Top Ten

February 21, 2014

uWindsor announces 9 staff layoffs

The University of Windsor issued 9 staff layoff notices this week, which President Alan Wildeman says are “a result of the need for the university to address a projected $5.8-million shortfall in the 2014-15 operating budget." The layoffs affect 5 Information Technology Services staff members, 2 Public Affairs and Communications employees, and 2 Alumni Affairs and Donor Communications positions. “The operating budget pressures have been widely communicated for years in updates and public addresses. We are looking at all options, and layoffs are clearly the most difficult decision,” says Wildeman. “We will look to minimize the need for future layoffs by striving for realistic compensation costs for all employee groups, pursuing opportunities for revenue growth, and focusing investments in the core activities that support the academic and service needs of our students and the research and creative activity across our campus.” A uWindsor notice says that all positions involve members of CUPE Local 1393, and that those affected will be able to exercise seniority rights, including the right to bump, in accordance with the collective agreement. uWindsor Notice | CTV Windsor

NS announces major education review

The Nova Scotia government will be launching a wide-ranging review of the province’s education system, and Education Minister Karen Casey announced this week that the review panel will be led by former Lieutenant Governor Myra Freeman. Casey says the review will, beginning in April, include all grades from K-12, and examine everything “from curriculum to technology to student outcomes, and how to better adapt the education system to ensure success of all students in the changing environment.” An NS news release says the review could recommend both short- and long-term direction, and that some changes may be implemented as early as 2014-15. "There has not been a comprehensive review of education in 25 years and a lot has changed," says Casey. "Government is committed to a new direction for the public education system.” NS News Release | CTV Atlantic

uSask committee recommends changes to graduate studies

A University of Saskatchewan review committee has recommended several changes to the university’s College of Graduate Studies and Research (CGSR), including moving away from the current college model to “a more typical model, and determining what services should be centralized versus decentralized.” uSask President Ilene Busch-Vishniac explains, “Most, if not all, of our peers have chosen to transition from a separate college to more of an administrative unit with a focus on advocacy of graduate students and facilitation of programs.” She says graduate student supervisors will be given more local authority than in the past. Also, faculty will no longer have to wait for CGSR approval before being able to supervise graduate students. Busch-Vishniac confirmed that despite the changes, CGSR will still be led by a faculty member. uSask News

BC PSE institutions receive $10.5 million from province for ESL programming

BC has committed $10.5 million in funding to the province’s public PSE institutions to help with the transition of English as a Second Language (ESL) programs to a new structure, in which immigrant settlement services will be administered by the federal government. The one-time funding will allow the institutions to provide ESL programming next year while preparing for future arrangements, which will see the federal government provide funding directly to institutions and community organizations. The federal government cancelled the Canada-BC Immigration Agreement, which previously funded ESL programs, late last year. Vancouver Community College, as the largest provider of ESL programming in BC, will receive the bulk of the funding ($4.67 million), with the remainder of the funding split among 16 institutions currently providing ESL services. Vancouver Sun 

Stratford Accelerator Centre moves to uWaterloo campus

The University of Waterloo is welcoming the Stratford Accelerator Centre to its Stratford Campus, providing students and entrepreneurs new opportunities for collaboration and product development. uWaterloo’s Stratford Campus is home to an undergrad degree in Global Business and Digital Arts and a Master of Digital Experience Innovation; under the new arrangement, these students will have direct access to entrepreneurs, mentors, and programming support. "We are incredibly excited by the potential of blending our startups, experienced team and in-house mentors with Stratford’s students in an on-campus setting," says Accelerator Centre CEO Tim Ellis. "The interactions and exchange of ideas that will come from this initiative will strengthen the bond on both sides, providing students with another important avenue for applying their learning, and offering startups access to cutting-edge, digital arts expertise, and a pipeline of strong, up-and-coming talent." uWaterloo News Release | The Record

David Johnston to visit India to promote international student strategy

Canada’s Governor-General David Johnston is preparing for a trip to India to promote Canada as an international study destination, which will ultimately “open Canada to the world” for trade and other ties. “I’d be much happier if we were in a league with Australia, where [education for foreign students] is in their top-three export industries,” says Johnston. “And then, of course, come all of the other benefits to a country that is educating other countries’ students, and encouraging our own students to travel, live, work, study in those other countries – because out of those relationships, some very long, enduring, good consequences follow.” The governor-general says Canada can “make a real contribution” in countries like India by sharing its PSE best practices, helping build collaborations between universities, and sending students and teachers abroad. This will be the 5th visit to India by the former University of Waterloo President and McGill University Principal. Globe and Mail (subscription required)

Uncertainty over distribution of new federal research funds

With last week’s federal budget announcement of a new Canada First Research Excellence Fund (CFREF), Canada’s PSE institutions are uncertain how the government plans to divide the new funds. A government news release states that the funding will be allocated on a “competitive, peer-reviewed basis” and universities are pressing for a system that distributes funds based on an institution's ability to secure other research grants. Greg Rickford, Minister of State for Science and Technology, stated that the distribution of funds “actually can’t occur…through the traditional ways of the tri-council agencies.” “It’s intended to do big things, and not just be spread around evenly,” said Suzanne Corbeil, Executive Director of the U15 group of Canadian research universities. The $1.5 billion CFREF funding will be distributed over 10 years, with $50 million in 2015-16 increasing to $200 million in 2018-19 and onward. Globe and Mail | Canada News Release    

uOttawa announces plans for new on-campus residence

The University of Ottawa has announced plans to build a new student residence on campus property that will house 169 students. The residence, to be located on Henderson Ave, will cost the university $17.5 million, with construction to begin this summer. The 4-storey residence will have 169 single rooms, with shared bathrooms between 2 or 3 students, kitchens on each floor, and common spaces on the ground floor. uOttawa is dealing with a chronic housing shortage, estimating the need for 1,000 new beds by 2016-17; earlier this week, neighbourhood associations in Ottawa submitted a letter to the mayor asking for a ban on all new off-campus residence developments until the city can establish a student-housing strategy. uOttawa News Release 

Some American private universities outsourcing career services

Some American PSE institutions have begun to outsource their career services in today’s tough job market. US-based career-preparation company Koru, which is co-founded by former Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation executive Josh Jarrett, has announced that 13 private PSE institutions have signed on as "partner institutions," including Bates, Denison, and Whitman colleges, and Brown University. All of the partner institutions have agreed to "help shape the program so it’s a real complement to a liberal-arts education," while a few will also pay to send students through Koru’s 4-week, $2,750 course. Other private “bridge program” ventures, like the Fullbridge Program, coding academies, General Assembly, Intern Sushi and Coursolve, offer various types of career preparation services without partnering with PSE institutions. Chronicle of Higher Education (subscription required) | Inside Higher Ed

No takers for first British MOOC offering credit

The first British MOOC to offer students the option of paying for a course credit, entitled Vampire Fictions, attracted no paying customers, reports Times Higher Education. 31 of 1,000 students completed the Edge Hill University MOOC, with none of those students opting to pay the £200 (approximately $370) that Edge Hill was charging in exchange for credits. “It might have been more worrying if we had accredited something like this and suddenly discovered that 1,000 students [had] completed it and wanted credit. If that happened, you might begin to question why we have prerequisites for degrees, why we have learning outcomes, if they are all so easily achievable,” says course leader Ben Brabon. Inside Higher Ed (Times Higher Education)