Top Ten

March 18, 2013

uRegina suing over "misappropriated" carbon capture technology

The University of Regina is suing 2 private companies -- Regina-based HTC Purenergy and South Korea-based Doosan -- alleging they have unjustly claimed exclusive rights to carbon capture technology developed at uRegina and are refusing to pay royalties. Both companies have filed countersuits against uRegina. HTC alleges the institution harmed it because the university "engaged in a relentless course of actions designed to fundamentally alter the terms of the license agreement." Doosan claims uRegina was trying to cancel its deal and was engaged in "underhanded, outrageous and unlawful conduct" and "shows a wanton disregard for Doosan's rights." None of the parties' allegations has been proven in court. CBC

Alberta students, faculty protest PSE spending cuts

Hundreds of students, faculty, and others gathered outside the Alberta legislature Friday evening to protest PSE spending cuts and the potential impact on academic freedom in the province. The protest began with a march from the University of Alberta to the legislature, with the crowd chanting slogans like "No ifs, ands, or buts, no education cuts" and carrying signs reading "Knowledge is not a commodity" and "Lukaszuk went to Vietnam and all we got was this lousy budget." Premier Alison Redford and Advanced Education Minister Thomas Lukaszuk will attend a 3-day uAlberta retreat in Banff in mid-April to come up with a plan to deal with the $48-million funding cut. Lukaszuk says he's pleased to go to the retreat to look at longer-term plans. He also says the protest march on the legislature is "a healthy sign that shows political engagement, and that's good." Edmonton Journal

McMaster broadens involvement in MAPS activities

McMaster University is asserting more control over the troubled McMaster Association of Part-time Students, which dropped its executive director and entire board due to a spending scandal. McMaster has decided to take over vetting and approval of MAPS-sponsored bursaries for part-time students. The process of reviewing and managing bursary applications was "one of the items identified for improvement" in a confidential university review of MAPS's financial practices, says a McMaster spokesman. The university is also seeking a representative on MAPS's board, an idea that is a sore spot for some new board members. The spokesman says McMaster may settle for "observer" status on the board, but adds the matter is still under negotiation. "We want to ensure broader university involvement." Hamilton Spectator

uAlberta sexual minority studies institute launches $5-million fundraising campaign

The University of Alberta's Institute for Sexual Minority Studies and Services has kicked off a $5-million fundraising campaign to expand Camp fYrefly and research. Launched Friday, the campaign has already received a $500,000 contribution from the Stollery Charitable Foundation. The foundation will put $50,000 of that money into an endowment fund each time another donor contributes $50,000. The endowment will provide stable core operating funding for the institute. Camp fYrefly is a retreat for sexual- and gender-minority youth that teaches leadership and resilience through trained youth workers and educators. Since launching in Edmonton a decade ago, it has expanded to Calgary and Saskatoon. The fundraising campaign aims to build camps across Canada. uAlberta News | Edmonton Journal

Rise of start-ups prompt universities to teach entrepreneurship

In recent years, Canadian universities have started to update their curriculum to support an increasing number of students who want to work for themselves once they graduate. Ryerson University president Sheldon Levy says PSE institutions must realize their "responsibility" in fostering and supporting students who want to launch small and medium-sized companies. In 2010 Ryerson launched its Digital Media Zone, out of whose offices 75 start-ups have worked. 67 of those have become registered companies, creating more than 650 jobs. In the past, Levy says, small and medium-sized start-ups were typically based in blue-collar sectors, under the privy of trades colleges. Now, many of these firms are in "knowledge-based" areas, due in part to lower start-up costs, and universities should be prepared to help their graduates get their companies off the ground. Levy says that although universities have to carve out their niche, it's not a one-size-fits-all mentality for what PSE institutions can do to promote entrepreneurship. Canadian Press

Companies helping colleges design new programs

Canadian colleges have long had a cozy relationship with companies and industries, with a goal of driving economic growth and funnelling students into vacant positions. But with a worsening skilled-labour shortage, concerned companies are coaxing colleges into ever closer and more creative partnerships. In some instances, they're even helping design new programs. That's what launched the energy-asset management program at SAIT Polytechnic. Energy firms were seeking workers with a broad understanding of the oil business, but that type of interdisciplinary education didn't exist, at least not in North America. "They saw the skill shortage and what people call 'the great crew change': baby boomers retiring and a lack of people coming into the industry," says SAIT's VP of academics. So major players in the energy sector formed the Centre for Energy Asset Management Studies and sent out a request for proposals for a new program, which SAIT won. Colleges and companies are also working closely to respond to major contracts, one example being the National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy. Despite alliances, college officials insist they maintain academic independence. No one company gains a stranglehold on a campus or its students, they argue, in part thanks to policies that welcome simultaneous funding from rivals. Maclean's On Campus

Algoma U delays extending BA program to Brockville

At the request of the Ontario Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities, Algoma University will delay implementation of its proposed BA programming in Brockville. Algoma U's BA program in St. Thomas prompted a request from Brockville's mayor last fall to deliver a similar program in his city. A study determined that a Brockville operation would be feasible and desirable, and Algoma U was looking to start instruction this September. The ministry asked Algoma U to not proceed with this initiative pending the negotiation of a strategic mandate agreement to define the university's role in the provincial university system, says president Richard Myers. Algoma U will continue working with Brockville and the province with the objective of having a clear decision by this summer for an extension program in Brockville starting in September 2014. Algoma U News

Ontario teacher education applications down more than 13%

New data from the Ontario Universities' Application Centre show that as of March 6, there are 26,799 applications to teacher education programs at Ontario universities, down 13.6% from the 31,002 applications recorded in March 2012. The number of applicants for this month totals 8,997, down from 10,343 a year ago. OUAC Teacher Education Application Statistics -- March 2013

Study finds tablets beneficial in college developmental writing course

New research published by the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario reports that when used in a college developmental writing course, tablet devices improved attendance, participation, and performance. Examining the impact of tablets in a non-credit developmental writing course at Seneca College, the study found that over 3 semesters, students using tablets had grades nearly 3% higher than their counterparts and attended 4% more classes. Faculty teaching the course reported that the tablets were valuable for demonstrating exemplary student work and helping to set standards for student achievement. They also cited the tablets' value for one-on-one tutorials and note-taking. In a student survey, all respondents reported that having the devices in class improved their learning experience compared to other English courses. Research Summary | Full Report

Chronicle surveys MOOC profs

In a Chronicle of Higher Education survey of 103 professors who have taught massive open online courses (MOOCs), nearly half of respondents said their online courses were as rigorous academically as the versions they taught in the classroom. Many professors teaching MOOCs have a positive outlook: asked whether they believe MOOCs "are worth the hype," 79% said yes. Most respondents felt that MOOCs should be integrated into the traditional system of credit and degrees. Two-thirds believe these courses will drive down the cost of earning a degree from their home institutions, and an overwhelming majority believe that MOOCs will make college less expensive in general. Respondents reported a variety of motivations for diving into MOOCs. The most frequently cited reason was altruism -- a desire to increase access to PSE worldwide. The Chronicle of Higher Education (free access