Top Ten

April 30, 2014

Wage gap between high school grads and degree holders narrows

Canada’s oil boom has helped close the wage gap between people with a high-school diploma and those with a bachelor’s degree, according to a new Statistics Canada report. The study found that among men aged 20–34, high school graduates earned 75 cents per every dollar earned by male bachelor’s degree holders; among women in the same age group, high school graduates earned 68 cents for every dollar earned by a degree holder. This marks a 7-cent and 4-cent increase, respectively, from 10 years ago. The shift is attributed to a reduction in real wages for male bachelor degree holders and an increase in wages for high school graduates, male and female. The oil boom helped reduce wage differences for both young men and women, while rising minimum wages and the supply of degree holders reduced the education wage premium for women but not men. The gap varied by province, narrowing more in Alberta and Saskatchewan than Ontario. The report also found that young people with just a high school diploma are still less likely to be employed than those with bachelor’s degrees. The study corroborates earlier StatsCan research on the wage gap. CBC | CTV | Globe and Mail | Maclean's | Full Report

BC to “re-engineer” education system with focus on skills training

British Columbia has announced a 10-year skills training plan that will reallocate funds to educational opportunities that will prepare students for work in the resource sector. The “skills to jobs” plan is meant to prepare students for an anticipated construction boom in the north, and responds to perceived concerns that the province does not have the skilled work force needed to drive development of the natural gas industry. The province’s universities have already signaled their disapproval of the measures, cautioning the province that employable skills extend beyond what is immediately visible. Premier Christy Clark, however, has said that students earning degrees that do not lead to employment is “a significant human loss” and that she intends to make sure that BC residents are prepared to take jobs created in the resource sector. Globe and Mail

HEQCO report examines critical thinking skills assessments

The Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario (HEQCO) has published a new report examining effective ways to assess critical thinking skills among university engineering students. The study evaluates 5 different measures: a multiple choice test; an essay-style test; performance and analytical tasks; course surveys; and exercises that asked students to say aloud their responses to a given problem. The report found that the multiple choice test, essay-style test, and performance and analytical tasks tests were not sensitive enough to measure a meaningful difference between pre-course and post-course abilities. The authors also found that some students seemed resistant to the testing methodology. Ultimately, they advocate better alignment between critical thinking teaching frameworks, model eliciting activities, and standardized instruments as well as better integration of testing into the course curriculum. They also suggest that future research should consider student work in addition to standardized instruments of evaluation. HEQCO Summary | Full Report

Campuses must partner with external health services to tackle mental health issues

An article in The Globe and Mail questions the role that universities should play in their students’ mental health. Joe Henry, Associate Dean of Student Success at Sheridan College, writes that universities are already significantly burdened by an “exponential rise” in students who are wrestling with mental health issues. While Henry says that universities must be a part of a treatment solution, he says that they cannot be solely responsible. Instead he suggests that universities must strengthen their relationships with external agencies and community health centres. “As partners,” he writes, “we should focus our efforts at promoting the idea of resilience through normalizing the anxieties faced by students instead of diagnosing a condition.” Henry notes that the system is currently too fragmented to effectively help these students, and progress will require clear definitions of the university’s strengths and limitations as a partner in mental health. Globe and Mail

UBC opens Pharmacists Clinic to train students and improve patient health

UBC has officially opened its new Pharmacists Clinic, touted as Canada’s first university-affiliated licensed patient-care clinic. Patients can speak to experts about their prescription or over-the-counter medicines and health products. The pharmacy complements the traditional dispensing pharmacy model, and offers dedicated appointments for patients who need additional services. Pharmacists working at the clinic have found that patients will often share more about their symptoms and medications than they would at a regular pharmacy. The Pharmacists Clinic also helps train the 200 students in UBC’s pharmacy program, who benefit by shadowing experienced pharmacists as well as from research performed at the facility. The end result is better care: Barbara Gobis, Director of the clinic, said that the reviews and reports generated by the clinic will improve patients’ health and influence physicians’ prescribing habits. Vancouver Sun

Ontarians’ education contributes to overall improvement in well-being

A new study commissioned by the Ontario Trillium Foundation (OTF) has found that Ontario’s education is a significant driver in the province’s improved overall well-being. The report, issued by the Canadian Index of Wellbeing, indicates that of the domains it uses to index well-being, education was the area of highest growth, due in part to an improving student-educator ratio as well as an uptick in university and high school completion rates. The student-educator ratio has improved steadily since 2004, up 15.8% over 6 years. The percentage of Ontarians completing high school, meanwhile, climbed slowly from 84.1% in 1994 to 90.6% in 2010, while university graduation rates improved from 19.2% in 1994 to 29.7% in 2010. Ontario ranked slightly ahead of the Canadian average for its increase in student-educator ratio and high school graduation rates, but slightly behind the rest of the nation for its increase in university degree completions. OTF News Release | Full Report

Universities to combat tech-facilitated cheating

Wearable technologies like Google Glass offer the potential for innovative new ways to learn—but also new ways to cheat. As these devices become increasingly common, universities are starting to look at ways to mitigate the risk. Laurentian University has developed a new online tool intended to teach students and teachers about cheating. The initiative will be rolled out in the fall, targeted initially at first-year students. Laurentian’s acting Registrar Serge Demers emphasized the importance of staying on top of new ways to cheat. “You’re sometimes not aware of what you’re not aware of, so it has been brought to our attention that there’s a feeling out there that there is more and more cheating. Certainly there are more means for students to cheat, therefore we need to back it up with data,” he said. CBC

Administrators want patents to be included in tenure considerations

A group of US university administrators have published a paper recommending that universities consider faculty members’ patents and social impact alongside publications when reviewing tenure applications. The report's authors suggest that universities are missing opportunities to effectively productize faculty research and may be stymieing innovation as a result. Noting that societal expectations for universities now include economic development, the authors say that “universities should expand their criteria to treat patents, licensing, and commercialization activity by faculty as an important consideration for merit, tenure, and career advancement, along with publishing, teaching, and service.” Lead author Paul R Sandberg says that universities will benefit from shared royalties and licensing incomes, while professors will be able to apply for business-oriented grants in addition to federal research opportunities. The Chronicle of Higher Education | Inside Higher Ed | Full Report

Historians contemplate the past to think about the future of the university

An international group of historians has published a commissioned report that ruminates on the future of the university based on a series of key moments from higher education’s past. The report spans more than a century of history and 5 continents, but focuses primarily on the 1880s, 1930s, 1960s, and 2000s. By examining how universities responded to these moments of significant change, the authors hope to offer insights on how universities can respond to contemporary change. The article notes that in each of these eras, universities turned to a strategy of internationalization; it goes on to suggest that in each case internationalization or “de-nationalization” of the university did not succeed over the long term. Inside Higher Ed | Full Report

Smartphones and laptops for school, tablets for fun, study finds

A new study has found that students prefer to use their laptops and smartphones when it comes to the classroom, but view tablets as an expensive luxury item. The study, conducted at Ball State University, surveyed approximately 1,800 students. In 2014, 89% reported owning a smartphone, but only 29% owned a tablet—a 2% reduction from 2013’s figure. “Tablets are for entertainment purposes, not for writing papers and doing class projects—key components of higher education” said the report’s author, Michael Hanley. He adds that “tablet use by students has not increased as the industry hoped it would, but has, instead, stalled and even begun a small decline.” The tablet performs many of the same tasks that students already use their smartphones for—watching videos or shopping online—and is therefore perceived of as a redundant luxury, Hanley suggests. The Chronicle of Higher Education