Top Ten

February 7, 2014

uSask faculty, students sign open letter on TransformUS strategy

Some 200 students and faculty at the University of Saskatchewan have signed a petition calling for more consultation on the university’s TransformUS strategy, aimed at finding $25 million in savings and avoiding a budget deficit of $40 million. uSask President Ilene Busch-Vishniac has defended the plan, saying "we could either be strategic and try to evaluate which programs it made sense to consider for reductions and funding and which to add funding to, or we were going to have to implement an across the board cut."Busch-Vishniac also responded to the suggestion that new projects should be cut first, and challenges to the reality of the budget deficit. She says "we will absolutely, positively continue introducing new programs and new services as required," and adds that information on the university's finances is available on the institution's website. Open Letter | Open Letter Signatures | CBC | StarPhoenix

uLethbridge launches research centre in fluorine technologies

The University of Lethbridge has launched a new Canadian Centre for Research in Advanced Fluorine Technologies (C-CRAFT) that will serve as a hub for fluorine researchers from across Canada and worldwide. Led by uLethbridge Chemistry and Biochemistry Associate Professor  Michael Gerken,  the centre will allow the researchers to collaborate and share expertise on fluorine—an element that has practical benefits for the areas of pharmaceuticals, agrochemicals, plastics, refrigeration, oil production, medical imaging and aluminum production. Gerken says the facility will allow uLethbridge “to better recruit top students, post-doctoral fellows and faculty members; secure funding for new projects from government agencies; attract industry partners; and ultimately, cement the university’s reputation for leadership in this niche area of chemistry.” uLethbridge News Release

McMaster finds new downtown location

McMaster University has chosen a new location for its downtown Hamilton classrooms and offices currently located in a city-owned building. “We’re pleased to announce that McMaster is taking over more than 50,000 square feet of space at 1 James North, right at the corner of James and King,” says McMaster VP Administration Roger Couldrey. The new facility will allow 200 staff and 4,000 students to remain in the city centre, and is 2 blocks from McMaster’s new Health Campus (currently under construction). The university was required to look for a new home for the Centre for Continuing Education, University Financial Affairs, Institutional Research and Analysis, and University Advancement when the city informed McMaster it needed the current location for its own purposes. McMaster Daily News

“HealthyMinds” app to help students manage mental health

The Royal Ottawa Health Care Group, in partnership with the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada (AUCC) and the Association of Canadian Community Colleges (ACCC), has launched a “HealthyMinds” app, which aims to help students cope with stress and manage emotional and mental wellness. The app, which is free for download in either English or French, features a daily mood tracker, a step-by-step guide to identifying, framing and overcoming problems, and tips for stress-busting, coping with anxiety and maintaining a healthy work-life balance. “The app complements ever-growing health and wellness supports available to students on and off campus, and is just the latest response by postsecondary institutions to growing concerns around youth mental health,” says AUCC President Paul Davidson. University Affairs

BC regional colleges launch “It’s Good Out Here” brand, website

Regional Colleges of BC has launched a new website and brand to promote BC regional colleges to future employees. The website,, highlights the benefits of working in a “small-town setting” with sections on communities in the area, the local lifestyle and people, and potential jobs. The website and brand is produced by a partnership made up of Selkirk College, College of New Caledonia, College of the Rockies, North Island College, Northern Lights College, Northwest Community College and Okanagan College. Selkirk News Release

YorkU professor’s book offers fix for outdated PSE structure

A new book by York University Economics and Social Sciences Professor George Fallis argues that the basic structure of Ontario PSE institutions is outdated. In Rethinking Education, Fallis suggests policy makers should shift their attention away from growth, and toward improving and diversifying the range of programs available and creating new means of program delivery. He calls for an increase in undergraduate honours programs and polytechnic education, and envisions a group of research intensive universities responsible for doctoral education. Fallis also argues that a disconnect exists between the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities and the research missions of PSE institutions, and recommends that Ontario establish a system for documenting and assessing the quality of research published at universities. Fallis is also the former Dean of the Faculty of Arts at YorkU. yFile | McGill-Queen’s University Press

Twitter launches data access grants for researchers

Twitter has announced a new pilot project that will give research institutions access to the social media network’s public and historical data. The company is asking institutions to submit proposals by March 15; Twitter will choose “a small number” of the proposals to receive free datasheets through data reseller Gnip. The selected institutions will also have an opportunity to collaborate with Twitter engineers and researchers. The grants are open to any individual or team as long as they are “members of the academic research community.” Twitter Blog | Grant Webpage (Twitter login required)

Analysts show how US universities would fare in proposed rankings system

Following a proposal by US President Barack Obama to tie federal PSE funding to university rankings, Awilda Rodriguez and Andrew P. Kelly of the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) have analysed data on US universities to come up with how the institutions would fare in the rankings’ 3 measures: affordability, quality, and access for low-income students. The analysts say "very few institutions are terrible on all 3 marks, but very few appear to have broken the ‘iron triangle’” (the idea that changes in any of the 3 measures would impact the others). The data reveal that only 19 4-year universities perform well across all 3 of the measures. Rodriguez and Kelly conclude that the results show “just how rare this kind of well-rounded success is in American higher education," and that Obama’s rankings plan may be difficult to implement. Chronicle of Higher Education | AEI News Release

US politicians propose free community college tuition

Politicians in Tennessee, Oregon and Mississippi have in the last couple of weeks proposed free tuition for the first 2 years of community college for their states’ students—an idea that has some PSE leaders excited, and others advising caution. Senior VP of the American Council on Education Terry W. Hartle said the proposal by Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam was extremely important, but agrees with several other experts who warn about a range of possible “unintended consequences,” including driving students away from public, 4-year institutions. Others say there are other far more effective ways of using state funds to support student access. For example, Center for Community College Student Engagement Director Kay McClenney says state scholarship funds for lower-income students are often short of money. McClenney suggests that making tuition free for all “runs the risk of subsidizing large numbers of people who don’t need the support.” However, Hartle, McClenney and others do praise the 3 politicians for trying to come up with ways to support students in need. Inside Higher Ed

Postscript: April 21, 2014

Tennessee has approved Governor Bill Haslam’s Tennessee Promise bill and will create a program to pay for the first 2 years of community or technical college tuition for its high school graduates. The bill met overwhelming approval in both the State Senate and House of Representatives, passing by votes of 30-1 and 87-8, respectively. Proponents of the bill hope it will enable more lower-income students to attend college. The Chronicle of Higher Education

uAlberta rap video spreads awareness about plagiarism

The University of Alberta’s Office of Student Judicial Affairs has released a video featuring Edmonton-based rap artists Mitch Holtby and Mike Hamm, whose lyrics are lines from movies, television and literature—underscoring the importance of citing sources. The video is part of a series that highlights the issue of academic integrity. The videos are already being shown in classrooms, at K-12 schools and among parents. uAlberta News Release