Top Ten

March 21, 2013

$14 million more for PSE operating funding in Saskatchewan

The Saskatchewan government's 2013-14 budget provides a $14.3 million increase in base operating funds with a 3.1% increase for technical institutes and an average 2.1% increase for universities, federated and affiliated colleges, and regional colleges. University leaders in the province say the figures are close to what they expected. SIAST president Larry Rosia is pleased with the funding increase for technical institutes because it will help meet provincial demand for trades graduates. The budget also provides more than $117 million in direct student supports, up by 20% over last year. Saskatchewan News Release | uSask News Release | Regina Leader-Post | Saskatoon Star-Phoenix

uCalgary to freeze senior executive salaries

In response to the current fiscal situation in Alberta, the University of Calgary will freeze salaries for its senior executives, including the president and vice-presidents, effective July 1, 2013 through to June 30, 2014. The university hopes to save $500,000 over the coming year with the salary freeze. uCalgary held a town hall meeting yesterday and will hold another one next Wednesday to discuss the impact of the budget reduction on the institution. UToday | Calgary Herald

Windsor panel explores value of PSE

The gap between skills and jobs was the focus of debate at CBC Windsor's town hall Wednesday evening at the University of Windsor. Panellists included uWindsor president Alan Wildeman, St. Clair College president John Strasser, economist and former professor Mark Meldrum, and Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance president Rylan Kinnon. None of the panellists suggested anyone should be guaranteed a job after PSE, no matter what they study; however, Strasser said giving students marketable skills should be the goal. Wildeman defended academic degrees, but did say that industry does need to help universities gear their programs to the job market. All panellists agreed that a PSE is still a valuable commodity. CBC

Concordia expanding Grey Nuns residence

The Sisters of Charity of Montreal, more commonly known as the Grey Nuns, will shortly be leaving their large property. The move, which comes 9 years earlier than originally planned, will allow Concordia University to expand its student residence on the property and develop more much-needed individual and group study space on its downtown campus. Concordia bought the Grey Nuns property in 2007 and since then most of the building's west wing has been used as a student residence. The newly vacated space will now accommodate an extra 355 student residents and up to 600 individual and group study spaces. The expanded residence will open in April 2014. The daycare facility on the property that serves the university community will stay open. Concordia News

Postscript: August 18 2014

Concordia University last week revealed to reporters the results of its expansion of the Grey Nuns’ Mother House. Concordia purchased the convent in 2007 and will re-open it as a 600-bed student residence. The university spent $15 M on the renovation to update the historic building to the meet the needs of modern students. Original windows and wrought-iron columns remain, but are now complemented by modern LED lighting. The Chapelle de l’Invention-de-la-Sainte-Croix has been turned into a silent study hall, with pews replaced by long tables. “They  were, as sisters, followers of a book and in the university, of course, we cherish the book. So the decision was to invite students and researchers to come and utilize this space, to contemplate, to read, to study in this sacred space,” said Clarence Epstein, Concordia’s Senior Director of Urban and Cultural Affairs. Montreal Gazette

UVic exploring renewable energy option for campus

As a way to reduce its carbon footprint, the University of Victoria is considering constructing a biomass thermal energy plant to heat its facilities. The university says its current heating system -- hot water generated by natural-gas-fuelled burners -- accounts for more than 70% of UVic's greenhouse gas emissions. A UVic official says the institution spends about $750,000 a year on carbon offsets and taxes on natural gas. Building a biomass fuel plant was one of the recommendations that came out of UVic's energy master plan. "It's just a feasibility study at this time, but if it's successful it could make us the greenest university in Canada," the official says. "This study will consider the technical and economic viability of a biomass energy plant as well as the opportunities for research and academic opportunities." UVic Media Tips | Saanich News

New endowment to support women pursuing technology, trades education at NSCC

Women interested in pursuing science, trades, and technology education at Nova Scotia Community College will have increased opportunity to do so with the help of a new endowment fund supported by the province and the NSCC Foundation. For the past 5 years, female students in technology, trades, and science-related fields at NSCC could apply for $1,000 bursaries, but the funding had to be secured and approved each year. This year, the province, Encana Corporation, and the Canadian Auto Workers Union are contributing a total of $25,000 for Bread and Roses bursaries. The government is also establishing a new $100,000 endowment fund to protect long-term funding for the bursary program. NSCC News Release

US report says lighter teaching loads contributing to increased college costs

A new US report argues that a decline in the teaching loads of tenured and tenure-track faculty members plays a role in the rising cost of college, driving up tuition costs by an average of $2,598 for students at 4-year colleges over a 7-year period it studied. According to the report, the average number of classes taught by tenured or tenure-track faculty member dropped by 25% from the 1987-88 to the 2003-04 academic year. If teaching loads had not become lighter, the report says, more than half of the tuition increases during that time could have been avoided. The report states colleges could produce extra revenue by increasing the teaching loads of faculty members who are not producing much research, allowing more students to be taught without increasing the number of professors. The Chronicle of Higher Education (subscription required)

Postscript: Apr 22, 2013
Education Sector and the American Council of Trustees and Alumni announced last week they are withdrawing a report issued last month claiming that faculty teaching loads had diminished substantially, contributing to the rising cost of PSE in the US. At the time of the paper's release, several faculty groups questioned the data. The announcement last week said the 2 organizations no longer felt data from 1987-88 were comparable to those from 2003-04. "[W]e cannot determine whether teaching loads for the typical professor declined, stayed the same, or increased," Education Sector's research director said in a blog post. Inside Higher Ed

Universities launch network to help humanities PhD students prepare for a career

In response to a rising number of humanities PhD graduates unable to find work in academe, 7 universities -- including Brock University -- are starting a new project to prepare students for a career that may lead them out of the classroom or into new kinds of classrooms. Known as the Praxis Network, the initiative will showcase how different PSE institutions are using innovative approaches to expand humanities education to help other institutions do the same. The network's founder says directors of the participating programs will meet this summer to discuss how to further develop the network, for example by featuring new programs that use an approach apart from the original 7. The Praxis Network is part of a larger effort undertaken by the University of Virginia-based Scholarly Communications Institute this year to evaluate how graduate programs in the humanities prepare students for life post-graduation. Inside Higher Ed | Praxis Network

Open Universities Australia establishes MOOC platform

Open Universities Australia, a private distance and online education organization, has stepped into the world of massive open online courses with a new platform called Open2Study. Courses offered through Open2Study will feature short video lectures, quizzes, student discussion forums, and the ability to earn "badges" for learning and helping other students. The platform will initially offer only 10 courses to begin on April 22. Each of these will run for 4 weeks but once up and running, up to 50 courses will be available with 10 intakes per year. The Conversation

US professors surveyed observe lack of professionalism among students

According to a survey conducted by the Center for Professional Excellence at York College of Pennsylvania, 38.3% of responding professors said they felt that fewer than half of their upper-level students exhibited qualities associated with being professional in the workplace, and nearly 37.5% reported a decrease over the past 5 years in the number of students demonstrating professionalism. Of those who viewed their students as failing to exhibit professionalism, almost 30% blamed that view on a heightened sense of entitlement among students. Declining professionalism among current college students was also attributed to a change in culture/values, declining communication skills, and a lack of motivation and focus. More than 400 professors in various disciplines at more than 330 two- and four-year institutions across the US participated in the survey. The Chronicle of Higher Education (subscription required)