Top Ten

November 25, 2013

SIAST to gain polytechnic status

The Saskatchewan government last week introduced legislation that would give the Saskatchewan Institute of Applied Science and Technology (SIAST) authority to operate as a polytechnic institution, and that would change the name of the institution to “Saskatchewan Polytechnic.” The proposed legislation will protect the term ‘polytechnic,’ allow SIAST to fundraise for property, gain the institute membership in Polytechnics Canada, allow SIAST to grant degrees, and enhance its opportunities for applied research. Saskatchewan expects both the act and its regulations to come into force in spring 2014. Saskatchewan News Release | Leader Post

Queen’s to compensate Kingston for police services needed during Homecoming

Queen’s University will be giving the city of Kingston $100,000 per year for 3 years (beginning in 2013) to help pay for community policing “that helps keep Queen’s and all community members safe throughout the year.” “There are some instances throughout the year – including but not limited to our first Homecoming weekend – where resources that far exceed the norm are required of our local police force to help keep the Queen’s community, and the greater Kingston community, safe,” said Queen’s Principal Daniel Woolf in an official statement. In 2010, Woolf suspended the university's fall Homecoming for 3 years due to the continued occurrence of an illegal street party, which led to arrests for public drinking and disturbing the peace. Woolf’s latest decision to compensate the city comes after consultation with various community stakeholders, including the Kingston police. Queen’s News Release

UNB and AUNBT adopt shared risk pension plan

The University of New Brunswick and the Association of University of New Brunswick Teachers (AUNBT) have ratified an agreement to convert their existing academic employee pension plan (AEPP) to a shared risk plan (SRP). UNB and the AUNBT in September 2012 set up a joint working group to explore the possibility of converting the plan to a shared risk model (an option newly available in NB as of August 2012), which led to a tentative agreement in June 2013. Both parties are confident that “this conversion will allow for a fairer, more equitable, and more secure and sustainable pension plan.” The plan will take effect in July 2014. UNB Blog  

Canada announces national appathon

Minister Tony Clement last week announced a new nation-wide “appathon” to “challenge students from across Canada to turn valuable federal government data into useful and usable apps and information.” The contest, called the Canadian Open Data Experience (CODE), asks students, technology innovators, developers and “open-data enthusiasts” to use government data available through the open data portal to create “new, consumer-friendly applications, which can then be used for social or commercial purposes.”  Minister Clement visited both Wilfrid Laurier University and the University of Waterloo to announce the new appathon, which will take place from February to March 2014. CODE winners will be given prize packages that include cash awards, physical prizes, and in-kind services. WLU News Release |Waterloo News Release

Saskatchewan introduces lobbyist legislation that exempts universities

The Saskatchewan government has introduced legislation for a lobbyist registration, but has assured universities that they, among many other public organizations, will be exempt from the legislation. "As far as the universities are concerned, many provinces exclude universities. Universities get the majority of funding from government. There are many avenues for public reporting through their legislation, so based on that, we decided it was appropriate to exempt them as well," says Justice Minister Gordon Wyant. The legislation would give the conflict of interest commissioner responsibility for registering lobbyists and receiving their reports, and then that information would be made available online to the public. Opposition MLA Cathy Sproule says she is disappointed that the list of exemptions is so long, and adds that she thinks universities and municipal associations could have been included. "We're always worried about transparency and I think this is another indication where this should have gone a little further in ensuring that this government is transparent," says Sproule.

uSask opens Graduate House student residence

The University of Saskatchewan opened its new Graduate House student residence last week, which completes its College Quarter residence development project. The residence can accommodate 262 students, increasing the total number of new beds on campus by more than 1,000 in the past 3 years. uSask consulted graduate students during the original design phase of the building, and many of the final design elements were a result of that feedback. The suites are apartment-style, with private kitchens and bathrooms, and the building has on-site laundry. The residence also features a WiFi-equipped common area, communal study and social spaces on each floor, and a music room, athletic space and classroom. The development of the $39-million residence was supported by a $6.5-million donation from alumnus Dr. Russell Morrison and his wife, and by grant money from the City of Saskatoon’s Innovative Housing Incentive Program. uSask News Release | Global News

Schulich business school launches centre to help SMEs expand internationally

York University’s Schulich School of Business has launched a new research and teaching hub that will help Canada’s small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) compete internationally. The Centre for Global Enterprise, announced during Entrepreneurship Week, aims “to motivate, enable and assist SMEs to build on their domestic success by taking advantage of global opportunities.” The centre’s resources will also be open to all Canadian companies interested in expanding their international reach. While Canada’s estimated 1.4 million SMEs make up about 98% of the nation’s businesses and employ almost 60% of the country’s workforce, only about 8% of SMEs have developed significant export markets. Entrepreneurs and students will also benefit from the centre, as it will bring together teams of Schulich faculty and graduate business students to consult and work with SMEs under the Global Leadership program. YFile

NS institutions need to articulate what students learn

The Nova Scotia government and its PSE institutions are working to articulate the outcomes of students looking to enter the workforce, Labour and Advanced Education Senior Executive Director Ava Czapalay recently told the Chronicle Herald. Czapalay says there is a “memo of understanding” between government and universities to coordinate efforts on funding requirements, academic programming needs, and creating a quality student experience. “Some graduates narrowly focus on jobs looking for people to read and write at a high level, but an arts degree prepares you for much more than that — and that’s why we want to work with universities to articulate those outcomes students are achieving.” She adds that the government is also working with PSE institutions to make higher education more accessible for all Nova Scotians. “We’ve made improvements to the student assistance program and increased the upfront grant, so that even if students are borrowing more, the amount they have to repay is decreased,” says Czapalay. Chronicle Herald

MOOC users mostly well-educated

A majority of people who take MOOCs already have a degree from a traditional institution, according to a new paper from the University of Pennsylvania. More than 80% of the respondents had a 2- or 4-year degree, and 44% had some graduate education. The pattern holds true for MOOC learners in countries other than the US as well; in Brazil, China, India, Russia, and South Africa, “80% of MOOC students come from the wealthiest and most well educated 6% of the population.” Andrew Ng, a founder of Coursera, says “the company is aware of the demographic trends and is working on a number of projects aimed at helping reach more needy students.” The paper is based on a survey of 34,779 students worldwide who took 24 Coursera courses offered by uPennsylvania professors. Chronicle of Higher Education

Frequent tests in class via laptop improve grades

Giving PSE students quizzes via laptop at the beginning of every class, rather than just during the midterm or at final exam seasons, increases both attendance and overall performance, according to a study of 901 students in a popular intro to psychology course at the University of Texas. The students who did daily tests scored 10% higher on a subset of 17 questions than previous classes that used midterm exams. The report also found that these increases from regular testing were particularly strong in students from lower-income households. “This study is important because it introduces a new method to implement frequent quizzing with feedback in large classrooms, which can be difficult to do,” says Jeffrey D Karpicke, a Purdue professor who was not involved in the study. New York Times