Top Ten

November 21, 2013

CAUT releases report on academic freedom, integrity in donor agreements

The Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) has released a report warning that university funding partnerships with corporations, donors, and governments are placing “unacceptable limits on academic freedom and sacrificing fundamental academic principles.” The report, Open for Business, examines 12 research and teaching collaboration agreements with outside organizations to see if the institutions have protected academic freedom. According to the report, 7 of the agreements provide no specific protection for academic freedom, and only one requires the disclosure of conflicts of interest. Only 5 of the agreements give faculty the unrestricted right to publish their research findings and half provide that the university maintains control over academic matters affecting staff and students. The report also recommends a set of guiding principles for university collaborations to “better protect academic integrity and the public interest.” CAUT News Release | Toronto Star | Full Report

Carleton creates new Aboriginal education council

Carleton University has established a new Aboriginal Education Council made up of students, staff, faculty, and representatives from local First Nations communities. The council is designed to ensure the implementation of Carleton’s long-term coordinated strategy on Aboriginal issues, including providing guidance on “programs, courses and services that have an Aboriginal focus.” The council will also serve as a resource on the educational and support needs of Aboriginal students, staff and faculty. Chair Anita Tenasco, Kitigan Zibi’s Director of education, stated “The Aboriginal Education Council wants to help provide all Aboriginal students every opportunity to learn and expand their horizons. Education is the key to First Nations, Inuit and Métis people moving forward in a positive way.” Carleton recently opened a new Aboriginal centre, called Ojigkwanong, which means morning star in Algonquin. The centre was designed by Indigenous architect Douglas Cardinal, and is a hub for the more than 600 Aboriginal students and faculty at Carleton. Ottawa Citizen | Carleton News Release

SAIT student association opens peer-run student support centre

SAIT Polytechnic’s Students’ Association has unveiled a new student-run support centre to provide mental health resources and support to all SAIT students. The centre will be staffed during weekdays by students who will offer a supportive ear to peers who may be experiencing mental health or personal wellbeing challenges, and will help them find the right resources. The student association and SAIT have also launched a new campaign about respect on campus to coincide with the opening of the support centre. The campaign, around the theme of “Demand Respect,” includes posters, web ads and other tactics that will aim to raise awareness about the help available to those who experience discrimination or harassment. SAIT News Release

International students increasingly attracted to Canada for PSE

More international students are making Canada their first choice for PSE, and most students who have chosen to study in Canada are satisfied with their experience, according to a new report by the Canadian Bureau for International Education (CBIE). The report reveals that only 20% of students surveyed in 2013 said they had applied to study in another country, down from 45% in 2012. It also found that 91% of respondents were either satisfied or very satisfied with their Canadian educational experience. 96% said they would definitely or probably recommend Canada as a study destination. Also encouraging is that almost half (46%) of students indicated that they plan to apply for permanent residency, up from 21% of students surveyed in 2012. Canada welcomes 5% of all international students worldwide, making it the 7th most popular destination. CBIE also launched a new website for international and study-abroad students this week. CBIE News Release | Maclean’s | Report Highlights | Report Page

Teaching assistants benefit more from long-term training programs

A new report released this week by the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario (HEQCO) suggests that while both short- and long-term training programs for teaching assistants (TAs) improve the quality of teaching and learning, the long-term programs have a greater impact. The study used self-reports from TAs before and after training programs, as well as focus group interviews 4 months after completing training. The TAs reported that they “felt better prepared for their role as instructors after participating in training,” whether short-or long-term training. Short-term programs resulted in concrete techniques for effective teaching, while long-term programs included focus on “principles of course design and alignment and articulating learning outcomes.” Participants in long-term programs also demonstrated a “greater depth of reflection on teaching,” and were able to build communities of TAs across multiple disciplines that enabled sharing of best practices and new initiatives. HEQCO Summary

Sheldon Levy highlights Ryerson’s support of entrepreneurship

According to Ryerson University President Sheldon Levy, “Canadian universities...have a responsibility to support young innovators, by creating new opportunities for student-led learning and supporting student and graduate entrepreneurship.” As part of a series in the Globe and Mail on innovative solutions in education, Levy highlights the efforts at Ryerson to encourage and support entrepreneurship, preventing the 'brain drain' of young entrepreneurs moving to the US. Ryerson was recently named the first Changemaker campus in Canada, by Ashoka, a global leader in social innovation. Ryerson initiatives such as the Digital Media Zone and the Innovation Centre for Urban Energy provide mentorship programs for entrepreneurs and office space for collaborative projects. Remarking on the optimism and entrepreneurial goals of many millennials, Levy notes “The real challenge for postsecondary institutions is to keep pace with the students they serve, by providing them with the tools to succeed.” Globe and Mail | Ryerson News Release

Technology both helps and hinders students’ studies

New technology is improving studies for many students, but other students aren’t using mobile devices to their advantage, says a new US study by McGraw-Hill Education. Nearly 40% of students reported that the internet and social media networks are the biggest distractions while studying, and more than 50% of students said they used computers, tablets and phones for non-study activities, such as texting friends, while they were studying. However, more than 50% of students felt "better prepared for classes" and had "improved studying efficiency" as a result of study technology, while 45% of students experienced reduced stress related to studying and exams. The over 500 students surveyed were users of a McGraw-Hill Education adaptive learning tool called LearnSmart, which uses algorithmic technology to continually assess students' knowledge, skills and confidence levels and then designs targeted study paths based on the resulting data to improve student performance. McGraw-Hill Education News Release

Obama announces grants for career-focused high school curriculum

President Obama has announced a $100-million grant for career-focused high school curriculum, including college and industry credentials that can be gained in high school. The new program, Youth CareerConnect, will distribute 25 to 40 grants, ranging from $2 million to $7 million, starting early next year. Chosen schools will be expected to combine "a rigorous academic and career-focused curriculum" with “career advice and opportunities for job shadowing, field trips, and mentoring.” Chronicle of Higher Education (subscription required) | US News Release

New US grads will experience a slowly improving job market

The US job market will improve slowly in 2013-14, but cuts in the banking and credit industries, and political uncertainty will prevent what would otherwise be “robust” growth, according to a report from the Collegiate Employment Research Institute at Michigan State University. The annual Recruiting Trends report says that job opportunities will increase by 2% across all degree levels, which is comparable to last year's growth. The report’s principal author Phil D Gardner explains that the financial-services sector’s recent downsizing is what is preventing double-digit growth in employment opportunities. The report predicts a bleaker outlook for MBA graduates, with a 24% decrease in hiring at that level. Chronicle of Higher Education (subscription required)

Women in STEM courses benefit from project-based learning

Researchers at Worcester Polytechnic Institute have discovered that a project-based curriculum may boost female success in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields. Worcester ran a survey on its redesigned courses across all disciplines, which focused on project-based curriculum. A subsequent study on engineering courses provided “intriguing” data: Worcester’s project-based approach to engineering education appeared to be substantially more effective for women. In most of the survey questions surrounding the benefits of the learning model, women reported positive feedback more frequently than men. For example, 63% of women said the program helped them understand the connections between technology and society, compared to just half of men. The only areas in which women reported similar gains to men were related to technical skills “more easily obtained in traditional course work.” Inside Higher Ed