Top Ten

March 26, 2013

Layoffs at Athabasca U

Athabasca University will lay off 44 people due to cuts in provincial funding. The board of governors passed a budget last Friday for the new fiscal year that also eliminates 34 vacant positions and will see an extra 35 employees leaving voluntarily through Athabasca U's Career Transition Program. University officials say the provincial funding cut translates to a revenue shortfall of about $3.7 million and that leaves the institution with no choice but to cut jobs. "We had counted, as had all the post-secondaries, on a two per cent increase in this year's operating grant as promised in last year's provincial budget," says Athabasca U president Frits Pannekoek. "We were instead surprised with a deep cut and we have been left with no other choice than to eliminate positions." Edmonton Journal | CBC

No increase in funding for NB public universities, community colleges

Tabling its 2013-14 budget yesterday, the New Brunswick government announced no increase in funding to public universities, New Brunswick Community College, and Coll├Ęge communautaire du Nouveau-Brunswick with the expectation that they continue to seek operational efficiencies. The province says any tuition increases will be capped at $150. NB News Release

NL maintains tuition freeze

In partnership with PSE institutions, the Newfoundland and Labrador government, which tabled its 2013 budget yesterday, is investing more than $466 million this year in new and continuing funding to enhance skills, training, and opportunity. With an additional investment of $3.8 million this year, the province will enable Memorial University to continue its tuition freeze for the 2013-14 academic year, and the tuition freeze at College of the North Atlantic also remains in effect. With a continued investment of $19 million, the government will maintain up-front needs-based grants and interest-free loans it introduced several years ago, and with another investment of $3 million, the province will continue to provide debt-reduction grants to graduates. To help meet demand for skilled workers and enable more to share in the opportunities, the province is providing a further $5.2 million to support apprenticeship and trades. NL Budget

Staff cuts on the horizon at UNBC

The University of Northern British Columbia's board has approved a $68.4-million balanced operating budget for the 2013-14 academic year, which will mean another 2% tuition increase, higher monthly parking fees, and staff cuts. UNBC president George Iwama says that while the institution continues to seek other revenue sources, static enrolment numbers and reduced levels of government funding over the past 4 years have left the board with no choice but to download some of the increased operating costs onto students. 3 full-time non-faculty staff will be laid off and one vacant faculty position will be eliminated. Prince George Citizen

More job cuts at uSask

The University of Saskatchewan has announced further job cuts to address a projected $44.5-milion operating budget shortfall. Up to 100 staff members are expected to receive layoff notices in the coming weeks. The job losses continue to affect unionized and non-unionized staff in administrative and support positions. Layoffs in January and February resulted in $2.3 million in annual savings. uSask News

Alberta budget "catalyst for change" in PSE system

The Alberta government is forging ahead with a "non-negotiable" overhaul of the province's PSE system, sending out the first drafts of mandate letters to top university officials outlining expectations under the new guise of Campus Alberta. Calling the recent budget a "catalyst for change," Advanced Education Minister Thomas Lucaszuk serves up some ideas about a streamlined PSE sector. "You don't want to have five mediocre engineering schools," he says. "You're better off having two really good engineering schools." Lukaszuk also contests the value of having 8 education faculties -- with 8 individualized programs, administrations, and content licences -- in which credits don't transfer seamlessly between institutions. Specific details on how programs and services will be affected are expected to be hashed out by the time government and PSE officials meet next month. Calgary Herald

uAlberta board decries budget cuts in open letter to premier

In an open letter to Alberta Premier Alison Redford, the University of Alberta's board of governors warns the institution will be "set back by many years" by the major cuts announced in the provincial budget. The board wanted to make clear it continues to be committed to uAlberta's goal of a "top global public university" and building a high-quality PSE system, despite the cuts, says the board chairman. The letter came out the same day the province released "letters of expectation" to all PSE institutions calling for much closer co-operation under the Campus Alberta banner. The uAlberta mandate letter is "not out of line" with what the institution is doing, the board chairman says. "But the trick is doing it in the face of major budget cuts." Edmonton Journal | uAlberta Blog

Nearly 300 arrested on anniversary of student protest in Montreal

Montreal police arrested 294 people Friday during a protest to underline the anniversary of a massive rally that marked a turning point in last year's Quebec student movement. Police quickly stepped in to disperse the crowd and arrested several people under the municipal bylaw "concerning the prevention of breaches of the peace, public order and safety and the use of public property." Authorities say most people who were arrested were fined $654 for walking against the designated flow of traffic. No one was kept in custody. Several demonstrators criticized the police force's attitude toward protests, saying authorities demand that crowds disperse too quickly without giving them the chance to get their message across. CBC

Researchers protest Canada's new confidentiality rule

On his personal blog, a University of Delaware oceanographer protested a new rule from Fisheries and Oceans Canada that limits how its scientists -- and those they collaborate with -- are allowed to make their findings public. Scientists and advocacy groups within and outside Canada say the confidentiality rule is the latest in a long line of troubling efforts by the federal government to limit public access to government-sponsored research in environmental and natural-resources studies. Until now, concerns have centred on the restrictions facing scientists who work directly for the government, but the US oceanographer has put the spotlight on how the rules affect university scientists as well. Some Canadian university scientists say they plan to scrutinize their new agreements with researchers at Fisheries and Oceans Canada or other agencies. The Chronicle of Higher Education (subscription required)

Ryerson engineering students face discipline over half-naked slush crawl

A Ryerson University engineering tradition has drawn criticism after a video of scantily dressed students crawling through slush was posted on YouTube. Engineering students say Ryerson president Sheldon Levy is overreacting by likening an annual Ryerson Engineering Student Society (RESS) event to a form of hazing. Levy called the event "completely unacceptable" and not representative of the "principles of civil society, and the positive and supportive culture of Ryerson." The RESS says the "voluntary" event builds school spirit, help engineering students bond, and even calling it an "initiation" is wrong. RESS's president does acknowledge that this year's event, which took place last Thursday, "started to get out of hand," and that "there are certain things that we know that happened that were clearly unacceptable." Ryerson leaders met with the RESS yesterday to discuss the incident and, depending on the meeting's outcome, some students could face discipline. Globe and Mail | Toronto Star

Postscript: Mar 27, 2013

Ryerson University engineering students have apologized for engaging in an event involving scantily clad participants crawling around in slush, and will not be punished for the event, which drew criticism from president Sheldon Levy. Students at Monday's meeting about the event proposed guidelines for future events to be approved by administration. Senior staff will work with students to recommend a risk-management plan. Toronto Star | Globe and Mail

uCalgary unveils new international strategy

The University of Calgary announced Monday a new international strategy, a key step forward in its strategic direction. A key target is boosting the number of international students on campus to 10% of the undergraduate population and 25% of the graduate population by 2016. Another target is providing opportunities for 50% of all students to have an international experience as part of their studies. The international strategy includes 4 key goals: increase the diversity of campus communities; improve global and cross-cultural competencies within campus communities; enhance opportunities for international collaborations and partnerships in research and education; and leverage uCalgary's unique areas of expertise to engage in international development. UToday

UBC to close College for Interdisciplinary Studies

As UBC's College for Interdisciplinary Studies prepares to close its doors on October 1, students in a handful of graduate science programs will soon have a full-service faculty to call home. Starting in September, the college's interdisciplinary programs, such as bioinformatics, oncology, and software systems, will be transferred to either the Faculty of Science, Medicine, or Applied Science. The college was founded in 2006 in order to maintain department-spanning research units and provide graduate programs for students who wished to focus on more than one field of study. But the research units were brought over to individual faculties last year, and the college's principal says it is no longer worthwhile for UBC to maintain the stand-alone graduate programs. The principal stresses that while the change will involve some shifts in administration, it will have very little effect on the overall course of students' degrees. CfIS Principal Message | The Ubyssey (student newspaper)

OACC outlines priorities for next Ontario budget

In its provincial pre-budget submission, the Ontario Association of Career Colleges recommends that the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs includes changes to fiscal policies which the association argues "treat career college students inequitably, and in fact serve as barriers to access to career college programs of study for many students for whom a career college is the best choice." OACC also recommends that career college students who meet all other eligible criteria immediately be granted access to the province's 30% tuition grant, and that the tuition cap under the Second Career program either be raised from $10,000 to $14,000, or applied universally and equitably to career college and community college students. OACC News Release | Pre-Budget Submission

Auditor to probe how uRegina commercializes research

A Saskatchewan auditor has launched a review of the University of Regina's relationships with outside entities such as companies and government agencies. The auditor's office is also examining how uRegina commercializes research conducted at the university. Auditors have been on site at uRegina going through its files. The audit follows a series of news reports over the past month dealing with uRegina and alleged conflicts of interest. CBC

Alternative NS Budget proposes tuition-fee reduction

In its Alternative Provincial Budget, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives-Nova Scotia's PSE-related actions include reducing tuition fees for Nova Scotia Community College by 50% (estimated cost is $16 million) and reversing funding cuts to universities and reducing university tuition fees by 10% ($30 million). The alternative budget proposes a $5.8-million investment in arts-based education and ensuring NSCAD University remains autonomous. Other actions include eliminating the Graduate Retention Rebate and debt cap program, covering 100% of the provincial portion of a student's loan as a grant, establishing standard financial reporting procedures for universities, and reviewing the legislation of each university and, with stakeholders, developing criteria for boards of governors membership. CCPA News Release | Alternative NS Budget

McGill senate approves revised protocol on demonstrations

Last week McGill University's senate approved a revised Statement of Principles Concerning Freedom of Expression and Freedom of Peaceful Assembly. After a lengthy discussion, a failed attempt to table it and a failed amendment, the motion to approve the statement passed by a large margin. The senate also discussed a document outlining Operating Procedures, which spells out how McGill would respond to events such as demonstrations or occupations. Several senators voiced concerns about ways in which the statement and procedures could restrict protest on campus and questioned the need for them. The provost noted that the arts and law deans said establishing a protocol and statement of values would reflect best practices at other universities. The statement will go to the board of governors for approval on April 26. McGill Reporter

Fix education so people are not without jobs, conference told

Experts at a conference Monday hosted by the Canadian Council of Chief Executives warned that Canada must fix its educational system to ensure that a looming demographics shift doesn't result in a "people without jobs and jobs without people" scenario. According to former Seneca College president Rick Miner, by 2036 those under the age of 15 and over the age of 65 will represent 65% of the Canadian population, compared to 44% in 2010. These demographic changes can be mitigated by getting more individuals into the workforce who have been traditionally under-represented, including Aboriginal people, immigrants, and women. Miner also believes there needs to be a revamp of PSE, where institutions must work together. Others at the conference cautioned that preparing students for the jobs of tomorrow is difficult, especially given that 25% of today's jobs didn't exist 30 years ago. Experts also warned that job demands can fluctuate dramatically, so governments and educational institutions must react carefully to address shortages. Toronto Star

uWindsor Nursing launches new strategic plan

A new strategic plan for the University of Windsor's Faculty of Nursing provides a roadmap to the future, says the faculty's dean, who unveiled the document at a celebratory reception last Thursday. The strategic plan sets forth values of caring, excellence, innovation, professionalism, and respect, and identifies objectives toward 5 key goals: to direct excellence in nursing practice by delivering quality-driven nursing education; to achieve national and international recognition for excellence in research and scholarship; to engage stakeholders in strong collaborative relationships; to be recognized for excellence in teaching, practice, research, and community relationships; and to ensure sustainability through the strategic management of resources. uWindsor Daily News

Canada seeks greater share of international-student market

The number of PSE students studying internationally has grown more than four-fold since 1975 -- and Canada wants a greater portion of that market. There is stiff competition among major English-speaking nations for overseas talent who also generally pay full tuition -- particularly as institutions face budget cuts. "Canadian universities are recognizing what it takes to recruit internationally," says Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada president Paul Davidson. "We need a strong national brand proposition, because when international students are choosing a university, they look at the country first, the kind of institution second and the kind of program third." Federal policies are making it easier to recruit overseas. "The government of Canada really assists the post-secondary sector with its fairly progressive policies with regard to working off campus and post-graduation work," says the director of the University of Toronto's Centre for International Experience. "They are helping to put Canada on the map." New York Times

Ontario MTCU moves forward with Mental Health Innovation Fund

The Ontario Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities announced yesterday that 10 projects from across the province are moving forward in round one of the Mental Health Innovation Fund, including an Ontario-wide, 24-hour-a-day, 365-days-a-year helpline to provide support for PSE students with mental health concerns. Kids Help Phone is working with PSE institutions on the service, which is expected to be in place within the year. MTCU will start accepting proposals from PSE institutions for the second round of the fund later this year. Ontario News Release