Top Ten

May 6, 2013

Job cuts part of budget solution at GPRC

Grande Prairie Regional College will submit a balanced budget to the Alberta government, and as part of the budget solution it has been necessary to lay off 18 college employees. Through all job-related measures -- retirements, voluntary separations, workload redistribution, and layoffs -- the total number of employees at GPRC is reduced by 45 positions. The staff changes account for more than $3 million of the total $4-million budget shortfall. Changes to systems, processes, and service levels account for an extra $1 million. The college has not found it necessary to cut programs or close departments and campuses as a result of this budget. GPRC News Release

STU tuition increase surpasses NB cap

St. Thomas University is increasing tuition fees for its domestic students by $434 next year, a move that will put the institution in conflict with the New Brunswick government's $150 cap on tuition fee hikes. STU president Dawn Russell says the province's decision to cap fees and freeze its operating grant is a "challenge." The university's latest budget includes expenditure restraint by continuing an early retirement program and making "reductions in some administrative budgets." PSE Minister Danny Soucy says he is "disappointed" STU ignored the policy, and will not say if the university will be penalized. He wants to sit down with STU administration to discuss the tuition increase first and then decide "what appropriate actions should be taken," Soucy says. Russell says she would be "surprised and disappointed" if the province decided to punish STU, which already has the lowest provincial grant and will still have the lowest tuition, even with the increase. She acknowledges the government could decide to decrease STU's grant even further, but questions the logic of such a move. "If you're concerned about students, why would you aggravate the situation, where we already have the lowest grant, which is part of the need for the tuition increase, why would you aggravate the situation by making the grant even lower?" STU News Release | CBC

Budgetary pressures force uSask to sell sheep flock

In response to budgetary pressures, the University of Saskatchewan will no longer maintain its flock of approximately 300 sheep on its campus farm, but will make animals available to meet teaching and research needs in the College of Agriculture and Bioresources and for the Western College of Veterinary Medicine. The dean of the College of Agriculture and Bioresources says the college has decided to focus its limited budget for campus farm activities on poultry, dairy, and beef, and will buy sheep as needed for future student learning opportunities and research. The college will seek a single buyer for the sheep flock in the next few weeks. uSask News Release

As other institutions struggle, Royal Roads plans to increase staff, program offerings

While other PSE institutions struggle to eliminate deficits, Royal Roads University plans to add new programs and hire 30 more staff this year. Royal Roads' board of governors recently approved a budget that foresees a 12% increase in full-time domestic enrolment in 2013-14, a 7% increase in faculty and staff, and a $1.7-million investment in new programs. The plan follows 3 years of sustained growth during which the number of full-time domestic students increased by 22% to 2,500, the board says. Targeted primarily at mid-career professionals, Royal Roads receives less government funding than other institutions, but can charge higher tuition. It delivers about three-quarters of its courses through a "blended learning" model. Students, most of whom are in graduate studies, spend a couple of weeks on campus before returning to their jobs and completing course work online. "It's an efficient way of generating education and minimizing the costs of your delivery," says Royal Roads' president Allan Cahoon. The president of the university's faculty association says Royal Roads' financial situation was much bleaker when he arrived about 4 years ago. "The situation has improved dramatically," he says. "We're not in the kind of debt that is plaguing a lot of universities at the moment." Victoria Times-Colonist

New Alberta institute aims to turn research into revenue

A new institute that will help colleges and universities commercialize their research in partnership with private companies and other agencies is underway, says Alberta Advanced Education Minister Thomas Lukaszuk. The institute, as yet unnamed, will be open to researchers and students from any campus in the province, and eventually generate a stream of royalties for schools and businesses, he said. The institute, which will be associated with Campus Alberta and under Advanced Education, will eventually spin off companies and “help start a new economy for Alberta,” and future royalties streams could help fund the budgets of PSE institutions, added Lukaszuk. However, some worry that funding for the new institute will come from cuts to other areas, including more cuts at universities. The head of the University of Alberta’s faculty association said there are serious questions in these commercial partnerships. Private companies may not like the results of research arrived at, or might want to keep negative results under wraps. In a university setting, researchers are not beholden to a company or agency that might be looking for a certain outcome, she said. Edmonton Journal

UFV provides update on institutional learning outcomes

University of the Fraser Valley's provost offered his thanks and congratulations last month during a display of department/program outcomes that align with the university's Institutional Learning Outcomes (ILOs). 8 pilot projects were selected to demonstrate how department or program outcomes could be aligned to UFV's 9 ILOs -- a set of knowledge, skills, and abilities that the university community has collectively decided that every graduate should possess. The ILOs include demonstrating information competency, analyzing critically and imaginatively, using knowledge and skills proficiently, initiating inquiries and developing solutions to problems, communicating effectively, pursuing self-motivated and self-reflective learning, engaging in collaborative leadership, engaging in respectful and professional practices, and contributing regionally and globally. The focus of the 2012-13 academic year has been alignment of the specific learning outcomes of individual programs with the defined ILOs. The next phase will see every department examining all its courses and field experiences to determine whether what it is offering is relevant to the overall ILOs and its own learning outcomes, and seeking to eliminate redundancies in course content. The following phase entails prioritization, looking for what needs to be added to the curriculum to ensure all outcomes are addressed. UFV News

New floor of uWindsor’s medical building features nursing simulation lab

A roomful of electronic medical mannequins is just one feature of the newly opened third floor of the Medical Education Building at the University of Windsor. The floor’s renovations, unveiled to the public at a press conference last Friday, were completed with $4.2 million in funding from the Ontario government. A total of 8 “high fidelity” medical mannequins -- including a postpartum woman and an infant -- are housed in the floor’s nursing simulation lab. Students can apply nursing techniques to the electronic patients while internal sensors gauge their progress and instructors observe via closed-circuit television. The new floor also features collaborative research space including a combination classroom/lecture room that seats up to 50 people, a seminar room, several group suites, and an interview room with viewing room. Common space includes a dedicated meeting room with video-conference capability, a kitchenette, lobby, and student lounge to facilitate informal inter-professional dialogue. uWindsor Daily News | Windsor Star

SFU launches community engagement centre in Surrey

With the help of a donation from TD Bank Group, Simon Fraser University is launching the SFU Surrey - TD Community Engagement Centre in the new Surrey City Centre Library. The centre's mandate is to inspire and positively influence new Canadians to pursue PSE while providing opportunities for students, faculty, and staff to connect with and have an impact on the community. The centre will offer courses, workshops, and learning experiences to enable students and faculty to work with local partners to strengthen the community's economy and social fabric. It will also be home to SFU's Friends of Simon, a program that pairs student tutors with immigrant and refugee children in after-school settings, as well as financial literacy workshops and outreach programs on topics ranging from digital media to world literature. SFU News

York U program works to connect disadvantaged youth to community, set sights on PSE

Gangs and guns make the headlines, but the "violence of low expectations" is taking the real toll on youth in communities such as Toronto's Jane and Finch, says a York University researcher. Her team is linking 40 university students with 40 young people in a Jane-Finch high school to raise expectations. The researcher hopes that though social action projects such as a basketball tournament and a rap talent show, the Jane-Finch youth will discover their strengths and begin to see themselves as future PSE students with futures beyond the community stereotypes. Nearly 200,000 Toronto youth ages 15 to 29 live in one of the city's 13 priority neighbourhoods, including Jane-Finch. Identified by United Way Toronto and city hall as low income and lacking in community services, these neighbourhoods have been earmarked for social and capital investments, but for many area residents, positive change is often pierced by drug busts, violence, and negative press. The York U researcher developed the concept for the NOISE project (New Opportunities for Innovative Student Engagement) out of a larger university research initiative on youth. One of the research findings is the widening gap between the percentage of Jane-Finch students completing university and those outside priority neighbourhoods. The researcher has received $50,000 from York U's provost to continue the NOISE project next year with an additional 20 students in a nearby priority neighbourhood. Eventually, as the group tweaks the model, the researcher would like to see it replicated in all 13 priority neighbourhoods. Toronto Star

International student visas now subject to stricter scrutiny by US Customs agents

Last week the US Homeland Security Department ordered border agents to verify that every international student who arrives in the country has a valid student visa. The new procedure is the government’s first security change directly related to the Boston bombings. The order was circulated last Thursday, one day after the Obama administration acknowledged that a student from Kazakhstan accused of hiding evidence for one of the Boston bombing suspects was allowed to return to the US in January without a valid student visa. Under the new procedures, border agents will verify a student's visa status before the person arrives in the US using information provided in flight manifests. If that information is not available, border agents will check the visa status manually with the agency's national targeting data center. While it is still unclear what impact the new procedures will have on wait times at airports and borders, a spokesperson for the Canadian Federation of Students said they aren’t expected to impact Canadians studying in the US as those students can still enter the country by showing their passport. Associated Press | CTV News