Top Ten

July 31, 2013

Ontario confirms long-term funding for Environmental Lakes Area

The Ontario government says it will fund the long-term operation of the Experimental Lakes Area (ELA), providing some comfort to scientists who were worried about the experiments they run at the outdoor laboratory in Northwestern Ontario near the Manitoba border. The federal government announced in the spring that it would no longer fund the facility. Ontario’s minister of natural resources, David Orazietti, said that the exact dollar amount is part of ongoing discussions, confirming only that “it will be below $2 million.” Orazietti also said there would be other sources of funding in addition to the amount contributed by Ontario, but what those sources will be remains speculation. Globe and Mail

StatsCan reports decline in science and technology spending

Statistics Canada has released new data based on a survey of federal government departments involved with funding science and technology research and/or activities. The report states that spending for the fiscal year 2013-14 is expected to decline 3.3% from 2012-2013 to $10.5 billion, of which approximately 64% is expected to go towards research and development. While federal officials point to “record investments” in the science and technology sector, academics and scientists argue that the federal government has made drastic cuts to many research and technology programs in the last few years. StatsCan also lists a continued decline in overall science and technology funding. Huffington Post (CP) | Statistics Canada Website

Carleton ordered to release student grade data after FIPPA request

Carleton University has been ordered to hand over 12 years of student grade records to the Ottawa Citizen, after the newspaper filed a Freedom of Information request in 2011 seeking seeking anonymized grade data (without names or student numbers). Carleton had refused to release the records, arguing that making them public would violate students’ privacy and damage the university financially. Carleton argued that students would be “keenly aware” of their classmates’ performance in class, allowing them to figure out which student received which grade in a particular course. Ontario’s Information and Privacy Commissioner, Daphne Loukidelis, dismissed Carleton’s theory as too remote and speculative. Loukidelis also dismissed the university’s claim that “if grade averages were known, students might be less likely to choose to study there, causing economic hardship for the university.” Ottawa Citizen

uAlberta to offer MOOC with option for course credit

The University of Alberta will offer its first massive, open online course (MOOC) this fall, which reached 900 enrolments on the day registration opened. Dino 101: Dinosaur Paleobiology will be offered through Coursera, which is based in California and is one of the largest MOOC platforms. While the course is free to anyone who wants to audit it, those who want to earn a credit for the MOOC will have to pay $263, half the price of a regular uAlberta course. uAlberta will be the first Canadian university to offer a for-credit MOOC, according to the Edmonton Journal. The university also continues to work with Udacity, another MOOC provider, with whom the university has a research MOU on using machine learning on student performance data. uAlberta News Release | Edmonton Journal

uOttawa plans Canadian School of Government

The University of Ottawa plans to open Canada’s first School of Government, reports the Ottawa Citizen. A strategic mandate document issued by uOttawa in the fall stated that the proposed school would “prepare the next generation of leadership, foster dialogue and discussion about Canada’s key challenges, and conduct leading-edge research in key issues of public policy.” Ottawa’s bilingual environment and the proximity of multiple levels of government, as well as a diverse and international faculty make uOttawa an ideal location for such a program, according to uOttawa president Allan Rock. The plans are still in the design stage, with hopes to officially launch the new school next year, and enrol the first students in 2015. Ottawa Citizen

Alberta PSE minister wants to give stronger voice to students

Alberta’s advanced education minister, Thomas Lukaszuk, told PSE student representatives this week that he wishes to give students a stronger voice in PSE governance. “[Students] are not only students and not only stakeholders but they are shareholders because their tuition covers 25% of the actual operating costs of our schools,” said Lukaszuk. The minister said students should have access to all financial, policy and programming information and be equal partners on boards. He added that this doesn’t currently happen at all institutions, where some view student representatives as “token presences.” In the same meeting with student reps, Lukaszuk also said the spring budget cut of 6.8% to PSE operating grants was a “hiccup,” and that he hopes the budget will increase next year. Edmonton Journal

George Brown partners with Indian culinary school

George Brown College and Manipal University in India have signed an agreement allowing students in Manipal’s culinary arts program to study at George Brown to further their education. Once Indian students have completed 2 years of study at Manipal, they can enter the second year of George Brown’s Culinary Management Diploma. Students will receive both a Manipal University Bachelor of Culinary Arts as well as a George Brown College Culinary Diploma. The students will then have the option to complete a postgraduate certificate course in Italian cuisine, which involves a term in Italy as part of an agreement with La Scuola Internazionale di Cucina Italiana. Students will train in Indian, Western, and European artisan cuisine taught by top Canadian and Indian culinary experts. The program begins September 2013. George Brown News Release

MUN goes smoke-free

Memorial University has established a full smoking ban on all campus property, effective today, joining a number of Canadian PSE institutions that no longer allow smoking on campus properties. MUN phased in the initiative over the last few years, beginning with a ban on smoking in doorways. Officials state they are committed to providing a smoke-free space in which to work and study. MUN will run an awareness campaign to alert the campus community and highlight restrictions. They also offer smoking cessation assistance through MUN’s wellness programs. MUN News Release

UK industry calls for career-focused PSE changes

Business leaders in the UK are recommending PSE changes that better prepare students for a career – an argument familiar to the PSE sector here in Canada. A Confederation of British Industry report says that “there are too few courses with business links, students have a weak understanding of student finance and that careers advice available to young people looking for a more vocational route is poor.” Recommendations the report makes to remedy this situation include creating a single application system for all business-backed and industry-run training programs, allowing institutions to design 1- or 2-year compressed degrees, and “developing business outreach into a core function that has influence over curriculum design.” Times Higher Education | CBI Report

Video screen tests increasingly required for MBA admissions

MBA programs at Canadian and US business schools are increasingly asking students for video screen tests as an admission requirement to test the poise and presence of applicants. The University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Business, which required applicants to answer 2 pre-recorded questions on video last year as a trial pilot, is now introducing them as a graded screening tool for admissions. Northwestern University’s and Yale University’s management schools will also require a video component to their MBA applications this year. However, most business schools still offer alternatives to “camera-shy” candidates. The University of Texas’ McCombs School of Business and NYU’s Stern School of Business both allow candidates to choose from several different formats when answering admissions questions, including a video component as well as the more traditional essay. Poets and Quants