Top Ten

August 9, 2013

TWU land-development plan stirs up controversy

A plan to turn agricultural land surrounding Langley, BC’s Trinity Western University into a “university district” is drawing opposition from several places. Some Langley residents, Metro Vancouver newspaper and the Agricultural Land Commission are worried because the plan - approved by council in July - would allow massive development, including homes, on farmland in the Agricultural Land Reserve. Langley lawyer Clint Lee adds that the privately-run university doesn’t have the money for expansion and that the township is extending special favours to TWU that are not available to ordinary taxpayers. Financial records show debt at the institution climbed rapidly to $41 million in 2012, according to The Province newspaper. TWU's new president, Bob Kuhn, said they have engaged in an "open dialogue" with the township regarding expansion in the decades to come. The Province

uManitoba sued for denying woman admission to med school

The University of Manitoba and the provincial government are being sued after Henya Olfman was denied entrance to medical school in 2009. Olfman had high marks in her pre-med university courses, scored well in the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT) and provided great references, according to the claim. But her lawyer and father, Shawn Olfman, says uManitoba breached a contract it had with students who applied to the medical school by changing its interview criteria without notice. He also said the interviews “violate the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the university’s own policies because they are based too much on the personal opinions of the applicants and not their abilities.” CBC

Postscript: June 27, 2014

lawsuit filed by a Manitoba woman who failed to gain entrance into the medical school at the University of Manitoba has been struck down by a Manitoba judge. Henya Olfman was denied entry into uManitoba’s medical school in 2010 and, along with her lawyer father, has spent the last several years filing lawsuits and appeals that state uManitoba breached a fiduciary duty to grant her acceptance into the school. "That she did not get into medical school at this university is unfortunate for her and disappointing to her parents. Regrettably, setbacks and denied aspirations are a part of life," said Queen's Bench Justice Chris Martin. "Yet, to confront this through a lawsuit with the attendant substantial expenditure of time, effort and money to the specific defendants, as well as to the plaintiff herself, and to the administration of justice generally, is remarkable."Winnipeg Free Press

Ontario colleges call for increased transparency in credit-transfer policies

Ontario colleges are urging the provincial government to help more students pursue a blend of college and university education by requiring institutions to be more transparent about recognizing students' prior credits. College presidents discussed the proposal in detail with Training, Colleges and Universities minister Brad Duguid at a meeting on August 7. The proposal includes requiring each institution to make their credit-transfer policies publicly available and easily accessible. Over the past 5 years, the number of university graduates applying to college has increased by more than 40%. According to the Ontario Council on Articulation and Transfer (ONCAT), there are over 600 credit transfer agreements in existence, covering multiple universities and colleges. Ontario in 2011 announced a 5-year investment in credit transfer, including the development of a new credit transfer system.  St. Lawrence News Release | Boréal News Release | Cambrian News Release

New research network to study, improve STEM teaching and learning

A network of North American universities is collaborating on research to improve undergraduate teaching and learning, with a focus on science, technology, engineering and math. The Bay View Alliance (BVA) of 7 universities used seed funding from the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario (HEQCO) to produce a preliminary report on the research that should be done. The report reveals that although there has been much research done on pedagogy in the sciences, the knowledge “hasn’t been making its way into classrooms and curricula,” says Lorne Whitehead, UBC physics professor and principal investigator of the BVA project. “We’re studying what leaders at every level, including those among faculty, can do to help fix that.”The next phase of the project has been planned and will be supported by an $800,000, 4-year grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. Canadian members of the alliance are UBC, Queen’s and uSask. HEQCO Website

Campuses move towards motorized tours

Campus tours are moving into the motorized age, as more institutions begin to use various means of shuttling visitors around the often-expansive campuses. Electric trams, golf carts, and segways are just some of the innovative ways that colleges and universities are ensuring that potential students are getting the full tour of their campuses. The University of North Texas, which had a walking tour of the 884-acre campus that is described as being “like a death march,” purchased 2 14-passenger trams that now take visitors around the campus. In Canada, Niagara College’s Niagara-on-the-Lake campus now offers segway tours in partnership with a local tour company. Visitors ride the segways through NC’s vineyards, tour the surrounding ecological sites, and finish at the visitor centre where samples of the beer and wine produced by NC are available. Chronicle of Higher Education | Niagara Bullet News

UBC signs $10-million deal with India to continue isotope research

The University of British Columbia has signed a $10-million deal with India’s Variable Energy Cyclotron Centre in Calcutta to continue a 10-year partnership to develop cutting-edge production techniques and the study of rare isotopes. The deal between the Indian centre and UBC’s TRIUMF subatomic physics lab will “lead to technology that will help alleviate the worldwide shortage of the technetium-99m isotope, the most common medical isotope used for diagnostic testing,” according to Tim Meyer, head of strategic planning and communications for TRIUMF. Vancouver Desi

uToronto library still in North American top 3

The University of Toronto’s library system is once again in third place, behind Harvard and Yale, in the Association of Research Libraries’ (ARL) annual rankings. uToronto’s library system is comprised of 44 individual libraries, with 12 million volumes in 341 languages. It is the largest publicly funded research collection in Canada and the third-largest academic library in North America. The ARL rankings are based on total expenditures, materials and salary expenditures, and number of staff. uToronto has been in the top 5 since 2002-03, and this year it is the only Canadian library system to make the top 10. uToronto News

VCC and BCIT sign MOU for applied research collaboration

Vancouver Community College and the British Columbia Institute of Technology have signed an MOU to increase opportunities for collaboration and exchange of ideas around applied research projects. The agreement will provide a platform for scientific and technological innovation, and will “create greater information exchange and enhanced links between theory and practice, resulting in a more robust educational experience” for students. In May 2013, VCC was granted eligibility by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) to authorize applications and administer NSERC grants, scholarships and fellowships. The MOU builds on a tripartite agreement signed earlier this year between VCC, BCIT, and Simon Fraser University to better enable and encourage student mobility between institutions. BCIT News

Northern Arizona University offers competency-based degrees and transcripts

Northern Arizona University has developed a second-transcript model that is entirely competency based and without grades or course names for students who take specific online bachelor’s degrees. The courses offered are in fully-accredited, “Personal Learning” programs in computer information technology, liberal arts, and small business administration. The programs are all online, and students can move at their own pace. Tuition is set at $2,500 for a 6-month “subscription,” and students can interact with professors and peers in online forums. Students still receive traditional transcripts as well, to prevent problems transferring to another program or pursuing graduate studies. The new competency-based transcript has received some criticism, but most critics are applauding NAU’s efforts to embrace education based on learning outcomes. Inside Higher Ed | Sample Transcript

Long-term unemployment affects the way employers view job applicants

The longer a person is unemployed, the lower his or her chances of landing a job become, according to an upcoming paper by Swedish economists Stefan Eriksson and Dan-Olof Rooth. The economists used Swedish data on calls returned to job applicants, sorting job seekers by duration of unemployment. The data showed that being unemployed for a short period of time made no difference at all to job seekers’ prospects, but that being unemployed for longer did. However, the marked decline in the number of returned calls was only seen for those applying for jobs that did not require a PSE degree -- at 20% fewer calls. Those applying for jobs that do require higher education did not see the same decline in response. The Globe and Mail points out that Canada has not seen the same rate of long-term unemployment as has the US. According to Statistics Canada, as of June, 2013, the average duration of unemployment in Canada was 18.3 weeks. In contrast, the average duration of unemployment in the US was 35.6 weeks. Globe and Mail