Top Ten

April 17, 2014

Proposed arts centre in Edmonton on unsteady ground

A proposed academic and cultural centre in downtown Edmonton is seeking support and funding from city council in order to go ahead with planning, but critics are questioning the feasibility of such a project. The $1-billion Edmonton Downtown Academic and Cultural Centre Project, or Edmonton Galleria as it is popularly termed, would consist of a large, open-air plaza connected to multiple theatres and auditoriums, and could become home to several University of Alberta faculties. The Galleria foundation is currently looking for $25 million to purchase land; much of the rest of the funding is hoped to come from philanthropic donations. With nothing official from uAlberta on the project, and many questions existing around the funding and feasibility of the project, it is unclear whether the Galleria will go ahead. Metro News | Edmonton Journal (1) | Edmonton Journal (2) | CTV News | Galleria website

McGill launches PPP plan for arts faculty

McGill University’s Faculty of Arts is undergoing a PPP initiative titled People, Processes & Partnerships. The faculty restructuring proposed by Christopher Manfredi, Dean of Arts, would see a large reorganization of support staff into several hubs, or Administrative Service Centres, serving multiple departments. The restructuring is part of a wider plan to address provincial budget cuts and to mitigate the loss of several employees who recently retired. “[The project] reorganizes the faculty’s administrative operations in a manner consistent with our obligations under our collective agreements,” Manfredi said, although students and faculty have accused Manfredi of “steamrolling” objections to his plan and of not properly consulting the university community and considering other options. Critics worry that the restructuring will serve to increase staff workloads. “This assistance is key to students and it is dishonest the way the consultations have unfolded,” said one student. McGill PPP site | Montreal Gazette

Relaxed CRA guidelines allow for meal plan rollovers at uWinnipeg

Students at the University of Winnipeg will soon be able to carry over any unused funds on their meal-plan cards, reports the Winnipeg Free Press. uWinnipeg students living in the McFeetors Hall residence must purchase a mandatory meal plan for $1,700 per semester. Previously, unused funds at the end of a semester could not be carried over; in future, students will be able to carry over unused funds from the fall to the winter semester, and any unused funds at the end of the winter semester will be converted to a gift card that will not expire. Because the meal plan is tax-exempt, uWinnipeg cited Canada Revenue Agency guidelines for the previous rules disallowing the rollover of funds. However, an online ruling by the CRA allows for the changes to go ahead. In January, students filed a petition with uWinnipeg asking for changes to the meal plans, such as varying levels of meal plans and rollover of unused funds. Winnipeg Free Press (April) | Winnipeg Free Press (Jan) | uWinnipeg News

Portage College’s Food Sciences Centre receives $1.5 million

Alberta’s Portage College has received $1.5 million from the provincial Ministry of Innovation and Advanced Education to complete the new Food Sciences Centre at the St Paul campus. The one-time capital grant will help the college address additional unforeseen renovation costs to the new facility. Portage will be offering 5 new Food Science programs at the institution: culinary arts diploma, food processing technician diploma, institutional cook certificate, baker certificate, and meat processing certificate. The new facility is expected to welcome its first cohort in fall 2014, although renovations will continue throughout the school year. "We are thrilled to be working with our government to bring the first Food Sciences Centre to Alberta," said Trent Keough, President of Portage. Portage News Release

HEQCO assesses social value of PSE

A report released by the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario highlights the non-economic benefits of a university education. The study found that PSE correlates strongly with a number of individual and social benefits. University graduates are more likely than high school graduates to donate time and money to civic engagement, and are more likely to vote. Moreover, the study indicated higher levels of physical and mental health among those with more years of education, as well as improved overall happiness and life satisfaction. University graduates also enjoy lower unemployment rates and less reliance on social assistance. The researchers note that “while no consistent pattern was found between level of postsecondary education and social return, the study generally found a clear dividing line between secondary and postsecondary education.” This report follows HEQCO’s previous analysis of the social return of higher education. HEQCO Summary | Full Report

83% of Ontario college grads employed within 6 months of graduation

According to Colleges Ontario’s latest Key Performance Indicators (KPI) report, 83.4% of college graduates find employment within just 6 months of graduation. Employers are also pleased: over 92% of respondents reported feeling satisfied or very satisfied with the graduates they have hired. While impressive, these numbers are relatively static compared to the KPI reports issued in the last two years. Linda Franklin, CEO of Colleges Ontario, said that “the benefits of a college education continue to be clear” but urged Ontario colleges to expand their 3-year and 4-year degree program offerings. Colleges Ontario also noted that “it will be important for the province to promote the value of college education as Ontario strives to address the youth unemployment and underemployment challenges.”  The full report further breaks down the results by college. Colleges Ontario News Release | Full Report

Canadians willing to invest in education but expect a return

A report published by HSBC sheds light on parental attitudes toward their children’s education. HSBC’s new research study "The Global Value of Education" indicates that 82% of Canadians want their children to go to university, but also that they expect to see a return on their education investment. Nearly half of Canadian parents cited “the ability to compete in the workplace” (47%) or “income earning potential” (43%) as key outcomes of a good university education. Canadians were also willing to allocate more to their child’s studies than their global counterparts, indicating that they would ideally set aside 54% of their money for their child's education. The survey also found that 40% of Canadians believed public schools to be as good as private schools, but 26% saw value in a private education. 24% reported that public schools did not meet their standards for skill development. HSBC Report

More business students considering specialized Master’s degrees

A new report from the US-based Graduate Management Admission Council found more business students are considering specialty graduate programs today than five years ago. The number of students focused solely on specialty programs increased from 13% to 20%, while those students considering only MBA programs declined from 55% to 53%. While MBAs remain the most popular program type for prospective students, students in Asia-Pacific and Europe in particular are increasingly exploring non-MBA options for their graduate education. The report also indicates that women are nearly twice as likely as men to consider specialty programs. The data may indicate a generational shift: candidates 24 years of age and under are more likely than older candidates to consider both types of programs, with the difference between genders in that age bracket shrinking to just 2%. The report surveyed over 12,000 graduate-level business students in 15 countries. GMAC News Release | GMAC Report

Campus counselling centres struggle to meet growing need

An annual survey of counselling centre directors has found that universities are still poorly equipped to deal with a growing number of students seeking help for mental health issues. While budgets and hiring levels are improving post-recession, the number of patients is growing at an even quicker rate. The worldwide survey, carried out by the Association for University and College Counseling Center Directors (AUCCCD), found that there is only one staff member for every 1,772 students on campus during the academic year, compared to one for every 1,673 a year ago. Elizabeth Gong-Guy, President of the AUCCCD, cited student influxes as a primary issue. “The population is growing, and we’re trying to keep pace, but we’re falling really woefully behind now,” she said. A record 46% of students who sought help exhibited symptoms of anxiety, and 39% depression. Mental health issues have been on the rise in PSE. Inside Higher Ed | AUCCCD Report

NIH joins NSF’s I-Corps Program

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has joined the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Innovation Corps (I-Corps) program. The I-Corps program, established in 2011 by the NSF and entrepreneur Steven G Blank, teams students with faculty members who receive online and in-person guidance on how to market their research in a commercial context. The program currently boasts over 100 university partners. Through its partnership with the NIH, I-Corps will advise researchers on intellectual-property rules, reimbursement systems, and regulatory strategy, as well as sourcing pharmaceutical company partners. The project will be initially rolled out on a limited basis, with up to 25 3-person teams; its success will be measured based on how many teams successfully bring a product to market. The NIH has prioritized demonstrating the market value of its funded research since establishing the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences in 2011. The Chronicle of Higher Education