Top Ten

April 2, 2014

BC gives PSE institutions another $6.7 million for ESL programs

The BC government has announced another $6.7 million in funding for English as a second language (ESL) programs at 9 PSE institutions, to make it easier for the colleges and universities to wind down their programs following cancelled federal funding. Advanced Education Minister Amrik Virk explains that Immigration Canada had decided to award contracts directly to non-profit agencies and a limited number of PSE institutions, rather than funnel money through the provincial government to colleges and universities. The ministry is still waiting for further details about the federal ESL program, and what agencies or institutions will receive contracts to deliver the training. The 9 institutions that will receive the additional funding include British Columbia Institute of Technology, Camosun College, Capilano University, Douglas College, University of the Fraser Valley, Kwantlen Polytechnic University, Langara College, Okanagan College, and Vancouver Community College. BC News Release | Victoria Times Colonist

Ontario law students form advocacy association

Law students in Ontario have formed an association to “speak out on issues affecting the province's 4,000 law students.” The Law Students' Society of Ontario (LSSO) will seek to advocate for student concerns to government and education stakeholders on issues such as access to legal education, professional accreditation requirements, and other issues affecting the province’s law students. At its inaugural meeting, the LSSO identified several priority areas for advocacy, including raising awareness about rising tuition costs, monitoring the success of the Law Society of Upper Canada's Law Practice Program (LPP), lobbying for changes to the Law Society's recent 74% hike in licensing fees for new law school graduates, and advocating for inclusive, representative law schools. Membership in the LSSO has been ratified by student groups at all 7 of Ontario’s law schools (the University of Windsor, Western University, the University of Toronto, YorkU’s Osgoode Hall Law School, Queen's University, the University of Ottawa, and Lakehead University). LSSO News Release

Ontario campus announcement renews hopes for Barrie, Milton campuses

Officials in Barrie, Ontario are hoping the provincial government’s recent request for proposals for PSE campus expansions/additions will lead to a new Laurentian University campus in the city. Laurentian AVP Administration and External Relations Craig Fowler says the university has already submitted its letter of intent to put $14 million into the new campus, along with the city’s promised $14 million—either in land, money or assets. According to the Barrie Examiner, Laurentian administration is now waiting to see if the province will help fund a Barrie campus, so it can open in September 2020. The university plans to focus its curriculum on health, science and IT, business, and the arts. The media has also reported Milton and Brampton as other strong contenders for a new university campus, with Wilfrid Laurier University hoping to open a Milton location. Georgian College in Barrie has also been talking with its university partners, which include Lakehead University, Laurentian University, the University of Ontario Institute of Technology, York University and Central Michigan University, about possible growth and expansion. Barrie Examiner

Montreal investment firm’s $1.1-million business school gift to set example

Montreal-based investment company Formula Growth Ltd has donated $1.1-million to 4 business schools, hoping it will inspire other organizations to support the province’s universities. Concordia University’s John Molson School of Business, McGill University’s Desautels Faculty of Management, Bishop’s University and HEC Montréal received portions of the funding, which will go towards fostering entrepreneurship and innovative learning environments. Formula Growth President Randall Kelly says that while the company didn’t intentionally make the announcement one week before a provincial election, he think it “could take advantage of the coincidence and encourage people to understand that local investors want the province to be vibrant and alive; that education and students are the future.” Montreal Gazette

uLethbridge study finds no evidence of skills shortage

A study out of the University of Lethbridge has added to the growing list of reports that suggest the predicted labour shortage in Canada is exaggerated. Canada Research Chair Susan McDaniel has found that Canada is “not confronting a broad labour shortage, nor is a shortage anticipated in the near future.” “There are skills shortages in some industries and regions, but the literature points to a mismatch of skills rather than a shortage," explains McDaniel. "Reviewed research confirms that hiring difficulties that some employers have are due to normal cycles of the labour market for their specific industry and not a national skilled labour shortage.” Her team, which has collective skills in demographic change, immigration and skills development, distilled 219 peer-reviewed articles and reports from 2000 to 2013; the articles focused on gaps in labour/skills demand and supply, the aging workforce, employment patterns of aging Canadians, the role of immigration and shifting immigration policies, and the role of shifting skills development. The research findings also identify large groups of people, including youth, Aboriginals, disabled persons, immigrants, and unemployed older workers, that are being underutilized in the workforce. uLethbridge News Release

Atlantic community colleges add $4.7 billion to regional economy

A recent study shows that Atlantic Canadian community colleges add $4.7 billion to the Atlantic Provinces Region economy, with $465.5 million coming from college operations and student spending, and $4.2 billion stemming from added income through higher student earnings. The report also reveals that taxpayers and provincial governments gain a 7.2% return on their college investment, and that students see a 21.3% ROI due to higher lifetime earnings. The study, released by the Atlantic Provinces Community College Consortium (APCCC), analyzed data from Nova Scotia Community College, New Brunswick Community College, Collège communautaire du Nouveau-Brunswick, College of the North Atlantic, and Holland College. APCCC News Release | Full Report

Canadian teens perform well in global problem-solving test

A new global test of the creative problem-solving skills among teenagers reveals that Canadian 15-year-olds performed above the OECD average, ranking 8th behind Singapore, Korea, Japan, and 4 regions of China. The test results, which are part of the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) also show that Canadian students performed relatively the same across socio-economic background and despite immigrant status, compared with other countries. “These problem-solving skills are increasingly important for success in the knowledge economy of the 21st century,” says Council of Ministers of Education of Canada Director General Andrew Parkin. Students in Ontario, British Columbia and Alberta scored highest within the country, with more than 20% of those students scoring in the top 2 of 6 skill levels. Toronto Star | OECD Report

Knowledge Unlatched tests new open-access model

Non-profit group Knowledge Unlatched has launched an open-access model in which participating libraries pool money to pay educational publishers title fees for chosen books, which are then made into PDFs available for free download through the Open Access Publishing in European Networks (OAPEN), the HathiTrust digital repository, and eventually the British Library. A list of 28 books has been selected for a pilot program, in which the University of Melbourne, the Queensland University of Technology, and the University of Western Australia have joined as “founding libraries.” Roughly 300 libraries have since signed up for the pilot. “We exceeded our target by 50%,” says the project’s Deputy Director Lucy Montgomery. “That’s reduced the title-fee cost to about $43 per library per book.” Montgomery adds that publishers will receive an average of $12,000 for making a book open access. Chronicle of Higher Education

Study shows Google Plus has same US usage as Twitter

The Google Plus social networking platform has the same number of US users as Twitter, and more opportunity for brands, according to a survey by an American research firm. Of the 60,000 respondents to the survey, 22% said they visit Google Plus monthly, the same percentage as people who said they visit Twitter. Google Plus visitors also outnumbered LinkedIn, Pinterest and Instagram. Study leader Nate Elliott says that top brands have about 90% as many Google Plus fans as they have Twitter followers, on average, and that fans engage more with brand posts on Google Plus than they do on Twitter. Adweek Magazine

PSE institutions celebrate April Fool’s Day

Several Canadian and American PSE institutions yesterday took the opportunity to have a little fun with April Fool’s Day. The University of Winnipeg announced that a winning $2.5-million Lotto 6/49 ticket purchased through the President’s Office staff lottery pool will help to offset a projected 2014-15 operating deficit. “[uWinnipeg President Lloyd Axworthy] discovered the win on Saturday night when he found the crumpled ticket in his pocket and checked the numbers on his iPhone while waiting backstage to present an award at the 2014 JUNO Gala Dinner,” read a uWinnipeg news release, which was concluded with the exclamation, “Happy April Fool’s Day!” SAIT Polytechnic’s prank was to announce that it planned to help its students and staff “say goodbye to winter bitters” by building a weather-correcting dome around the campus, which would never drop below 15 C or climb above 26 C inside. Across the border, the University of Idaho announced that each of its incoming fall 2014 undergraduates would receive a free kitten, calling the initiative the Feline-Undergraduate Relationship for Retention Initiative, or FURRI. Pennsylvania’s Bryn Mawr College decided yesterday it would drop the vowels from its name, meaning the college would henceforth be called Brn Mwr. “This is the age of Twitter, every character counts,” says Bryn Mawr President Kim Cassidy. “And really, what’s the difference, no one can pronounce our name anyway.” uWinnipeg News Release | SAIT News Release | uIdaho News Release | Bryn Mawr News Release

Update: April 4, 2014

We have come across a few more clever April Fool’s jokes by PSE institutions; on April 1 Simon Fraser University announced that it would be opening a new campus, “SFU Orbit,” on the international space station, which would “significantly expand SFU’s ability to provide experiential learning opportunities for students in a field school setting.” The Victoria Times Colonist reported that the mayors of Saanich and Oak Bay had asked the province to rename the University of Victoria to the University of Saanich-Oak Bay, or USOB, to better reflect where the campus is located. Finally, the Dean of Admissions at Lawrence University starred in a YouTube video promoting a new program offering parents free shipping on every freshman this year; the video concludes with a Lawrence first year student popping out of a cardboard box. SFU News Release | Times Colonist | LawrenceU Video