Top Ten

August 14, 2013

uAlberta science department chairs ask to reopen salary negotiations

All 7 department chairs in the Faculty of Science at the University of Alberta have signed an open letter directed to the president of the Association of Academic Staff University of Alberta (AASUA) asking him to reconsider the decision to reject uAlberta’s request to reopen collective agreements. The letter suggests that faculty may be willing to cut salaries and benefits in order to avoid “severe and long-term damage to the quality of our teaching and research.” The letter asks for open discussion and a vote regarding uAlberta’s request, in order to address the fact “that members were never given the opportunity to express their opinions.” uAlberta approached the AASUA and the Non-Academic Staff Association (NASA) in July about possibly renegotiating the agreements in order to avoid further job cuts. Edmonton Journal | Open Letter 

uToronto to collaborate with Indian Institute on research and entrepreneurship

The University of Toronto has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) in Bangalore, India, paving the way for increased collaborations on scientific research, entrepreneurship activities and educational opportunities. The key activities expected to come out of the MOU include joint support for entrepreneurship activities, including co-incubating companies, mutual technical and business advisory services, and cross-training student entrepreneurs. This is the second in a series of recent entrepreneurship partnerships struck with Indian institutions; Ryerson’s Digital Media Zone recently announced that they will partner with the Bombay Stock Exchange. uToronto News

Boeing signs internship agreement with 3 Vancouver Island universities

An agreement has been signed between Vancouver Island University, the University of Victoria, Royal Roads University, and Boeing that will provide one student from each institution with a paid internship at Boeing, starting summer 2014. BC aerospace consultant Tom McDowell stated that this could be the first step towards a potentially collaborative partnership, and officials at Royal Roads are looking at the agreement as a sign of the local growing aerospace industry. McDowell helped bring together key members of the Island’s aerospace sector, and suggested PSE programs could benefit from feedback on “how best to design their courses to meet future need.” Details of the agreement are still being worked out. Victoria Times Colonist

SAIT launches new bridge program for immigrants

SAIT Polytechnic has teamed up with the Alberta government’s Centre for Newcomers to launch a program that will offer language, computer and job-readiness training, work experience, and 12 weeks of accounting courses to immigrants with backgrounds in accounting. The Business Communication for Accountants (BCA) program is the only one of its kind in Alberta, according to SAIT. To qualify for the program, applicants must meet certain language and educational requirements, and pass a selection exam provided by SAIT's School of Business. The accounting courses offered through the program are recognized by the Certified General Accountants association, and can be used towards the completion of an accounting certificate, diploma or degree. SAIT News Release

Kwantlen to launch first-of-its-kind Physics for Modern Technology program

BC’s Ministry of Advanced Education has approved Kwantlen Polytechnic University’s Bachelor of Science, Physics for Modern Technology Major Degree, a 4-year program that will launch next fall, and is a first of its kind in Canada, according to Kwantlen. The university states that the program is set apart from other similar programs in the country due to its strong emphasis on the applied nature of physics in technological contexts. The new program will prepare graduates for immediate employment in areas that match the labour market and industry’s needs, such as electronics, robotics, optics, computer programming, process control and business. Kwantlen recently released its first strategic plan since becoming a polytechnic university that placed great emphasis on experiential-learning and applied learning. Kwantlen News Release

HEQCO examines “first-year problems” with student engagement

A new report released by the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario (HEQCO) examines student success, retention and engagement challenges in first-year financial accounting courses and suggests that tracking student engagement can help alleviate these issues. The study found that students did better when they were more often engaged in activities that presented problems similar to those on exams. In addition, the inclusion of current events increased student engagement, although in some cases the study concluded that a greater range of assessments may be beneficial. Students were most engaged and had positive approaches to learning in a smaller, apprenticeship-style program at a degree-granting college. The report suggests that as the field of teaching and learning is relatively new, there is a need to continue to develop tools for learning assessments. HEQCO News Release

PSE students confident about their ability to manage debt

The majority of Canadian students (64%) plan to live away from home while attending PSE this year, despite expecting the cost to be about 50% higher than if they lived at home, according to a poll by Royal Bank. Of those students living away, more than 8 out of 10 (83%) are confident in their ability to manage their finances. The survey of 1,107 PSE students, conducted in June, also revealed that while students who live away expect to take on 40% more debt than their peers who live at home ($30,800 compared to $22,000), both groups expect to pay back debt in a similar timeframe. Those who live away expect to take 4.8 years to pay back their debt, while those who live at home expect to take 4.2 years. RBC News Release

IBM to team up with universities to solve “big data” issues

IBM this week announced that it will be collaborating with 9 prominent universities from around the world to support data-analytics pursuits in PSE. IBM has partnerships with 1,000 other institutions to encourage students to find solutions to the issues that arise from the “big data” development, such as how to “grapple with the floods of data currently redefining how things are done in business, science, and other fields.” James C. Spohrer, director of global university programs for IBM, says the partnerships with universities are designed to narrow "the tremendous skills gap for people to learn the tools and processes" for crunching big data in the near future.” The 9 universities added to IBM’s roster are: Georgetown University, George Washington University, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Northwestern University, University of Missouri, India's Mother Teresa Women's University, and universities overseen by the Philippines Commission on Higher Education. Chronicle of Higher Education

New York passes law to establish “tax-free” zones around PSE campuses

The State of New York has passed legislation that will create tax-free zones on and around the institutions of the State University of New York (SUNY) system as well as some campuses of the City University of New York and private colleges in the state. The program, referred to as “Tax Free NY” or “Start Up NY,” is meant to encourage PSE-related start-ups to stay in the upstate NY area, as well as to encourage established businesses to expand and relocate to designated areas. Businesses would be exempt from state taxes, and employees would not be charged state income tax, up to a certain income level. There have been many initiatives in recent years to stimulate economic development around public and private colleges, in recognition of the contribution that these institutions make in local economies. The legislation has been met with near-universal support from higher education in the region; leadership from SUNY’s 64 campuses signed a letter of support for the program. Inside Higher Ed

Israel awards scholarships to students who post pro-Israel statements online

According to the Calgary Herald, Israel is working out a plan that will pay university students to post pro-Israel sentiments on social media networks. The students will receive a “scholarship” to engage global audiences online in order to combat anti-Semitism and calls to boycott Israel. The BBC reports that Israel is spending approximately £540,000 (CA$863,188) to recruit 500 students with strong foreign-language skills from around the world. Students involved in the program would not have to identify statements as government-linked. Calgary Herald | BBC