Top Ten

June 11, 2013

Union members protest cuts at StFX

Recent position cuts at St. Francis Xavier University in Nova Scotia have local unions upset. Last Friday, a protest was held by 3 StFX unions and their supporters to speak out against proposed cuts to support staff. There will be approximately 25 layoffs across the 3 unions, in addition to numerous early-retirement and buyout packages, which were offered to staff in April to offset a multi-million dollar deficit projected for next year’s budget. Union representatives have criticized performance bonuses for senior administration, and have asked for the resignation of StFX president Sean Riley. StFX has also announced the termination of women’s varsity volleyball, effective immediately, to meet budget reduction targets. The university will honour its Athletic Financial Award commitments to affected students who decide to remain at StFX. The Antigonish Casket | The Chronicle of Higher Education | The Chronicle Herald | StFX Athletics News Release

Postscript: June 17, 2013

St. Francis Xavier University president Sean Riley last week announced that a succession process would be initiated for his position. The chair of the StFX board of governors said they will launch a search for a new president in the near future, and that Riley will serve until someone is selected. Following several cuts to staff and complaints about administrative performance bonuses, union representatives were calling for Riley’s resignation.  He recovered from a stroke last year. (StFX News Release via email)  |  Chronicle Herald

Boréal fundraising campaign raises $8 million, exceeding goal

The Collège Boréal Foundation announced last week that it has raised $8 million during its “Leading us to Prosperity" campaign, exceeding a $5-million goal set in November 2010. The money raised is slated to go towards a scholarship fund for students and new facilities in Sudbury and Toronto. The college told The Sudbury Star that the extra money will go back into student services. Sudbury Star | Boréal News Release

Alberta budget cuts affect more than just programs

The recent cuts to Alberta’s PSE funding have affected admissions and programs, but they have also had an impact on infrastructure at several institutions, including the MacKimmie Tower at the University of Calgary, and proposed maintenance plans at several other institutions. Metro News reports that the University of Alberta and the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT) have both had cuts in provincial infrastructure funding. One uAlberta spokesperson told Metro News that some maintenance and renewal projects will be put on hold, although no decisions have yet been made about which projects will be delayed. A NAIT spokesperson stated that the priority projects will still get done; it is the projects at the bottom of the list that will be delayed. Metro News

Kwantlen releases first strategic plan as polytechnic university

Kwantlen Polytechnic University has unveiled its first strategic plan since becoming a polytechnic institution. The plan places quality, reputation and relevance at the core of every decision it makes for the next 5 years. “A hallmark of the Kwantlen programs going forward will be the opportunity for all students to blend theory and practice in the community through workplace and service learning, laboratory experiences on campus, or working on applied research projects with faculty,” according to Kwantlen. Kwantlen News Release

New program to encourage PSE in STEM fields

Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) announced on Monday plans to expand their goIT program to Canadian high school students, in a partnership with Canada's Information and Communications Technology Council (ICTC). TCS is a leading IT services, consulting, and business solutions organization, and the goIT initiative aims to cultivate interest in the STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) fields of higher education, in order to help fill the long-term projected skills gap. The program will be offered to 10 schools in the Greater Toronto Area in 201314, targeting students in grades 7-10 with workshops on the latest technology trends. TCS News Release

Iconic Toronto building to get facelift and new tenants

The John H. Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape, and Design will have a new home in the historic building at One Spadina Crescent, the University of Toronto announced yesterday. As part of its "Boundless" campaign, uToronto will need to raise $50 million for the renovations and expansion of the current building, as well as the establishment of several student awards. The Daniels family is donating $10 million to the architecture faculty, building on the $14 million they donated in 2008 for initial planning. The Daniels donations are the “largest gifts designated to architecture programs in Canadian history.” The new building will maintain aspects of the original 1875 structure and will be “an exemplar of sustainable building and creative urban design practices,” including rainwater harvesting, provision of natural lighting, and an expanded site for the Faculty’s celebrated Green Roof Innovation Testing Laboratory (also known as the GRIT Lab). uToronto News Release | Globe and Mail

New web application to save teacher marking time and government dollars

Crowdmark, a new Canadian technology start-up, claims it will “save cash-strapped departments of education millions by making massive-scale testing more efficient” with its web application that “streamlines document assessment on a massive scale, helping teachers grade better.” Crowdmark has completed 2 successful pilot projects that both resulted in more efficient marking by participants, and hopes to launch publicly in time for the 2013-14 academic year. Crowdmark News Release

Canadian student debt levels reach record high

Federal student loan debt in Canada is in excess of $15 billion, with another $5 to $8 billion in credit card, line-of-credit, and provincial loan debt, the highest levels in Canadian history, CBC reports. Students who struggle to pay off their debts have few options when it comes to federal loans, as the interest continues to grow, and federal loans cannot be restructured for 7 years. One bankruptcy trustee interviewed by CBC recommended that students form a 5 to 10-year plan to repay their debt, similar to establishing a career plan. CBC

China moving to expand universities abroad

Education officials in China are looking at expanding their universities overseas in new education markets, and a Chinese institution has already established a classroom in Laos, reports the Globe and Mail. The move marks a reversal in the trend that has seen Western institutions setting up campuses in China. In addition to the Soochow University campus in Vientiane, Laos, there are also plans for an overseas Chinese Xiamen University branch campus in Malaysia and an agreement by Zhejiang University to explore a joint campus with Imperial College London. Philip G. Altbach, an expert on international higher education at Boston College, warns that Chinese universities might be venturing out too soon. “I think that China’s top universities have sufficient work to do at home that they do not need to expand into the risky and often expensive world of branch campuses outside of China,” said Altbach. Globe and Mail

Online learning tools most effective when focused on interaction, study finds

Online learning tools, particularly those that focus on interaction with course material and other students, have a positive impact on students’ grades, according to a new study on first-year Carleton University chemistry students by the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario (HEQCO). The study looked at the attendance, performance and resource usage of 919 first-year Carleton students. It found that the most significant impact on grades came from a homework management system, which allowed students to interact directly with course content by answering questions and solving problems while receiving immediate feedback, and an interactive learning management system that offered PowerPoint slides from lectures, videos of lab experiments, previous exams, and a discussion board to communicate with other students. HEQCO Publications Webpage | Full Report