Top Ten

May 3, 2013

Youth employment, better tracking of PSE outcomes priorities in Ontario budget

Tabling its 2013 budget last Thursday, the Ontario government is honouring last year's promise to give operating funding for PSE institutions a 1.9% boost to help pay for modest growth in their enrolments. Over the next 3 years, the province plans to provide more than $800 million for infrastructure in colleges and universities, funding the construction of 20 projects including major new facilities. As previously announced, the government is capping undergraduate tuition fee increases at 3% and launching a $295-million youth employment strategy. While some PSE groups praise the youth employment measures, others are disappointed there was no direct investment in PSE institutions. "For all [the Premier's] focus on youth and youth opportunity in this budget, we regard the lack of investment in universities as a real lost opportunity for improving things for Ontario's youth," says Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations president Constance Adamson, who notes the province still has "the worst, the lowest-per student funding and student-faculty-ratios" in the country. While the Canadian Federation of Students-Ontario welcomes the investments to tackle youth unemployment, "a real strategy for youth must address the high cost of tuition fees and record high levels of student debt," says CFS-Ontario chair Sarah Jayne King. Ontario's budget document states that in order to better inform students about their future career options and ensure greater accountability, the province is proposing to require PSE institutions to better track outcomes for students over time and report on career success rates among graduates. This would build on existing reporting through institutions' Multi-Year Accountability Agreements. Ontario News Release | 2013 Ontario Budget | Globe and Mail | Colleges Ontario News Release | COU News Release | OCUFA News Release | CFS-Ontario News Release | CSA News Release | OUSA News Release

uAlberta arts grad students sustain 20% budget cut

The University of Alberta's Faculty of Arts has slashed its graduate student budget by 20%, meaning undergraduate students will have fewer teachers assistants and research assistants in their classes, according to one uAlberta political science professor. The cuts will have consequences in terms of what happens in classrooms, he said. In addition to marking and other duties, TAs allow him to break up a large class into smaller groups, which is incredibly beneficial for students. PSE institutions across the province are dropping programs and staff as they attempt to manage cuts to funding announced in the March budget. The university also announced earlier last week that applications and admissions to a small French business administration program have been suspended. Metro Edmonton

Students concerned about strength of CDI College’s nursing program

A group of nursing students from CDI College in Edmonton is speaking out, concerned over the quality of their education. In December 2012, practice permits for 7 licensed practical nurses (LPN) who graduated from CDI were suspended by the College of Licensed Practical Nurses of Alberta (CLPNA). Since then, Bow Valley College, which oversees the program, has stepped in to re-test those nurses and ensure other students are being properly trained. However, 15 students who were enrolled in the 18-month LPN course recently walked out of the school. They say the situation at the college hasn’t improved since concerns arose last year. One of the former CDI student said that things started to fall apart last October when their clinical placements were cancelled without explanation and several instructors quit, leaving students to teach themselves, sometimes for weeks at a time. “These things shouldn’t be happening in a college where you’re paying $30,000 to get an education,” she said. Enrolment in the program was suspended last fall in order for CDI to focus on its current student population. CLPNA and Alberta Education say they’re watching the college closely. Global News

Ontario Police College cancels spring training course for new recruits

Low enrolment has resulted in the cancellation of a basic training course for new officers for the first time in the 50-year history of the Ontario Police College. The spring session beginning in May is cancelled because only 100 recruits registered, down from 300 just a few years ago, said a spokesperson for the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services, which oversees the college. Waterloo Region’s Chief of Police said that services across the province are not replacing retiring officers and attrition is not unusual. His service is not alone, he says, citing the current economic climate and the rising costs of policing as primary factors. 3 times a year, the police college offers a 2-month course for new recruits who are trained in the basics of policing. The ministry spokesperson said the cancellation of the spring recruit class will not result in the layoff of any instructors, most of whom are seconded police officers, and that it will be offered once again in September. Waterloo Region Record

uWaterloo completes review of protest against pro-life MP

In March, pro-life Conservative MP Stephen Woodworth was blocked by protesters from delivering a lecture at the University of Waterloo. The university's president, Feridun Hamdullahpur, reviewed the incident to ensure that all invited speakers, whatever the topic, are able to speak in a safe and productive environment. Hamdullahpur has concluded the review, which focuses on the following items: communications between uWaterloo authorities and bookings teams have been examined to ensure discussions around potentially contentious events are clear and unambiguous as possible; authorities have reflected on the process by which enhanced security measures are established if the appropriate authorities determine they are required; and standard police procedures in place in the Department of Police Services have been codified for use in the management of protests, expressly protecting freedom of expression. uWaterloo has also identified a number of the individuals who participate in the protest. Identified individuals who are not uWaterloo students have been notified that their access to campus shall be limited or denied until further notice. uWaterloo students identified may face discipline under the institution's student discipline policy. uWaterloo Daily Bulletin

McGill board approves revised student code of conduct, statement of principles on demonstrations

At its April 26 meeting, McGill University's board of governors approved a revised Student Code of Conduct and the Statement of Principles Concerning Freedom of Expression and Peaceful Assembly. The Statement of Principles was on the agenda, and the accompanying set of Operating Procedures, which outlines how university staff are to respond in the event of a demonstration or protest, was before the board for information. One member raised a concern about a Procedures clause that refers to security staff giving a warning to individuals or groups that their actions may be in violation of university rules and that actions might be taken against them as a result. The clause states "wherever possible," and it was suggested the phrase should read "wherever reasonably possible." The board recommended the changes be made to the Procedures. Regarding the revised Student Code of Conduct, there were concerns that there is no provision to make the results of a disciplinary process public. McGill's dean of students explained that in Quebec, student records are protected information. He notes that the Committee on Student Discipline reports annually to the senate and, without identifying individuals, provides information on the types of offences dealt with under the Code and the resulting penalties. McGill Reporter

York U senate approves new strategic research plan

York University's senate has unanimously approved the institution's new 5-year strategic research plan. Titled "Building on Strength," the plan supports York U's research vision to better understand the human condition and the world around us and to employ the knowledge gained in the service of society as described in 6 intersecting themes: advancing fundamental discovery and critical knowledge, analyzing cultures and mobilizing creativity, building healthy lives and communities, exploring the frontiers of science and technology, forging a just and sustainable world, and integrating entrepreneurial innovation and the public good. The plan also articulates 5 areas of opportunities that complement past accomplishments, new developments, momentum, and timing to provide particular opportunities for building research success. These areas include digital cultures; engineering research that matters; healthy individuals, healthy communities, and global health; public engagement for a just and sustainable world; and scholarship of socially engaged research. The document states the plan's success will be measured by growing the national and international recognition of York U faculty and their scholarship and creative activities, advancing the university's position within the top 10 universities for research impact, and further acceleration of the strong pace of growth of York U's research funding and outputs. Y-File | Strategic Research Plan

uSask prepares draft vision statement

In her state-of-the-university address last month, University of Saskatchewan president Ilene Busch-Vishniac unveiled a brief draft statement that is the first step toward a new strategic plan for the university that the president hopes will galvanize the campus community and reflect its shared vision for the future. The statement reads as follows: "The University of Saskatchewan is recognized as among the eminent research-intensive universities of North America; we lead the world in education and research on themes of importance that have an impact on our region, our nation and our world." Busch-Vishniac stressed the vision statement is only a draft, "a starting point for people to consider," and that it could be revised based on feedback. She pointed out the draft makes reference to North America rather than just Canada in terms of where uSask intends to position itself. With uSask already recognized for its research intensiveness in Canada, Busch-Vishniac said the time is right to "expand our vision to be recognized as among the best of that elite group in North America." The president plans to do some writing over the summer that will contextualize the vision, and says it is important that external stakeholders be given an opportunity to comment, too. As for when a strategic vision will be adopted, the best-case scenario would see a new visionary document completed by the end of 2013 "but we have an integrated plan, we know what we're doing. This is not a huge departure from where we've clearly been heading so taking as much time as we need to have this conversation is appropriate." uSask On Campus News

US college presidents skeptical of MOOC hype, survey says

According to a new Gallup survey, most US college presidents (based on responses from 889 of them), when asked privately, don’t believe that massive open online courses are going to transform student learning, or reduce costs to students – 2 of the pervasive claims made by MOOC enthusiasts and an increasing number of politicians and pundits. According to the results, only a small minority of presidents strongly believe that MOOCs will improve the learning of all students (3%), solve colleges' financial challenges (2%) or cut what students spend on higher education (8%). A much larger number of presidents strongly disagree with those statements. Presidents were more likely to see MOOCs promoting creative pedagogies (32%), increasing collaboration among colleges (29%), or getting the best teachers in front of more students (22%). Inside Higher Ed

Growing number of anglophone Canadians use social media

One-third of anglophone Canadians say not a day goes by without them checking their social media feeds, according to a new report from the Media Technology Monitor. Nearly 7 in 10 Internet users said they were regular social media users, logging in at least once per month. That figure was up by approximately 6% compared to 2011. About 63% of social media users surveyed said they read Facebook posts, tweets and/or LinkedIn updates daily. Facebook remains the most popular social network, with about 63% of Internet users and 93% of social media users saying they are on Facebook. Less than one-fifth of Internet users said they were on Twitter in the last month, although those numbers have risen to 80% in a year, up from just 10% in 2011. LinkedIn has similar usage numbers, although it has grown slower since 2011. About 12% of Internet users said they used LinkedIn at least once per month in 2012, and the figure was up to 18% in 2012. The report is based on surveys conducted in the fall with 4,001 anglophone Canadians. Canadian Press