Top Ten

February 14, 2014

BC warns of education overhaul to deal with skills gap

British Columbia’s recent throne speech pledged to overhaul BC’s education system from high school through PSE to make sure the province’s graduates can meet the demands of the workplace. “We are going to engage with PSE institutions about what kinds of programs they are providing and ensure they are connected to the needs of the private sector,” said BC Premier Christy Clark. Clark says the fact that many students are graduating with degrees that won’t lead to employment is a “significant human loss.” She adds, “I think we should be making sure we are providing programming in our PSE institutions that provides people, young and old, with the promise and prospect of prosperity when they graduate.” The throne speech said action would come this year “to make sure British Columbians are ready to be first in line for the job opportunities that are coming.” Globe and Mail

PSE institutions grapple with Canada’s new anti-spam law

Canadian PSE institutions are dealing with a new law that comes into effect July 1, which will prohibit organizations from sending “commercial electronic messages” such as emails and texts without first obtaining a recipient’s consent. The regulations, announced in December, do make an exception for registered charities and non-profit groups (including PSE institutions), for electronic messages sent for fundraising purposes. “It’s a positive step but it doesn’t solve all our problems,” says York University Director of Legal Services Christine Silversides. “Fundraising is only one of a vast array of activities that we conduct through electronic communications.” Institutions also use emails to reach out to alumni, deliver academic programs, to recruit potential students, and for research. The law also includes provisions, to come into effect in 2017, which will allow consumers to take legal action against organizations that send unwanted electronic messages. Michael Geist, who holds the Canada Research Chair in Internet and E-commerce Law at the University of Ottawa, says “broad exceptions under the bill will provide [institutions] with the flexibility they need.” The Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada (AUCC) is currently working with Imagine Canada and the government to get more clarity on the law. University Affairs

NS commission on economy report reveals goals for PSE

The Nova Scotia Commission on Building Our New Economy, an independent body mandated by the Premier’s Advisory Committee, has released a report that includes the goal of raising the proportion of NS’ working age population with a PSE credential or apprenticeship completion from the current 55% to 65%. The report, which was developed from discussions with Nova Scotians about how best to build the province’s economic future, also seeks to double research funding for PSE institutions to a total of $360 million. It will aim to double the number of research and development partnerships between business enterprises and NS universities and colleges, from an average of 1,000 per year to 2,000 per year. Students Nova Scotia (StudentsNS) welcomed the report, saying its goals “underline especially the importance of supporting the labour market and PSE success of youth and other newcomers. The report also recommends the goal of lowering the youth unemployment rate (currently at 19.5%) to the national rate (14%) or lower, and raising the First Nations and African employment rate to the provincial average. Report Website | StudentsNS News Release

uLethbridge releases strategic plan for 2014-19

The University of Lethbridge has released its 2014-19 strategic plan, Destination 2020. The plan outlines the university’s strategic direction, which includes: excelling as a comprehensive university; inspiring and supporting student potential; promoting access to quality, affordable PSE; building internal community and enhancing relationships with external communities; and enhancing the sustainability of the university. “Through open forums, the General Faculties Council, sessions with students, consultations with academic and administrative units, alumni, senate and other community members we have a plan that encapsulates our aspirations as a university and provides a guide for how to achieve them,”  says uLethbridge President Mike Mahon. uLethbridge News Release | Strategic Plan

Christian universities continue to top CUSC survey

The 2013 Canadian University Survey Consortium (CUSC) reveals that students at the country’s Christian universities continue to report the highest level of satisfaction with their educational experience in several categories. Trinity Western University, Redeemer University College, and Concordia University College of Alberta came in as the top 3 institutions in several categories, including satisfaction with the students' decision to attend the university, satisfaction with the teaching students receive, amount of help students receive with program and course decisions, and satisfaction with how professors treat students. Mount Royal University scored high in the category that asks students their satisfaction with class size. 35 institutions took part in the survey, administering an online questionnaire to a random sample of first-year students. More than 15,000 students answered the questionnaire. Maclean’s On Campus

CANARIE invests $4 million in software research

CANARIE, Canada's Advanced Research and Innovation Network, has announced a $4-million investment to create 9 software projects at PSE and research institutions across Canada. The projects, which were chosen from CANARIE’s call for proposals in June 2013, involve the development of software tools and services that will allow researchers to “access, process, manipulate, visualize, and share immense volumes of digital data, and accelerate the progression of this data from collection to discovery and ultimately, to breakthroughs that enrich the lives of Canadians.” The projects are being led by researchers from the University of Victoria, the University of Calgary, Simon Fraser University, Western University, McGill University, Ocean Networks Canada and the Computer Research Institute of Montreal. CANARIE News Release

Portage joins OER University

Portage College has joined the Open Educational Resource university network (OERu), an independent, not-for-profit international network of over 30 PSE institutions and networks “dedicated to the effective use of open educational resources (OERs) in developing quality online courses and programs.” The partnership with OERu will allow Portage to develop and provide OERs to its students, and to expand program offerings and provide affordable access to PSE. “We want to continue building our reputation as an innovative and creative college, and OERs are certainly a big part in establishing future learning opportunities,” says Portage VP Academic Mardere Birkill. | Portage Partner Page

6 lessons non-profit PSE institutions can learn from for-profits

Steven Mintz, Executive Director of the University of Texas System’s Institute for Transformational Learning, suggests 6 lessons that non-profit universities can learn from for-profit institutions: the large portion of students who are poorly or under-served by the "traditional higher education establishment” (PSE drop-outs, older students, and working adults) offer a large potential audience for existing institutions; it’s essential to identify why students struggle and drop out, using “fine-grained analytics” to identify barriers to graduation; too many students drop out because they don’t receive the support and feedback they need from mentors, coaches, tutors, and professors; “cafeteria-style curriculum, with unlimited options, does not serve many non-traditional students well;" scaled courses allow for personalized, adaptive teaching methods that lead to quality teaching and learning; and many students seek courses with a clear return on investment. Inside Higher Ed

German states abolish tuition fees in about-face

All of Germany’s 10 states have decided to abolish tuition fees, despite the fact that 7 of those states first introduced fees in 2006 and 2007. Times Higher Education reports that the idea to introduce the fees in the first place came from a popular trend among politicians, while protests and lobbying from students, opposition political parties and other citizens sparked a reversal of that trend only a few years later. The only state still charging tuition fees in 2014, Lower Saxony, will stop doing so at the end of this academic year. Times Higher Education

PSE admissions counsellors share “greatest lines I never said”

A group of PSE admissions counsellors from the US recently shared a few “greatest lines I never said”—things they wanted to say to students but managed not to. Some examples include, “If an asteroid strikes the earth and kills every teenager but you, you MIGHT make the wait list,” referring to a student asking whether she would be accepted to a university; to a student striving to become a neurosurgeon, “I can guarantee you’ll never be my neurosurgeon;” and, ”Aww honey if you can’t spell the name of the college correctly, you probably shouldn’t apply there.” Washington Post