Top Ten

February 19, 2013

Increasing number of Canadian university presidents being ousted by boards

University of Victoria president David Turpin's research into the turnover of university presidents in Canada has helped fuel conversation about the role of the university president, raising what many in PSE say are important questions: What are the underlying causes of the early departures, and what is the remedy? The Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada is now helping Turpin expand the scope of his research. He stresses his findings are preliminary and that more research is needed to understand the trends and recommend solutions. Turpin notes the increasing pressures university leaders face today are probably a major factor in the turnover rate. "The job has changed dramatically," Turpin says. "There are far more stakeholders involved, and I think expectations have increased dramatically. The president not only has to be the lead academic but is also responsible for running a billion-dollar or multibillion-dollar operation and has huge external responsibilities to the government and the private sector." Turpin's research found that half of the 12 presidents who left in the previous 6 years were shown the door by their governing boards. One education expert says the findings point to a need for more training of those in board positions. Recently, Canadian universities have started to provide more training to new board appointees. Last fall, for the first time, the Council of Chairs of Ontario Universities held a 2-day seminar on governance issues, focused in part on helping board members become more familiar with academe. The spate of presidential departures has prompted more boards to consider how they interact with presidents, says the secretary of the Canadian University Boards Association. "The emerging understanding for boards is that this relationship is one that you have to work on." The Chronicle of Higher Education (subscription required)

Quebec university leaders want summit to explore education quality

Quebec university rectors say next week's summit on PSE has to be a true debate on the fundamental mission of universities, not just further dispute over tuition fees. The rector says the issue of who should pay for PSE has monopolized Quebecers' attention for the past year. They say it's about time the discussion focused on to how to ensure Quebec universities can continue to offer a high quality of education and conduct world-class research, because the future of the province depends on it. Montreal Gazette

Durham College, UOIT to develop new PSE system based on Irish model

The University of Ontario Institute of Technology and Durham College are collaborating on a unique PSE system that would allow students to move from 2-year programs to post-graduate studies. Staff from both UOIT and Durham recently travelled to Ireland where Institutes of Technology Ireland, a representative body for 13 of Ireland's Institutes of Technology, currently operates this type of educational model. "It provides for easy pathways from apprenticeship to PhD," says UOIT president Tim McTiernan. "I would see it happening within the next two or three years," says Durham College president Don Lovisa. While it is possible for students to transition between the 2 now, the new model would make it a quicker process, Lovisa adds. Durham Region News

Recruitment of international students a priority for BC PSE institutions

International students are a vital source of revenue for BC's PSE institutions, which have adopted a number of approaches in order to attract them. These include implementing support systems for students, recruiting through social media, and tailoring courses to international students. "We have a recruitment team that visits more than 1,000 schools in a year," says the director of international student initiative at UBC. She says that social media platforms and e-recruitment efforts are increasingly vital to attracting students from abroad. The British Columbia Institute of Technology uses a bridging program that allows landed immigrants in industries such as engineering and accounting to use their credentials in the province. And in some cases, international students are needed to prop up courses in areas where industry demand is small, such as the aerospace industry. Vancouver Sun

UNBC cannot graduate students fast enough to meet demand

Unprecedented economic expansion in BC's northwest, coupled with the baby boomers' continued exodus from the workplace, means skilled workers are needed more than ever in the area. The University of Northern British Columbia has been evolving rapidly to meet the area's industry demands. While once thought of as an institution that could provide mainly skilled workers, UNBC is now much more than just an institution that churns out trades workers. Disciplines such as business, health sciences, education, environmental sciences, and governance have become just as in-demand as programs in the trades and applied sciences, says UNBC's VP of external relations. Degrees in medicine and related fields are also prominent and on the rise because of a shortage in doctors, nurses, and physiotherapists in northern communities. Vancouver Sun

Subcommittee formed for BC open textbook project

The BCcampus Strategic Council has chosen 16 students, faculty members, and other representatives from across BC's higher education sector to advise on the province's open textbook project. In October, BC announced the move to offer students free online, open textbooks for 40 high-enrolment and high-impact first- and second-year PSE courses. The subcommittee will provide feedback on identification and prioritization of the courses for which textbooks will be prepared, selection criteria for candidate texts and supplementary resources, call for proposals, identification of additional consultation and engagement opportunities, and quality assurance and process for updating the resources once they are published. BC News Release

McMaster to offer fall break

McMaster University's senate has approved an additional 2-day break from classes this fall, scheduled for Thursday, October 31 and Friday, November 1. The measure also imposes a moratorium on tests for Saturday, November 2. The fall break is necessary to help students tend to their own mental health, says the student union president, who promised to push for the break as part of her election platform. The university has brought in the break on a 2-year trial basis. CBC

uMoncton pursues pharmacy program

The Université de Moncton is hoping to offer New Brunswick's first pharmacy program, starting in September 2015. It would be the only French-language pharmacy program offered in Canada, outside of Quebec, and could help retain pharmacists in New Brunswick, says uMoncton's VP academic. Under the proposed plan, which would be a partnership between uMoncton and the University of Ottawa, 12 students would be accepted each year into a 2-year pre-pharmacy program, to be followed by a 4-year pharmacy program, the VP says. Students would be enrolled at uOttawa but would complete most of their work at the uMoncton campus. The institution still needs approval from Health Canada to move forward, the VP says. CBC

Overestimating academic potential major factor for student dropouts, study finds

According to a new study, learning about one's own academic ability plays a crucial role in deciding whether to drop out of college or university. The Berea Panel Study surveyed students from low-income families attending Kentucky’s Berea College -- the least expensive private college in the US. The study found that direct cost was not a significant factor when it came to the decision to drop out. "A large part is contributed to the academic or grade performance being worse than they expected; they just weren't prepared," says one of the study's authors. “When people do badly, they don't want to stick around, even if they didn't get kicked out." Overestimating academic performance and the inability to adjust grade expectations were also seen as contributing factors. Western News

Paper proposes ranking colleges by students' "revealed preferences"

In a new paper published in The Quarterly Journal of Economics, 4 researchers propose a method of ranking PSE institutions according to students' "revealed preferences" -- the institutions they choose to go to over others that have admitted them. Using survey data from a US sample of high-achieving students, the researchers determined the winners and losers of each applicant's "matriculation tournament." The researchers then used those outcomes to rank approximately 100 selective institutions. The paper proposes an alternative to the 2 most prominent measures of desirability -- admission rates (the percentage of applicants accepted) and yield (the percentage of accepted students who enrol). Although valued by college guides, those measures are subject to manipulation. For example, rejecting applicants whom an institution deems overqualified and, therefore, unlikely to enrol can make that institution look more desirable. The researchers suggest the revealed-preferences model does not reward such strategies. The paper concludes the desirability model "eliminates incentives for colleges to adopt strategic and inefficient admissions policies to improve their rankings." The Chronicle of Higher Education (free access)