Top Ten

April 25, 2014

uWindsor faces lawsuit from international recruiting company

The University of Windsor has been hit with a $24.1-million lawsuit from international recruiting company Higher-Edge, which runs the Canadian University Application Centre. Higher-Edge alleges that uWindsor, including the president and several other staff and faculty, stole employees to start a competing recruitment company in breach of an existing contract. Higher-Edge says they had been contracted by uWindsor to recruit international students for the last 15 years; the most recent contract, signed in 2008, expired in September 2013. A statement posted by uWindsor in response to the allegations states that “early in 2012 the University informed Higher-Edge that it was not going to renew the contract, but instead would embark upon a new non-exclusive model for international student recruitment… [uWindsor] is preparing its statement of defence, which will vigorously deny Higher-Edge’s claims and defend against the unwarranted personal attacks made toward the University of Windsor President and other university employees.” CBC | uWindsor Statement

$4.6-million employer survey results sit unused

A survey of 25,000 employers could yield valuable information about Canada’s skills gap, but remains unanalyzed due to a lack of funding. The $4.6-million survey, carried out by Statistics Canada on behalf of Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC, formerly HRSDC), asked employers about workplace demographics and anticipated skill shortages, as well as about the use of temporary foreign workers, difficult-to-fill positions, and “green” jobs. StatsCan’s Director of Labour Statistics Alison Hale said that there has been insufficient funding to review the data. “We’re more than willing if someone has some funding to carry it forward to the next stage of making it available,” Hale said. The data, if properly analyzed, could shed light on employers’ perceptions of labour need. An ESDC spokesperson said that funding for the Workplace Survey had not been cut, and that the department is working with StatsCan “to begin the analysis.” Globe and Mail

Winnipeg Technical College to undergo name change, expanded role

Manitoba has introduced legislation that would expand the role of the Winnipeg Technical College under a new name, the Manitoba Institute of Trades and Technology (MITT). Under the new legislation, MITT would be able to offer expanded opportunities in skills training for secondary and postsecondary students. WTC currently provides hands-on training for jobs in the fields of health care and human services, information and business technology, and the skilled trades. The new legislation will encourage and enable access for all Manitoba secondary students, provide greater recognition of MITT certificates and diplomas, and increase partnerships with industry to provide training for in-demand jobs. Calling the legislation a “revolutionary revisioning” of education, John Schubert, President of McCaine Electric Ltd and WTC board Chair, stated “the legislation revitalizes our mandate and identity, and makes our facility a unique institution in the province that combines high school and college in a supportive, student‑centred environment.” WTC News Release | Manitoba News Release | Winnipeg Free Press | Metro News

Ratio of part-time to full-time faculty continues to swell in US

A new report on faculty employment from the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) confirms that the number of contingent faculty hired in the US continues to significantly outpace the number of tenured faculty hired. The report found that between 1999 and 2011, the total number of faculty increased at a rate consistent with enrolment growth. However, the number of full-time faculty increased by only 23%, compared to a 67% growth in part-time faculty. The report further finds that women are over-represented among part-time and non-tenure-track faculty members. 55.7% of women surveyed identified their employment status as “Part-Time Faculty,” compared to 47.3% of men. Meanwhile, just 15.5% of women identified as “Full-Time Tenured Faculty,” compared to 25.4% of men. However, among “Full-Time Tenure-Track Faculty” the percentile difference between genders was insignificant. The report also breaks its data down by race and ethnicity, revealing that respondents who identified as black or African American are also over-represented among contingent faculty members. OCUFA | Full Report

Gaffield’s departure raises concerns of SSHRC leadership vacuum

Chad Gaffield’s announcement on April 1 that he will be stepping down as President of SSHRC as of August 31 has raised concerns about the direction the organization will take. Douglas Peers, Dean of Arts at the University of Waterloo, pointed to the fact that NSERC has been without a permanent president since March 2013. “I think if you go too long with someone as an interim without a clear mandate, especially as we start to move into the next [federal] election, things could just flounder for a while,” said Peers. Noreen Golfman, Dean of Graduate Studies at Memorial University, expressed her concern that the position would be filled by someone “who isn’t as committed to research in the humanities and social sciences as Dr. Gaffield.” Gaffield’s departure comes as many PSE institutions are being asked to emphasize skills training. In British Columbia, the presidents of Simon Fraser University and the University of Victoria cautioned against sacrificing a classical liberal arts education while pursuing skill development. “The mistake is trying to say one thing is important and the other isn’t,” said SFU President Andrew Petter. UVic President Jamie Cassels added that many of the skills identified by Canadian executives as being most valuable “describe perfectly what a humanities education equips you with. What’s a better way to learn about how people think, learn and behave than, say, studying literature or cultural studies? These are exactly the skills that you need to deal with that uncertain future: adaptability, problem-solving, the ability to research, the ability to communicate. Those are 21st-century skills.” University Affairs | Vancouver Sun

Redesigned UBC website launches

The University of British Columbia is set to launch its redesigned website today. On a page describing the redesign, UBC says that the old site was “corporate and conservative” while the new one will be “bold and experiential.” The site boasts a new, audience-centric, story-driven approach that will emphasize UBC’s unique qualities. The revamp is intended to optimize the user’s experience and will feature simplified navigation with an increased focus on students, faculty, and staff. Faculty and campus units will also be able to share content through a new site section called “UBC Now.” The redesign is the result of a year-long process that began in May 2013 with extensive research and testing. UBC | UBC Redesign

Minerva Project’s alternative to the Ivy League takes shape

Online education startup the Minerva Project will welcome its first students in September, and it is starting to become clear what kind of an experience they can expect. Minerva founder Ben Nelson, who describes his venture as a “perfect university,” claims that his venture will mold “the people who will create or invent or run the major institutions of society.” The school eschews the stereotypical trappings of college, such as lectures, in favour of seminars delivered via software Nelson designed; professors will be monitored to dissuade them from speaking for too long. Time, he says, is too valuable for lectures, which he claims too often feature content that is available for free online or in books. The Minerva Project obtained its accreditation via a partnership with the Keck Graduate Institute of Applied Life Sciences, and has been funded by venture capital. Minerva’s first cohort will consist of 2 sections of 15–19 students each. Students will study in a different city for each year of their 4-year degrees. xConomy

US alumni donations to higher ed climb to pre-2008 levels

A new report on PSE donations in the US has found that alumni donors and revenue in PSE have returned to pre-recession levels. This report confirms the findings of a previous study released in February. Alumni donations dipped slightly by 1.1% for public and private institutions, while overall revenue increased at a rate of 5.3%. The modest increase was driven in part because donors are giving 5.8% more on average, with the median revenue per donor climbing to $531 from $488 in 2012 and $469 in 2011. Private institutions fared particularly well, with median change in revenue per donor increasing by 8.1%. This marks the third consecutive year of positive revenue growth from donations for public and private institutions, suggesting a return to the pre-recession pattern of “donors down, dollars up.” The report notes that while participation rates have decreased, this trend may be reversed through more rigorous management of recurring giving programs. University Business | Full Report

Economic impact of international students positive over the long term

A new German study evaluating the impact of international students in Europe has found a significant positive economic impact on host countries’ economies over the long term. The report suggests that international students provide a short-term economic benefit from value creation and employment effects from student consumer spending. Moreover, the report indicates that student mobility can foster cross-border knowledge transfer between participating countries, which can in turn help recruit international professionals to the local labour market. International students were also found to facilitate the development of international networks that enhance economic relations between participating countries. However, the time-to-value of international students can vary greatly depending on study costs, the place of study, and the number of students who stay to work in the host country after completing their studies. The time-to-value for countries included in the study ranged from 5 years in Germany to 17 in Switzerland. ICEF Monitor | ScienceGuide | Full Study

The innovative growth of online labs

As the popularity of online learning grows, institutions are using technology to allow students to perform experiments and tests at home in the same way they would in a lab on campus. These online labs have evolved to provide students with innovative opportunities to apply knowledge and skills. For example, students at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Arizona can use online software to experience a simulated plane crash, both from the cockpit and from the ground, before virtually exploring the crash scene by sifting through debris and interviewing witnesses. At Henderson Community College in Kentucky, students conduct dissections at home, following video demonstrations, before submitting photos to professors. “We are really on the verge of being able to completely change the kind of things that we can do in an online, distributed global model based on what we’re learning from this crash lab,” says Ken Witcher, Dean of Aeronautics at Embry-Riddle Worldwide. University Business