Top Ten

January 9, 2014

UBC buys 1927 building for $28 million for school of economics

The University of British Columbia will be purchasing the Vancouver School of Theology’s 1927 Iona Building for $28 million. The stone-faced building on UBC’s Vancouver campus will mainly be used for the Faculty of Arts’ Vancouver School of Economics. UBC plans to take possession in July 2014 and to begin using the facility by September 2015. The School of Theology will use the proceeds of the sale to relocate their operations to a more suitable space in the UBC “theological neighbourhood.” UBC News Release

Mohawk moves out of Brantford campus

Mohawk College has announced that it will be moving all of its remaining full-time programs from its Brantford Campus to its main campus in Hamilton this fall. Mohawk has been phasing out its Brantford location since 2010, a move that will help curb a projected $5-million shortfall in its 2014-15 budget. This latest move will affect some 350 community service students and 20 staff members, and will save the college $1 million annually. Mohawk spokesperson Jay Robb says it will also be more convenient, particularly for the roughly 60% of students who had been commuting to Brantford from Hamilton for their courses. The college says it aims to keep staff layoffs to a minimum, and that it will follow collective agreements with faculty and staff. Hamilton Spectator

CFI given $63 million for research infrastructure

The Canadian government has announced a $63-million boost for research infrastructure under the Canada Foundation for Innovation’s John R. Evans Leaders Fund. Currently, the fund is contributing to research equipment, laboratories and tools at over 250 facilities at 37 universities across Canada. “Our government believes significant investments in Canadian research are essential to sparking innovation, creating economic prosperity and improving the lives of Canadians,” says Minister of State (Science and Technology) Greg Rickford. CFI News Release

Alberta defends research partnership with universities

Alberta Premier Alison Redford says recently-awarded grants to the province’s universities for issue-specific research are "entirely appropriate," responding to controversy stirred by the grants. The Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL) claims grants “secretly awarded” to the University of Calgary's School of Public Policy for Alberta energy policy threaten the institution's credibility. "Albertans pay for our public institutions and they deserve and expect our universities are places of unbiased and thoughtful research," says AFL President Gil McGowan. "They shouldn't have their research agenda dictated by politicians." Alberta Innovation and Advanced Education Minister Dave Hancock says “there are times when the government needs to direct research to get answers to specific questions and it is reasonable to put conditions on those grants.” Calgary Herald

CÉGEPs introducing English/French programs

Quebec’s CÉGEPs are increasingly offering bilingual education to their students through joint programs between English and French institutions, reports the Montreal Gazette. “It’s about learning chemistry or math terms in the other language...[so if] you’ve been in French schools your whole life but you’re going into McGill medicine, you won’t be hearing the terms for the first time,” says Marianopolis spokesperson Kathryn Haralambous on the importance of such partnerships. The Gazette points out, however that it remains to be seen how the provincial government – which campaigned on banning non-anglophones from Quebec’s 7 Anglophone CEGEPs - reacts to the changes. Joël Bouchard, press attaché for Higher Education Minister Pierre Duchesne, characterized one such English/French CÉGEP partnership program as “an experimental program authorized by the previous government.” Montreal Gazette

Canada’s PSE stats in an international context

Statistics Canada and Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development data show that 64% of Canadians aged 25 to 64 had completed a PSE degree in 2011. The proportion of individuals who had a university degree (bachelor's to PhD) was 27%, with 9 OECD countries recording figures above Canada's. The data also reveal that 89% of people aged 25 to 64 had completed at least high school in 2011 in Canada, which is substantially higher than the OECD average of 75%. The employment rate for adults aged 25 to 64 who had not completed high school was 55%, while the employment rate among the same age group was highest for individuals who had a college or university credential at 82%, similar to the OECD average. StatsCan Daily

Universities react to LinkedIn University Pages

LinkedIn’s University Pages have been live since summer 2013, and University Affairs has reported on some reactions from Canadian universities. The University of British Columbia, which was invited to participate in the product’s test phase, has “actively embraced” its page. “For us, it’s a fundamental piece of our social media strategy, because people expect brands to be on LinkedIn,” says UBC Director of Interactive Marketing Juliana Fridman. However, Concordia University was not involved in the test phase, which meant it was notified after the pages’ launch that an empty page in its name was available. “It took us 2 to 3 weeks to populate our page. For anyone who saw it when it was empty, the implication was that we couldn’t get our act together,” says Concordia Director of Web Communications Lucy Niro. Niro adds that she doesn’t think Concordia’s page will attract many teenaged followers – and says those it does attract will be hard to identify. York University’s Mark Farmer agrees, confirming that most of the comments and likes on YorkU’s page are by alumni, not pre-university students. University Affairs

Universities are “partners and catalysts,” not ivory towers

Brock University President Jack Lightstone debunks a common stereotype that calls Canada’s universities “ivory towers,” or institutions that are “resistant to change and deaf to calls to address Canada’s important issues,” in a recent op-ed. Lightstone explains that universities are instead institutions that offer unique scholarship, research, and partnership opportunities shaped by the various locations in which they operate. He suggests that universities can focus their research efforts on both “traditional lines,” such as economics, science, humanities, etc, as well as “around themes that local communities identify as their priorities.” Lightstone proposes that if universities measured the success of their research by the impact it has on both academics and the development of their communities, the resulting partnerships with external experts and organizations would “create new knowledge, and make it matter for those outside the academy.” Globe and Mail

Ontario announces initiatives to improve K-12 math scores

The Ontario government has announced that it will be adding more math training for teachers still in PSE and enhanced courses and workshops for those already teaching, in an attempt to boost student performance. Following declining math scores among Canadian students in a recent OECD study, Ontario’s Minister of Education Liz Sandals said more should be done to improve student achievement in math. The plans announced today also include exploring how technology can be used to improve teaching and learning in math, and helping parents find resources that can support their children’s learning. The province will invest $4 million for the new initiatives. Ontario News Release | Toronto Star

Florida university joins small crowd using iTunes U for course management

Florida’s Lynn University has joined the few PSE institutions using Apple’s iTunes U for course management. Lynn will use the tablet-focused software for all of its daytime undergraduate courses, abandoning the popular Blackboard Learn. iTunes U allows faculty to build courses through its Course Manager, which can import custom-made textbooks from Apple’s iBooks app. However, Inside Higher Ed points out that iTunes U lacks some of the key features that Blackboard offers, such as analytics, attendance tracking and gradebooks. Lynn says it will likely develop its own systems to track what iTunes U doesn’t, leaving the Apple software as a bare-bones platform that hosts content and assignments, “but not much else.” The university has hosted several training sessions for faculty members who aren’t yet comfortable with Apple products and software. Inside Higher Ed