Top Ten

June 21, 2013

Calgary, Southern Alberta flooding closes multiple campuses

Southern Alberta was hit with extreme rain and severe flooding late last week, resulting in widespread evacuations, campus closures, and states of local emergency, particularly in Calgary. Early Friday afternoon, uCalgary, SAIT, Mount Royal U, and Bow Valley College all announced their campuses would be closed and locked down for the weekend, classes and exams were cancelled.  SAIT announced almost immediately that it would stay closed today and Tuesday, to reopen Wednesday. BVC took their Blackboard and email servers offline to prevent data loss, since their campus was without power.  Lethbridge College cancelled classes Friday afternoon only, while uLethbridge remained open and reported “negligible” effects on campus.  As of Saturday evening, other communities across Alberta were still bracing themselves for potential flooding: although RDC’s campus remained open, sandbagging was under way in Red Deer; MHC remained open, but Medicine Hat was preparing for flood protocols; and Alberta Environment had issued a flood watch for Edmonton, among other regions.  No details or estimates of campus flood damage have been released yet.  uCalgary emergency advisory  |  SAIT flood update  |  MRU advisory  |  BVC advisory

OACC recommends revisions to Private Career Colleges Act

The Ontario Association of Career Colleges (OACC) has submitted a set of recommendations to the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities in preparation for the review of the current Private Career Colleges (PCC) Act (2005) set to take place this fall. The OACC recommendations include taking measures to ensure the quality standards of career colleges are maintained by requiring mandatory training for new operators, putting students first by increasing flexibility in program delivery, and creating an accredited career college category. The OACC recommendations will help create a PCC Act that “provides a strategic framework for the future and that enables innovative, creative growth to propel this province’s postsecondary education (PSE) system, and that of Canada, towards global competitiveness.” OACC News Release | OACC Report

NSERC announces over $18 million in funding

As part of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada’s (NSERC) College and Community Innovation (CCI) Program, over $18 million will be invested in new research partnerships. Minister of State Gary Goodyear made the announcement, stating the CCI program “supports the deployment of the talent and knowledge developed in our PSE institutions while providing invaluable industry experience for students.” The partnerships between PSE institutions and businesses are meant to foster support and innovation in the fields of science and technology. NSERC News Release

Brescia to open luxurious new dorms

The new $31-million dormitory at Brescia University College in London, ON, is set to open this fall, and will house 320 students in a much different way than traditional dorm rooms do. The all-women’s college will offer single-occupancy rooms with queen-sized beds, personal sinks and vanities, large closets and small fridges. There will be one bathroom for every 2 rooms, and lounges on each floor will offer TVs, kitchens and floor-to-ceiling windows. The main floor will feature an open-concept dining hall that will incorporate techniques from Brescia’s food and nutrition program. The rooms will cost $7,200 for one school year, with a $3,750 mandatory meal plan to accompany the room cost. In the off-season, the building will be used as a conference centre, and it is expected the new single-occupancy rooms will be a primary attraction. London Free Press

UCQ launches new website

The University of Calgary – Qatar has redesigned its website with a new design and updated interactive features to “provide a better user experience for students, faculty and the community.” The new website offers enhanced navigational features, a mobile-friendly layout, and Arabic translations of key information for the uCalgary -- Qatar students and community. The site went live June 20. uCalgary News Release | UQC Website

UoGuelph gets $1 million to improve water in First Nations communities

The University of Guelph has received a $1-million gift from the RBC Blue Water Project to support teaching and research in water and ecosystem monitoring and water treatment and conservation on First Nations reserves. The donation was part of the “BetterPlanet Project”, UoGuelph’s $200-million fundraising campaign for teaching and research in food, environment, health and communities. UoGuelph News Release

Study examines effects of disabilities on PSE time-to-completion

A new study released by the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario (HEQCO) examines factors that affect time-to-completion for students with disabilities. The researchers looked at credential type, program area, type of disability, and GPA to determine what influences the amount of time needed to complete a PSE program. The study found that students in health and business programs, as well as those working on advanced degrees, took more time to complete program requirements than the control group. The study also determined that psychiatric disabilities had an impact on time-to-completion, with many students requiring extra terms to finish courses. The authors make a number of recommendations for how PSE institutions can better assist students with disabilities in completing their programs. They also suggest that further studies be done in other provinces to generate national data. HEQCO News Release | Full Report

Rising use of sessional profs to cut costs

There has been much attention in the news lately about the budget cuts at PSE institutions, and their repercussions. An op-ed in Friday’s Globe and Mail draws attention to the current practice among many universities to have non-tenured professors teach courses, at a much-reduced wage compared to tenure-track professors. These “adjuncts” or “sessionals” teach a variety of courses across all faculties and at all levels of study, and have little job security when compared to tenured professors. The author notes the lack of office space and access to campus technology that some instructors experience, which directly affects the quality of instruction they can provide. According to the author, at some institutions “more than 50% of the undergraduate courses are taught by contract instructors.” Globe and Mail

Panelists discuss gender equity in PSE leadership

Women are poorly represented within the ranks of PSE institution leaders, and we need a change in attitude about equality in leadership, according to a panel of PSE stakeholders at the Worldviews Conference on Media and Higher Education in Toronto last week. A panelist pointed out that between 1997 and 2013 in the US, women made up only 16 to 22% of university presidents, 13-14% of CEOs and 25-43% of provosts and deans. Another panelist said that women are underrepresented in commentary and opinion in the media as well (in Canada, only 20% of faculty commentaries in newspapers and 24% of appearances on radio or TV were by women). According to the panel, “a change in attitude toward women in leadership roles can be achieved if there is a better relationship between the media and universities, so that diverse and positive stories about women are shared with the public.” Maclean’s

Carl Wieman finds PSE slow to change

A recent Chronicle of Higher Education article examines the research on, and push for, better methods for teaching university sciences by former White House adviser and Nobel Prize-winner Carl E. Wieman. The author explains that Wieman “made a second career” of studying and promoting a hands-on approach to teaching science -- where discussions are more important than lectures and practical applications are better than rubrics. His work at the White House culminated in his proposed annual survey of teaching practices as a way of encouraging improvements, but it was met with resistance from many universities and is now off the table. Last summer, Wieman resigned because he was “frustrated by university lobbying and distracted by a diagnosis of multiple myeloma.” However, as the Chronicle points out, Wieman’s efforts have led to progress in research into updated science teaching methods. One of these advances is the Association of American Universities’ 5-year project to raise the quality of undergraduate teaching and learning in science and math fields. Chronicle of Higher Education