Top Ten

September 24, 2013

Commission begins public hearings into student protests

The government-appointed commission into the 2012 “Maple Spring” protests began public hearings this week, and commission head Serge Ménard hopes that the “inquiry helps make future demonstrations more peaceful.” The series of protests against tuition hikes in Quebec led to more than 2,000 arrests, hundreds of complaints against police, countless injuries, property damage, cancelled classes and millions in law-enforcement costs. The inquiry will focus on the number of demonstrations, their locations, the arrests and the number of injuries. The commission was announced earlier this spring, and has been surrounded by a degree of controversy, as student groups and police unions voiced their displeasure about the inquiry’s focus and “lack of transparency.” The commission is meant to present its findings to Quebec’s public security minister before December 20, 2013. Globe and Mail | Montreal Gazette

McMaster reaches $8.5-million goal for new engineering centre

McMaster University has reached its $8.5-million fundraising goal for the new Engineering Centre for Experiential Learning (ExCEL), and building will start in 2015. Canadian-based engineering firm Hatch is a notable donor, with Founder and First President Gerald Hatch committing $2 million, and current Chair and McMaster alumnus Kurt Strobele donating $500,000 with a matched donation from the company itself. Other donations include $1.5 million from the McMaster Board of Governors Chair Doug Barber and wife June; $1 million from Walter Booth, McMaster engineering grad and CEO of the Timberland Group; and $2 million from engineering students, who voted in a referendum to contribute through a student levy. Once complete, the facility will serve as a living laboratory, where students can learn directly from the structure and its systems. Students will also be involved in the design process of the 25,000 square-foot building, which will be energy efficient, drawing energy from geothermal and solar energy systems. McMaster News Release | Hamilton Spectator

Canada to award funding to entrepreneurship incubators

The Canadian government this week opened a competition for funding for business incubators and accelerators, with up to $60 million available over 5 years. The funding is part of the government’s Venture Capital Action Plan, a $400-million strategy launched in January that aims to help increase private sector venture capital investments in Canada. According to the government news release, funding would support new, incremental initiatives at incubators that promote the development of investment-ready, early-stage firms, that have a range of services and resources for entrepreneurs, and that have strong entrepreneur networks “that link recipient organizations with other important innovation organizations in Canada and internationally.” Canada News Release

uSainte-Anne signs new collective agreement with profs, students, librarians

Nova Scotia’s Université Sainte-Anne this month signed a new collective agreement with its Association of Professors, Students, and Librarians that sets out salary increases, which start at 1.5% and rise to 3.5% in 2015. According to uSainte-Anne, both sides consider the agreement fair considering the “current budgetary context.” The new agreement will remain in effect until June 30, 2016; uSainte-Anne says the length of the term “demonstrates both parties’ dedication to the maintenance of stable work relations conducive to supporting student well-being and fulfilling uSainte-Anne’s institutional mission.” uSainte-Anne News Release (in French)

SMU’s Sobey School unveils new branding

The Sobey School of Business at Saint Mary’s University has this month unveiled a new visual identity with a brief, dynamic video that helps explain the rebranding strategy and adds depth and nuance to the logo through multiple visual metaphors. Sobey Dean Patricia Bradshaw uses the logo to describe the leadership qualities that the school aims to instill in its students: the ability to see things from multiple perspectives, “to hold creative tension, the quality of movement, openness at centre.” The logo includes the full name of the school and the university beside a graphic that has been compared to a box kite. SMU is also running a campaign to promote the launch of the logo; it is asking the SMU students to download graphics for use on social media, and handing out swag donning the new logo. Sobey News | Linked In | Video

Canadian universities and student unions graded on free speech

The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms (JCCF) has released its 2013 Campus Freedom Index, which grades Canadian universities and student unions on policies and practices related to free speech on campus. This year, 45 public universities were considered, with only 6 “A” grades assigned. According to JCCF, Carleton University and the University of Ottawa were the worst universities for protecting free speech, and the worst student unions were Lakehead University Students’ Union, University of Victoria Students’ Society, and York Federation of Students. Carleton’s Student Association was graded one of the best student unions (a tie with University of King’s College Students’ Union), an improvement over the 2012 results.  JCCF also determined that the best provinces for campus free speech are SK and NB; the worst provinces are AB, PEI, and NL. JCCF News Release | JCCF Report

Instructor competency key to successful hybrid college courses

The success of college courses that blend traditional face-to-face instruction with online learning largely depends on the instructor’s technological skills, dedication and organization, according to a new study by the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario (HEQCO). The authors studied the impact of hybrid course delivery methods on student success and course withdrawal rates, and examined the faculty and student experience with hybrid instruction, at Sheridan College during the fall 2011 and winter 2012 terms. Students in the hybrid courses received slightly lower marks than did those in traditional control courses. However, students with high academic standing were successful regardless of course format, while students with low GPAs performed slightly worse in hybrid classes. The course format did not have an effect on course withdrawal rates. Both faculty and students responded well to the hybrid model, although students expressed concerns about reduced access to instructors and/or a sense that the lessons were rushed. The authors recommend additional technical support for students and faculty, mandatory tutorials introducing students to online tools, and hybrid course development training for faculty. HEQCO News Release | Full Report

Worldwide MBA applications increase in 2013

More full-time MBA programs around the world saw an increase in applications this year compared to 2012, according to the 2013 Applications Trends Survey released this week by the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC). Half the 2-year programs surveyed received more applications in 2013 than last year, with an additional 4% reporting having received as many applications as in 2012. "In 2008-9, early in the Great Recession, there was impressive growth in the proportion of full-time MBA programs showing application increases," said Lawrence Rudner, GMAC’s VP, Research and Development. "In 2010-11, there was a subsequent decline, but full-time programs began to rebound in 2012 and look even sturdier today." The survey also revealed that for the first time since 2009, most US 2-year MBA programs saw an application increase over 2012. GMAC News Release

Math skills declining among Ontario K-12 students

Math skills are declining in Ontario schools, and some parents are turning to private tutors to try to improve their children’s scores, according to recent reports in the Globe and Mail. Data from the province’s Education and Quality and Accountability Office reveal that at the Grade 6 level, only 57% of students met the provincial math standard in 2012-13, down from 63% in 2008-09. Critics say the Ontario math curriculum is to blame because it’s based on a model known as discovery learning, where students use their own learning styles to explore math problems. Cognitive scientists are now showing that without the basic foundations, discovery-based learning does not benefit young learners. Kumon, an after-school tutoring service, has seen a 23% enrolment increase over 3 years as parents attempt to help their children catch up in math. Globe and Mail (data) | Globe and Mail (tutoring)

Acceptances to British universities increase by 10%

Almost 35,000 more students were accepted to study at British universities this year – 375,120 in total compared with last year -- for a 10% increase, according to statistics from Ucas, the UK’s main application centre. The data reflects a similar recovery in applications to UK universities this year, by 3.1%, following an 8.7% dip in numbers in 2012 as tuition caps increased to £9,000. Overall, the number of home and EU students accepted to UK universities in 2013-14 increased by 37,350 students to 445,820 compared to 2012-13. Acceptances are still 1% lower than in 2011-12, when the announcement about increased British fees caused a surge in students trying to avoid a later start and higher tuition. However, the new acceptance level is 1% higher than in 2010-11. Times Higher Education