Top Ten

December 6, 2013

UVic expects stable budget, staffing in 2014-15

The University of Victoria is on track to avoid additional budget cuts or layoffs next year, President Jamie Cassels announced recently in a notice to staff. Cassels promised greater stability in 2014-15, citing strong enrolment and a clearer financial picture; UVic registered 20,813 students as of November 1-- the highest enrolment in the university’s history, according to the Times Colonist. In addition, recent arbitration set faculty salaries through to June 2014, and the provincial government announced it would spread $50 million in cuts to PSE over 3 years instead of 2. “Thus, with the advice of my executive colleagues, I am informing you now that unless a significant change in our key assumptions occurs, departments will not be asked to make budget reductions in 2014-15,” said Cassels. He added that “the university still faces a risk of further shortfalls, but has time to plan and align university resources with priorities.” Times Colonist

UNB teachers union votes 90% in favour of strike mandate

The Association of University of New Brunswick Teachers (AUNTB) has voted 90% in favour of giving its executive a strike mandate, with 99% of members casting a ballot. AUNBT represents more than 1,000 full-time and contract academic staff and librarians at the University of New Brunswick. According to the Canadian Press, wages and workload are the main issues. AUNTB President Miriam Jones says members are hopeful the mandate delivers a strong message to their employer. AUNBT Posting | CTV (Canadian Press)

Ontario announces funding for innovation in teaching and learning projects

The Ontario government this week announced that it will be supporting 120 projects at PSE institutions across the province through the Productivity and Innovation Fund, to “help them become more innovative while improving learning experiences for students.” The projects to be funded will focus on 3 areas: redesigning courses to use more online and multimedia resources such as electronic textbooks and mobile-friendly, online curricula; academic programs, specific learning environments and initiatives that align with Ontario’s recently-released Differentiation Framework; and collaboration among institutions that provide common services such as data storage, libraries and procurement. Ontario will also be supporting 39 projects through the College Financial Health and Sustainability Grant, which will be available to 11 colleges to help them “develop strategies that address key challenges, such as reducing energy and maintenance costs and improving data management and IT systems.” Ontario News Release

French student group to reach out to anglophone students

The Association pour une solidarité syndicale étudiante (ASSÉ), which the Montreal Gazette describes as “Quebec’s most radical student group,” will begin reaching out to anglophone students for the first time by publishing its journal, Ultimatum, in English and making it available on anglophone campuses. ASSÉ officials say the move is more about spreading its message about free tuition than simply recruiting students. “There are tens of thousands of anglophone students in Montreal, and it’s important they be reached and be informed,” says ASSÉ co-spokesperson Benjamin Gingras. “Anglophone students are as affected by tuition increases as anyone else.” The group is also currently planning a demonstration in March to protest “anti-social measures and to demand reinvestment in public services.” ASSÉ has 2 members from English universities: McGill’s Art History and Communication Studies Graduate Students’ Association, and Concordia’s School of Community and Public Affairs Students’ Association. Some English CEGEP associations have joined as well. Montreal Gazette

BC institutions partner to launch tech accelerator

Several BC universities and colleges are the latest PSE institutions to join the entrepreneurship incubator development, launching its new VentureLabs technology startup accelerator. A collaboration between Simon Fraser University, the University of Victoria, the BC Institute of Technology, and Emily Carr University of Art + Design, VentureLabs will provide resources to BC entrepreneurs so they can commercialize new technology products or ideas. The accelerator will also partner with the BC Innovation Council (BCIC) to offer participants resources already established through the BC Venture Acceleration Program. “Successful innovation comes from multi-disciplinary collaboration and academia working closely with industry and government,” says SFU VP Research Mario Pinto. SFU News Release | Business in Victoria Magazine

Philanthropy improving at Quebec’s francophone universities

Quebec’s francophone universities have begun to bring in an impressive amount of donations, suggesting that a culture of philosophy is beginning to take hold, reports University Affairs. The Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières collected $27 million in donations in its most recent campaign, $7 million more than its target, and the Université de Sherbrooke expects to exceed its internal fundraising campaign objective of $10 million. Université de Montréal has set its campaign target at $500 million, “the loftiest goal in the history of Quebec’s francophone universities.” However, experts point out that there is still work to be done if the province’s francophone universities are to catch up to their anglophone peers – or to the rest of Canada. According to Statistics Canada, Quebecers’ average charitable donations amounted to $208 in 2010, well below the Canadian average of $446, and only 1% of funds gathered for charitable purposes were earmarked for universities and colleges. “We have not done enough to convince the public that education is important,” says Jacques Bégin, Director of UQTR’s fundraising department. University Affairs

Gap narrowing between boomers and Gens Y, Z in tech trends

Canadian “boomers” (those aged 47 to 67) are beginning to catch up to younger consumers when it comes to “buying gadgets and getting hooked on the web,” according to a new study by Media Technology Monitor, which compared technology trends among members of Gen Y (24- to 33-year-old consumers), Gen Z (aged 18 to 23) and boomers. “While (boomers) have not grown up with publicly available internet and wireless technologies, they have become avid users of these offerings,” explains the report. Almost half of all boomers surveyed said they were smartphone owners, compared to 82% of Gen Z and 78% of Gen Y respondents. Interestingly, about 36% of boomers said they owned a tablet, which was more than Gen Y (34%) and Gen Z (28%) respondents. Members of Gen Z said they were typically using the Internet for about 28 hours a week, which was a couple of hours more than Gen Y respondents, and nearly double the time boomers estimated they were online per week. Marketing magazine

Lumina donates $4 million to communities for PSE-completion initiatives

The Indiana-based Lumina Foundation will donate $4 million to accelerate the work of 20 communities in the US that have been working towards improving college-completion rates among local residents. The "community mobilization" funding will go to a mix of urban and rural areas in 16 states, selected because “they have already set goals for attainment, have made progress toward those goals, and have focused on a particular population of learners.” They will each receive $200,000 over 3 years to craft an "action plan," with Lumina’s guidance, which will vary depending on each community's goals and methods for achieving them. The foundation will then measure progress based on local residents' PSE credentials. Lumina plans to announce additional recipients over the next year, for a total of 75. Chronicle of Higher Education (subscription required)

US PSE spending on R&D begins to decline, first time since 1974

University spending on research and development in the US declined slightly in 2012, reveals a survey published by the National Science Foundation. Spending on R&D amounted to $65.8 billion in the 2012 fiscal year, which is a 1% decline over 2011, after inflation, and the first constant-dollar decline since the 1974 fiscal year. From 2009 to 2011, spending on research had been increasing modestly at a rate of 5% per year. Also, federally-supported R&D spending was down in 2012 by 1.6%, from $40.8 billion in 2011 to $40.1 billion. Chronicle of Higher Education

McGill prof lets students down with a little humour

Students of a McGill University political science professor have been “singing his praises” on social media since he denied their request for a research paper extension – in a unique and comical way. Students had submitted a “royal request” for an extension, to which professor Rex Brynen replied, as “King Brynen,” with a satirical note explaining that “to break with this sacred tradition…would be unfair to those who have completed their assignments…it would also most likely cause a drought, plague of locusts, or similar catastrophe for violating the natural order of things…as your King, I simply cannot bear to see you all covered in locusts…for that reason – and because we are an absolute Kingdom, and not one of those silly constitutional ones with elections and other annoying political innovations – there shall be no change in dates.” Brynen does, however, go on to declare “the day of the toiling masses of POLI 340” on December 25 as a day when no one will have to do any work. "We've all been enjoying it," said Brynen of the letter. "It just goes to show how fun teaching can be!" Inside Higher Ed