Top Ten

November 15, 2013

uSask forms partnership to develop co-operative business models in rural areas

The University of Saskatchewan has formed a partnership with Federated Co-operatives Ltd (FCL) and received $1 million to develop the co-operative business model in rural and Aboriginal communities. The project will be led by the Centre for the Study of Co-operatives in partnership with the Johnson-Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy (JSGS), the International Centre for Northern Governance and Development, the Edwards School of Business (ESB), and the Plunkett Foundation in the UK. The project has a solid educational component and will provide experiential learning opportunities for students, as well as supply research, teaching tools, and case studies for JSGS and ESB curriculum. FCL’s CEO Scott Banda stated, “Working together, we will inspire innovation and economic development, and create lasting changes, not just quick fixes, based on co-operative principles such as co-operation, participation, and concern for the community.” The FCL funding is for a 2-year term, with potential for further funding of individual projects. uSask News

RRU launches unique campaign featuring direct contact with alumni

Royal Roads University has launched an innovative new campaign that creates opportunities for direct communication between alumni and prospective students. The Inspiring Connections campaign features numerous alumni giving statements about RRU in short videos, with invitations to users to reach out via LinkedIn or email to make direct contact. The campaign also features a unique interactive stunt where consumers were asked to connect with an RRU alumna via a LinkedIn-style interface in a mall. When the ‘Connect’ button was pushed, the alumna herself was revealed, allowing for a face-to-face, immediate conversation. The campaign will run until late December and uses digital and print media both nationally and locally, as well as out-of-home media in Victoria, Vancouver, and Calgary. Inspiring Connections builds on the important role that networking tools play, but “rather than simply offering a pre-taped quote, RRU is so confident of its alumni’s transformative and life-changing experiences that it puts prospects in direct contact with them to hear it for themselves.” RRU News Release |Campaign website

CD Howe says PSE tax credits should be refundable

A new report by the CD Howe Institute titled “What You Don’t Know Can’t Help You: Lessons of Behavioural Economics for Tax-Based Student Aid,” suggests that Canada’s PSE tax credits system is not helping the low-income families that it is meant to. According to the report, “Postsecondary tax credits cost the federal and provincial governments billions of dollars each year, but are not distributed equitably and may have no proven effect in boosting enrolment.” The report notes that tuition and education/textbook tax credits cost the federal government close to $1.6 billion in 2012, more than the net cost of the Canada Student Loan program. Well-off families account for a disproportionate amount of the tax credits, while “students from lower-income families benefit from them only after they have finished their education and have enough taxable income to claim the credit.” The report recommends changing the tax credits from non-refundable to refundable, so that students from low-income families can receive more immediate benefits from the program. CD Howe News Release |Report 

Business students increasingly interested in social responsibility

A recent article in the Globe and Mail discusses the trend among Canadian business schools of adding a social and/or community-based element to their program. Business students are becoming more interested in motives other than profit, and are using their business skills for social entrepreneurship, internships at non-profits, and participating in volunteer activities. The rise of socially-aware business programs is reflected in the rising tendency among non-profits and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to “look for more sustainable methods of financing, beyond charitable donations and hard-to-obtain government funding.” At a recent conference on the future of business education, former uToronto Rotman School of Management Dean Roger Martin urged “improvements in the design of business education to deliver a deeper, broader and more dynamic experience for students and, ultimately, generate benefits for society.” Globe and Mail (1)| Globe and Mail (2)

PSE largest recipient of charitable donations

According to a new report on gifts over $1 million in various regions in the world, higher education is now the largest recipient of million dollar-plus gifts, with US and UK philanthropists donating more to PSE institutions than those in other areas. Of the $19 billion in donations that were analyzed by the report, $14 billion was gifted in the US alone, with 40% going to higher education. In the UK, 42% of philanthropic donations went to higher education. China (21%), the Middle East (19%), Hong Kong (15%), and Russia (8%) were also included in the report. A spokesperson for the bank Coutts, which compiled the report, stated that “this reflected the maturity of philanthropic activity in some of the regions, cultural differences, and the difficulty of obtaining information about donations in some countries.” Times Higher Education

Access gap to elite universities not entirely attributable to grades

Reduced access to the world’s elite universities for disadvantaged students cannot be fully explained by academic achievement, according to a new UK report. The report, “Family background and access to ‘high status’ universities,” notes that children with professional parents are 3 times more likely to be admitted to Russell Group universities in England, Group of Eight universities in Australia and “highly selective” US public universities, and at least a quarter of the “access gap” cannot be attributed to grades. Wendy Piatt, Director General of the Russell Group, stated in response to the report that “School attainment, advice and aspirations must all be dramatically improved if we are to tackle the real barriers to fair access.” The report suggests that “(cost-effective) interventions between the ages 14 and 18 may play an important role in reducing socio-economic inequalities in elite university access in the future.” Times Higher Education

New international research organization officially launches

A new international research organization has been formed to “better the researcher profession by linking the individual (often national) organizations to each other.” The International Consortium of Research Staff Associations (ICoRSA) is made up of researchers from around the globe, including the Canadian Association of Postdoctoral Scholars, and will compare the situation of research and researchers from around the world. One aim of the new organization is to better inform policy makers using complete, informed data. Researcher David Kent notes this “sort of resource would allow governments and universities to adapt their research funding and administrative policies to the actual data across multiple countries.” University Affairs 

New UVic president urges students to look beyond economic value of PSE

At his installation as President of the University of Victoria, Jamie Cassels urged the audience to avoid measuring the value of a university degree solely in economic terms. Cassels spoke to the need for the university and its community to be open to discussion and positive change, and pledged to be held to the promise “that in everything we do at the University of Victoria, our choices and actions will be guided by the goal of making the world a better place through our mission of education and research.” Cassels noted the benefits of approaching education as a process, not a product, and stated that PSE programs should empower students and “advance their life prospects.” UVic Chancellor Murray Farmer had similar comments, specifically noting that “the role of universities is so much broader than job training,” with the true value of PSE being “graduates’ capacity for learning and their mastery of critical thinking, analysis and judgment.” UVic News | Victoria Times-Colonist

Smithsonian introduces 3D viewing and printing initiative

The Smithsonian Institution, the world’s largest museum complex, has launched a new 3D scanning and printing initiative to make its collection more accessible to schools, researchers and the general public. A museum team has begun to make 3D replicas of certain museum artifacts, including the Wright brothers' first airplane, Amelia Earhart's flight suit, and casts of President Abraham Lincoln's face during the Civil War. The museum is also launching a 3D viewer online, to allow people to get a closer look at artifacts. The data can be downloaded and printed on 3D printers. Smithsonian digitization Director Gunter Waibel noted “museums are working to redefine their relationship with audiences to become more interactive.” CBC | Smithsonian 3D viewer

Tumblr feed showcases deplorable teaching facilities in US

A Tumblr feed titled “Classrooms of Shame” is showcasing the deplorable conditions in which many professors across the US are expected to teach. The social media feed was started several months ago to give academics a place to "vent and share, and know they are not alone." The feed features photos of holes in walls, leaking ceilings, mold, bugs and less-than-favourable office and classroom conditions. The feed was originally designed for adjunct professors (and as such, many posts are anonymous and do not name the institution), but many posts are by tenured professors at known institutions, who have their own share of shaming stories. Creator Karen Kelsky notes that although some science classrooms are included on the feed, the majority are humanities classrooms. According to Kelsky, “humanities facilities and programs languish because they don't attract external funding and must depend entirely on institutions – many of which are struggling with revenue shortfalls – for money.” Several professors have reported that their posting to the Tumblr feed resulted in problems being repaired, suggesting that the public shaming can effect change. In Canada, several institutions have recently been in the news for infrastructure problems, including Simon Fraser University and Camosun CollegeInside Higher Ed