Top Ten

May 2, 2013

Acadia, Bishop's U, Mount Allison, and StFX form U4 League on undergraduate education

Acadia, Bishop's, Mount Allison, and St. Francis Xavier Universities announced Tuesday they have formed a strategic alliance called the U4 League, which will promote and extend the universities' common objectives of providing students with the highest quality undergraduate education in a residential setting. Although the institutions have traditionally competed to attract students, they believe that by collaborating they can enhance the quality of each institution to the benefit of all of their students. The collaboration will be pursued in several ways: designing collaborative programs, courses, activities, and exchanges that students from each institution can access -- both on campus and abroad; implementing best practice approaches to improve the quality of university teaching; increasing the teaching, research, and professional opportunities for faculty in each other's institutions; developing joint research activities, particularly those that boost opportunities for U4 undergraduates; pursuing joint analyses of their institutional operations to determine how they can be improved; and implementing best practices in administration by cooperating, where possible, in service delivery, technology, and infrastructure, in order to contain costs and increase efficiencies. The alliance wants to ensure that Canada's students continue to have the unique advantages of small-scale, student-centred, residential universities. U4 League News Release | U4 League website

Majority of Quebec universities plan to leave CREPUQ

A majority of Quebec universities have announced they plan to leave the Conference of Rectors and Principals of Quebec Universities, according to reports by local francophone newspapers. A CREPUQ spokesperson confirms that Université de Montréal and 9 members of the Université du Québec network have informed the group they plan to leave by October 30. Université Laval has already left CREPUQ. uLaval rector Denis Brière said last month the association was no longer responding to the needs of the institution in representing its interests, and also criticized CREPUQ for not reacting more strongly to the retroactive budget cuts the Quebec government announced just before the PSE summit in February. There were also reports last month that uMontréal was considering leaving and would make a decision by the end of summer. This week, all but one of the 10 members of the uQuébec network (the exception being UQAM) told CREPUQ they intend to leave by this fall. Nevertheless, the association's 18 members, including those that are said to be dissatisfied with CREPUQ, are still planning to participate in a "day of reflection" that CREPUQ had scheduled for its members in early June, says the CREPUQ spokesperson. University Affairs

uWindsor slashes tuition for US students

In what it is calling “a good-neighbour gesture,” the University of Windsor is slashing tuition fees for its US students. Students from the US will now pay $5,000 per semester beginning in September – a cut that will save students as much as $5,000 per term. "The international relationship we have with folks right across the river is much different than the relationship we have with [other] countries around the world," said uWindsor president Alan Wildeman. The university wanted to position itself on an "even playing field" with US schools, particularly publicly funded ones, said Wildeman. The idea is to take advantage of the school's proximity to the US and boost enrolment. Currently, 82 US students are enrolled at uWindsor. That pales in comparison, for example, to the approximately 250 Chinese students. In total, the university has just under 2,000 international students. International students pay up to $15,000 per semester. A recruitment effort in Michigan gets underway in the fall. A bigger, more coordinated effort starts next year. CBC

Capilano U suspends adult education at Squamish campus

Amid a $1.3-million budgetary shortfall, Capilano University in BC is cutting adult basic education at its Squamish campus. Squamish's adult basic education program wasn't producing the desired results, says the university’s VP, Bill Gibson. Only 14% of its students entered into the university stream, compared to the provincial average of 33% and the North Shore campus average of 54%, he said, noting the classes were also smaller than anticipated. The budgetary shortfall is forcing the institution to make some tough decisions. Operating costs continue to face inflationary pressures, and the transition from a college to a university in 2008 has resulted in increased expenses while the school’s provincial operating grant remains flat, Gibson said. Besides the adult basic education course suspension at the Squamish campus, the campus will also undergo adjustments in community development and outreach initiatives. Squamish Chief

Research money snub by BC government troubles TRU

Graduate research money announced in April was distributed on the basis of a formula used 6 years ago and, therefore, excluded Thompson Rivers University, according to BC’s Ministry of Advanced Education, Innovation and Technology. The ministry was responding to concerns raised by TRU president Alan Shaver after the school was not among the province’s PSE institutions to receive a share of $900,000 in graduate scholarship money. The decision to provide the one-time funding to UBC, UVic, SFU and UNBC was made to follow a similar approach taken in 2007, when funds were provided for the Pacific Century Graduate Scholarship Program, said a ministry spokesman. Since this year’s funding was available only on a one-time basis, a decision was made to follow the same model, he added. Shaver said it was the province that mandated TRU to undertake research, a mandate that predated the Pacific Century program by 2 years. He said “we have the responsibility to offer masters degrees and do research with respect to that. That puts us as a research university. It would appear they overlooked that issue.” Kamloops Daily News | BC News Release

Improving mental health support focus of MRU plan

Alberta-based Mount Royal University is drafting a plan to promote good mental health on campus. Dozens of recommendations are included in the report that was developed following 18 months of consultation. According to MRU’s director of wellness, it will be a balanced plan to include the entire campus community, and not just geared towards those who have mental health issues. The school also aims to address the problem of stigma as well as how to identify and help people struggling with mental illness. MRU officials plan to meet next week to go through the recommendations and set priorities. In January, the provincial government gave 3 universities $3 million each to develop mental health programs, but MRU was not among them. MRU’s VP says the school will go ahead with its plan and present a proposal for provincial support at a later date. CBC

$5-million donation from alumni supports McGill interfaith scholarship

McGill University alumni Barbara and Patrick Keenan have donated $5 million to McGill's Faculty of Religious Studies to fortify teaching, research, scholarly collaboration, and outreach related to the study of comparative religion and interfaith dialogue. The donation will support 5 initiatives related to interfaith scholarship. The centrepiece will be the Barbara and Patrick Keenan Chair in Interfaith Studies that will fund, in perpetuity, world-class scholars who will lead new research initiatives and bring fresh perspectives to interfaith studies. The gift will also create the Wilfred Cantwell Smith Graduate Fellowships for entering PhD students, 2 annual Barbara and Patrick Keenan PhD Dissertation Finishing Fellowships, at least 2 annual Barbara and Patrick Keenan Undergraduate Internship Awards, and the Barbara and Patrick Keenan Conference Support Fund. The Keenans' gift is the largest to the Faculty of Religious Studies since its founding. McGill Reporter

RRC pilot program encourages youth to consider skilled trades as a career

Red River College and the Manitoba government are helping to boost trades training through a pilot program that provides Winnipeg youth a hands-on introduction to the trades. The program provides up to 25 students in Grades 7 and 8 the opportunity to "try out" the type of work typically done by carpenters, electricians, and welders. Students from a Winnipeg high school are attending RRC once a week for 3 weeks to learn about career options in the trades. The students will also meet with elders-in-residence to learn more about the college's School of Indigenous Education and the supports and services it provides. The students will also be exposed to one of RRC's mobile training labs and will visit the Stevenson campus to become more aware of careers in the aerospace industry. RRC and the province will assess the pilot project with a view to expanding it to other Manitoba schools next year. RRC News

UBC opens North America's first campus skatepark

UBC has opened the first campus skatepark in North America at its Vancouver campus, giving students, campus residents, and Metro enthusiasts a new place to ride their skateboards and BMX bikes as well as rollerblade. Made of concrete and galvanized steel, the UBC Skatepark offers a range of jumps, banks, and obstacles for riders of various skill levels. The skatepark's most distinctive feature is a stack of large books made of concrete and steel, a feature that reflects UBC's academic environment and is engraved with a quotation from Vincent Van Gogh: "One must work and dare if one really wants to live." A UBC official says "we have a large number of skateboarders and other action sport enthusiasts on campus and we had a unique opportunity to provide them, and the greater community, with a dynamic new space." The nearly $500,000 project is a partnership between UBC and the University Neighbourhoods Association, which represents the growing campus population of 18,000 residents. UBC News Release | UBC Skatepark

Humanities PhD students in US turning to "alt-ac" careers

Many humanities PhDs have put their training to work in careers that aren’t on the faculty track, and a new survey out of the Scholarly Communication Institute at the University of Virginia has recently explored how these graduates came to pursue alternative academic, or "alt-ac," careers. Of the 779 graduates surveyed, 74% said at the beginning of their programs that they intended to become tenured professors, and of those, 80% of them said they were fairly or completely certain. However, none of those surveyed ended up becoming tenured professors. Moreover, a 2011 report by the National Science Foundation found that 43% of humanities PhD recipients did not have any job commitments after completing their academic programs. Ideally, the report reads, humanities departments should temper their students' expectations about finding a career in academe before even admitting them, and continue to highlight alt-ac opportunities through career counselling. In addition, the report suggests, in order to eliminate the stigma that an alt-ac career amounts to "selling out," departments need to expand how they track job placements and invite successful graduates back as mentors. Inside Higher Ed