Top Ten

December 12, 2013

uMontréal opens Quebec’s first school of public health

The Université de Montréal this week opened Quebec’s first school of public health. The École de santé publique (ÉSPUM), uMontréal’s first new faculty in 40 years, will temporarily operate at an off-campus location; the Quebec government has promised $1.9 million for a feasibility study to determine where a new building for the school should be constructed, according to the Montreal Gazette. ÉSPUM will bring together 225 professors and researchers and 630 masters and doctoral students, the greatest concentration of researchers and experts in public health in Canada. It will also be the largest francophone public health school in the world, writes the Gazette. uMontréal Rector Guy Breton said that operating in French will make the new school unique within North America, allowing it to “export its expertise” to many French-speaking developing countries. Montreal Gazette | uMontréal News Release

BC institutions to lose funding for ESL

The British Columbia government told the province’s colleges and universities this week that their federal funding for English as a second language (ESL) will probably end on March 31. The provincial government has known since 2012 that the federal government would cancel the Canada-BC Immigration Agreement, which funded the training. However, the province is still waiting to find out how Canada plans to continue delivering English language training beyond the end of March. “It seems unlikely that the funding that flows through the ministry to institutions will be replaced," says BC advanced education Minister Amrik Virk. The funding amounts to about $17 million, which paid for more than 9,000 ESL students to learn English tuition-free last year. Vancouver Community College provided 46% of the ESL training under the program, and Camosun College provided 14%. The remaining training is offered through not-for-profit and community organizations that “will negotiate directly with the federal government for funding,” explains Virk. Vancouver Sun

Campus Montréal receives $3.5 million for research on co-operative business

The Desjardins Group has donated $3.5 million to Campus Montréal, a joint fundraising campaign by HEC Montréal, Polytechnique Montréal and Université de Montréal. HEC Montréal will receive the funding for ongoing research on the “co-operative model” of business. “The co-operative model has been attracting growing interest around the world since 2008, since co-operative businesses more easily weathered the crisis. We want to better understand this phenomenon and train the next generation of managers so that they are even better equipped to contribute to our society’s development,” says HEC Montréal Director Michel Patry. Polytechnique Montréal recently received $1 million from Desjardins as part of Campus Montréal. HEC Montréal News Release

New Alberta advanced education minister looks to commercialization

Alberta’s new Minister of Innovation and Advanced Education Dave Hancock says he wants to see Alberta PSE institutions focus on innovation and commercialization. Last week’s cabinet shuffle by Premier Alison Redford saw Thomas Lukaszuk moved to the newly-created Jobs, Skills and Training position, and Dave Hancock appointed as the minister responsible for PSE. “We do some great research here, some great early stage stuff, but we have had struggles getting it to a stage where it’s ready for commercialization,” said Hancock, who has led the ministry before. He also said he “doesn’t know if the province’s tuition freeze will remain in place or what next year’s budget could hold for the sector.” Metro News | CBC

Dal looks to improve low prof evaluation completions

Dalhousie University is looking at ways to improve its faculty evaluation process following low response rates, reports the Chronicle Herald. Last fall, the university switched from traditional paper surveys, filled out at the end of exams, to online evaluations. Only 41.7% of students submitted evaluations this year (preliminary results), compared to 63.6% in 2011. Deans and department heads have been cautioned not to make any major decisions based on the results, and at least one faculty deemed the results unusable. Centre for Learning and Teaching executive director Brad Wuetherick says many universities across Canada have moved to online evaluations and have also witnessed a drop in the response rates. Dal has produced a bigger marketing campaign for the evaluations this year, promoting them through pop-up ads on library computers and adding features to the online student system. It is also developing a mobile app to allow students to fill out the evaluations on their phones and tablets. Chronicle Herald

Millennials better off than 80s youth

McGill University economics professor William Watson argues in the Ottawa Citizen that Millennials “don’t have it as bad” in terms of employment and wages as did youth in the 1980s. Watson, citing Macdonald-Laurier Institute data, explains that the 2008-9 recession caused the youth employment rate to rise to just above 16%, but says it lowered to 14% after 3 years. In the 1980s, unemployment for youth reached 20% and remained at 17% after 3 years. “The slump of the early 1990s also hit young people harder than in 2008-9, with their unemployment rate peaking at 18% and lingering above 17% 3 years afterward,” adds Watson. He does point out that studies show there are lasting career effects on groups of young people that enter the labour market when it’s slow. However, Watson reminds readers not to forget about the past, and that “recessions end.” Watson concludes that if governments don’t “pile on regulations governing the employment of every worker hired,” making it too expensive to hire more employees. “How can there not be abundant opportunity for young Canadians” as long as they figure out which skills are needed in the workforce? Ottawa Citizen

Syracuse comes up with potential business model for MOOCs

At a time when many institutions are working out how to create a business model for MOOCs, Syracuse University is experimenting with a unique idea: offering students who successfully complete a data science MOOC a 20% scholarship toward a certificate of advanced study in data science. 90 people completed the MOOC, and 8 of those students enrolled in the data science program this fall. At $1,250 per credit hour, minus the 20% discount, Syracuse will make $15,000 per student—or $120,000 total if everyone finishes the certificate. “It was definitely worth it,” says Jeff Stanton, Senior Associate Dean of Syracuse’s School of Information Studies. “I haven’t talked to anyone in the university who was disappointed. People see its potential as a tool for raising awareness.” University Business

Nobel Prize winner boycotts “luxury” journals

Randy W Schekman, a University of California at Berkeley professor and 2013 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine winner, has declared a boycott of top science journals such as Cell, Nature, and Science. Schekman said pressure to publish in these types of “luxury” journals encouraged researchers to “cut corners and pursue trendy fields of science instead of doing more important work.” He added that editors of these journals are not active scientists but professionals who “favoured studies that were likely to make a splash.” "I have published in the big brands, including papers that won me a Nobel prize. But no longer," writes Schekman. "Just as Wall Street needs to break the hold of bonus culture, so science must break the tyranny of the luxury journals." Schekman is the editor of eLife, a free online journal and competitor of Cell, Nature, and Science magazines. Chronicle of Higher Education | The Guardian

PhD employment holds steady, but makes gains in humanities

The number of American PhD recipients in 2012 who had a job commitment upon finishing their degrees increased by only 0.1% over 2011, to 65.6%, according to data from the University of Chicago’s Survey of Earned Doctorates. The results show that there are employment gains over 2010 and 2011 across all disciplinary categories, except in education. The humanities, where the job market for PhDs has been particularly hard, saw a gain of 292 new doctorates in 2012, a 5.6% increase. Over all, the number of doctorates awarded in 2012 was 51,008, an increase of 4.3% over 2011. 46.2% of these new doctorates went to women, which is a small increase of 0.8% over the last 10 years. Inside Higher Education

Google launches “virtual field trips”

Google has this week launched a “Connected Classrooms” initiative, which allows educators to take their students on “virtual field trips” using Google Plus, the company’s social media platform. Field trips available so far include speaking with astronauts in space, marine biologists at zoos, and students from the US, Somalia, and Pakistan taking part in an active discussion on gun violence. “Before long, I imagine Barack Obama hopping in on a Google in-school field trip that takes students through a tour of the White House or Air Force One,” writes Huffington Post blogger Mark W Guay. Huffington Post | Connected Classrooms