Top Ten

April 25, 2013

Winnipeg campuses disrupted by bomb threat

A bomb threat Wednesday afternoon resulted in exams being postponed and the University of Winnipeg being closed overnight. A uWinnipeg official says no bomb was found during 2 searches by city police and campus security. The university reopened yesterday morning and exams are being rescheduled. "It was a non-specific threat received at Winnipeg Technical College (Wednesday) afternoon and the threat (also) implicated both ourselves and Red River College," said the uWinnipeg official, noting non-specific meant no dates, times, or exact locations were stated. The original threat came to WTC at its Erin Street campus, which was evacuated. Police searched all 3 institutions and nothing suspicious was found at any of the campuses. RRC operations continued as normal Wednesday while WTC cancelled evening classes at the Erin Street campus. Winnipeg Free Press | CBC

Northern Lakes president blames former CFO for college's financial situation

Northern Lakes College president Rick Neidig says the college is cleaning up its finances after its chief financial officer was charged with defrauding 2 charities. Neidig appeared before Alberta's Public Accounts Committee on Wednesday to detail the institution's progress in the wake of a March 2012 auditor general report that found finances were out of control. Neidig said Northern Lakes lost control of its finances under the guidance of former CFO David Pike, who was later charged with fraud and stealing. "In our case it was because we had a CFO who was bent on some fraudulent activity," Neidig said when asked how the college's finances became such a mess. "The atmosphere that was created in the finance office was setting us up for committing fraud in our own organization. Our controls were strong enough that we didn't encounter any of that, but we did encounter confusion." In addition, Neidig said Northern Lakes passed some "tight budgets where we probably cut too deep in our finance office, administratively. In hindsight, it looks pretty clear," Neidig said. "It won't happen again." Edmonton Journal

Alberta investigating whether Lakeland sign language programs can be saved

Alberta government officials say they are looking into whether 2 PSE programs for sign language set for suspension can be saved. Some members of Alberta's deaf community have responded to news that Lakeland College was suspending enrolment in 2 courses -- American Sign Language and deaf culture studies, and sign language interpretation -- with concern, stating they are important programs. They are just 2 of a total of 9 courses set for suspension in the next academic year as Lakeland attempts to address a $4-million deficit in 2013-14. Alberta's associate minister of services for persons with disabilities says the province is looking into the issue to see if anything can be done. He stresses the courses are not being completely cut as that would require approval from the government. CTV

Concordia to cut 2.5% in costs in academic units, 6.63% in other areas

During the most recent regular meeting of Concordia University's senate, the university's CFO presented an overview of the institution's current budget situation. Concordia is facing some difficult financial decisions following $26.4 million in government funding cuts spread out over the current and upcoming fiscal years. As a result of the government's pension relief measures coming to an end this year, Concordia will have to absorb an increase of about $14 million in annual pension costs starting next spring. To deal with the deficit resulting from the cuts and increased expenses, Concordia must start generating cost reductions of 2.5% in the academic sector, and 6.63% in all other areas, the CFO said. Quebec has agreed to compensate universities for the cancellation of planned tuition fee increases, and an agreement has been reached on the accounting treatment of the cuts. These 2 factors, along with the planned expense reductions, should allow Concordia to balance its budget for next year, the CFO said. Beyond that, the situation is uncertain. Concordia News

ACAD working to address $1-million budget cut

Alberta College of Art + Design president Daniel Doz says there will be no layoffs at the institution despite provincial budget cuts that will take about $1 million out of ACAD's operating revenues. Students and staff gathered yesterday in response to a call to action to develop a plan to address the cuts, but Doz says an ongoing 2-year transformation of ACAD has produced an operational structure that is more nimble and efficient. He is optimistic the structural changes, along with the exploration of new avenues for revenue generation and a reserve fund, should help ACAD ride out the financial storm. Although the institution does not own its building or receive parking revenue, Doz says ACAD could generate more funds by making its facilities more available to local artists during the summer. There is also the opportunity to raise funds by selling sponsorships of ACAD's art exhibit spaces as well as through sales of student works that in the past have generated more than $100,000 annually, Doz says. Calgary Herald

uSask moving forward with hotel project

The University of Saskatchewan is sifting through 6 bids from developers proposing to construct a hotel in the university's College Quarter sector. uSask is in the midst of developing land into a village of sorts, including more student residents, shopping and commercial space, a new daycare centre, a new hotel, and an ice arena. A uSask official says he expects the institution will choose a developer within a couple of months. He says the hotel is a priority for College Quarter because the lease will generate income for uSask. The official hopes construction will begin by early 2014, with the hotel opening in 2015. Saskatoon Star-Phoenix

UPEI offers MOOC on university experience

The University of Prince Edward Island has launched a Facebook-delivered massive open online course (MOOC) for hopeful new students, supportive parents, high school teachers, and anyone who is eager to engage and connect with some of the key concepts that make the university experience unique. Organized by current UPEI students, Experience U (XPU) gives an overview of university, offers a context for the preparations and decisions students need to make, and provides a fun and engaging way to share questions about university. Every week the 5-week course will introduce guest lectures, videos, live Q&A sessions, and some assignments. As course participants, students will get a window into the UPEI experience and get a handle on some of the "ins and outs" of succeeding at the next level. The student organizers will put together discussions based on participant questions and answers to build a survival guide to starting university. UPEI News | XPU

ClevrU acquires York U e-teaching platform

Waterloo-based tech firm ClevrU has acquired NewMindsets Inc., a company founded on online pedagogy researched and developed by 2 York University business professors that has provided educational content and services to more than 10,000 business students at York U over the past decade. Through the acquisition, ClevrU will fully integrate NewMindsets' e-teaching pedagogy in leadership into its own e-teaching platform, to be presented to York U as a pilot and then delivered to students worldwide. The 2 companies announced a partnership in October 2012 to establish a second-generation online learning standard for millions of students worldwide. ClevrU News Release | Y-File

Students' motivation to attend PSE can have big impact on their academic success, study finds

Asking new students in a more formal way why they decided to attend PSE might help institutions find measures to encourage more students to complete their programs, according to new US research. The study found that students motivated by a desire for autonomy and competence tended to receive higher marks and show a greater likelihood of persistence than did other students.The study focuses on "self-determination theory," in which the reasons students pursue PSE could affect their chances of success. In several cases, researchers found that the impact of different motivations varied by socioeconomic groups. For example, wealthier students seemed more likely than their low-income peers to achieve success based on their interest in studying certain subject areas. It's not that low-income students don't want to study particular subjects, but their motivation for attending college may be more related to a desire to improve their financial situation, and that had a strong impact on their success. One of the researchers says this finding suggests that those advising low-income students should be encouraged to reinforce -- for those who strongly prioritize economic advancement -- the relationship between their studies and their later likely economic success. Inside Higher Ed

Transition from elementary to high school stressful for students, study finds

New research from McGill University observes that the shift from elementary to secondary school is highly stressful for about one-quarter of students, and many more than that could use help coping. Researchers tracked 800 students over 3 years as they made the move to high school (in Quebec, high school starts in Grade 7), and found that those who are highly anxious engaged in "maladaptive" behaviours. About one-third of the stressed students reported overeating, others consumed alcohol, smoked and took drugs, while a few said they hurt themselves on purpose. The lead investigator says her preliminary findings apply to students making the transition into secondary school across Canada, and speaks to the need to teach young people coping strategies when they are about to experience some kind of change. All of these students will encounter even bigger challenges with a competitive PSE admissions process, high tuition, and an uncertain job market. "When kids are saying, 'I'm highly stressed,' we need to take it seriously and start teaching them ways to start managing that stress," the researcher says. "Otherwise, they're flailing around and some of them are engaging in really problematic behaviour." Globe and Mail