Top Ten

September 18, 2013

Ontario to begin differentiation negotiations with universities, colleges

The Ontario government has this week circulated a draft framework to its university and college leaders that will kick off negotiations with the province on how to further differentiate Ontario’s publicly-funded PSE institutions, according to the Globe and Mail. In the framework, institutions will be free to set their own differentiation courses, but the province can “steer behaviours” with measures such as funding, allocating extra student spaces, and approvals for new programs. To gauge an institution’s areas of strength, the draft framework proposes using several metrics: for example, using student satisfaction surveys and data on co-op placements to evaluate teaching and learning. Alberta and BC divide their PSE systems into research- and teaching-intensive institutions, but the Globe reports that “Ontario’s approach aims to be more organic, leaving a school’s place in the system to be defined at the negotiating table.” A final framework is expected in late October and the negotiations, which will be led by Deputy Minister Paul Genest, could begin before the end of 2013. Globe and Mail

McGill denounces Quebec charter on religious symbols

McGill University says the proposed Quebec charter of values that would ban overt religious symbols among public employees goes against the university’s principles, in a public statement issued this week. McGill Principal Suzanne Fortier told the Montreal Gazette that the university would fight any such proposal, or at least seek an exemption, should the proposal become law. “A very, very important factor for our university, for all universities, is our ability to attract the best people as professors and staff — and we want to make sure people who join our university, our city and our province don’t in any way fear they won’t be welcome,” says Fortier. A student representative said Fortier did a good job of canvassing the McGill community on their thoughts on the proposal, and added that the position issued this week “represents the community at large.” The Université de Montréal has also issued a statement saying it was too early to take a position as the bill had not yet been drafted, but affirming its commitment to values of openness, respect and diversity. McGill StatementMontreal Gazette

Queen's law school floats idea to expand enrolment

Queen’s University is considering expanding enrolment to its law school by almost a third in the next 3 years, reports the Toronto Star. An 8-page report written by Queen’s law school’s strategic planning committee proposes an increase of either 35 or 50 students per year on top of the approximately 165 currently accepted. According to the Star, Queen’s needs additional revenue to hire additional teaching staff and has turned to an enrolment increase in lieu of government funding. “It’s not necessarily our preference to expand enrolment, but the pressures on us have pushed us to consider it,” says William Flanagan, Dean of Queen’s Faculty of Law. The Star reports that in the last few years, the number of articling applicants has grown faster than the positions available, leaving an increasing proportion of graduates without a placement. However, Flanagan says, “I wouldn’t be proposing expansion if I didn’t think we could place an extra 35 students per year.” Toronto Star

BC gets A+ for education system from students

BC’s PSE institutions have received an A+ from students who are satisfied with their education and training. The BC Student Outcomes Project surveys former students on their satisfaction with the education system, and their employment and student loan/debt information. In 2012, 4 surveys gathered information from over 30,000 former students, with 93% reporting satisfaction with the education experience. Of the baccalaureate graduates surveyed, 87% were in the labour force; 90% of the diploma, associate degree and certificate graduates were employed; and 96% of former apprenticeship students surveyed were in the labour force. The survey data is used to monitor the effectiveness of education and training programs and to align training with labour-market demands. BC News Release 

MIT and edX to offer certificates for course sequences

MITx, Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s MOOC courses offered on the non-profit edX platform, has announced that it will begin offering certificates for the successful completion of prescribed sequences of courses. Each XSeries will cover content equivalent to 2 to 4 traditional residential courses and take between 6 months and 2 years to complete. MITx will this fall begin to offer the first of these “XSeries” sequences, Foundations of Computer Science. EdX has also announced that beginning in spring 2014, it will be able to verify a student’s identity using webcam photos each time he/she passes a course. edX News ReleaseInside Higher EdChronicle of Higher Education

New brand and logo for MacEwan University

Edmonton’s MacEwan University has unveiled a new brand campaign and logo design, based on 8 pillars that define its core commitments. The new logo features 4 towers that represent MacEwan’s “sense of place, and celebrates the distinctive heritage of the MacEwan University architecture, locale, and future as a consolidated downtown campus at the heart of the city.” The tagline "Connected. Engaged. Inspired." summarizes the pillars and positioning of the institution. Also, MacEwan has changed its colours to maroon and black with teal detailing, which matches the already existing maroon colour of the Griffin sports teams. The re-branding campaign will cost the university $1.6 million, and will be integrated into all signage and communications materials. MacEwan officially became a university in 2009. MacEwan News | Edmonton Journal

Brandon U offers new Indigenous-focused social justice program

A new honours undergraduate program in social justice at Brandon University is likely the first in North America to combine Indigenous healing practices and traditional knowledge with clinical counseling skills. The Clinical Specialization in Native Studies will provide students with insight into the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual dimensions of Indigenous culture, while developing their counseling skills. Brandon U President Deborah Poff noted that graduates will have strong employment prospects in Indigenous and non-Indigenous agencies, organizations, and communities, especially in rural and northern areas. The first cohort began classes in early September. Brandon U News Release

College students feel they have advantage in job market

According to data from the 2013 RBC Student Finances Poll, more college students (92%) feel their education gives them an advantage in the job market compared to their university peers (87%). The poll also showed that university students expected to spend 60% more on education ($40,500) than did their college peers ($25,100). University students expect to take close to a year longer to pay off student debts. It is not surprising that college students are more confident about their ability to transition into the workforce, considering the attention the media has been giving to the benefits of college or trades training over some traditional university degrees. Ken Coates, former Dean at the University of Waterloo, recently stated that more students would have “brighter futures if they went to college or trade school.” According to Coates, many students who feel pressure to attend university over college experience a “crash and burn” because they do not have the study skills necessary to succeed. RBC News Release | NewsTalk 1010 

Student newspapers quit Canadian University Press due to financial constraints

The University of British Columbia’s student newspaper, the Ubyssey, this month followed the lead of several other university publications by leaving the Canadian University Press (CUP) news-gathering cooperative, citing financial pressures. The Varsity, University of Toronto’s student paper, also cancelled its membership with CUP due to budget cuts; however, its editor-in-chief says its relationship with the organization is still strong. There are still times when large university newspapers need to cover stories from elsewhere, and for this reason, a new group, the National University Wire, has been formed by the Ubyssey, the McGill Daily, the Varsity, the Gazette at Western University, the Dalhousie Gazette, the Martlet at University of Victoria and the Link at Concordia University. University Affairs

Well-rounded grads with general skills most wanted

Well-rounded grads with general skills most wanted

American business leaders and the general public both say being well rounded with a range of abilities is seen as more important for PSE graduates than having specific industry expertise, according to a survey released by Northeastern University this week. Out of those surveyed, 65% of the general population and 73% of business leaders agreed with the above statement, while only 35% of the general population and 27% of business leaders agreed that “having specific industry experience is more important than generalized abilities because applied skills are key to early success in a new position.” The survey also found, however, that Americans want PSE institutions to focus on integrating practical experience into their curricula, agreeing that students with internship and other work-related experience tend to be more successful in their careers. Inside Higher Ed Survey Results