Top Ten

January 14, 2014

UNB academic staff on strike

The association representing academic staff at the University of New Brunswick went on strike on Monday after it and the university failed to come to an agreement over the weekend. With the exception of courses offered in Miramichi and some online courses, all classes will be suspended for the duration of the strike, reports a statement from UNB President H.E.A. (Eddy) Campbell. The statement also says that the Association of University of New Brunswick Teachers (AUNBT) and UNB will continue to negotiate. “Collectively, I know we will do everything we can to facilitate orderly operations during the strike,” says Campbell. The AUNBT represents over 1,000 full-time and contract academic staff, librarians and researchers at the university. Compensation and working conditions remain the key issues, according to AUNBT President Miriam Jones. Jones says staff members want to be treated the same as their peers, adding that “members are up to 48% behind salaries at other schools.” UNB Statement | Globe and Mail

Postscript: The AUNBT wishes to clarify that member salaries are 12.5 % behind salaries at other schools rather than the reported 48%.  They are seeking a 3% annual wage increase to track the agreed comparator group, plus 3.1% annually to catch up to comparator group salaries over a 4-year agreement. (January 20, 2014)  

Update: January 29, 2014

The New Brunswick government has ordered the University of New Brunswick and its faculty association back to the bargaining table this week in an attempt to end a strike that has halted classes. NB Minister of Labour and PSE Jody Carr has appointed experienced mediator Brian Keller to help work out an agreement. Globe and Mail

McMaster resumes collecting MAPS fees

McMaster University has decided to resume collecting fees from its part-time students on behalf of the McMaster Association of Part-time Students (MAPS), saying the association has “made satisfactory progress on improving its accountability.” McMaster suspended collection of MAPS fees in spring 2013 following an investigation that uncovered the association had been mismanaging students’ fees. The fee collection will be resumed in May for the spring/summer session. McMaster News

uAlberta looks to sell historic homes to build residence

The University of Alberta is looking to sell a group of historic homes on the east side of its campus to make room for a new student residence for the Peter Lougheed Leadership College. uAlberta Ancillary Services Director Doug Dawson says the university will sell the 5 homes “for the price of moving costs.” According to the Edmonton Journal, if the buildings aren’t sold, all but one will be torn down so the university can build the 144-space student residence. The fifth house, which is occupied by the Parkland Institute, will be preserved elsewhere on campus. Edmonton Journal

Quebec universities see increased enrolment despite predictions

Enrolment is up this year at Quebec’s universities despite predictions from the province’s ministry of higher education of a downward trend, reports the Montreal Gazette. Following student protests over tuition fees and a recent $250-million funding cut over 2 years, the province’s universities have seen enrolment increases over the last 5 years of 8.6% to 13%. However, Université du Québec a Montréal Vice-Rector Diane Demers warns that “demographic trends in Quebec suggest a decline in student populations at universities over the next seven years.” Meanwhile, uOttawa economist Ross Finnie says, “While the underlying demographics are working to push enrolment rates down, participation rates continue to rise. Going forward, it depends which of those forces will dominate.” Montreal Gazette

OCAD launches new brand awareness campaign

OCAD University has launched a new brand awareness campaign for the greater Toronto area around the theme “put your imagination to work.” The campaign features OCAD’s recognizable and vivid Sharp Centre for Design building, and uses phrases about imagination, such as “Imagination is the new currency,” to attract “the next generation of artists, designers, inventors, digital innovators and cultural leaders.” The campaign, which targets students who will be making their final application choices by February 1, will appear in subway cars, transit shelters and on posters in “high-visibility” areas in selected zones of the GTA.” OCAD News Release

BC touts open textbooks’ early success

The British Columbia government says its open textbook project has benefited almost 300 PSE students, who saved an average of $146 each on textbook costs for the fall 2013 semester. The project, which launched in September, offers students free, online, open textbooks for 40 of the most popular subject areas. “…The benefits for students and faculty will continue to grow as we develop open textbooks for more subjects, and more instructors around the province have a chance to review and use them in their classes,” says BC’s Advanced Education Minister Amrik Virk. This expansion includes 20 open textbooks for skills training and technical PSE subject areas. BC News Release

Laurentian receives $2.7 million for Professions North/Nord program

The Ontario Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration has awarded Laurentian University $2.7 million to support Professions North/Nord (PNN), which helps internationally-trained professionals find employment in Northern Ontario. “This three year commitment will assist internationally trained professionals attain their career goals by bridging the gap between education, experience, culture and employment, which will assist them in reaching their full potential,” says Sudbury MPP Rick Bartolucci. The PNN program was launched in 2010 by Laurentian’s Faculty of Management. It also works with employers in Northern Ontario, “helping them to find trained, job-ready professionals to fill critical roles in the regional economy.” Laurentian News Release

AthabascaU, QatarU researchers create mobile learning app

Athabasca University and Qatar University researchers have partnered to create a mobile learning application to help employees in Qatar’s oil and gas industry learn technical English terms specific to the sector. So far, 30 employees at 5 separate Qatari sites have been involved in the project, called m-learning. “Mobile learning is catering to the new generations of workers who are comfortable using mobile technology,” says Mohamed Ally, Professor, Centre for Distance Education at AthabascaU, and the project’s lead researcher. The project is being funded by the Qatar National Research Fund. AthabascaU News Release

Survey confirms correlation between mentorship and PSE attainment

American at-risk young adults (ages 18 to 21) who have a mentor aspired to go to PSE and enrolled at higher rates than did their peers without mentors, reveals a survey by the National Mentoring Partnership. 76% of at-risk young adults who had a mentor said they had always planned to attend and graduate PSE, compared with 56% of those who didn’t have a mentor. 45% of these young adults with a mentor said they were enrolled in PSE or were about to enroll, compared with 29% of those who didn’t have a mentor. The organization is using the data to urge public, private and not-for-profit organizations to promote and support mentorship. The survey also showed that one in 3 young people will reach adulthood without connecting with a mentor. The survey identified at-risk youth as those who are out of school and out of work, and have experienced risk factors identified as barriers for achieving economic and social mobility. Chronicle of Higher Education | Full Report

UK opposition member proposes free work-related degrees

UK Labour Party MP John Denham is championing a plan to allow 50,000 would-be graduates to study debt free towards a degree relevant to their existing and future work, with the costs being paid jointly by the government and their employers. The degrees would be free, and working students would receive a wage or training allowance from their employer during their period of study. Denham, who is the former secretary of state for innovation, universities and skills, says the government funding would come from redirecting money currently spent on writing off unpayable student debt from fees and maintenance loans, and on student grants. According to The Guardian, the plan is being welcomed by several business groups. The Guardian