NSCAD supporters critical of province's requests

A series of demands from the Nova Scotia government to NSCAD University in exchange for the government covering the institution's 2012-13 operating deficit amounts to something like blackmail, argues the group Friends of NSCAD. A group spokeswoman says the demands in a January letter seem like they are meant to make it harder for NSCAD to survive as an independent university. They include eliminating the cost of servicing NSCAD's debt, promising to investigate closer collaboration with other institutions, and submitting a new 3-to-5-year financial plan by March 15. The province's requests are not meant to be blackmail, says Advanced Education Minister Marilyn More. She says servicing NSCAD's debt and spending about 110% of its operating budget are not sustainable. Besides the province's annual $8.3-million contribution, the government has paid an additional $17 million over 3 years to cover the annual shortfall and mortgage payments and some operating costs for the Granville campus, More says. The letter "is not a new (request)," the minister says. "We're continually going back to the commitment that the board of governors and senior management made to the government in December of 2011 in terms of coming up both with a short- and a long-term strategy to handle their financial situation." Chronicle-Herald

SMU support staff vote in favour of strike action

The union representing Saint Mary's University support staff says its membership has voted 88% in favour of a strike to back contract demands. The Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union says conciliation talks are underway with SMU administration. The union says the last offer from the university included a 1% wage increase in each year of a 3-year contract. The union represents 178 staff members at SMU who provide clerical, technical, and library services. Canadian Press

uManitoba unions to protest university policy, spending decisions

6 bargaining units at the University of Manitoba will hold a rally today in protest of a number of university policy and spending decisions. The unions say that despite department leaders being told to budget for possible 3% to 5% cuts next year, the institution is spending millions of dollars to enhance its image through consultants, advertising, and additional staff. In a statement posted on Twitter, the unions say they fear the still-unknown consequences of president David Barnard's plan to reduce the current 20 faculties to about 13 by 2017. A uManitoba official says recommending where possible cuts could occur has been a standard aspect of pre-budget planning for several years. He says uManitoba welcomes debate on issues faced by the entire institutional community. He notes that Barnard regularly holds town halls, and that there has been extensive consultation on uManitoba's resource-optimization and service-enhancement project. Winnipeg Free Press

uToronto law students protest planned tuition fee increase

A group of University of Toronto law students has begun a petition against the annual 8% increase in first-year tuition fees. Approximately two-thirds of the student body have signed the petition so far. One of the students who started the petition says there is no real rationale for raising tuition fees by 8% every year. In previous years, students were told tuition hikes were needed to boost professors' salaries and help retain them, the student says. "But we've since moved beyond that point and now we have normalized eight-per-cent tuition increases still, and there's not really a lot of explanation coming from the administration." An associate dean at the law school says the annual increase is required to keep up with academic inflation. "The cost of satisfying our obligations increases steadily over time, and without corresponding provincial [government] increases to our funding, we need to find a source to finance those inexorable budget increases." Canadian Lawyer

Quebec premier, higher education minister meet with ASSÉ

With more than 15,000 students poised to boycott classes for one or 2 days during Quebec's upcoming PSE summit, Premier Pauline Marois and Higher Education Minister Pierre Duchesne scheduled a meeting Monday with the student group ASSÉ to try to ease tensions in what appears to be an escalating dispute prior to the summit. ASSÉ representatives say the meeting was to clarify the government's position on a tuition freeze and free tuition to help determine whether the group will participate in the summit at the end of February at all -- something an ASSÉ spokesman says has been looking increasingly unlikely. He says it was a welcome meeting and a decision about ASSÉ's participation in the summit will be made in the next few days. Montreal Gazette

Christian universities receive top marks in CUSC

According to a sample of results of the Canadian University Survey Consortium, undergraduate students at Christian institutions reported the highest levels of satisfaction in several categories. The King's University College (Edmonton), Redeemer University College, Trinity Western University, Tyndale University College, and Concordia University College of Alberta are the top 5 institutions for students who are "very satisfied" with the concern shown by the university for them as an individual. The King's UC, TWU, Concordia UC, and Tyndale are the top 4 in the "satisfaction with the overall quality of education received at this university" category. The King's UC, Tyndale, and TWU are the top 3 institutions whose students "strongly agree" that "most of my professors encouraged students to participate in class discussions." The King's UC, Concordia UC, and TWU are the top 3 for students who "strongly agree" that "most of my professors were reasonably accessible outside of class to help students." The King's UC and TWU are the top 2 institutions for students who are "very satisfied" with opportunities to enhance education through activities beyond the classroom. 37 universities participated in the CUSC survey in 2012, with more than 15,000 students completing the survey. Maclean's On Campus

Demand for Chinese studies rising at UBC

UBC expects enrolment in its Chinese language program to increase by 50% within 5 years. There are currently more than 3,000 students in the 4-year Mandarin program, and the number will hopefully rise to 4,500 by 2018, says a professor. "We have a special bonding with all countries in the Pacific, especially China, so it's a natural connection," says the professor, adding that the program, focused on Chinese history, language, and culture, is renewed almost every year. Xinhua

Skills shortages a top barrier to competitiveness, says Canadian Chamber of Commerce

Yesterday the Canadian Chamber of Commerce unveiled its top 10 barriers to competitiveness for 2013, one of which is skills shortages. The Canadian Chamber says governments and businesses across regions and sectors will need to work cooperatively and aggressively to address this matter, particularly in 4 key areas: upskilling, immigration policies, education-employment alignment, and Aboriginal education and workforce development. The Canadian Chamber says it will call on local chambers of commerce and will work in cooperation with them to expand the number of connections with local PSE institutions. Canadian Chamber of Commerce News Release | 2013 Top 10 Barriers to Competitiveness

Missouri college adds job readiness score to student transcripts

To try to give their students' transcripts more heft, Missouri-based Linn State Technical College now includes a job readiness score and students' attendance rate in addition to their grades. Instructors assign a "job readiness work ethic score" to students in 6 areas: citizenship, interpersonal, safety, timeliness, trust, and work habits. Those scores, which are assessed on a 4-point scale, are listed on transcripts and added together for an overall final grade, all of which employers can see, along with ratings for attendance (which are rated on a 1 to 100 percentage scale) and academic grades. Linn State is among few US colleges that have attempted to signal workplace readiness to employers. One similar effort is underway at North Carolina-based Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College, which this year plans to start issuing grades and certificates for "soft skills," like punctuality and working well in groups. Inside Higher Ed