Top Ten

September 12, 2013

uSask offers faculty up to 80 contract buyouts

The University of Saskatchewan Faculty Association has accepted the university’s offer of retirement buyout deals for up to 80 professors in the hopes that it will prevent faculty layoffs. "Certainly, we hope this will minimize the impact on faculty," says uSask AVP Human Resources Barb Daigle; but according to the Star Phoenix, the deal comes with no guarantees of job security. Retirees who take the deal will get a payout of half a year's salary, plus $3,750 for each year of service at the university. uSask estimates that the payouts would cost $17.3 million over 5 years if all 80 professors agree to it. uSask last year announced measures to avoid increasing its deficit, which resulted in several job cuts throughout 2013. Star Phoenix

New Quebec university framework meets student criticism

The Quebec government this week unveiled a new framework for its universities that calls for the dismantling of the Université du Québec network of 10 institutions, for the mission and academic values of universities to be clearly stated, and for the establishment of a salary scale for university presidents and senior administrators, among other things. The Fédération étudiante universitaire du Québec (FEUQ), the largest student association in the province, says the framework is “a huge disappointment that ignores almost everything we recommended in the ensuing Summit on Higher Education.” FEUQ also says the plan fails to reconcile a debate on the best way to decide on the composition of university boards of governors; the student group has lobbied to have the majority of board members appointed from within the university community. Several universities have said that they need time to study the recommendations before committing to them. Montreal Gazette

UBC announces strategy to help boost BC innovation

The University of British Columbia has announced a 5-point strategic plan that aims to help drive forward innovation in BC. The plan, unveiled this week by UBC President Stephen Toope at a Vancouver Board of Trade event, includes an expansion of the university’s e@UBC entrepreneurship program, a new corporate relations office to work more closely with the business community, a new faculty-consulting agency, and a streamlined process to bring to market new discoveries and technologies. Toope says an increase in size of the BC tech sector from 5.9% of its GDP to the Canadian average of 7.5% would lead to an additional 23,000 jobs and $5.1 billion in industry revenues. UBC News Release

uWaterloo opens wireless communications facility

The University of Waterloo today will open a new wireless communications facility that it hopes will lead to the creation of new wireless technologies for use in smartphones, cars, and beyond. The $15-million Centre for Intelligent Antenna and Radio Systems (CIARS) features 4 interconnected indoor laboratories, one outdoor lab, and a highly advanced computational facility; the facilities will be used by researchers who specialize in everything from next-generation wireless communications, mobile health, and car radar to satellite communication, futuristic nano-sensors, and smart devices. The facility and its instruments can measure electromagnetic fields radiated by objects as small as a human hair to as big as a 2-ton truck, with the highest precision over the widest range of frequency possible in any academic facility in the world, according to uWaterloo. The centre also houses facilities where researchers can learn more about terahertz frequencies, a part of the electromagnetic spectrum between radar and fibre optics that is not yet fully understood. CTV Kitchener

SFU launches anniversary fundraising campaign

Simon Fraser University has officially launched a $250-million fundraising campaign to coincide with its 50th anniversary in September 2015. The money raised through “The Power of Engagement” will be put towards various areas, including student scholarships, faculty research chairs, and initiatives that will strengthen SFU's ties to its communities, says SFU President Andrew Petter. The campaign, which is the largest fundraising drive ever undertaken by the university, unofficially began 2 years ago and has reached the $133-million mark. Vancouver Sun

Brock opens new BioLinc incubator

Brock University and its economic development partners have launched the BioLinc incubator, which will provide space where students, researchers and companies can collaborate to turn knowledge into marketable products and services. Located in Brock’s new Cairns Family Health and Bioscience Research Complex, the incubator will focus on bioscience-related breakthroughs. “Our student consulting service is also setting up at BioLinc, providing new, real-life learning opportunities for our students and providing business support services for the tenants of BioLinc,” says Goodman School of Business Dean Don Cyr. Consisting of 4,000 square feet of lab space, offices, meeting rooms and research facilities, the incubator is designed especially to encourage collaboration. Brock News Release

Tuition fees continue to rise, but by less than last year

Statistics Canada released a new dataset on tuition this week, which reveals that full-time students in undergraduate programs paid 3.3% more on average in tuition fees at $5,772 this fall than they did a year earlier at $5,586. However, this follows a larger 4.2% increase in 2012-13. In comparison, inflation was 1.3% between July 2012 and July 2013. Tuition rose in all but 2 provinces: Newfoundland and Labrador and Alberta, in which tuition fees are frozen. The data also show that undergraduate students in dentistry paid the highest average undergraduate fees in 2013-14 ($17,324), followed by students in medicine ($12,438) and pharmacy ($10,942). At the graduate level, the highest tuition is paid by executive MBA students, with tuition fees of $35,889, and the regular MBA students, at $24,168. Average tuition fees for international undergraduate students rose as well, by 6.8% to $19,514 in 2013-14, compared with a 5.5% increase in 2012-13. StatsCan Daily

College degrees a key to differentiation

College degree granting dominates current discussions about college differentiation in Ontario, and moving those discussions forward requires the province to set objectives and forge a plan for college degree granting, says a new report by the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario (HEQCO). The report, which follows a similar HEQCO report on differentiation in the university sector, explores the diversity of Ontario colleges, and identifies potential measures that could help develop a more differentiated PSE system. The authors say that the college system needs a growth and differentiation plan that determines what kinds of college degrees should be offered, where they should be offered, and “how [they should be] situated in the overall provincial degree landscape.” HEQCO News Release | Full Report

Academics use crowdfunding to boost projects

University Affairs this week reports on the growing number of academics who are using crowdfunding platforms like Indiegogo to fund their startups or research projects. University of Toronto graduate student Will Walmsley last March reached a $10,000 fundraising goal in less than 14 hours to launch a mobile technology company called Minuum using Indiegogo. Most of the donations were no more than $5 each. An assistant professor and statistician at the University of Guelph, Dan Gillis, raised $15,000 on Microryza – a platform that crowdfunds scientific research. University Affairs points out that crowdfunding works best for projects that have a wide popular appeal; Gillis is evaluating and testing a website called Farm to Fork that links donors directly with food bank staff so that donors know what donations are needed, when. The article also explains that crowdfunding is good for early-stage academic research or projects that are seen by traditional funders as too risky. University Affairs

WLU named Canada’s best music campus

CBC Music has named Wilfrid Laurier University the best music campus, as voted by listeners. CBC asked people to vote over 3 days for the university that they think has the best campus music culture. According to CBC, WLU has been home base for such Canadian musicians as Shad, Will Currie and the Country French, Jacob Moon, and Damien Robitaille. Halifax’s University of King’s College and the University of Guelph also made the top 3 at numbers 2 and 3, respectively. CBC