Top Ten

July 10, 2013

MHC’s international education gets failing grade in provincial audit

Alberta’s auditor general has released a report on the international education division at Medicine Hat College, determining that it operated outside of the college’s control system, without board oversight, putting MHC at “legal, reputational and financial risk.” The findings include: former president Ralph Weeks failed to comply with provisions of the college’s policy to limit international activity ($325,000 was spent on 34 international trips racked up over 3 years) and the board didn’t give proper oversight to these policies; the IED’s strategic and operational planning did not have clear goals, objectives or targets, nor did it develop business cases to assess any risks associated with operating in foreign countries (the division had 3 international partnerships with China); and the decisions made by the IED were inconsistent with the academic integrity and quality regulations of MHC (in one case, international students were found to have passed courses after failing exams). Officials at MHC are “disappointed,” but according to board chair Don Bruce, the board “accept[s] the report, and [is] unified with administration in addressing all the deficiencies in a collaborative manner.” MHC update | Medicine Hat News (1) | Medicine Hat News (2) | Calgary Herald | Auditor’s Report

Campus Alberta plan lacks clarity, says provincial auditor

The department and institutions included under the Campus Alberta umbrella lack clarity on the mandates, roles, responsibilities, accountabilities, and interrelationships of collaborative entities and committees, says a report by Alberta’s auditor general. The audit found that “the department and institutions do not have well-designed systems to plan, govern, implement and sustain collaborative initiatives.” The audit focused on 3 non-academic collaborative initiatives to test the systems in place at institutions, and found that management lacks a clear understanding of the department’s strategic direction for Campus Alberta and of how specific initiatives fit into it. The auditor’s report recommends the department develop a business plan to clearly outline what it wants to achieve, how it will meet its goals, how much it will cost and where the money will come from, as well as implement a way of measuring the performance of Campus Alberta and publicly report the results and costs of initiatives. This spring, advanced education minister Thomas Lukaszuk issued mandate letters to all institutions directing them to increase partnerships and collaborative measures under the Campus Alberta banner. CBC (CP) | Edmonton Journal | Auditor’s Report

GBC loses appeal in class action suit

On Tuesday, Ontario’s Appeal Court upheld the lower court ruling that George Brown College students were victims of a misleading course description. The 120 students in question enrolled in the graduate international business management program, under the assumption that they would be eligible for 3 industry certifications, as the course outline suggested. Students discovered shortly before graduation that, in fact, not only were they not receiving the designations, they were not necessarily eligible to take industry exams to obtain the certification. The Appeal Court agreed with an earlier court ruling that GBC owed the students a "duty of care," and breached the rights of the students under the Consumer Protection Act. The amount of damages has not yet been determined. Toronto Star (CP)

Postscript: July 2, 2014

The Ontario Superior Court has decided that plaintiffs in the case of Ramdath v George Brown will be awarded aggregate damages. The ruling means that members of the class action lawsuit will not have to prove individual damages to recover direct costs and residual value components of the claim; however, individual assessments will be required should individuals seek to recover foregone income and delayed entry components. “The key to understanding aggregate damages is in understanding that the measurement criterion is not what’s accurate but what’s reasonable,” said Superior Court Justice Edward Belobaba. Financial Post

Business leaders see bureaucracy, lack of innovation as barriers to success

Canadian business leaders see inefficient government bureaucracy and a lack of innovation as the main obstacles to doing business in the country, according to a 2012 executive opinion survey for the World Economic Forum. The survey asks business leaders to rank the 5 most problematic factors for doing business in their countries from a list of 16 possibilities. The data also shows that Canada’s standing in global competitiveness rankings continues to wane, and that weak access to financing is the third-most problematic factor for this waning of business success in the minds of business leaders. Conference Board of Canada News Release

UBC launches university-wide entrepreneurship course

In the latest example of PSE institutions providing entrepreneurship education for students, the University of British Columbia’s Sauder School of Business has launched Entrepreneurship 101. The new course in start-up creation is open to all UBC students in second year or higher, and requires no prerequisites. “We’re striving to have as much student diversity in the class as possible,” says Sauder lecturer Paul Cubbon, who is leading the design of the course. Olds College also launched an entrepreneurship course via iPads that will be mandatory for all students this fall.  UBC News Release

Laurentian updates aging residence

Laurentian University is beginning a major $5.9-million modernization of its Single Students’ Residence (SSR), which was built in 1973 and accommodates close to 400 students each year. The renovations will include fresh exterior cladding, the replacement of insulation and windows throughout the complex, and retrofits to make it more energy-efficient. Laurentian recently opened a new upper-year residence, which cost $20 million. Laurentian News Release

PSE changes needed to equip students with employable skills

An op-ed in the Globe and Mail suggests that a paradigm shift in PSE would allow for more jobs and happier employers. Self-described entrepreneur, writer and activist (and Queen's Commerce student) Afraj Gill proposes that because employers are reporting more dissatisfaction with new-employee skills, employers and PSE institutions should collaborate to restructure education to provide students with the skills needed to succeed in the workforce. Gill states that a “diminished emphasis on grades due to a heightened focus on skills-based learning will open the door to different types of assessment,” but stipulates that employers need to work closely with education providers in order for changes to take place. Globe and Mail

Computer science a surprising sector to experience skills gap

Computer science and technology is another sector that can be included in the ongoing skills-gap crisis in Canada, according to Ryan Holmes, CEO of social media management company HootSuite. In a Financial Post article, Holmes discusses the difficult realities of finding young, talented computer science graduates to fill vacancies in tech corporations. He refers to a recent study that found “only one in 10 organizations in Canada is able to meet critical IT needs in emerging areas like mobile, cloud computing, analytics and social media.” Many new graduates are lured south of the border by “good, high-paying tech jobs and access to collaborators and capital,” as US companies also struggle to fill vacancies. Holmes suggests a sustained engagement with educators, at both the high school and PSE levels, is a logical first step to encouraging youth to pursue studies in computer science. He also suggests that the tech sector do a better job of promoting the image of software engineering as creative, inventive, and “sexy.” Financial Post

UK applications begin to bounce back

Applicant numbers for UK universities have increased by 3.1% to 637,456, recovering slightly following an 8.7% dip in numbers in 2012 as tuition caps increased to £9,000. The Universities and Colleges Admissions Service figures make up about 96% of all university applicants to full-time courses. “Until there is a full recovery in applications from mature and part-time students it would be premature to claim that the 2012 funding system in England has been a success,” says Pam Tatlow, chief executive of Million+, a UK PSE think-tank. Times Higher Education

US push for new definition of sexual harassment in PSE sparks debate

A recent letter from the US government to the University of Montana, Missoula is sparking controversy over the definition of university sexual harassment. The letter sets a broader standard for the definition of sexual harassment, suggesting that it should be any time a student receives “unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature.” Historically, institutions have defined sexual harassment as “conduct that creates a hostile educational environment.” Critics say the new standard would restrict free speech at college, and that it could have big implications preventing teachers from “teaching sexually explicit books and implicate everyday classroom flirtations.” Arizona Senator John McCain sent a letter to the Attorney General asking if “a student giving another student a Valentine’s Day Card” or “a student listening to music that contains content of a sexual nature overheard by others” could constitute harassment under the new standard. Time