Top Ten

August 15, 2013

uOttawa suspends journalism program intake

The University of Ottawa has suspended admission to its journalism program, reports the Ottawa Citizen. A report to uOttawa’s senate last year from an external body called the program “profoundly troubled,” and suggested the program be suspended as soon as possible, then either cancelled or revamped. “The university has chosen to restructure the program,” said English language coordinator Evan Potter, with the intention to begin admitting students again in fall 2014. Critics are questioning uOttawa’s plans for the program, suggesting that more needs to be done. The program is offered in partnership with Algonquin College and La Cité collégiale, but students already in the program will not be affected. Some students are worried about how their degrees will be valued in light of the controversy, and hope that the program’s reputation does not tarnish their worth. Ottawa Citizen (suspension) | Ottawa Citizen (students)

VIU to offer tuition waivers for youth in care

Vancouver Island University has become the first PSE institution in BC to offer a tuition waiver program for youth in care, responding to a challenge issued earlier this year by BC’s representative for children and youth. VIU’s program will represent the “first step in overcoming financial barriers that make it difficult for these students to consider and achieve success in higher education.” The new pilot program will begin this September for students who meet the eligibility criteria, and VIU will work with participating students throughout the year to “identify other financial barriers or necessary supports.” VIU joins several other Canadian PSE institutions that offer tuition waivers for youth in care, including BrandonU, Assiniboine Community College, and uWinnipeg. Ontario recently announced a new tuition grant program for crown wards and youth in care, providing free tuition at participating universities and colleges for up to 4 years. VIU News

Georgian and Lakehead sign new articulation agreement

In the midst of a sector-wide push for more credit transfer agreements between Ontario colleges and universities, Georgian College and Lakehead University have signed new agreements that will allow graduates of Georgian’s General Arts and Science 2-year diploma program to gain advanced standing in Lakehead’s Honours BASc or BASc Interdisciplinary Studies programs, with specializations in political science, psychology, or sociology. The qualifying students will be able to to earn a degree with just over 2 additional years of study. Also, graduates from Georgian’s Environmental Technology 3-year diploma program are eligible to transfer into the Honours BASc Environmental Sustainability program. Georgian News Release

Classroom laptop use can harm performance

Laptops have become increasingly visible in campus classrooms across the globe, but one study cautions that laptop use in classrooms can have a negative effect on the grades of the user and of those around the user. The experiment had students attend a university-level lecture with various instructions regarding laptop use, and then tested the participants on the content of the lecture. The study found those students who were instructed to multitask online during the lecture, and the students who did not have laptops but were in clear view of another’s screen, suffered grades 11-17% lower than their peers. The students were also questioned about their sense of distraction, and most denied the laptops had any effect on their concentration. Recently, tablet use has started to take over laptop use in classroom settings, which can be more easily used solely for note-taking, and are often viewed as less obtrusive than laptops. CBC (Canadian Press)

Continuing ed picks up momentum in evolving workforce

The Toronto Star reports a rise in the number of university and college continuing education courses across Canada that help people arm themselves with skills and knowledge for a changing workplace. As competition for jobs becomes steeper, continuing education classes can be a “launch pad” for those looking to get to the head of the pack. “There's no doubt you can do a lot of important learning on the job, but to take that outside and go into a classroom and try to formalize that with a certificate signifies a person's willingness to grow and recognize the changing industry,” says Carolyn Young, director of continuing studies at Western University. Young adds that the average Canadian will hold 8 jobs over his/her lifetime, and many of these positions will be highly specialized. Art Noordeh, director of continuing education at York University, says, “If a company wants to downsize, the first people it will get rid of are the generalists — the specialists are the last to go.” Toronto Star

50% of Canadians use Facebook monthly

More than half of all Canadians (19 million) log on to Facebook at least once a month, and 14 million Canadians are accessing Facebook daily, according to a release of user statistics from Facebook. Daily Facebook usage in Canada is more than both the global and US averages. 13 million Canadian Facebook users are accessing the site via a mobile device at least once a month, and 9.4 million use a mobile device daily. Facebook is accumulating the data in order to appeal to marketers. In the PSE sector, the ability to engage students and youth via social networking is considered a trend that should not be ignored. Global News  (Canadian Press)

Rankings may intensify inequalities between institutions

As Shanghai Jiao Tong University releases its Academic Ranking of World Universities 2013, a new paper states that the rise of global PSE rankings may intensify inequalities between and within institutions. The study, led by Michigan State University scholar Brendan Cantwell, warns that the increasing number of rankings may influence policy makers to direct money to a select number of high-ranking universities to compete for “world class” status. Cantwell and his team also found that in the US, universities that receive more federal research money and award more doctorate degrees in the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and math) tend to score higher in the Shanghai rankings. The study adds that "a high global ranking does not necessarily translate to economic growth or jobs for students at a university” or social/economic benefits for a community. Times Higher Education | MSU Today | Chronicle of Higher Education

Obama to promote PSE cost plan with bus tour

US President Barack Obama is set to begin a 2-day bus tour next week to promote his plan for reducing costs and improving value of PSE in the country. Obama will be stopping in Buffalo, Syracuse and Binghamton, NY, and northeastern Pennsylvania. Obama has said he's planning an “aggressive strategy on costs so Americans can get training needed for the rapidly changing economy.” The president also recently signed a bipartisan bill to restore lower student loan interest rates. Houston Chronicle (Associated Press)

Growing number of UK PSE students using study drugs

A growing number of UK PSE students are abusing prescription drugs made to boost concentration as a way of keeping up with their studies, reveals an annual report by the Care Quality Commission, an organization that monitors controlled substances in the UK. The study reports that prescriptions for methylphenidate drugs -- including Ritalin -- that are used to treat Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) have risen by 56% in the past 5 years. The National Post reports a more worrisome trend, which is not reflected in the study: there is a rise in numbers of students who order the prescription drugs online (mostly from India) and share them with their friends. Another recent survey estimated that 10% of students at Cambridge University have admitted to using “enhancers” to help them with their studies. A Canadian study from this past May suggests that as many as 11% of students on Canadian campuses are using drugs for “cognitive enhancement.” National Post

Has PSE faced a ‘zombie apocalypse?’

A new book, “Zombies in the Academy,” by 3 scholars from Australian universities uses the zombie figure as a metaphor for the current state of academe. Andrew Whelan, Ruth Walker and Christopher Moore use the mythical monster to explain several phenomena: students focused only on “getting through and making the grade;” faculty “deadened” by the corporatization of the university and the erosion of traditional faculty jobs; and systems and processes within the university “that have long since outlived their original purpose but that endlessly perpetuate themselves.” The authors suggest that it is time to recognize that the “zombie apocalypse” has already happened, and that all that the PSE world can do now is “start talking about what to do next with what’s left, rather than lamenting that which it is no longer possible to do.” Inside Higher Ed | Publisher website