Top Ten

April 22, 2014

KPU accounting comes under scrutiny

The National Post reports that, amidst accusations of accounting irregularities, the office of BC’s Auditor-General is conducting a “fact-finding” mission to consider whether Kwantlen Polytechnic University’s executive compensation and reporting practices should be audited. The Post claims that leaked emails suggest that the KPU board of governors considered diverting $100,000 from a charitable foundation into executive pay. Senior administrators, past and present, allegedly were paid consulting fees or stipends to circumvent a provincial salary cap for presidents of smaller “teaching universities.” KPU has not yet commented on the Post’s report, which follows a civil suit launched in July, 2013 by a former employee alleging wrongful dismissal and harassment. None of the claims have been heard or proven in court. National Post

Canadian PSE students face overwhelming levels of stress

Canadian PSE students are lonely, stressed, and overwhelmed, according to results released by the National College Health Assessment. More than 89% of students surveyed reported feeling “overwhelmed” by their responsibilities, and 63.9% of students reported feeling “very lonely” at some point within the last year. Over half reported feeling “overwhelming anxiety” while nearly 40% said that their stress level had affected their performance at school. Perhaps most troubling, 9.5% said that they had considered suicide. Canadians aged 15 to 24 are already more likely to suffer from depression, mood, anxiety, and panic disorders. The challenges of transitioning to university can exacerbate underlying issues, and some experts also point to increased competitiveness, student debt, and a challenging job market, as well as a lack of coping skills, as contributing to the growing intensity of stress-related issues among PSE students. The Province (1) | The Province (2) | Windsor Star| Full Report

BC’s Core Review leads to PSE changes

The British Columbia government has announced it will dissolve the Private Career Training Institutions Agency (PCTIA), the organization previously responsible for the oversight and management of private career training institutions. The Ministry of Advanced Education will absorb the functions of the PCTIA, allowing for more government support and regulation. Savings of $1.5 million over the first 3 years are expected through efficiencies and administrative savings. The move is a result of BC’s ongoing Core Review, an internal evaluation of the government’s programs and services. Also resulting from the Core Review is a new Provincial Digital Library initiative that will “expand access to academic research and openly licensed library resources.” Lastly, the BC Council for International Education (BCCIE) will establish an inventory of “all partnerships between BC and international institutions and will track the number of BC students and faculty working and studying abroad,” to support greater coordination of international education initiatives. BC News Release

5 PSE institutions team with Desire2Learn to assess learning outcomes

The University of Guelph, the University of Waterloo, Wilfrid Laurier University, McMaster University, and Mohawk College have teamed with Kitchener-based learning management solution provider Desire2Learn (D2L) to measure students’ learning outcomes. Funded by a $6-million Productivity and Innovation Fund grant from the Ontario Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities, the program will use D2L’s Insights learning management and predictive analytics platform to assess whether desired learning outcomes have been achieved. “Universities talk a lot about learning outcomes but in the end it’s about being able to capture them. So far there is no system that does that. So it’s pretty exciting that we are able to engage with D2L in an effort to move this forward,” said UoGuelph AVP Academic Serge Desmarais. UoGuelph and D2L have a longstanding partnership that goes back 10 years; the D2L platform was initially used for UoGuelph’s MBA program. University Affairs | Desire2Learn News Release

Consortium for Aerospace Research and Innovation in Canada launched

The Canadian aerospace community heralded last week's launch of the Consortium for Aerospace Research and Innovation in Canada (CARIC). The consortium will bring together stakeholders from universities, colleges, and research institutes with Canadian aerospace industry partners to support Canadian aerospace innovation and strategic expertise. “The principal objective of this national initiative is to reach and connect the aerospace Research and Technology community across Canada, contribute to the country’s technology roadmap, and foster scientific skills penetration in industry while training highly qualified people through research,” said Clément Fortin, President of the Consortium for Research and Innovation in Aerospace in Québec (CRIAQ). CARIC will receive funding from industry, federal and provincial governments, universities, and research institutions. Industry partners will be expected to co-finance all projects. Proponents anticipate that CARIC’s collaborative projects could reach a value of over $20 million per year, once the consortium is fully operational. CARIC News Release | CRIAQ News Release

Predatory publishers growing more sophisticated

An Ottawa Citizen undercover investigation of predatory publishers highlights the need for universities and academics to proceed warily when evaluating publications. Reporter Tom Spears claimed affiliation with a fictitious university and submitted to 18 journals a heavily plagiarized essay he cobbled together from a variety of sources. Within 24 hours, he had glowing acceptances from 8 self-professed peer-reviewed journals who offered to publish his essay—in exchange for a fee. The sting operation raises issues of trust in the journal publication system. Universities and researchers are becoming increasingly vulnerable to predatory publishers, who are in turn becoming more sophisticated. Some even go so far as to purchase fake impact factors from fabricated ratings agencies. Such publishers make it increasingly difficult for scholars and administrators alike to effectively assess the value of peer-reviewed research. Ottawa Citizen

Canada ranks third among global destinations for business grad students

An American study has found that Canada ranks third among global destinations for graduate business students. The report, which surveyed 12,000 prospectivegraduate business students, indicates that Canada is a target for 5% of respondents, behind only the US (70%) and Europe (15%). Canadian business schools' global profiles have been enhanced by a number of marketing campaigns initiated by the federal government as well as through interuniversity recruitment and marketing campaigns. A complementary report, which surveyed nearly 240,000 GMAT test-takers, indicated that Canada’s visa policies for students and skilled workers may explain Canada’s popularity. International students submitted 63% of all GMAT test scores sent to Canada in 2013, up from 48% in 2009, and foreign students accounted for 29% of all students who took the test within Canada. Globe and Mail |GMAC News Release | Full Report

International learning outcomes assessments possible but require more work

A new report issued by the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario (HEQCO) says that standardized international learning outcomes assessments are feasible but will require significant refinement in order to be valuable. The report came out of an Assessment of Higher Education Learning Outcomes (AHELO) feasibility study carried out with 9 Ontario civil engineering programs. The study acknowledged that “the data collected were from an unrepresentative sample of jurisdictions and institutions,” and also that “the assessments made … were not sensitive enough to provide institution-level information by specific competency nor could they provide reliable feedback for individual students,” due in part to ethics board requirements. However, the authors suggest that the study demonstrated the possibilities of international cooperation and proved that there is a high level of interest in such programs from a range of stakeholders. HEQCO Summary | Full Report

Results of first survey of hourly workers on US campuses released

A first-of-its-kind survey by the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources (CUPA-HR) has gathered information on the non-exempt staff members in higher education—workers who are paid an hourly rate and are eligible for overtime pay. According to the survey, hourly positions that require some training beyond high school are paid the best, including firefighters, police officers, paralegals, and electrician supervisors, with electrician supervisors topping the list with a median base salary of $54,828. Custodian/housekeeper and food server are the 2 lowest paid positions at $24,760 and $24,213, respectively. The new survey is also the first to produce reliable data on the incomes of research and lab assistants, positions that only exist on college and university campuses; the survey showed that assistants typically earned $35,000 to $40,000 in 2013–14. The results of the survey reflect the salaries of 177,165 non-exempt staff in 118 positions at 807 public and private colleges and universities across the US. The Chronicle of Higher Education | CUPA-HR Press Release

US higher ed sees small increase in state and local funding

A new report released by US-based State Higher Education Executive Officers found that state and local funding for higher education increased 0.7% from 2012 to 2013. The “State Higher Education Finance Report” for 2013 also revealed that enrolment in US public institutions dropped by 2.4%. Tuition saw increases as well, with net tuition—gross tuition minus state and institutional financial aid—increasing by 3.5% from 2012 to 2013. Although the national average indicates an increase, many states did decrease funding for PSE, with only Alaska, Illinois, North Dakota, and Wyoming increasing tax dollars for public higher education from 2008 to 2013. Educational funding per full-time student has fallen significantly since the start of the recession in 2008, with New Hampshire seeing a decrease of more than 50%, and Florida and Louisiana seeing decreases of more than 40%. The Chronicle of Higher Education | Full Report