Top Ten

August 23, 2013

Fanshawe buys facilities at London International Airport

Fanshawe College has announced plans to purchase the facilities formerly owned by Jazz Aviation at London International Airport, effective August 29, 2013. The acquisition will provide long-term housing for Fanshawe’s aviation programs, and will allow the college to continue to develop 6-8 new aviation programs. Fanshawe officials are excited that students will have a space that is an “authentic and realistic learning environment.” Fanshawe will make some adaptations to the hangar bay to ensure it suits the needs of the aircraft and avionics maintenance program. The aircraft structures program, offered by Sault College in partnership with Fanshawe, may also be housed at the new building. Fanshawe News

MHC forms action team to address international education audit

As part of an ongoing response to the provincial auditor’s July report that determined Medicine Hat College’s International Education Division was operating outside of the college’s control system, creating financial, legal, and reputational risk, officials at MHC are opening up “action team” meetings to the general public. The action team was formed to address the issues raised by the report, and includes administration, staff, board members, and others. VP Allen VandenBerg cautioned that they might not yet have all the answers, but that they’re making good progress on some fronts. MHC has hired a law firm to “investigate and expand” on the audit’s findings, and to check for legal issues around financial transactions and academic licensing. MHC has suspended admissions to the IED programs, but students currently enrolled will be able to continue. Medicine Hat News

Radwanski praises uOttawa’s decision to suspend journalism program

In a new Globe and Mail article, political columnist Adam Radwanski uses the University of Ottawa’s recent suspension of the journalism program as an example of differentiation and the elimination of redundancy. Radwanski notes that some policy makers have long complained about Ontario universities spreading themselves too thin and not adapting to a “looming funding crunch,” and that ultimately it will “fall to the government to decide just how much it wants to use funding as a lever to force change on the universities.” Radwanski highlights the impression of “injudicious uses of resources” and of all small universities striving to be “research institutions geared largely toward graduate students,” with not enough specialization or focus. Globe and Mail (subscription needed)

Algonquin to conduct learning review, explore expansion

Ottawa’s Algonquin College announced plans to conduct a learning review and to look at different options for expansion, including ways of better serving the city’s east side. President Kent MacDonald welcomed employees back to campus asking for future input on potential initiatives and the future of education at Algonquin. MacDonald mentioned ideas for staff and faculty to consider, such as an alternate model of education based on competency and outcomes, and the effect of technology on education. At the same time that Algonquin is looking at local expansion, it is also increasing the number of program offerings in other countries, such as Saudi Arabia, China, Montenegro and India, and another program is being set up in Kuwait for 2014. Ottawa Citizen

Dal launches textbook rental service

Dalhousie University has launched a new textbook rental service, joining a growing number of institutions in North America that are offering alternatives to purchasing full-price course materials. Dal’s rental service is offered through a partnership between its bookstore and textbookrental.ca, where students can rent books online and have them shipped directly to their home or residence. Rental rates range anywhere from 25-75% of the book’s new condition list price. Tina Shannon, manager of the Dal Bookstore, says that out of the more than 1,000 books currently being offered this fall term, approximately 730 of them are available on a rental basis. Dal News Release

Book suggests why Canadian students are among the world’s smartest

We have known for quite some time now that Canadian K-12 students rank highly in the world, and a new book by US journalist Amanda Ripley examines why student performance rates of different countries rank the way they do. In The Smartest Kids in the World: And How They Got That Way, Ripley set out to find out why US students score so poorly (they are ranked 14th) by examining other countries and the way they teach their students. Ripley finds that the teachers are the key to positive results -- in countries where student performance rates are high, teachers are held in high regard, and getting into teachers college is “difficult and prestigious.” Ripley also points out that parental involvement in schools appears to result in lower test scores, not higher ones. In a standardized test called the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), which was given to 15-year-old students in more than 70 countries in 2009, Canadian students scored third overall, just behind South Korea and Finland. Globe and Mail

Obama’s PSE plan receives mixed reviews

US President Obama’s new PSE plan that suggests, among other things, tying federal funding to institutional rankings is drawing mixed reviews. The funding measure is part of a series of proposals that would aim to make PSE more affordable and accountable for students – a plan he promoted last week during a 3-campus bus tour. While many people are praising the ideas, critics of the rankings plan are worried that institutions would “seek to improve their ratings by turning away at-risk students or by dumbing down their standards.” Other stakeholders warn that some of the data the Obama administration plans to use for the rankings are incomplete; federal graduation rates include only first-time, full-time students (though a more comprehensive rate is being developed), and data on graduates' earnings aren't currently available. White House officials say Obama is aware of the risks involved with the proposed plan, and that he will take the time to work with stakeholders to develop measures that take those risks into account. Chronicle of Higher Education

Good and bad news from US PSE financials in 2012-13

The Chronicle of Higher Education reports on the financial situation in the PSE sector in the past year in its Almanac of Higher Education 2013, reporting mostly bad news for institutions, but a few reprieves for public universities. Overall endowments remained flat (declining 0.3%, on average) during a slow economic recovery, and fund-raising returns only amounted to 0.2% when inflation was factored in. However, the government did allot more tax dollars to 30 public institutions, providing a welcome relief following recent budget cuts. Individual private institutions also fared better than others, including Stanford University, which became the first individual institution to take in more than $1 billion in fundraising in a single year. However, private colleges have also continued to spend more on paying faculty, luring top scholars, as the gap in pay between public and private colleges grew to 24%. Chronicle of Higher Education

More US community colleges moving to 4-year degrees

A trend is emerging in the US in which community colleges are expanding into the world of bachelor’s degrees. The Community College Baccalaureate Association (CCBA) reports that community colleges in 21 states across the country are offering 4-year degrees. The latest to do so is Eastern Florida State College, formerly known as Brevard Community College, which recently rebranded to reflect its core-mission change to begin providing bachelor’s degrees in health care management and general business management. Beth Hagan, CCBA’s executive director, says the push to enter the 4-year degree space is due to changing workplace needs. This US trend reflects a long-standing Canadian trend toward more colleges and technical institutes, from coast to coast, offering applied, collaborative, and independent degree programs. USA Today

JFK MOOC will come bundled with prof's textbook and PBS special

University of Virginia politics professor Larry J. Sabato is introducing a new Coursera MOOC on John F. Kennedy with a unique twist: it includes as course materials a PBS documentary in which he stars and his latest book, The Kennedy Half Century: The Presidency, Assassination, and Lasting Legacy of John F. Kennedy. The course will be broken into 40 lessons, each 10 to 20 minutes long and incorporating a quiz. “The Kennedy Half Century” is now accepting registrations and begins on October 21. Chronicle of Higher Education | Course Website