Top Ten

March 20, 2014

International scholars condemn proposed Fair Elections Act

A group of 19 international scholars have written an open letter, published by the Globe and Mail, which states that the Canadian government’s proposed Fair Elections Act would “be deeply damaging for electoral integrity within Canada, as well as providing an example which, if emulated elsewhere, may potentially harm international standards of electoral rights around the world.” The authors go on to say that the act, which is currently in its second reading, would reduce the effectiveness of Elections Canada, make it harder for citizens to vote in elections, allow money to play a larger role in elections, and foster partisan bias and "politicization." The signatories include researchers from the US, Australia, Denmark, New Zealand, and the UK. Globe and Mail (letter) | Globe and Mail (coverage)

uSask puts planned daycare on hold, cites lack of funding

The University of Saskatchewan has put a proposed daycare centre on hold while it attempts to secure adequate funding, the StarPhoenix reports. uSask’s board of governors had approved the proposal to build a daycare facility as part of the university’s College Quarter development project, which was announced as moving forward this past fall. The uSask board recently announced that “fundraising difficulties” have stalled the project. “We can't support something that isn't financially sustainable,” says Board Chair Susan Milburn. “The project is not off the table. We understand the need for it and we will do whatever we can to make the project happen in whatever form it takes.” uSask was given a $1-million grant from the Saskatchewan government, but the money wouldn't cover the project’s estimated costs. The board will revisit the proposal at a meeting on May 27. StarPhoenix

Canada launches pilot program connecting SMEs with PSE research

The Canadian government has announced a new $20-million program, the Business Innovation Access Program, which will connect small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) with universities, colleges and other research institutions, giving the SMEs the business and technical services they need to get innovative products and services to market faster. “The support available through the program can involve external business services such as planning and marketing as well as technical services such as specialized testing, product prototyping and process development,” explains a Canada news release. The program is one of the recommendations made by an independent Research and Development Review Expert Panel in 2010-11, which aimed to better focus federal investments and maximize innovation and economic benefit for Canadians. The Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada (AUCC) has welcomed the program. “Business already counts on Canada’s universities for more than $1 billion in research every year,” says AUCC President Paul Davidson. “This mechanism will boost university-industry links even further.” Canada News Release | AUCC News Release

Ottawa women launch Student Athlete Mental Health Initiative

A couple of former student athletes in Ottawa, Samantha DeLenardo and Krista Van Slingerland, have launched the Student Athlete Mental Health Initiative (SAMHI) to connect student athletes suffering mental illness with nearby counselling resources. The Ottawa Citizen explains that DeLenardo and Van Slingerland hope SAMHI will eventually double as a student athlete mental health advocacy group and a counselling directory for student athletes in Canada. “This is a critical project that we need now, we needed five years ago,” says DeLenardo, who was member of the University of Ottawa’s women’s hockey team. “We need to put an end to what’s going on here and we really need to shore up our mental health services for our student athletes.” Van Slingerland, now in her fourth year at Carleton University, played on the school’s women’s basketball team. Ottawa Citizen

George Brown, Ryerson receive $1.5 million for job training

The Ontario government has committed $1.5 million towards partnerships with George Brown College and Ryerson University that are aimed towards training graduates for jobs that lack skilled employees. George Brown will receive $750,000 to train 92 unemployed and under-employed youth for commercial baking and metalwork jobs. Ryerson will get $800,000 to create 120 jobs in the high-tech sector for graduates in the social sciences and humanities; examples of possible initiatives include offering liberal arts graduates short-term training and job placements that would provide them with the types of skills already acquired by science students. Both projects are part of the government’s $25-million Youth Skills Connections program, which aims to bring employers, PSE institutions, government and young people together to tackle the so-called skills-gap issue. Ontario News Release | Toronto Star

uLethbridge signs collaboration, student exchange agreement with Japanese institution

The University of Lethbridge has signed a collaboration and student exchange agreement with Gakushuin Women's College in Tokyo, Japan. The agreement will allow the 2 institutions to develop study-abroad programs, student and faculty exchanges, and collaboration in academic activities. “Gakushuin Women’s College, like uLethbridge, places great emphasis on creating a supportive and personal learning environment. This agreement will go a long way in promoting better international and intercultural understandings among the students of both institutions,” says uLethbridge President Mike Mahon. The agreement with the Japanese institution aligns with uLethbridge’s strategic plan, Destination 2020, which includes a goal to enhance relationships with external communities. uLethbridge News Release

TWU Counselling Psychology master’s program receives Canadian accreditation

Trinity Western University’s Master of Arts in Counselling Psychology program has received a 6-year accreditation from the Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Association’s Council for Accreditation of Counsellor Education Programs (CACEP). The program, which was launched in 1993, held accreditation with a US body since 2002; there was no formal accreditation process in place for master’s-level counsellor education programs in Canada until 2003. The accreditation proves that graduates of the TWU program have covered all required curriculum needed to qualify as a Canadian Certified Counsellor, and allows the students to fast track their applications. TWU News Release

Report says NS K-12 education system protects under-performing teachers

A new report from the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies (AIMS) says Nova Scotia’s education system protects under-performing teachers, which undermines the majority of teachers who are doing good work. The authors, consultant Paul Bennett and former member of the Ontario College of Teachers Governing Board Karen Mitchell, call for a new, more independent Teacher Regulation Branch that would “have a clear mandate to raise professional teaching standards, rebuild public trust, properly vet teacher education programs, and safeguard students in schools.” The regulatory body the report recommends would be responsible for developing and implementing an evaluation and accreditation program for faculties of education and teacher training institutes in NS. AIMS News Release | CBC | Full Report

US study says small changes to homework assignments could improve learning

A study from Rice and Duke universities suggests that small, inexpensive changes to homework assignments, which combine technology and psychology principles, can help students learn more effectively. The study examined students in an upper-level undergraduate engineering course at Rice University who switched back and forth from week to week between 2 different styles of homework: a “standard” type of assignment, and one that incorporated 3 principles from cognitive science that have been shown to promote learning and increase long-term retention. The principle gives students multiple opportunities “to practice retrieving and applying their knowledge on new problems” by assigning questions for one week’s lecture multiple times over the course of several weeks of assignments. The research revealed that students scored approximately 7% higher on the portions of the final exams that were taught using the new homework method. Co-author Elizabeth Marsh explains that further research is needed to determine whether the results are broadly applicable across disciplines and grade levels. RiceU News Release

Small PSE institutions in US combining to be greater force in online ed realm

Several PSE organizations in the US have created initiatives that see small PSE institutions working together and sharing best practices to compete with larger institutions in the online education sphere. The Teagle Foundation, which supports undergraduate arts and sciences education, has put out a request for proposals for groups of small colleges and universities to “integrate forms of online education into residential liberal arts settings in productive ways that maintain or enhance the effectiveness of learning and address issues of institutional capacity.” The foundation is offering grants of up to $280,000 for such collaborations. The Council of Independent Colleges (CIC) will next year launch an initiative to bring 20 of the organization’s members together in a Consortium for Online Humanities Instruction. Each member institution will commit to creating 2 upper-year humanities courses that use online educational resources, or that feature automated-grading or online-collaboration technology. The CIC initiative will discourage members from pitching MOOCs, however; CIC President Richard Ekman says MOOCs have yet to address the needs of many of the students studying at CIC member institutions. Inside Higher Ed | CIC News Release