Top Ten

June 3, 2013

$167 million to fund research initiatives in social sciences and humanities

Gary Goodyear, Minister of State (Science and Technology), was at the launch of the annual Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences in Victoria to announce a federal investment of $167 million to support researchers at Canada’s PSE institutions. In addition to the $167 million, $43.4 million has been committed in matching support from sources involved in the various research projects, including national and international researchers, and industry, public and not-for-profit partners. SSHRC News Release

Ontario provides $5.7 million for pharmacy research

In the last couple of years, pharmacists in Ontario have been given increased responsibilities to provide frontline healthcare services, such as managing and renewing prescriptions, administering medications like flu shots, and even prescribing some medications. In response, the Ontario government is providing $5.7 million in funding to the Ontario Pharmacy Research Collaboration, a joint project between the University of Waterloo’s School of Pharmacy and McMaster’s Department of Family Medicine. The money will fund research projects that examine the expansion of pharmacists’ roles to see if the initiatives are working and how they can be improved on. The funding will come from the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care through the Health System Research Fund program. CBC

$3-million gift to prepare WesternU students for career in leadership and engineering

Western University’s Faculty of Engineering and Ivey Business School were given a $3-million gift from John M. and Melinda Thompson this week, which will go towards strengthening the academic experience of WesternU’s engineering students. The university will match a $1.5 million portion of the gift, creating a $3-million endowment to establish the John M. Thompson Chair in Engineering Leadership and Innovation. The remaining $1.5 million will provide for the John M. Thompson Visiting Industry Fellowship in Engineering and Leadership, a total of 7 student awards, and the John M. Thompson Case Studies & Curriculum Development Fund. “I have personally experienced the benefits of combining a Western Engineering degree with the business education offered by Ivey Business School. Enabling Western’s engineering students to build their business knowledge as part of their engineering education will provide them with a significant advantage. Melinda and I are enormously pleased to be able to support this initiative,” says John M. Thompson, philanthropist and former President and CEO of IBM Canada. WesternU News Release

Alberta’s PSE institutions question per-student funding disparities

A report by Metro News has highlighted the uneven per-student government subsidies that PSE institutions in Alberta receive, with many in rural areas getting significantly more than those in urban centres. With the top subsidy of $29,900 going to Fort McMurray’s Keyano College, and the lowest subsidy of $5,474 going to Athabasca University, PSE officials are wondering about the significant differences in subsidy amounts. Recognizing that some programs do require more funding than others, one VP at Mount Royal University is looking forward to a provincial investigation into funding models, a review which is slated to begin this fall. The report used data from the 2010-11 school year, the first year after a funding freeze was announced, and the last year that complete data is available for. Metro News

UBC launches News portal

The University of British Columbia public affairs office launched a News webpage this week. The new webpage allows the user to view and subscribe to news by beat area, is more visually appealing, contains more expert profiles and commentary, and uses more multimedia. The page is also responsively designed for mobile devices. UBC News Release | UBC News Portal

94% of 2012 SAIT grads surveyed secure employment

In a survey of more than 2,500 SAIT Polytechnic 2012 graduates, 94% said they were able to secure employment after completing their program. Of the respondents in the labour force, 84% reported being employed in training-related positions. The survey shows graduates are working close to home -- 79% remained in Calgary and a total of 95% stayed in Alberta. The results also indicate that graduates are seeing a continual increase in salaries. The median annual wage is more than $49,000, up 19% since the 2008-09 survey results. SAIT News

“DalVision” initiative funds 14 new teaching and learning projects

Dalhousie University has announced 14 new projects that focus on “new methods in course delivery, curriculum design and management, and other elements of the academic experience.” DalVision, the university’s Academic Innovation program of the VP Academic Office, offers funding to faculty and staff members for design, implementation and evaluation of new programs and initiatives that enhance the student learning experience. “Part of innovation is being willing to take a risk, to experiment, within appropriate limits,” says Fiona Black, director of academic planning. “Sometimes, it takes extra support to make that happen. This program helps ensure that the decisions we’re making about course content and course design are based on evidence we can trust, because our own colleagues have tried it and learned what works and what doesn’t. Through this program, we shall also be enhancing our existing capacities to conduct and disseminate research in the scholarship of learning and teaching.” Dal News

New environmental network emerges from national conference

The Canadian College Environmental Network (CCEN) and the Canadian University Environmental Science Network (CUESN) have merged, in response to an increasing national trend towards more partnerships between colleges and universities. The new Canadian College and University Environmental Network (CCUEN) was created at a recent conference co-hosted by Trent University and Fleming College. “Students are choosing to take a combination of both college and university environmental programs and they are seeking more pathways between institutions nationally. This new post-secondary network will encourage more partnerships between colleges and universities and will increase our opportunities to network and share more information across the two sectors,” says Linda Skilton, dean of Fleming College’s School of Environmental and Natural Resource Sciences. “It may even lead to an official branding of Canadian environmental post-secondary education, which could attract more international students to our programs.” Fleming News Release

Professors worry about academic freedom and outsourced lectures

With the rising popularity of MOOCs, some colleges are taking advantage of the availability of lecture material by professors at elite universities and using them in their own classes. And while this trend is still in its infancy, some professors are raising concerns about academic freedom going forward. At Massachusetts Bay Community College and San Jose State University, professors used lecture materials and exams in order to supplement their own teachings, and both reported successes and a high degree of control over the course. But at the same time, some professors are worried that in the future, colleges will demand that specific courses use specific MOOC materials, limiting the academic freedom of the professor teaching the course. As one professor pointed out, "The MIT certificate [that you get for completing a MOOC] has a lot more value in the marketplace than three course credits at MassBay—absolutely.” Chronicle of Higher Education (free access)

Need for global standards of grades and learning outcomes

In the wake of increased global movement among PSE institutions, and the growing popularity of MOOCs, critics are calling for a better system of assessing required skills and competencies across higher education, with an emphasis on grading system transparencies. A recent article states that mutual recognition of qualifications across national, regional, and global scales is necessary for the development of fully transferrable credits and degrees. According to the author, “the ongoing globalisation and regionalisation of higher education requires fully understanding what higher education certificates, diplomas and degrees actually mean in terms of learning outcomes and their relevance and value to individual students and society.” The article points out several existing barriers to mutual recognition of higher education qualifications, including among European countries in spite of increased efforts there to harmonise PSE standards. University World News