Top Ten

March 7, 2014

Ontario government legislation to expand scope of Ombudsman

The Ontario government will be introducing legislation that, if passed, will extend the scope of the provincial Ombudsman to include publicly-funded universities, municipalities, and school boards, and make other changes to the province’s accountability and transparency regulations. “People with complaints about their local government or school board, as well as university students, will now be able to ask the Ombudsman to help resolve them,” explains the Globe and Mail. The Ombudsman will also be able to launch investigations into “systematic problems” at universities, and make recommendations on how to resolve them. The legislation also proposes changing the Lobbyists Registration Act “to improve reporting requirements for lobbyists, address conflicts of interest and increase fines for offences.” In addition, the legislation would authorize the government to set compensation frameworks for senior executives in the broader public sector (BPS), including hard caps; and require BPS organizations to publish their business plans and other documents online. Globe and Mail

BC expands Carbon Neutral Capital Program to include PSE institutions, hospitals

The British Columbia government has announced it will be extending funding under the Carbon Neutral Capital Program to colleges, universities, and public hospitals. The 2014 BC budget will include $14.5 million for the extended program, which until now provided funding only to school districts for infrastructure projects that reduced energy costs and used clean technology. BC Environment Minister Mary Polak says school districts have reduced greenhouse gas emissions by more than 3,000 tonnes in just 2 years, and explains they now save $75,000 in carbon charges and about $800,000 in operating costs annually. A BC news release says public-sector organizations will continue to pay $25 per tonne of emissions to encourage efforts that reduce emissions and energy costs. BC News Release | Victoria Times Colonist

MTA students seek refund for missed classes during strike

Mount Allison University students are calling on the university to reimburse them for classes they missed during a 3-week faculty strike in January and February. "We have lost 12 class days that we've paid for, so it seems very fair to ask for money to be returned,” says Student Union President Melissa O'Rourke. MTA VP International and Student Affairs Ron Byrne explains financial decisions await the completion of ongoing binding arbitration between the university and the faculty association, but says that the university will try to make a decision on tuition reimbursement as quickly as possible. Students at the University of New Brunswick were recently reimbursed for class time lost during a faculty strike on that campus that also took place in January. CBC

Update: March 26, 2014

Mount Allison University says it does not intend to give students a tuition rebate for lost class time during a faculty strike in January and February; the university says it will fulfill its mission to provide high quality education and experience to prepare students for the next step in their lives, that tuition fees are not set according to the number of hours in the classroom, but for the course being delivered, and that a refund would only be applicable if a course or term was cancelled. The final decision will be made by the university's board of regents at an upcoming meeting in May; MTA students plan to lobby the board to overturn the university’s decision at that meeting. CBC News

Vancouver Island PSE institutions form alliance

Vancouver Island’s universities and colleges have formed the Vancouver Island Public Post-Secondary Alliance, which will help them improve student transfer pathways and work towards meeting regional employment needs. “We have always worked collegially, but formalizing this agreement clarifies our commitment to build on successes and continue to seek opportunities that enhance pathways for our learners right here, closer to home,” says Camosun College President Kathryn Laurin. Laurin explains that the presidents of the participating institutions will meet again soon to discuss more details about the alliance. The partners are Camosun College, North Island College, Royal Roads University, the University of Victoria, and Vancouver Island University. Institutional News Release | BC News Release | Victoria Times Colonist

uSask launches ad campaign to recruit in Calgary

The University of Saskatchewan has launched an amusing new advertising campaign to recruit students from Calgary. A series of print ads in 37 transit shelters throughout the city include lines such as “No cowboy hats required,” “Join the stampede of students applying to the U of S,” and “If only we had a nickel back for every Alberta student that chooses us.” Each ad encourages potential students to explore a campaign website, allowing the university to track visits to the site, and “to follow how that translates into inquiries, applications and ultimately to how many of those students join [uSask] in the fall.” Dan Seneker, a Manager in the Students and Enrolment Services Division, explains that “while student recruitment is the main goal of the ad campaign, a secondary objective is to attract the attention of our graduates who live in Calgary and get them working as our ambassadors.” The ads will run in Calgary for one month. uSask News

Canada’s top 3 universities slip in THE 2014 world rankings

The University of Toronto, McGill University, and the University of British Columbia have all ranked in the Top 50 universities in the Times Higher Education World Reputation Rankings 2014. The top Canadian universities slipped slightly from last year, with uToronto falling to number 20 from 16, and both McGill and UBC falling to number 33 from 31 in 2013. To come up with the rankings, THE used data from an invitation-only survey of 10,536 “experienced, published scholars” from 133 countries. THE Rankings Editor Phil Baty says the drop of all 3 universities is a warning. “Maybe it means Canada is punching below its weight,” says Baty. “It’s all about branding and how Canada is perceived in the world, and Canada is clearly in the shadow of the US.” THE World Reputation Rankings | Montreal Gazette

uAlberta support staff union calls on government for PSE funding recovery

The Non-Academic Staff Association (NASA) representing 6,000 University of Alberta support workers has sent 4,272 postcards to the provincial legislature calling on the government to restore money to higher education. The postcards are part of a campaign launched in November to protest cuts to higher education funding, which amounted to $43 million in 2013. The cuts prompted uAlberta to cut $17 million from its budget, with another $57-million cut to come in 2014. The Confederation of Alberta Faculty Associations (CAFA) in October launched a similar campaign called “Alberta’s Universities Support Everything.” Edmonton Journal

US College Board announces major SAT overhaul

The US College Board has announced major changes to the SAT exam that “draw upon evidence of the knowledge and skills that are most essential for readiness and success, and that are modeled on the work that students do in challenging high school courses.” Such changes include doing away with words that are likely not in a student’s vocabulary, drawing on fewer principles in the math section, and no longer penalizing students for wrong answers. The first administration of the redesigned exam will take place in spring 2016. The College Board will also offer waivers for free college or university application to college-ready, low-income students. Finally, the board is partnering with the Khan Academy to provide SAT preparation MOOCs, which will launch in spring 2015. College Board News Release | Globe and Mail

Less than 10% of US traditional first-year students plan to take online courses

A recent study out of the University of California reveals that less than 10% of students, surveyed in the fall of their first year of PSE, said there is a “very good chance” they will enrol in a fully online course. Meanwhile, the study suggests that 69.8% of these students are using “online instructional materials such as MOOCs and video lectures” on their own time. Kevin Eagan, Interim Director of UC’s Cooperative Institutional Research Program, says the lack of interest can be explained by the fact that the cohort studied is made up of ‘traditional-aged students who are more likely to live on campus and have an expectation of a more traditional or idealized college experience based on what they've seen on television, film and perhaps what their parents have experienced.” Inside Higher Ed

EdX adds new PSE institutions, first non-PSE organizations

EdX has expanded its membership structure to enable additional universities and colleges, foundations and other global organizations to join the MOOC consortium, with 6 PSE institutions and 6 organizations signing on this week. New members announced yesterday include the International Monetary Fund, the Buffett family’s "Learning by Giving” Foundation, The Linux Foundation and The Smithsonian Institution. “The expansion comes in response to increasing demand from edX students for a broader array of courses, along with growing interest from academic and non-academic institutions to offer a diverse set of high quality courses to a global audience on and through the expanding network of edX open source partners,” explains an edX News Release. edX News Release