Top Ten

March 19, 2013

Delivering balanced budget will be difficult, says UPEI president

The University of Prince Edward Island is facing challenges in trying to balance its budget, but that does not mean there will be big program cuts, says president Alaa Abd-El-Aziz. He says UPEI's budget committee is not ruling anything out when it comes to balancing the books. A lot of UPEI's costs are fixed, such as salaries that are set for the next few years. What is not known is how much the province will award as an operating grant, which Abd-El-Aziz says makes up about half of UPEI's budget. The province is expected to freeze spending in all departments for the next 2 years, which makes it unlikely UPEI will get any extra money when PEI tables its budget next week. Even with government support, Abd-El-Aziz says, UPEI is still facing tough decisions, although he wants to make sure the institution stays focused on students and the quality of education they receive. "At this point I will say no, there is no slashing of programs." Charlottetown Guardian

Ontario education system "badly managed," says St. Clair president

St. Clair College president John Strasser describes Ontario's education sector as "badly, badly managed." The PSE system in Canada is outdated, he says. "I belive the days of simply going and getting a university degree and then a good job are over." Strasser says the number of university graduates enrolling at St. Clair is "dramatically on the rise" -- 5% of enrolment is now students who have graduated from university. "Students coming into a (post-secondary school) system have to be looking at getting a job. If you're not trying to establish a system to accomplish that at the end, you're doing a disservice to the students," Strasser says. "It is all about getting a job. We have an obligation to people finishing high school to provide them something that will help them get along in life." CBC

Suspension of MRU engineering program criticized

Mount Royal University's decision to suspend its engineering transfer program due to provincial budget cuts is being criticized. The program gave students a non-traditional path into engineering, allowing them to catch up on their marks before transferring to programs at other universities. "We served students who needed to start part-time rather than full-time or whose marks were not quite high enough to get into the big schools but would still have a very good chance of becoming great engineers," wrote one instructor to CBC News. At least 4 jobs will likely be lost over the next 2 years due to the program suspension, says MRU's faculty association president. The instructor notes the program cost less per student than training engineers exclusively at the Universities of Alberta and Calgary. "Ironically, the government wants universities to be more coordinated and less redundant, and to focus on programs that will build the economy. Mount Royal's engineering program was/did all of these things -- perhaps more than any other program at Mount Royal." CBC

uManitoba opens new arctic research facility

The University of Manitoba held a ribbon-cutting ceremony Monday for the Nellie Cournoyea Arctic Research Facility in the institution's Clayton H. Riddell Faculty of Environment, Earth, and Resources. Construction of the $15-million facility began 2 years ago after Ridell donated $2.5 million toward it. The Wallace Building, the faculty's home, is now 5 storeys as a floor was added to house the 60,000-square-feet of specialized labs, state-of-the-art instruments, and classrooms in the arctic research facility. The space accommodates the influx of graduate students and researchers coming to uManitoba as a result of the Canada Excellence Research Chair in Arctic Geomicrobiology and Climate Change. uManitoba News

uSask launches $40,000 community-engagement scholarships for PhD students

The University of Saskatchewan announced Monday a new $40,000 community-engagement scholarship for PhD students, the first of kind at the institution and unique among other U15 universities. "The scholarship will support a dissertation project that is of interest to a community partner," says a uSask official. "This means the community partner will play an active role in helping design, deliver and evaluate the research project to ensure it is meaningful both to the community and to the student’s academic study." The successful candidate will receive $20,000 per year for 2 years, along with $1,500 in annual research travel funding. The official believes the scholarship will help uSask continue to attract top graduate students. uSask News Release

VCC, BCIT, SFU sign student mobility agreement

Earlier this month, the British Columbia Institute of Technology, Simon Fraser University, and Vancouver Community College signed a trilateral agreement designed to better enable and encourage student mobility between institutions. The 3 institutions are opening doors to share expertise, remove barriers that might exist from one institution to the next, and explore new methods of program development, which could lead to more laddering opportunities for students or joint program delivery. Working together may also include the possibility of shared resources and facilities to ensure that all students -- whether enrolled at VCC, BCIT, or SFU -- are learning in the best possible environment and afforded the highest chance of success. VCC News

Yukon College receives nearly $2 million for mobile trades trailer

Professional trades training will soon be offered in communities across Yukon with the help of $1.8 million in funding from Yukon Education and the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency toward the purchase of a mobile training lab and supply trailer for industrial trades instruction through Yukon College. The 53-foot-long trailer will have expandable sides to provide 1,048 square feet of instructional space. It will be outfitted for classes in electrical, piping, millwright, and welding, with an onboard diesel generator to provide power for heating, lighting, equipment, and wireless Internet. Yukon News Release

Ottawa invests in petroleum sector training at Lakeland

Through Western Economic Diversification Canada, the federal government is providing Lakeland College with $948,450 to acquire specialized simulators and equipment for its Heavy Oil Operator Technology and Heavy Oil Power Engineer processing programs. These programs will provide students with the opportunity to gain advanced heavy oil knowledge that is directly relevant to industry, as well as process and operational knowledge of a Steam Assisted Gravity Drainage processing plant. WEDC News Release

UoGuelph vet school teaching, research featured in new promotional video

The University of Guelph's Ontario Veterinary College will be featured in a new promotional video airing on public television channels in the US this spring. The 8-minute video highlights OVC teaching and research facilities, and includes interviews with UoGuelph president Alastair Summerlee, OVC dean Elizabeth Stone, faculty, students, and graduates. Summerlee commissioned the video to mark OVC's 150th anniversary in 2012 and its many achievements. Stone says the project is "an opportunity to help spread the word about OVC, especially how the college is helping shape the future of veterinary education and research, to a new and diverse audience." UoGuelph Campus Bulletin

US education department endorses competency-based education

The US Department of Education has endorsed competency-based education with a letter that encourages interested PSE institutions to pursue federal approval for degree programs that do not rely on the credit hour to measure student learning. Department officials said Monday they will soon give a green light to Southern New Hampshire University's College for America, which would be the first to attempt the "direct assessment" of learning -- meaning no connection to the credit hour -- and also be eligible for participation in federal financial aid programs. "This is a key step forward in expanding access to affordable higher education," says the US secretary of state. "We know many students and adult learners across the country need the flexibility to fit their education into their lives or work through a class on their own pace, and these competency-based programs offer those features." Inside Higher Ed