Top Ten

December 3, 2013

CIGI launches overhauled international law research program

The Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI), founded by former BlackBerry executive Jim Balsillie, has launched an overhauled research in international law program. CIGI will fund up to 19 research fellowships and 20 graduate scholarships through any Ontario university, thanks to a $30-million gift from Balsillie and matching funds from the Ontario government. The funds will support research on laws in economics and finance, intellectual property and the environment. In spring 2012, York University dropped out of a partnership with CIGI to create a similar program due to academic freedom concerns from the Osgoode Hall Law School’s faculty council and others. The new program will be housed at CIGI’s Waterloo headquarters, allowing the think tank to distance itself from university governance and hiring. It will only be supporting the scholars’ research projects, and not their appointment to the university. CIGI has begun a search for a program director and the first research fellows, expecting to name 5 to 10 scholars in the next 2 years, and all 19 within 3 years. Globe and Mail

Ontario releases final Differentiation Framework

The Ontario government has released the final draft of its Differentiation Policy Framework, following consultations with universities, colleges, student groups and other sector stakeholders. With the policy, the government seeks to “steer the system in ways that align with provincial priorities while respecting the autonomy and supporting the strengths of [its] institutions.” It outlines 6 components of differentiation: jobs, innovation and economic development; teaching and learning; student population (access and retention); research and graduate education; program offerings; and student mobility (transfer agreements). The framework seeks to have universities and colleges report on these components in re-profiled Multi-Year Accountability Agreements (MYAAs) using specific metrics, which are explained in the policy. “Ontario’s differentiation and Strategic Mandate Agreement process will set the foundation for future alignment of government levers to  support sustainability, a high-quality PSE, and other government priorities,” says the framework. Ontario News Release

AAU releases report, action plan on student mental health

The Association of Atlantic Universities (AAU) has released a report from its recent conference on student mental health, with which universities sought to share and implement best practices. Apart from discussing the mental health initiatives that Atlantic universities have been undertaking over the past year, the report explains a 5-point action plan developed by conference delegates: develop a source of information where institutions/practitioners can share trends in mental health and innovations in the development and delivery of programs; increase peer-to-peer services on campus; continue sharing best practices among Atlantic universities; turn best practices learned into consistent, top-quality student mental health practices across all campuses; and apply the Stay Connected Mental Health Project, developed by Nova Scotia’s Capital District Health Authority (CDHA), to each university across the region in collaboration with local health services (the Stay Connected program helps patients transition seamlessly from child to adult psychiatric care). AAU News Release

Cegeps receives $6.4 million in funding for technological upgrades

The Fédération des cégeps has received $6.4 million in funding for new computers and other equipment, and library improvements, allowing the institutions to better serve their students. "In a higher education environment such as college, it is essential that young people have access to computer equipment in connection with their field studies, especially as we require them to master new information technologies and communications, and acquire the skills needed to graduate," says Jean Beauchesne, President and CEO of the Fédération des cégeps. While the federation is thankful for the funding, it says it would like to see the money promised in future budgets to ensure that all programs get up-to-date equipment. Cégeps News Release (in French)

Proposed REIT eyes student-housing market

A capital-pool company called CHC Realty Capital Corp. is looking to buy properties that cater to students and reorganize into a real estate investment trust (REIT), reports the Globe and Mail. Mark Hansen, CEO of CHC, says there is a lack of modern high-end buildings that cater to the desires of both students and their parents, who often pay for their children’s rent. “The marketplace itself is non-existent in Canada, and that’s one of the things that attracted us to it,” says Hansen. CHC sees an opportunity to provide student apartment buildings near campuses that include such amenities as weight rooms, tanning beds, movie theatres and easy internet connectivity -- and parent-friendly touches such as ubiquitous security cameras. In the US, American Campus Communities, a student-focused REIT, went public in 2004 and now has a market value of more than $3.4 billion. Globe and Mail Report on Business (subscription required)

Mitacs and SSHRC partner to enhance internships for liberal arts researchers

Mitacs and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) have announced a joint initiative that will allow Canadian businesses to easily connect with social sciences and humanities graduate students. Over the next year, Mitacs will consult with Canada’s social sciences and humanities researchers and “evolve its suite of programs to better suit this important research community.” The program will offer Mitacs Accelerate research internships to social sciences and humanities graduate students working with SSHRC grant recipients. “This partnership will ensure that Mitacs gains a better understanding of how our programs can bring the unique skill set afforded by the social sciences and humanities to make Canadian business more innovative, competitive, and productive,” says Arvind Gupta, CEO and Scientific Director for Mitacs. SSHRC News Release

LinkedIn partners with MOOC platforms

LinkedIn recently announced partnerships with Coursera, edX, Pearson, Udacity, Udemy and other online education companies to create a “Direct to Profile Certifications” beta program. The initiative allows LinkedIn users to list their completed MOOCs or other online accomplishments on their LinkedIn profile, directly from the course provider. “After the completion of a course with a participating provider, you will receive an email with a link that will present you with an automatically populated certification field, complete with the details of the course you just completed. When you click ‘Save,’ it will seamlessly add the certification or completed course work to your LinkedIn Profile,” explains a LinkedIn blog. LinkedIn

PSE in California facing many challenges

California is beginning to face challenges in providing higher education to its citizens, especially those who attend PSE outside its “elite public and private universities,” according to a report released last week by the Committee for Economic Development. The report, which looked at the financial, economic and demographic challenges facing California’s colleges and universities, reveals that many of those challenges are faced by institutions that most students attend. "Without quantum increases in educational access, productivity, and effectiveness of the state’s postsecondary institutions, particularly those with broad-access missions, there is little likelihood that California will have the human capital to compete successfully in the global economy or assure its citizens access to economic prosperity and a middle-class life," warns the report. It explains that because opportunities for new funding will be rare, the state will need to find new ways of providing PSE. Inside Higher Ed | Full Report

Humanities funding declining globally

Funding of humanities research is under increasing strain globally, according to a recent report published in Research Trends magazine. The New York Times reports that humanities research funding in the US has declined steadily since 2009, and in 2011 represented less than half of one percent of the amount dedicated to science and engineering research and development. In Australia, Prime Minister Tony Abbott promised to “reprioritize” 103 million Australian dollars ($93.6 million US) from research in the humanities into medical research. The British government has pulled direct government funding for humanities provision and replaced it with tuition fees, backed up by government loans. “In India…the humanities are more or less dead, and professional schools and the study of business and technology are in the ascendant,” says Homi K. Bhabha, Director of the Mahindra Humanities Center at Harvard University. Meanwhile, student enrolment in the humanities has remained the same across the globe, relative to total enrolment numbers, and in some countries, has increased. New York Times

British government advances cuts to student scholarship program

British Minister of Universities and Science David Willetts announced last week that the country’s £150-million National Scholarship Programme (NSP), which awards bursaries to students from households earning £25,000 or less, will be reduced to £50 million next year. The program was due to remain in place next year and be replaced by a new £50 million scholarship scheme for postgraduates from 2015-16. Willetts said the “decision was based on evaluation which has shown that there are more valuable ways of widening access and enlarging the choices students make about higher education through the negotiated access agreements of universities.” Times Higher Education