Top Ten

January 7, 2014

King’s gains independence from diocese

King’s University College at Western University has gained independence from the Catholic diocese and bishop of London, ON by completing an institutional incorporation process at the end of December. “The incorporation process was the next logical step in the maturation of the institution as a major Catholic university in Canada,” reads a King’s news release. The incorporation, which has been in process for the past several years, was approved by the Vatican in 2012. “We have operated administratively separate from the Diocese since the 1970s,” says King’s Principal David Sylvester. “Students, faculty and staff will see no change in our day-to-day operations.” According to the London Free Press, King’s paid the diocese $4.1 million, “reflecting the value of the diocese’s investment in 1954 of 11 acres and Wemple Hall, the first building on the campus.” King’s News Release | London Free Press

Colleges Ontario releases provincial budget submission focused on employment

Colleges Ontario has released its 2014 provincial budget submission that focuses on how to raise the youth employment level and how to produce a more highly-skilled workforce. The submission calls on the government to: provide an additional $26 million “that it has committed to enrolment growth;” increase operating funding by $83 million in 2014-15; raise the enrolment cap on high-demand programs from the current level of 15% of the total enrolment; increase funding for apprenticeships by $10 million; introduce a new $25-million student success fund for disadvantaged youth; create a new Graduate Transition to the Workplace Grant of $10 million annually; and enhance capital funding for both infrastructure renewal and new projects. The submission reports that the province’s colleges “face a net cost pressure of $109 million in 2014-15.” Full Submission

StudentsNS launch advocacy campaign on student debt

Students Nova Scotia (StudentsNS) has launched a new #StudentsSpeakOut advocacy campaign that aims to “bring attention to the financial difficulties that many students confront and how these impact on the entire province’s wellbeing.” The campaign features videos of students speaking about their experiences with debt, who “are worried about their employment prospects.” StudentsNS is calling on the NS government to “build the best student financial assistance program in Canada,” freeze university tuition increases at 0% until youth unemployment recovers, and allow students to choose whether new fees are used for non-academic services. The new campaign also includes a petition to the province’s MLAs. StudentsNS News Release | Campaign Website

Ontario higher ed minister clarifies differentiation process

The Ontario government’s current differentiation process for PSE institutions is not an exercise in budget cuts, says the province’s Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities Brad Duguid in response to a recent Windsor Star article. The article in question suggests Ontario’s plan raises concerns that programs will be eliminated. Duguid writes that “the differentiation framework does not put our colleges and universities into rigid categories, nor does it advantage or disadvantage any particular program area of study.” Duguid explains that having institutions work with the province in identifying their areas of strength, “we can continue to move toward a system where institutions work together as complementary parts of the province's PSE system and avoid unnecessary duplication.” Universities and colleges submitted revised Strategic Mandate Agreements to the ministry on December 20. Windsor Star (letter) | Windsor Star (original article)

New Brunswick student group to lobby legislature in February

The New Brunswick Student Alliance (NBSA) will be meeting with members of the province’s legislature on financial aid and other issues during its first advocacy week in the first week of February, when the legislature sits. While the student group has met with NB’s Department of Post-Secondary Education, Training and Labour in the past, this will be the first time it focuses its efforts on the legislature. “One of the benefits we have here in NB is we have a relatively small legislature, there’s only 55 seats. Which makes it logistically convenient to try to arrange meetings with as many MLAs as we can,” says NBSA Executive Director Pat Joyce. “With an election coming up and the parties working on their message for voters, this is the perfect time to have this [advocacy week],” adds NBSA VP External Greg Bailey. Canadian University Press Newswire

Business schools enhance job-preparation programs

Business schools in Canada have begun to revamp their career preparation services for students in the wake of a tougher job market, reports the Globe and Mail. The Queen’s University School of Business has added more of these services to its redesigned one-year MBA program. The school also recently changed the start date of its MBA program to January from May to create post-program opportunities for paid-internship work experience. Similarly, University of British Columbia’s Sauder School of Business has its 16-month MBA program students prepare for 2 recruitment seasons – one for a mandatory summer internship and the other for full-time employment after graduation. Sauder also plans to launch a new “e-portfolio” program for its 110 MBA students to market themselves using social media. Globe and Mail

YorkU book examines policy challenges for PSE

Faculty members at York University have published a new book exploring the challenges faced by higher education policy makers during “turbulent times.” The work, which is the product of a 2012 international workshop at YorkU, explores whether universities are “grappling in common ways with issues of access and equity” and compares policy developments in various areas. “Though perceived as engines of the emerging knowledge economy, postsecondary educational institutions throughout the world face reduced funding, increasing demands for accessibility, shifting government policy and more oversight,” writes YorkU Education Professor and co-editor Paul Axelrod. YorkU News Release | Book Order Page

Debt figures in US, Canada more complicated than often shown

A recent Globe and Mail article points out that rising PSE student debt figures from the US are often used as a cautionary tale for institutions and governments on this side of the border. The article points out, however, that journalists often overlook the fact that “at publicly-funded schools in the US, the percentage of students graduating in debt varies.” A recent Institute for College Access and Success study reported a variation in student debt from less than $5,000 per borrower at some institutions to almost $50,000 at others. It also showed that students in the East and Midwest borrowed far more than those in the West and South. The Globe article also points out that here in Canada, “the widely cited average of $25,000 debt on graduation hides that 40% of students start out in their post-school careers with under $10,000 in debt. Globe and Mail | New York Times

UC Davis creates badge system to accompany degree

The University of California at Davis is creating a new badge system, to complement degrees, which awards certain competencies learned based on students’ self-assessments. The badges are currently being piloted with undergraduate students in the Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems program, and eventually the process will involve assessments from faculty members and peers, along with the self-assessments. “This is all about a self-reporting system,” says Joanna Normoyle, a Coordinator at the university’s Agricultural Sustainability Institute. “What do I think about what I know?” As part of the process, students create an online portfolio to display their earned badges, and each student is given free reign on how they will do so. Inside Higher Ed

Early applications in UK drop to lowest in 4 years

Early university applications in the UK (those submitted before December 16) are at their lowest level since 2010, according to UCAS, the nation’s main application centre. The total of 227,850 English applications is also 1% lower than at this same point in 2013. However, the final deadline for applications is not until January 15; in the 2013 cycle, application numbers increased by 72% between the December comparison point and the January deadline. Times Higher Education