Top Ten

July 15, 2013

uOttawa continues to seek solution to housing issue

The Ottawa Citizen is reporting that the University of Ottawa plans to increase residence space with approximately 1,000 additional beds in the next 3-4 years. There are early-stage plans to build a 156-bed residence on campus property, but they are not yet finalized, nor have proposals been requested. And, according to the president of a local community association, developers have begun approaching the community about possible building plans. The Sandy Hill community has become a student-living hotbed, as home owners rapidly converted houses to accommodate many students, with little communal space. Ottawa has recently imposed a temporary ban on such projects. The university is reporting they are “looking at all the options” to address the housing situation. Ottawa Citizen

Algonquin College to launch campus in Saudi Arabia

Algonquin College has won an international bid to operate a new English language campus in Jazan, Saudi Arabia beginning in September 2013. At capacity, the campus will allow for 2,000 male students in business, engineering and several other technical fields, and will raise over $25 million in revenues. Algonquin has been providing the government-run Jazan Economic City Polytechnic (JEC PT) with both curriculum and faculty. The new Algonquin-run campus in Jazan will take over JEC PT’s facilities. It will be operated as a public-private partnership with the Technical and Vocational Training Corporation (TVTC), Saudi Arabia’s equivalent of Ontario’s Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities. The new campus will also offer a Foundation Year focused on English competency and study skills. Algonquin College also began building a campus in Kuwait in April, at which the college hopes to have 1,000 students enrolled by 2017. Algonquin News Release | Ottawa Citizen

TRU establishes new research chair in Aboriginal Early Childhood Development

Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops has received $2.5 million for the establishment of a Regional Innovation Chair in Aboriginal Early Childhood Development. The funds are provided by the BC government, with $1.25 million through the Leading Edge Endowment Fund (LEEF). The chair will specialize in Aboriginal early childhood development and maternal and child health, and will work closely with local Aboriginal communities to determine current needs and identify strengths and traditions in childhood development. Dr. Rod McCormick has been named as chair, bringing years of experience focusing on Aboriginal health research, careers and life planning, mental health and counselling, and youth suicide prevention. TRU News Release

Lambton plans to build new health education centre

Lambton College in Sarnia is currently advocating to the Ontario government for funding for a new Centre for Health Education & Sustainable Care (CHESC), which will help meet the growing demand for healthcare professionals in the community. Lambton, which enrols about 1000 health science students, claims it “needs a new facility to ensure that the quality of training students receive continues to remain current.” The centre is part of Lambton’s 2013-18 strategic plan, which was announced in January. A researcher at the University of Waterloo has studied the number of healthcare professionals needed in the community, and found that Sarnia-Lambton has had to attract healthcare professionals from other regions. According to Lambton, this means that the college isn’t able to satisfy the need for workers for the local healthcare industry. Lambton News Release

Canada partners with Japan to study environmental effects to DNA

The Canadian government, in partnership with Genome BC, Fonds de recherche du Québec-Santé (FRQS) and the Japan Science & Technology Agency, will give $21.8 million in funding over 5 years to 9 research teams in health. 6 Canadian teams and 3 teams composed of both Canadian and Japanese researchers will examine how environmental factors can alter the expression of our DNA and potentially affect our health. The 9 teams include researchers from uToronto, UBC, uManitoba, the BC Cancer Agency, McGill, University Health Network in Toronto, the University of Tokyo, the Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum Research Institute in Toronto, Kyoto University, SickKids Hospital in Toronto, and the RIKEN Center for Developmental Biology in Japan. CIHR News Release

uPhoenix given accreditation, but put on “notice”

The University of Phoenix has been informed by its regional accreditor that it has been put on “notice” for the next 2 years, after being told this past February that it might be put on probation. The notice status means that uPhoenix will have to submit a report that lists corrective measures taken to remain in compliance with accreditation criteria. A report from the accreditor, the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, told uPhoenix that it had insufficient autonomy from its corporate parent, and that NCACS was also concerned about the institution’s graduation and retention rates, methods for assessing student learning, and reliance on federal student aid. Inside Higher Ed

Postscript: July 14, 2015

The Higher Learning Commission (HLC) removed the University of Phoenix from “on notice” status effective June 25, according to corporate filings published Thursday. The Commission placed the school on notice two years ago over concerns about the school’s governance structure. The corporate filing indicates that uPhoenix submitted a report to HLC in November 2014 “providing evidence that the University has ameliorated those conditions that led to the Notice status.” Inside Higher Ed | Chronicle of Higher Education | Corporate Filing

Government R&D vouchers reduce red tape

A recent Globe and Mail article points out a new trend in which governments are giving companies vouchers, or business credits, to stimulate private sector R&D and commercialize academic discoveries and inventions. For example, Ontario’s new voucher program, which began accepting applications at the end of June, allows businesses to apply for grants from 3 different granting agencies. According to program administrator Tom Corr, “this is the first time in Canada organizations have worked together to create a single application and single review process.” The article points out that there seems to be a change in the complicated process of having to navigate the many different research grant programs, and that governments are increasingly talking about collaborating to make it easier for private companies to apply and receive grants for innovation. Alberta and Nova Scotia have had similar voucher programs in place since 2008. New Brunswick introduced its own voucher program in May, while British Columbia wrapped up a pilot project in March. This article follows a survey of Canadian business leaders that identified a lack of innovation in the country. Globe and Mail

Cape Breton students frustrated by water issues

Students are growing frustrated with Cape Breton University, as the fourth boil water order in 2 months has been issued for CBU and the Marconi campus of Nova Scotia Community College, states the CBU student union president. A water sample taken last week came back with a positive count of one for total coliform. Coliform itself may not necessarily cause illness, but its presence can indicate system vulnerability. Only one sample out of 21 came back positive, but officials are being cautious. NSCC, which manages the wells that the institutions get their water from, has hired an outside contractor to do the water testing, in an effort to locate the source of the problem. Cape Breton Post

Millennials believe they can make a difference, study

A survey of 12,000 millennials (people aged 18-30) in 27 countries has revealed that youth today believe they can make a difference locally, but that they don’t always feel that difference can be made politically. 62% of respondents said they could make a local difference, while only 45% thought one person’s participation in politics can make a difference in one’s current system. The Telefónica Global Millennial Survey also found that millenials are concerned about the health of the economy and the planet. “They believe strongly in protecting personal freedoms and are tolerant of other religious beliefs.” Telefonica Report

Canadian students want work/life balance in service or government positions, study

Canadian undergraduate students would most like to work in service and government positions, according to a recent survey of 28,700 Canadian students. Google and Apple came in first and third, respectively as most ideal workplaces, with Government of Canada sitting at number 2. Banks also ranked high for Canadian students, a marked departure from US results. Among business and engineering/IT students, the desire for a healthy work/life balance emerged as a career goal, with more than 60% of each group voting it most important. There were differences between groups regarding preferred work environment, with business students saying they wanted a friendly environment, and engineering/IT students stating they want a work environment that is “creative, dynamic and challenging.” Canada Newswire | Canadian Survey Data

Ontario’s skills mismatch must be addressed, opinion

If Ontario is to have “any serious hope” of creating good job opportunities for young people, it must put more focus on the skills mismatch, write Colleges Ontario president Linda Franklin and Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters VP Ian Howcroft in a recent op-ed. Franklin and Howcroft point to a recently-published Conference Board of Canada report, which states that this skills gap is costing Ontario billions of dollars each year, as well as a report by Rick Miner which identifies data that backs up the skills gap theory. It states that 700,000 people in Ontario will be unemployable by 2021 “due to insufficient education and training.” The authors suggest that Ontario: follow the examples of countries like  Switzerland and Germany, which do a better job matching their educational programs with employers’ requirements; do more to “promote and value the career opportunities in the private sector, which is where most of the job growth will occur in the years ahead;” help more students get a combination of both college and university; and expand its range of degree programs, including allowing colleges to offer 3-year degrees in career-focused programs. Toronto Star

Nova Scotia expands voter options, makes it easier for students to vote

When Nova Scotia holds its next provincial election, likely sometime in the next 11 months, residents will have more options to cast their ballot. Dubbed “a dozen ways to vote,” the new measures will make it easier for many demographics to have their say, including students, youth and people with mobility issues. Residents can now vote anywhere in NS and have their vote count in their home riding, of particular importance to PSE students. As well, although there will be an official election day, with 2 days of advanced polls, voters will also be able to visit any returning office and vote, any day of the campaign except Sundays. Jessica McCormick, the national chairperson of the Canadian Federation of Students, is applauding the move, suggesting other provincial and federal elections could benefit from similar measures, as youth participation in elections continues to lag. Globe and Mail

Canadian universities must learn how to sell their quiet virtues, opinion

University of Alberta director of Religious Studies Andrew Gow suggests in a recent op-ed that Canadian, and particularly Alberta, universities don’t do a good enough job of “selling” their many positive attributes and unique offerings. To offer an explanation, Gow points out that there is no “precedent or model to follow.” The US operates on an “American class system,” where things like successful sports programs and alumni prestige create more competition, and therefore a system in which it is easier to communicate success. He contrasts that system with Canada, where “university education is essentially an accessible public resource, rather than a scarce, expensive, prestige-driven commodity.” Gow states that, paradoxically, higher tuition and lower access seems to cause people to value institutions even more. One of the ways that Gow suggests universities “sell” themselves more effectively is by engaging graduates in the promotion of their Alma maters. “Canadian universities focus on the core work of training students and doing research, instead of cultivating relationships and networks or spending money on PR and image management. Now we are being punished for that functional, public-service-minded focus on the main task,” concludes Gow. Edmonton Journal

Traditional undergrad education model flawed, says QuestU president

The current popular university education model is flawed, according to David J. Helfand, president of Quest University Canada. In an article in The Chronicle of Higher Education, Helfand points out what he sees as the 3 main faults of the “student as empty vessel” model of learning: students learn best by being involved and engaged, which arguably does not happen in a traditional classroom or lecture hall; the traditional model of learning is isolated, not collaborative; and the establishment of competition for marks can drive students towards cheating, which is cause for punishment. Helfand states that student brains today are “instinctively collaborative, innately cooperative, and structurally wired for small-group interaction mediated by language and an awareness of the intentionality of others.” QuestU is Canada's first independent, non-profit, secular university, and it operates on a “block plan” curriculum, where students study only one subject at a time. QuestU recently reported that they have reached a 65% yield rate for the upcoming school year. The average yield rate for Ivy League schools is 58.9%, and only Harvard had a higher yield rate this year. Chronicle of Higher Education | Quest U News Release

Education changes needed as technology reaches toddler audience

Children are using tablets and smartphones at younger ages and higher rates every day, influencing the way today’s youth approach learning environments. Glenn O’Farrell, president of Groupe Média TFO, suggests that as it becomes more prevalent for toddlers to use tablets as a learning resource, the education system must adapt in order to prevent a “young generation of elementary school dropouts.” Because tablets afford the child control over their learning experience, they will be used to a level of interaction and choice that may not be available in a traditional classroom. O’Farrell encourages parents to engage with educators to ensure that the needs of today’s unique youngsters are being met, and he recognizes the need for teachers and administrators to adapt “on the fly,” by employing new teaching methods and embracing collaborative models of learning. Globe and Mail

Decline in humanities enrolment may be due to broader career options for women

Among many explanations offered for the decline in humanities enrolment, an education blogger suggests that the weakening is more about women’s equality than waning popularity of humanities. Ben Schmidt, a graduate student in history at Princeton University and visiting graduate fellow at the Cultural Observatory at Harvard University, argues that the decline in humanities majors since 1970 can be explained by the “increasing choice of women to enter more pre-professional majors like business, communications, and social work.” Schmidt’s data breakdown shows that the enrolment for women in humanities declined much more sharply than male humanities majors did, and that at the same time, female majors in pre-professional fields increased from less than 5% of all degrees earned by women in 1965 to more than 25% today. Although many PSE stakeholders have lauded Schmidt’s theory, several people have expressed doubt over its validity. Schmidt’s idea follows a recent report and campaign by Harvard University, which seeks to revive excitement for the humanities. Inside Higher Ed

US financial aid focusing on needs-based grants

US state governments increased spending on student financial aid by nearly 2% during 2011, and used a larger share of that money for needs-based aid than they had since 2003, according to an annual survey released this week. The Chronicle of Higher Education points out that while the increase is quite small, the data does reveal a trend: that many states are shifting focus to funding that is based on financial need rather than giving merit-based grants. 60% of the dollars went to families with incomes less than $40,000 annually, which shows that states focused funding on the neediest students. The figures were compiled by the National Association of State Student Grant and Aid Programs. Chronicle of Higher Education (article) | Chronicle of Higher Education (data)

Foreign students help sustain STEM grad programs in US, study

International students play a critical role in sustaining quality STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) graduate programs at US universities, according to a new report from the National Foundation for American Policy (NFAP). The report, which analyzes enrolment data from 2010, shows that international students make up the majority of enrolments in US graduate programs in many STEM fields. However, the data also show averages that mask even higher institutional numbers; there are 36 graduate programs in electrical engineering where the proportion of international students exceeds 80%, including 7 where it exceeds 90%. “International students help many universities have enough graduate students to support research programs that help attract top faculty,” says the report’s author, Stuart Anderson. The report also emphasizes the value that international graduate students can bring to the US economy, and encourages measures that make it easier for these graduates to get work visas. Chinese applications to graduate programs in the US this spring dropped by an unexpected 5%, which is causing some institutions to become concerned.  Inside Higher Ed

CFO survey reveals negative outlook on financials

A new survey has found that many chief financial officers of universities and colleges are doubtful about the financial sustainability of their institutions. Only 27% of CFOs express strong confidence in the viability of their institution's financial model over 5 years, and that number drops in half to 13% when they are asked to look further over a 10-year period. Also, more than 6 in 10 CFOs surveyed disagree or strongly disagree with the statement that "reports that a significant number of higher education institutions are facing existential financial crisis are overblown." The online survey was completed by a total of 457 campus and system chief business and financial officers. The survey also found that: health care costs are weighing increasingly heavily on the minds of CFOs, retention is displacing recruitment as institutions' top priority, CFOs want better-use data to evaluate programs and identify potential problems or solutions, many CFOs believe that new spending at their institutions will come from re-allocated funds rather than new dollars, and nearly half of CFOs say their institution has increased its dependence on debt to finance projects. Inside Higher Ed

Chinese principals aim to better flawed China-US PSE application process

A group of Chinese high-school principals, frustrated with alleged “fraud and abuse” in the college applications of Chinese students seeking to study in the US, has banded together to promote best practices in transparency in the application process. As the number of Chinese students studying abroad approaches 200,000, concerns have been mounting about the unethical ways in which they are getting into PSE institutions. A Chinese recruiting consultancy has estimated that 90% of Chinese applicants seeking to study in the US submit false recommendations and 70% have others write their personal essays. Approximately 50 Chinese principals and 30 US admissions officers met last fall to establish a set of ethical principles for applications, which include discouraging students from using outside recruiting agencies or authenticating transcripts and other paperwork. The group will meet again this October. Chronicle of Higher Education