Top Ten

April 9, 2013

RMC governance needs "re-balancing," says CAUT commission report

Frozen promotions, scaled-back programs, and jeopardized academic jobs at Royal Military College -- Canada's only federally-run university -- have sparked growing concerns that its academic quality could be under threat, and that a climate of cutbacks might drive RMC back to its technical roots. A new report issued by a commission established by the Canadian Association of University Teachers argues that RMC's leaders have had their power to shape its academic experience slowly stripped away. The report argues that civil servants are running RMC more like a government department than a university, damaging morale and making it more difficult to recruit and retain leading academics from civilian institutions. The report makes 35 detailed recommendations, including giving the RMC principal authority over a separate academic budget outside Department of National Defence influence, addressing a "lack of trust" in governance, and giving the board of governors more sway and greater representation from within the university. The report argues that government-initiated measures such as workforce adjustments and a push to refocus academic programs to reflect core military requirements run counter to proper university governance. It notes the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada, of which RMC is a member, requires that academic staff have authority over programs, while the board controls administration, finances, and hiring. But RMC's board "presently has no authority over financial matters and only limited authority over academic matters," says the report. A spokesperson for Defence Minister Peter MacKay, who serves as RMC's chancellor, says the university and Canadian Forces will "take the necessary time to study the report and consider its recommendations before providing further comment." CAUT News | Globe and Mail | Report

New tuition cap to cost uWindsor $20 million

A 3% cap on tuition increases set by the Ontario government will cost the University of Windsor $20 million over the next 4 years and force immediate additional spending constraints on the cash-strapped university. That is the analysis offered by president Alan Wildeman, who says the new tuition-increase ceiling will result in an approximate loss of $2 million in expected revenue for 2013-14. Wildeman says it comes at a time when uWindsor is also facing another $1-million cut in provincial operating grants for the next academic year as its share of the province's "efficiency reductions" to institutions. A similar grant cut is also expected in 2014-15, Wildeman says. How uWindsor will make up the shortfall is unclear. Wildeman says that while it is too early to speculate on the possibility of layoffs, the next round of collective bargaining may see administration considering wage and benefit concessions. Windsor Star

Alberta minister says collaboration no threat to PSE institutions

Alberta Advanced Education Minister Thomas Lukaszuk says the province's PSE institutions should not be threatened by closer collaboration under the Campus Alberta umbrella. As students, faculty, and opposition parties continue to raise concerns about funding cuts issued in the provincial budget and question the impact that mandate letters will have on the future of the province's 26 PSE institutions, the minister says he is puzzled over questions about Campus Alberta. Lukaszuk says advanced education ministers have been encouraging collaboration under Campus Alberta for a decade. "The fact it's a novel idea to some, either they have selective memory or they simply haven't participated in those discussions to the level they should have," he says. "This is nothing threatening." The Confederation of Alberta Faculty Associations says the mandate letters along with the push for tighter Campus Alberta collaboration with a focus on the province's economic agenda "amounts to a full-on attack on the independence and integrity of our institutions." Meanwhile, the Edmonton Journal reports that the University of Alberta has proposed a new Alberta Institute of Advanced Technology, a "unique" non-degree-granting institute that would produce new technologies, patents, skilled knowledge workers and companies. It calls for a $1-billion operating budget and proposes a partnership with uAlberta, uCalgary, uLethbridge, NAIT, and SAIT Polytechnic, which would all have satellites of the institute on their campuses. Edmonton Journal

Entire faculties could be eliminated, warns uAlberta academic staff association president

University of Alberta officials are warning that entire programs, even faculties, could be cut to make up for multimillion-dollar budget cuts. Back in March, uAlberta began planning for a $65-million decrease over 2 years. The president of the university's Association of Academic Staff (AASUA) says if the university is not impacted by the cuts this year, next year it will because a number of people could lose their jobs. "We could be looking at entire faculties closing, many programs closing," she says. "This is a rapid and major downsizing of the entire post-secondary system." The AASUA says a number of educators and researchers at uAlberta are already looking at other places to go -- and some are concerned students may not want to go to the institution in the future. CTV

Algonquin College building campus in Kuwait

Algonquin College is adding Kuwait to its growing list of nations where it has established a partnership designed to export its applied training expertise while generating revenue for its Canadian campuses. "The shovel is in the ground now, so it's beyond a hypothesis," says Algonquin president Kent MacDonald of the new 140,000-square-foot campus in Kuwait City, which is being constructed by a private firm with which the college has signed a 5-year MOU. The collection of 3-storey facilities will include classrooms, offices, an auditorium, a cafeteria, and a mosque. Beginning in September 2014, the Algonquin Canadian College of Kuwait will offer students a 48-week foundation program designed to prepare them for 2-year college programs that will launch the following year. By 2017, the college hopes to have at least 1,000 full-time students enrolled. The MOU will see the Kuwait partner construct the campus and employ the faculty, and Algonquin expects to generate as much as $1 million annually through tuition and by providing curriculum, quality assurance, training, and other services. Ottawa Citizen

TRU to set, measure learning outcomes

Thompson Rivers University is embarking on an institution-wide initiative on learning outcomes that will have 2 goals: to establish learning outcomes for every TRU program and course; and to measure how well students are actually achieving these outcomes. The process at TRU will be guided by a Learning Outcomes and Assessment Advisory Committee and managed through TRU's Centre for Student Engagement and Learning Innovation. The committee, which will include faculty and staff, will begin its work immediately. It will review different approaches to developing a learning outcomes and assessment plan in order to determine an appropriate process for the university. The committee will also work with faculties and departments to incorporate any learning outcomes that they may have already established. At the same time, the centre will support faculties, departments, and individual faculty members by offering trained facilitators, resources, and other tools to allow for the development of learning outcomes and assessment for specific courses and programs. TRU News

Students who delay PSE entry not hindered in job market, study finds

New research from the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario observes that delaying entry into PSE has no significant impact on the performance of graduates once they enter the labour market. The report found that students who delay attending PSE fared just as well as direct entrants in most measures, including unemployment rate, working in a job related to their field of study, being overqualified for their job, and annual earnings. However, delayers, especially those with a long delay, make different program choices than do direct entrants, the study found. Delayers were more likely to attend college, and those who did attend university were more likely to pursue liberal arts programs. Due to the growth in the number of students delaying entry to PSE and Ontario's overall attainment goals, the report's author argues that delayers cannot be considered a marginal group in the province's PSE system and should be of great interest to policymakers. Research Summary | Full Report

Province should avoid PSE cuts, says uManitoba president

Writing for the Winnipeg Free Press, University of Manitoba president David Barnard writes that in recent budgets, the Manitoba government has shown wisdom in recognizing the benefits of multi-year, predictable funding for higher education. But the optimism in the province and at uManitoba is tempered by the fiscal challenges faced by the province, the university's largest funding partner, writes Barnard. The government is currently forecasting a $567-million deficit for 2012-13, and is dealing with similar problems in the upcoming and future budgets. As vice-chairman of AUCC, Barnard says he is aware other provinces have cut their PSE investment to PSE to deal with their own fiscal challenges. "This is tempting but short-sighted, and the Selinger government should avoid cuts to post-secondary education as it makes the final decision on the financial blueprint for the province," Barnard writes. He says investments in PSE are critical to Manitoba's future because they address the full breadth of the province's strategic priorities, such as health care, poverty, and the environment. "The true Manitoba advantage is our people and we must take advantage of this tremendous natural resource," writes Barnard. "We have achieved significant momentum together. This is a time to continue moving forward." Winnipeg Free Press

BC moves forward with free online textbooks initiative

Textbooks for some of the most popular first- and second-year PSE subject areas in BC are expected online by September. Last fall, the province announced the move to become the first Canadian province to offer students free online, open textbooks for the 40 most popular subject areas. Those subjects have now been identified and the project will move to a phased implementation that will result in 10 to 20 of the open textbooks available online by this fall. BC News Release

New Ryerson/York U education program a first in Canada

Ryerson University's School of Early Childhood Studies and York University's Faculty of Education have partnered to offer a concurrent BA in early childhood studies and BEd available to first-year Ryerson students beginning this fall. The program -- the first of its kind in Canada -- prepares students to have a thorough knowledge of education from preschool to age 12. First-year students enrolled in Ryerson's BA in Early Childhood Studies program can apply during the winter term for the BEd at York U with concurrent courses starting as early as the student's second year. Graduates will receive 2 credentials through the 5-year program, qualifying them to teach at the kindergarten, primary, and junior levels. The program will be housed at Ryerson with York U faculty teaching on-site. Ryerson/York U News Release