Top Ten

April 16, 2014

5 dead in Calgary stabbing believed to be students

A stabbing at a Calgary house party has led to the deaths of 5 young people, believed to be students. Calgary police were called to the house around 1:30 am Tuesday, where they found the victims, 4 men and one woman. Neighbours report that there had been a party at the house on Monday, but suggested it was a quiet, controlled gathering. Police tracked down a suspect using the canine unit shortly after arriving on scene; they are not currently looking for more suspects. The names of the accused and the victims have not been released. The University of Calgary issued a statement expressing grief over the murders and noting concern for any faculty, staff, or students affected by the tragedy. Individuals are encouraged to seek counselling and support via the uCalgary Wellness Centre. CTV News | National Post | Globe and Mail | CBC

Postscript: April 16, 2014

The editorial team and everyone at Academica Group share the shock and dismay of the higher ed community at the tragedy in Calgary, and we extend our condolences to everyone touched by the event. Doubtless the mainstream media will unearth details and sensationalize reactions over the weeks ahead, but there will likely never be a truly satisfactory explanation, and we will try not to needlessly return to the story. We have however updated the story in the Top Ten archive on our website.
The events occurred at an end-of-term university party in the community of Brentwood, just north of the uCalgary campus. The 5 victims and a suspect have now been identified. The only female victim, Kaitlin Perras, 23, was a former Mount Royal University English student from Calgary. ​Jordan Segura, 23, was studying religion and history at uCalgary. Lawrence Hong, 27, was an Urban Studies student at uCalgary. Joshua Hunter, a 22-year-old uCalgary accounting student from Priddis AB, and his 23-year-old friend Zackariah Rathwell, a first-year ACAD student, had just launched a debut album for their band. Matthew de Grood, a 22-year-old pre-law student at uCalgary, has been charged with 5 counts of first-degree murder. CBC (1) | CBC (2)

ON commits $4 million for new biomedical centre at McMaster

The Ontario government has committed $4 million in funding for the creation of the McMaster-Fraunhofer Project Centre for Biomedical Engineering and Advanced Manufacturing (BEAM). The new centre is a partnership between McMaster University and Germany’s Fraunhofer Institute for Cell Therapy and Immunology, and will “develop innovative technologies to automate production for cell therapies, significantly lowering the cost to treat degenerative diseases like cancer.” The project still needs to secure upwards of $12 million in order to go ahead; federal and municipal governments have been approached to contribute to BEAM. It is expected that the centre would create around 100 new jobs for its McMaster Innovation Park location, and will attract researchers from around the globe. McMaster News | Hamilton Spectator

uMoncton adopts deficit budget

The Université de Moncton board of governors has adopted the institution’s operating budget for the 2014-15 fiscal year, which projects a deficit of $628,000. The deficit comes at a time when the provincial grant rate and tuition fees have both increased; however, uMoncton president Raymond Théberge cited a decline in Canadian student registrations as contributing to an overall decrease in revenues. “In January 2014,” Théberge said, “there were 250 fewer Canadian students registered ... as compared to the same date in 2013. And in 2014-2015, we expect an additional loss of 100 registrations.” The declining enrolment may be attributed in part to a reduction in the number of students in French schools as well as increased competition. The budget includes measures to limit expenditures, keeping the rate of increase below the average for the past several years. Student bursaries will increase by 3% to help offset the rising tuition costs. uMoncton News Release

uSask College of Medicine undergoes major restructuring

Major changes are underway at the University of Saskatchewan’s College of Medicine, intended to improve accountability, assignment of duties, and alignment of resources. By restructuring, the college hopes to streamline delivery of instruction and care between the college and health regions. The college’s funding model is also being reworked, in consultation with the provincial Ministries of Health and Advanced Education. Efforts to restructure at the college have been underway since April 2012 and progress must be made: the College of Medicine is on accreditation with probation, with the next visit by the accreditation body taking place in approximately a year’s time. The restructuring coincides with the arrival of Preston Smith as Dean on July 1. Martin Phillipson, Vice-Provost, Organizational Restructuring for the college, emphasized that the changes will unfold with no disruption to student education or client care. uSask News Release

CCPA releases tool to compare tuition data for last 40 years

The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives has created an interactive online tool that allows users to see how tuition costs have changed over the years and to compare provincial and program data. CCPA used tuition data from Statistics Canada to populate the tool, allowing comparisons over the last 40 years. CCPA also compared the number of hours a student would have to work at minimum wage in order to pay tuition in each province, finding that the average has increased nearly 2.5 times since 1975. Tuition for professional degree programs has seen the largest increases, with dentistry, law, and medicine seeing the largest jumps in tuition and necessary minimum-wage hours worked. “Tuition is always a concern,” said Paul Davidson, President of the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada. “But we have to make sure that we have an education system that’s well-funded, that’s high-quality, and delivers the results that students and their parents expect.” CBC CCPA website

International Baccalaureate grads to get grade boost

Ontario schools offering the elite International Baccalaureate (IB) diploma program will soon enact changes to the way that percentages are calculated from IB exams and course work, in order to allow students to compete with perceived provincial grade inflation. Many top programs at PSE institutions have raised the entrance requirements to as high as 90%, but with the previous IB percentage calculation, an IB student who receives a 5 out of 7 would be given a percentage range of 80-89%. As of September, this will be calculated as 84-92%. The intent behind the change is to ensure that IB graduates do not miss out on university spots and scholarships. Although there is a perception of grade inflation across Canada, many educators and officials deny its existence. “It is important that end-of-term or end-of-year marks do not misrepresent the student’s actual achievement,” said Lauren Ramey, a spokeswoman for Ontario Education Minister Liz Sandals. Nova Scotia made similar changes in 2011. Globe and Mail 

ACCC enters 5-year agreement with Peru

The Association of Canadian Community Colleges (ACCC) will share its expertise in technical PSE with Peru’s Ministry of Education. The agreement with Peru is the latest piece of the ACCC’s Education for Employment Program in the Andean Region, which is designed to modernize vocational training in South America while improving the socio-economic conditions of vulnerable youth and women.  José Martín Vegas Torres, Deputy Minister in Peru’s Department of Education, said that “the expertise of Canada and of the ACCC will allow the department of Education, along with regional governments in Peru, to put in place a technical policy that will strengthen the management and innovation capacity of our training institutions and improve the employment opportunities of our youth.” Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development contributed $5.7 million to the partnership. ACCC News Release

Gaming technology to be introduced in courses at Lambton

A new pilot program that uses games and gaming technology to engage students is being developed, thanks to a partnership between Lambton College in Ontario and education technology company Desire2Learn. The pilot project, beginning in fall 2014, will test gaming technologies in 6 courses – including first-year math, electrical circuits, and hair removal – to see if student attendance and engagement levels improve. Rick Overeem, Associate Dean of the Learning Innovation Centre at Lambton, explains that many students don’t see the value in courses that they deem to have little application to future careers. The use of “gamification principles in a math course to make it interactive, to make it interesting and engaging [for] the student" may help students see the value in such courses. Lambton already uses mobile learning in a number of courses, and aspires to be a mobile learning institute by 2016. Campus Technology

Universities use awareness campaigns to reduce alcohol-related incidents

Alcohol continues to be an issue on Canadian university campuses, but there is some good news. A report presented to McMaster’s university senate found that overall alcohol violations were down 27% over the previous year, in spite of a growing student population. Alcohol-related incidents make up the majority of conduct code breaches, but Dean of Students Sean Van Koughnett was optimistic. He hoped the declining numbers proved the impact of education and awareness programs. Carleton University is likely looking for similar results. On April 9 it launched a new Alcohol Awareness Strategy to promote responsible drinking. The strategy is the result of a revision of the university’s campus alcohol policy that began in September. “Canadian society is taking steps to address our attitudes and behaviours as they relate to alcohol and Carleton wants to be a leader in the post-secondary field regarding this effort,” said Ryan Flannagan, Carleton’s Director of Student Affairs. Hamilton Spectator | Carleton News Release

Florida educators await clarity on MOOCs and outside learning credits

Florida legislators are debating the best way to evaluate prior learning, but may be moving too slowly for some institutions. Last year, Governor Rick Scott signed into lawa bill that mandated the Florida Board of Governors and the State Board of Education to “adopt rules that enable students to earn academic credit for online courses, including massive open online courses, prior to initial enrollment at a postsecondary institution.” Proponents suggest that the stipulation will improve accessibility and reduce the cost of higher education. However, PSE institutions are growing impatient to see what these recommendations will mean in practice, with some universities taking matters into their own hands. Florida International University has implemented a pilot prior learning assessment project to determine if students qualify for credit in an introductory psychology course. However, FIU admits that in spite of being proactive it will be difficult to implement outside learning assessments in every discipline by the 2015-16 academic year. Inside Higher Ed