Top Ten

July 26, 2013

US enrolment in PSE slows as economy recovers

Despite a slowly recovering economy, university enrolment in the US fell 2% in 2011-12, the first significant decline since the 1990s. Nearly all of the difference comes from a decline in enrolment at for-profit and community colleges. According to the New York Times, signs point to a decline in traditional 4-year, nonprofit college enrolment as well. Reasons cited for the decrease are that the PSE-age population is dropping, and that many adults who left a bleak job market and went back to school are now returning to a career. The data has institutions that are “on the margin, economically” worried about their survival. As a result, these universities are more actively searching for students to enrol after their spring deadlines, with some even offering larger grants to entice students. New York Times

George Brown launches “Young Leaders” fundraising group

The George Brown College Foundation this month launched their “Young Leaders Council,” a group of “young, up-and-coming professionals” who are volunteering to raise funds for George Brown’s “Success at Work” campaign, which will support the college’s expansion and increase scholarships and bursaries. The group is made up of both George Brown alumni and non-alumni, and includes business and community leaders in fields such as finance, marketing, fundraising, hospitality and entertainment. George Brown Media Release

TWU signs collaboration proposal with Ha Tinh University in Vietnam

Trinity Western University this week signed a proposal for collaboration with Ha Tinh University in Vietnam that will enable TWU to make a meaningful impact on learners in one of the poorest provinces in Vietnam. One of the first outcomes of the proposal will see TWU send a group of students to Vietnam in the summer of 2014 to serve in the City of Ha Tinh, and to provide English-language training to students at Ha Tinh University. The Township of Langley, where TWU is located, and Ha Tinh City have been working together in local community development since 2011. TWU News Release

Crowdfunding continues to grow in Canada

Crowdfunding companies like and USEED have become an increasingly popular method for raising funds for research projects at PSE institutions in Canada and the US. Several prominent US universities have recently launched crowdfunding campaigns, including the University of Virginia. In Canada, the Emily Carr University of Art + Design has recently launched a campaign to raise funds that will be matched by a board member. There are even students who attempt to raise funds to pay for tuition using crowdfunding platforms. In Canada, more businesses are turning to crowdfunding to raise funds for various projects or to avoid foreclosure. As one successful crowd funder explained, the method also doubles as a marketing campaign, creating public awareness and involving potential customers before they even enter the business itself. Ottawa Citizen

How to better connect students with employment

In a recent Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario (HEQCO) blog post, Joe Henry, associate dean of student success at Sheridan College, highlights the need for improvements in the education sector to better connect students with employment. Henry notes the importance of solid career planning initiatives at the secondary and PSE levels, in order to get students on the right career path early, citing research that states the majority of PSE drop-outs are career-indecision related. Another measure Henry suggests is one that educates parents on the possible career and study options out there, to adjust a perception that college degrees are not “real degrees.” The final area for improvement, for Henry, is to encourage an approach to education that is ongoing and life-long. As he states, it is “about training for the right skills that are needed now AND into the future.” HEQCO blog

UoGuelph’s “iron fish” project goes swimmingly

An innovative project at the University of Guelph is experiencing continued success and expansion. The “lucky iron fish” project, part of the university's BetterPlanet initiative to support research and development efforts, is an idea largely created by a former graduate student, and aims to increase iron levels and combat anemia in developing countries. The iron fish are simply added to food being prepared, or potable water being sterilized, for brief periods, infusing the food or water with iron. A current UoGuelph grad student is using a commercialization grant to expand the program in Cambodia, enlisting the services of people injured by land mines during Cambodia’s years of conflict to help manufacture and package the iron fish. Guelph Mercury

Unions offer increased wages, security for adjunct professors

As budget cuts multiply and PSE institutions look to save costs by hiring more adjunct or sessional instructors, the push to unionize these adjunct professors has met with a degree of success, particularly in the US. Inside Higher Ed examines the move to unionize at several US colleges and universities, and finds that those whose adjunct professors are union members enjoy higher wages, better benefits, and job security, generally speaking. According to one report, median pay per course was 25% higher for adjuncts where part-time faculty had union representation. Paid office hours and other institutional supports were also more prevalent for unionized professors. One area in which adjunct professors have been unable to make great gains is health insurance, but the upcoming US Affordable Care Act could influence union negotiations in the future. Inside Higher Ed      

OECD’s proposed global learning outcomes test meets criticism

A new international PSE testing system proposed recently by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and development (OECD) has raised concerns from many sector stakeholders. The OECD has released a series of reports that examine whether it is practically and scientifically feasible to assess what PSE students around the world know and can do upon graduation. Andreas Schleicher, the OECD’s chief education adviser, says that the push for the assessment is a response to the rising influence of university rankings, which are widely reported in the media and that tend to emphasize research over teaching. “If we don’t have a way of measuring teaching then we are going to have to rely on reputation — which only tells you about the past.” However, Patti M. Peterson, an official from the American Council on Education, which represents US university and college presidents, says that “trying to take very different systems of higher education and measure across them” will not be successful. John Aubrey Douglass, a professor at the University of California, agrees, saying “If the purpose is for institutions to use the data from this test for self-improvement, you’re not going to get there.” Other critics are concerned that the test would mean a trend towards uniformity in how things are taught. New York Times

US students with higher ACT scores are more mobile

The higher US students score on standardized university entrance exams, the more distance they may put between home and their university choice, reveals a new study by an American standardized testing company, ACT. Among students scoring a 33 or higher on their tests, the median distance was 170 miles; among those who scored below 24, less than 50 miles. The study, which examined ACT scores of about 1.17 million students in the high school graduating class of 2012, also found the more educated the parents, the farther from home their son or daughter tend to go to university. USA Today

UK scientist says pre-registration would "put science in chains”

There is a growing concern that there are “questionable practices and outright misconduct” going on in life sciences research in the UK, but academics are equally worried about the measures proposed to crack down on this misconduct. Psychologists, when asked to self-report on the issues, say that large numbers of life scientists “cherry-pick data, hide null results, fail to employ adequate statistical power and reinvent the aims of studies after they have been completed to make it look as though unexpected findings were predicted.” Academic journals have proposed pre-registration as a solution, which would involve journals accepting future papers based on the design of experiments rather than their results. Sophie Scott, deputy director of the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience at University College London, argues that there are multiple problems with this idea: limiting speculation from data interpretation risks making papers more one-dimensional; with no results to go on, reviewers would be more likely to rely on the reputation of the researcher, which would count against junior scientists; and some types of research in psychology are simply impossible to carry-out using the hypothesis-testing method. Times Higher Education