Top Ten

February 19, 2014

Ontario colleges urge MPPs to focus on youth unemployment

Ontario colleges are calling on the province’s MPPs to address youth unemployment in the upcoming spring parliamentary session. They point out that youth unemployment in Ontario currently sits at 16.5%, and that many young people are working in jobs where they don't use their talents and competencies. Colleges cite the oft-reported skills mismatch as a likely contributing factor in this, and Colleges Ontario President Linda Franklin suggests that more people need career-specific learning and training as part of their PSE. Although Ontario did address this issue last year, by establishing the Ontario Youth Employment Fund to support work placements for young people, Franklin is calling for expanded degree offerings in career-specific areas, including the adoption of 3-year degrees at colleges. She also recommends reforming apprenticeship training and strengthening the credit transfer system. "We must ensure that more people are able to find meaningful careers after they graduate," says Franklin. "This must be the focus of the spring session and the upcoming provincial budget." Colleges Ontario News Release | Ottawa Citizen

uSask professor told to remove bizarre office decorations

A tenured professor in the Edwards School of Business at the University of Saskatchewan has been told to remove controversial decorations from his office, prompting an online petition and the filing of a grievance. Professor David Williams has been given one week to remove the “problematic and bizarre” decorations, including blow-up dolls in business attire and profane posters. Williams asserts that students have only positive reactions to the office décor, and has filed a grievance with the university; until the outcome is determined he has turned the posters around and moved the dolls out of public view. Edwards Dean Daphne Taras says the “entire thing crosses a line from sort of edgy to creepy,” as well as noting that students, staff and faculty shouldn’t be offended by office décor in a publicly-funded setting. CTV News | Inside Higher Ed

TRU receives $2.25-million donation for student awards, research

Thompson Rivers University has received $2.25 million from Kamloops, BC businessman and philanthropist Ken Lepin for student awards and research. The gift will increase the Prizes of Excellence awards, which were established thanks to an earlier gift from Lepin, and allow for the creation of new student awards in the MBA, Veterinary Tech, Law, Arts, and Adventure Tourism programs. The donation will also fund an Innovation Endowment to support students who will enter trades that do not exist yet, allowing the university to “build new and innovative programming to meet the evolving needs of students and industry.” TRU will also create a Research Endowment to support awards for students participating in research. TRU News Release

Fleming campaign raises $1.35 million

The Kawartha Trades and Technology Centre (KTTC) at Fleming College has raised $1.35 million through its “Building Skills, Shaping Futures” campaign. Campaign Co-Chairs Jay Amer and Craig McFarlane announced this week that the KTTC will now refocus its fundraising efforts towards funds for student financial assistance. “Last fall, Fleming’s Financial Aid Office received almost 3,000 applications for student financial assistance. Where approximately 430 awards and bursaries are available, it is not nearly enough to support all students that apply in order to be successful in their studies,” says Amer. “Our goal is to raise $250,000 for bursaries and awards. Over the next few months we are encouraging the community through radio, television and print ads – generously donated by our local media – to support student success at Fleming.” Fleming News Release

WLU releases new strategic research plan

Wilfrid Laurier University has released a new 5-year strategic research plan, titled “Commitment to the Future,” renewing WLU’s commitment to research. The plan highlights WLU’s innovative approach to research, including interdisciplinary collaboration, community partnerships and engagement, and 5 “thematic clusters of excellence”: environment; governance and policy; health and wellbeing; culture and society; and economics, markets and management. The plan also details goals for growth and improvement in 4 key areas: enhancing research culture, enriching graduate and postdoctoral support, expanding external research funding, and extending research infrastructure. “The strategic research plan is not only an aspirational vision for strengthening research at Laurier, but it is also an opportunity to showcase our research accomplishments and triumphs,” says WLU VP Research Abby Goodrum. The plan was approved by WLU’s Senate in January, before being presented to the Board of Governors last week. WLU News Release

Cambrian, TRU get help to support women in trades

Cambrian College has launched a pre-apprenticeship carpentry training program targeted specifically toward women, which will be offered free of charge to 16 students thanks to funding from the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities. In BC, Thompson Rivers University is also getting help to encourage more women to go into trades. TRU received a $700,000 donation from RBC to fund the RBC Women in Trades Training Program, which includes 7 bursaries for women in trades, a team of 6 industry and student mentors, and a mentorship coordinator at TRU. CBC | TRU News Release

Dal working on preferred-name policy

A new policy at Dalhousie University will allow students to use their preferred names rather than legal names on school-related documents and identification cards. The policy, which must still be run by legal consultants to ensure validity, would be of particular benefit to transgendered and gender non-conforming students, who often have to out themselves repeatedly in classroom situations. “I think university is a time when many students mature and become confident in themselves,” says Dal Registrar Asa Kachan. “And whatever we can do as a community to support students who are going through this type of transition, it’s really important.” Dal already gives students an option to choose “other” in the gender portion of the admission application. McGill and Concordia universities also offer students the option to use preferred names on class lists and identification cards. The Chronicle Herald

CFS-BC launches “Squash the Squeeze” campaign

The Canadian Federation of Students - British Columbia (CFS-BC) launched a new campaign, “Squash the Squeeze,” on the day before the provincial budget, to advocate for lowered tuition fees and more institutional funding. "Students have been feeling the squeeze of student debt for too long," says CFS-BC Chairperson Jenelle Davies. "Now, more than ever, students and their families pay more and get less from PSE." According to CFS-BC, tuition fees in the province have more than doubled since 2001, while funding for PSE has decreased in relation to inflation. In the 2013 budget, the BC government announced a $46-million cut over the next 3 years to higher education. CFS-BC News Release

Competency-based degrees continue to gain in popularity

Joel Shapiro, Associate Dean of Academics at Northwestern University’s School of Continuing Studies, suggests that the biggest disrupter of traditional PSE is not distance education, as many predict, but competency-based education. Shapiro argues that the model, which is already being adopted by many PSE institutions and endorsed by the US government, allows institutions to provide students with the same credential as those who “sit in the traditional classrooms with the traditional faculty members” by recognizing the value of real-world, experiential learning. He also points out that this type of experiential learning, “so often cast aside by traditional institutions, already exists within their walls” through internships and co-ops. Shapiro does say that competency models “can be only as good as the assessment mechanisms they employ, and, unfortunately, no assessment can be a perfect proxy for deep and meaningful learning.” He admits that great education is not just about content, but also about “challenging students to consider others’ viewpoints, providing conflicting information, and forcing students to reconcile, set priorities, and choose.” Chronicle of Higher Education

Dual credits popular in US, but some question their value

Dual credits have been taking off in the US as institutions and governments seek better completion rates, but some critics of the model say it “compromises rigor and doesn’t do students any favors.” Kristine Hansen, an English professor at Brigham Young University, says, "We’re steering students toward a course on the assumption that cheaper, earlier, faster is better. I’m afraid we’re going to see the fallout later." According to US data, demand for dual credit programs is booming; the number of dual-enrolment courses taken increased by 67% from 2002-3 to 2010-11. In schools with large minority populations, the increase is even larger, growing by 145% in the same time period. Advocates for the dual credit system point to studies showing that students with early PSE credits are more likely to progress and graduate with at least a 2-year degree. However, professors complain that students come in unprepared for upper-level coursework. Chronicle of Higher Education (subscription required)