Top Ten

March 24, 2014

Police charge 3 YorkU employees for alleged fraud

A group of 3 York University employees have been arrested for an alleged 7-year scheme involving fraudulent billing amounting to $1.6-million. Toronto Police Detective Gail Regan says “further arrests and charges are anticipated as the investigation continues.” Regan adds that the case is in no way connected to a previous $2.1-million fraud investigation; the charges around that case have since been dropped. A statement from YorkU Secretary and General Counsel Harriet Lewis says, “The university immediately contacted Toronto Police Service and we have co-operated with them during the course of their investigation. We engaged an external firm to conduct a forensic audit, the findings of which were provided to police.” It adds that the university has successfully recovered the funds lost, plus cost. Globe and Mail | YorkU Statement

PQ minister says face-coverings ban would extend to K-12, PSE students

Parti Québécois Minister Bernard Drainville says a majority Parti Québécois government would ban students from wearing religious face coverings while at public schools. Drainville says the prohibition is necessary “for reasons of security and identification, and would apply to all people receiving government services.” The minister made the statement a couple of weeks into an election campaign, and following the announcement of a controversial PQ secular charter bill that would see religious symbols banned from government workplaces. Several Quebec PSE institutions have denounced the bill, saying it runs counter to the values of their institutions. Huffington Post | National Post

MUN research plan seeks to double scholarly output by 2020

Memorial University has unveiled a new draft Strategic Research Intensity Plan 2014-2020 that aims to double the university’s “scholarly output” by 2020. The plan, which aligns with the university’s 2012 Research Strategy Framework, also includes the goal to increase MUN’s master's and doctoral graduates by 100% over the same period. The document identifies 12 recommendations to support these goals, which include creating a comprehensive environment for supporting faculty, promoting and supporting research opportunities for students, and improving access to appropriate quality teaching, laboratories and office space. MUN also plans to advocate for new provincial research funds in the health sciences and the arts, humanities and social sciences. MUN News Release

NB releases PSE budget details

The New Brunswick government last week announced details of the funding to PSE and skills training it pledged in the recently-tabled 2014-15 provincial budget. The government will be investing $593 million towards higher education, including the 2% increase to operating grants announced in the budget. Other funding details include $3.3 million to the tuition rebate program, $4.6 million for credit transfer and accessibility, $3.6 million for 4 new apprenticeship initiatives, $7 million over 5 years for 150 scholarships ranging from $4,000 to $21,000 under the Graduate Scholarship initiative, and a $1-million matching program under the Opportunities Fund. NB News Release

VCC faculty launches campaign to call for increased ESL funding

The Vancouver Community College Faculty Association (VCCFA) has launched an “ESL Matters” advocacy campaign, which calls on the British Columbia government to restore full funding to ESL training at the college. The provincial government in February announced it would give PSE institutions $10.5 million to transition ESL programs to a new structure governed by the federal government, with $4.76 million going to VCC. However, according to the Vancouver Courier, the $4.76 million will only constitute 44% of the money VCC had for ESL classes last year. Members of the VCCFA, the VCC students association, and opposition MLAs held a rally last week to launch the advocacy campaign, which also includes a website. Vancouver Courier

NSCC sees spike in new students with university degrees

A Nova Scotia Community College survey reveals an increase in the number of students entering the college with a university degree. In 2010, only 6% of first-year students had university degrees; by 2012 that number had risen to 21%. While most new NSCC students still arrive with no prior PSE, the recent increase does suggest more people are looking to enhance their university degrees with a college certificate or diploma. The NS Minister of Advanced Education says “college offers hands on experience, but people shouldn't write off university.” CBC News

RRC launches Technology Access Centre industry website

Red River College has launched a new website for its Technology Access Centre (TAC) initiative, which supports small- to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in aerospace and manufacturing by “providing enhanced access to RRC’s technological assets, subject-matter expertise, and specialized facilities and equipment.” The new website is an industry portal that allows SMEs to view RRC’s resources. The site also includes information on full-time student programming, hiring co-op students and interns, facilities and equipment that can assist organizations in projects, and the ways in which RRC can support industry through applied research, technical services and training activities. RRC News Release

BC colleges contribute $7.8 billion to provincial economy

A recent study reveals that British Columbia’s 11 public colleges create a $7.8-billion “positive effect” on the provincial economy, which is equal to 4.2% of the province’s GDP. The report also shows that BC College students earn an average annual rate of return of 16.5% more than inflation, on their total investment including tuition, books, fees, deferred income and even the value of leisure time spent on their studies. Taxpayers can expect a return of $2.40 for every dollar invested in BC’s colleges. “Students who attend one of our colleges for just 2 years earn 51% more than those who have only a high school diploma,” says Selkirk College President Angus Graeme. “Not only do these students have the ability to earn more, they pay more taxes and therefore contribute to the social and fiscal wellbeing of their community and the province.” BC Colleges News Release

US universities get $1.6 million to broaden PhD career paths

The Andrew W Mellon Foundation in the US has given a $1.6-million grant to the American Historical Association (AHA) and 4 universities to broaden the career paths of history PhDs. AHA Executive Director James R Grossman says the goal of the initiative is to “establish a new norm in which doctoral graduates in history know how to pursue career opportunities both inside and outside academe, and are encouraged to do so.” Columbia University, the University of California at Los Angeles, the University of Chicago, and the University New Mexico, which will each receive about $300,000, plan to launch various pilot projects, such as creating mentor databases, increasing internship opportunities, and crafting curricula designed to give students more real-world skills. For example, uChicago will be offering students more internship opportunities at non-profit organizations, creating seminars to educate doctoral students about career possibilities, and hiring a "career fellow" for 3 years who will help launch the grant projects. Chronicle of Higher Education

UK budget pledges $410 million to science, engineering research

UK’s 2014 budget, tabled last week, includes a £222 million (roughly $410 million) commitment to PSE science and engineering research projects in an effort to “overcome potential barriers in the postgraduate system that may be restricting the supply of higher skills.” “If Britain isn’t leading the world in science and technology and engineering, then we are condemning our country to fall behind,” says Chancellor George Osborne. The UK budget documents also say that funding for the “Education is GREAT” campaign, which promotes PSE in the UK to international students, will be increased to £3 million in 2014-15. Recent Higher Education Statistics Agency data reveal that the number of non-European Union students studying at UK universities fell for the first time in 2012-13. Times Higher Education