Top Ten

January 6, 2014

uWaterloo buys BlackBerry buildings, land for $41 million

The University of Waterloo last month bought 5 buildings and land from BlackBerry for $41 million in a deal set to close on February 14. uWaterloo will occupy 3 of the buildings on the northeast corner of its main campus, and BlackBerry will remain a tenant of 2 others for up to 5 years. “The University of Waterloo has set a course to become one of the world’s top innovation universities and we must ensure that we have the space to meet that challenge,” says uWaterloo President Feridun Hamdullahpur. The buildings will add 300,000 square feet of space and more than 1,000 parking spots to the university’s campus. The announcement came the same day BlackBerry posted a quarterly loss of US$4.4 billion, or $8.37 a share, down from a profit of $9 million or 2 cents a share in 2012. uWaterloo News Release | Financial Post

Ontario releases plan for new campuses

The Ontario government has released a Major Capacity Expansion Policy Framework that outlines a selection process in which institutions are to submit expansion proposals to the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities (MTCU) following a call for proposals in “early 2014.” The framework also defines criteria for where new or expanded campuses should be located, based on the following priorities: Increasing spaces in underserved areas, aligning with provincial growth and economic development plans; aligning with the strategic mandate agreements around differentiation; demonstrating value for money and providing regional economic benefits; improving quality, innovation and competitiveness; and increasing affordability for both students and taxpayers. “Municipalities interested in being considered as host locations will be expected to work in collaboration with institutions that would be prepared to submit a proposal,” explains an MTCU news release. MTCU News Release | Policy Framework

uSask develops new strategic enrolment management plan

The University of Saskatchewan has submitted a new Strategic Enrolment Management (SEM) report to its council that includes 10 recommendations for achieving a 7.2% increase in students by 2015-16. This would boost enrolment by an additional 1,548 students. The report also includes targets for specific student groups such as international and Aboriginal students. uSask AVP Student Affairs David Hannah explains that the need to rethink SEM stems from several factors, including a declining number of high school graduates in Saskatchewan. “Gone are the days when we could open the gate, students would pour in and then we’d close the gate when we were full,” says Hannah. uSask’s top priority among the list of recommendations is to streamline its administrative processes, “from admissions procedures and scholarship administration to communications and grade conversion practices.” uSask News Release | Report Landing Page (authentication required)

Western announces creative writing chair honouring Alice Munro

Western University has created a $3-million Alice Munro Chair in Creativity to honour the Canadian author, who recently received a Nobel Prize in literature. The Chair holder will be “a creative writer, teacher and scholar” who will be a flag-bearer for arts and humanities, and will also leave his or her mark across other disciplines. Western has also pledged $1.5 million to match any donations to the chair. Munro was an undergraduate at Western from 1949 to 1951, and returned in 1974-75 as a writer-in-residence. She accepted an honorary degree the following year. “The university, in claiming a long-term association with Alice Munro, very much wants to be able to take that relationship and have it be part of the basis for a renewal and expansion of the creative arts on campus,” says Bryce Traister, Chair of Western’s Department of English and Writing Studies. Globe and Mail

UNB commits to continued negotiations with faculty, no lockout planned

A truce set in November between the University of New Brunswick and its faculty has expired, and the university says it will not lock out the some 1,000 academic staff and librarians represented by the Association of University of New Brunswick Teachers (AUNBT). "We are committed to continuing to negotiate to achieve a new collective agreement," reads a UNB statement. The AUNBT in December voted 90% in favour of giving its executive a strike mandate, with 99% of members casting a ballot. According to the Canadian Press, wages and workload are the main issues in the negotiations, which began in March. CBC

NS’ Gaelic College name change causes controversy

A recent decision by Cape Breton’s Gaelic College to add the word “royal” to its name has caused controversy among those who say the name would be offensive because most of the Gaelic-speaking migrants who sailed to Nova Scotia in the late 1700s were forced out of the Scottish Highlands following a battle with the English. The college’s CEO, Rodney MacDonald, declined to comment; the volunteer chairman Alex Morrison stepped down earlier this week, saying more discussion was needed to resolve the issue. “We made a blunder,” says Morrison. “I hang my head with a modicum of shame for my part in this debacle, and I hope I become wiser for it.” Toronto Star (Canadian Press)

Teens may be leaving Facebook for app-based social networks

Facebook CFO David Ebersman recently announced that the social network has seen a decrease in daily usage among teens of “questionable significance.” Tom Smith, Founder of the Global Web Index digital consumer research project, predicts that in the next year “we’ll continue to see active teen Facebook use decline and see the rise of very targeted apps, as mobile becomes the primary form of Internet use among younger groups.” Such apps include Instagram (owned by Facebook), WhatsApp and Snapchat. Smith explains that Facebook was created in the pre-mobile, “PC era,” and that the more photo-centric and less “verbose” mobile apps resonate more with teens. Maclean’s suggests another factor could be Facebook’s perceived higher security issues, which in reality are no less risky for other social media apps. Maclean’s On Campus

Study offers caveats about same-sex elementary schooling in Colombia

Single-sex schools may help some boys and girls learn subjects in which there is a gender gap, but they may not provide the best learning environment for students who don’t fit into gender stereotypes, reveals a recent study out of Concordia University. The researchers interviewed 469 4th-, 5th- and 6th-grade girls from same- and mixed-sex schools in Bogotá and Barranquilla, Colombia. They found that that girls who didn’t like to do “typical girl things” were more likely to be victimized by their all-female peers than their counterparts in mixed schools. “Parents of gender atypical children should take these factors into account when deciding on what school is best,” says lead researcher William Bukowski, who is the Director of the Centre for Research in Human Development (CRDH). The Montreal Gazette points out that beyond this warning, the study offers no “blanket conclusions” on the merits of same-sex or mixed-sex schools for teachers or parents. Montreal Gazette

A satirical blog from which academics can take a lesson

A new blog by a Harvard University student called LOL My Thesis invites PSE students to submit often facetious “plain English” translations of their thesis topics. Examples include “Different rocks will be different shapes and colours,” “Minimalism: still a thing.” and “Bacteria make you fat!” While the blog was intended to be amusing, Maclean’s contributing editor Josh Dehaas points out that we would learn more about the research of academics who summed up their theses “in simple sentences the average person can read.” Maclean’s On Campus

Education stories to watch for in 2014

A recent Globe and Mail article highlights the 5 most interesting stories to watch for in 2014: making do with less funding, as universities attempt to learn from financially-strained peers like the University of Alberta; more headlines about student movements, as Quebec’s commission on the Maple Spring is still attempting to reach its conclusion; increased efforts to improve math scores in the country, especially among girls; continued battles around the Quebec Charter of Values; and the rebirth of the MOOC, as institutions and platforms continue to grapple with how to find business models for the online courses. Globe and Mail