Top Ten

June 4, 2013

McMaster may suspend MAPS student fee collection

When McMaster University’s board of governors meets tomorrow, they will discuss a motion proposing to suspend the collection of student fees on behalf of the McMaster Association of Part-time Students (MAPS), reports the Hamilton Spectator. MAPS has been the centre of a spending scandal for the last few months, and according to university provost David Wilkinson there has been “little progress” towards changes in governance and financial transparency. New MAPS board president Andrew Smith says that the suspension of funds will threaten the future of the organization, and that the organization has asked for more time to deal with “inherited” problems. Hamilton Spectator

Postscript: Jun 10, 2013

McMaster University’s board of governors has passed a motion to stop collecting student fees on behalf of the McMaster Association of Part-Time Students (MAPS), the Hamilton Spectator reports. McMaster provost David Wilkinson recommended the move to the board, characterizing it as temporary until MAPS provides the university with a list of changes in governance and financial transparency. New MAPS board president Andrew Smith made pleas against the measure, but agreed to meet board members to decide their next move. Hamilton Spectator

uAlberta board sticks to “flagship” definition

A vote by the University of Alberta board of governors has determined that the term “flagship” will remain in the mission statement of the 2013 comprehensive institutional plan. However, some members of the uAlberta community worry that Advanced Education Minister Thomas Lukaszuk may not agree with the decision, as there “is a lot of resistance to the use of this word in government.” Board members believe that “flagship” is still appropriate, as it speaks to the history of the university, and re-affirms uAlberta’s vision of pursuing excellence as one of the top 5 universities in Canada. Edmonton Journal

Students protest MUN’s “special fees” for international graduate

A group of international graduate students at Memorial University have issued a petition to voice concerns over fees that are charged to international students in 4 programs offered by MUN’s engineering department. According to university officials, the fees cover resources including additional faculty, infrastructure, and language training, as well as recruiter commissions. Other concerns raised include scheduling conflicts, being pushed to do advanced courses before taking prerequisites, and a lack of work terms. The Graduate Students’ Union at MUN is now involved, and is “calling for the special fees to be abolished.” CBC

Lambton College suspends alternative energy enrolment

Applications for Lambton College’s alternative energy engineering technology program this year have dropped by 67% compared to 2012, prompting the college to suspend enrolment into the highly-touted program, which was introduced in 2005. Students in the midst of the 3-year program will be able to finish, but starting in September Lambton won’t accept any new students. Lambton has cited industry changes as a possible cause of the decline in interest. A college spokesperson said industry leaders are seeing a shift in the alternative energy sector from engineering to applied work. Sarnia Observer

Queen’s student’s underwear art deemed "inappropriate" for donor event

Queen’s University fine arts student David Woodward was invited to showcase his artwork at a university donor appreciation event this week, but says he was asked to leave when organizers found out the artwork consisted of embroidered underwear. Woodward tried to display his final BFA thesis project, “All I Am is What I’ve Felt,” consisting of 10 pairs of men’s underwear embroidered with images, text or both, that are tacked onto a wall. He says the work is “an examination of gender, sexuality and intimacy.” Woodward told The Toronto Star that shortly after setting up his art at the event, organizers said “the art was supposed to serve as a nice background -- that his work was inappropriate and would make attendees uncomfortable.” Queen’s VP Advancement, Tom Harris, has since offered Woodward an apology. Toronto Star

uWaterloo announces $1.75-million donation for water management program

The University of Waterloo received a commitment of $1.75 million from the RBC Foundation to support the development of a new graduate study program in Integrated Water Management. The RBC Water Scholars program aims to equip graduates of water-related degrees with broader perspectives and the ability to work with other experts in their field. “RBC’s generous gift allows us to establish a program that gives graduates a foundation in water science, engineering, technology and management above and beyond the specialist training they receive as part of their graduate degree studies,” said Robert Gillham, executive director of uWaterloo’s Water Institute. uWaterloo News Release

Having a doctorate isn't what it used to be

Maclean's magazine reports that PhD graduates are more likely to be unemployed than master’s degree holders, while those with jobs enjoyed a median income only 8% higher than their MA counterparts, at $65,000 per year. One in 3 doctorate holders have jobs that don’t require a PhD, while a 2007 survey of PhDs working at Canadian universities found that only 12% of those under the age of 35 held tenure or tenure-track positions, compared to 35% in 1981. Maclean’s points out that while provinces across the country have asked universities to tighten their budgets, which includes a decrease of faculty positions, Canadian universities continue to graduate PhDs – slightly less than 5,000 last year alone. However, not everyone agrees that PhDs are in trouble – the director of research and policy analysis for the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada says, “It’s always been extremely competitive to get a tenured position in academe. If it’s harder than it was before, it’s only a wee bit harder.” Maclean's

Technology can equal savings for PSE, says Carleton president

Roseann O’Reilly Runte, President and Vice-Chancellor of Carleton University, explored the use of technology on PSE campuses in a recent Globe and Mail article, with the message that through the increased use of technology, PSE institutions will be able to offer an enriched learning experience to more students at a reduced cost. Runte spoke to the possibility of a return to the “Oxford style” of instructor-student relationships that offered a mentor-like experience and allowed for more discussion and evaluation of learning. She also discussed the possibility of students acquiring degrees in less time, and faculty having more time to conduct their own research. Globe and Mail

Canada’s political scholars disengaged from parliamentary debate

Canada’s political scientists aren’t playing as large of a role in political debate as they once were, according to Globe and Mail columnist Lawrence Martin. He blames this phenomenon on the fact that “academics have become less and less interested in our politics and our institutions, leaving journalists to hold governments to account.” This view is echoed by a Victoria political scientist who did a research project cataloguing scholarly work on issues of parliamentary governance, and found little. Martin suggests that this is particularly concerning at a time when the integrity of the parliamentary system is being abused in many ways, including “contempt for the rights of Parliament, information control taken to unheard-of extremes, the weakening of the committee system, moves toward politicizing the public service, the muzzling of perceived opponents, research and data suppression,” among others. He points out that the university sector should be particularly concerned about an “anti-intellectual bent” by the federal government. Globe and Mail

Elite Italian university struggles with shift to English

The Chronicle of Higher Education reports that although European PSE institutions are continuing to offer more courses in English in an attempt to prepare students for the global workforce and attract more foreign students, some university members are struggling with the idea. The Polytechnic University of Milan is focusing on offering English instruction to faculty to ensure they are equipped with the proficiency to teach in English, sparking a petition from 234 professors at the university who oppose the move because “it limits access to education and introduces an element of linguistic discrimination against university employees.” Some opponents of the move argue that teaching certain subjects in English will mean that rich cultural traditions will be “literally lost in translation,” according to The Chronicle. Meanwhile, many students have responded positively to the move towards more English. A master's student in computer engineering says he “supports the change, likening English to Latin in the Roman era. He says he just wishes the professors could speak it better.” Chronicle of Higher Education (subscription required)