Top Ten

May 2, 2014

uSask releases TransformUS action plan to cut expenses by $25 million

The University of Saskatchewan has released a new action plan as part of its controversial TransformUS initiative. The plan focuses on 4 themes: simplify and amalgamate structures, focus on core mission, share services, and incorporate prioritization into ongoing practice. It will be implemented through 19 projects that are anticipated to reduce annual expenses by $25.3 million. In 2015–16, investments of up to $5 million will be made in select programs that align with institutional priorities. The plan includes a reduction in administrative functions, service and leadership. The number of directors will be reduced, while oversight of graduate education, support services, and academic and administrative structures will be simplified to facilitate student access. uSask’s library collection and service footprint will also be consolidated, and areas of related programming that straddle multiple colleges or schools will be assessed to determine if there are any opportunities to combine resources. Specific deans have also been asked to achieve program changes in specific departments; defining “sustainable academic units,” the plan says, “will require disestablishing some existing departments, programs or majors in favour of fewer new ones based on creative re-imagining of departments and programs using the best available ideas.” 2 campus unions organized a protest for Thursday in opposition to the proposed changes, which must still withstand several levels of approval. uSask News Release | CBC | StarPhoenix | CTV | Full Document

Concordia President offers recommendations to help Quebec retain grads

Alan Shepard, President of Concordia University, has issued 3 recommendations to Quebec on how to better retain its university graduates. Shepard suggests the province facilitate student immigration from within Canada and abroad by simplifying “the bureaucratic process.” He also proposes the creation of networked physical spaces that will allow students and graduates to launch new innovations. He cites Concordia’s incubator space, District 3, as a model of a space that could be sponsored by an industry or a profession and located within a business or on campus. Finally, he suggests offering tax incentives to promote “a culture of innovation.” He mentions that the state of New York makes available tax credits for businesses that establish themselves on or near a university campus and work to support the university’s mission and suggests Quebec invent its own, similar model. These steps, he says, will help promote access and quality in Quebec’s PSE sector. Globe & Mail

uCalgary opts for multi-modal international recruitment strategy

The University of Calgary has decided against outsourcing its international student recruitment efforts. Instead, the uCalgary board of governors has approved a plan that would see international students come to the university via a combination of internal programs that would include direct international recruitment, new partnership programs, and a revised English for Academic Purposes program designed to help students make the transition into a degree program. “This model creates opportunities for increasing international diversity while at the same time taking careful consideration in balancing access for our local student population,” said Provost/VP Academic Dru Marshall. uCalgary had considered developing partnerships with third-party recruiting providers, but met resistance from the uCalgary Faculty Association (TUCFA) who alleged that outsourcing would violate their collective bargaining agreement. TUCFA President Paul Rogers issued a statement lauding uCalgary’s new approach, stating that it “appears to deal with the main items that were of concern to the Association last semester.” Metro News | uCalgary News | TUCFA Letter

uSherbrooke, Ryerson raise tuition in new budgets

2 more Canadian universities have announced that they will increase tuition fees in the coming academic year. The Université de Sherbrooke and Ryerson University will raise tuition by 2.2% and 3%, respectively. uSherbrooke’s budget preserves its teaching and research activities, but will operate with a deficit of $2.4 million. In a news release, VP Administration Joanne Roch said that government underfunding necessitated the increase. With its tuition increase, Ryerson will be able to maintain a balanced budget, which also offers a 10% increase in student financial assistance. uSherbrooke and Ryerson follow the University of Windsor, the University of Guelph, and the University of Prince Edward Island in increasing tuition for the 2014/15 academic year. uSherbrooke News Release | Ryerson News Release

uToronto “boot camp” turns faculty researchers into leaders and communicators

A group of Canadian science faculty members participated in an innovative 2-day “Science Leadership Program” last week. The “boot camp,” designed by uToronto professor Ray Jayawardhana, is designed to help researchers improve their leadership and communication skills. Jayawardhana says the program can help his colleagues engage more effectively beyond academia. The first day of the program offers attendees instruction on presentation skills, mind and network mapping, and achieving change. A Harvard University voice instructor was on hand to advise participants on effective techniques for connecting with their audience, including positioning, delivery, and narrative. The second day of the workshop turned to social media and addressed topics including engaging with government officials and action planning. Expert scientists, bloggers, reporters, and government relations staff shared their expertise with researchers. “We’re reinforcing skills and enhancing networks,” Jayawardhana said. “Ultimately, I hope, these scientists will help foster a culture change.” uToronto News | University Affairs

White House pushes ahead with college rating plan

The US Department of Education will proceed with its plans for a college rating system with or without the $10-million support of Congress. President Obama had instructed the Department of Education to create such a rating plan by the 2015-16 academic year, and requested the $10 million to support the initiative. Education Secretary Arne Duncan told a Senate subcommittee on Wednesday that those funds would be “beneficial” but that the plan would move forward regardless of Congress's decision. A number of questions have been raised about the ratings scheme. Critics worry that the plan, which will rate colleges based on access, affordability, and student outcomes will punish institutes that serve lower income students or prepare students for lower paying professions; others suggest that it will compel colleges to relax standards, drop degrees, or turn away at-risk students. Duncan said that the department wants to shift federal aid from colleges with poor outcomes to colleges that better prepare students for their careers. The Chronicle of Higher Education

Higher ed leaders meet to discuss internationalization issues

More than 1,000 higher education leaders from 70 countries met in Miami this week to discuss how internationalization can help solve global inequities in health, education, and other social issues. Participants discussed, too, how internationalization can exacerbate existing inequities. Among the issues raised was the growing ubiquity of English at global universities; many international universities adopt English as a means to attract foreign students and improve their research rankings. For some universities, however, this is a point of controversy. Participants also discussed the potential of MOOCs to democratize higher education or consolidate existing hierarchies. Adam Habib, Vice Chancellor at the University of Witwatersrand, South Africa, called on universities to contribute to an online “global academy of commons” dedicated to broadening the reach of higher education rather than enhancing individual institutions’ own reputations. The Chronicle of Higher Education

Kuali to expand its open-source ERP software suite

The Kuali Foundation, the organization behind an open-source enterprise resource planning (ERP) system for financial data, is planning to expand its product offerings. Kuali is currently developing new ERP systems for student information and human resources. It’s a move that Kuali hopes will help them make the transition from a niche product to a mainstream player in the PSE ERP market. In 2013, fewer than 15% of respondents said their institution would switch to an open-source ERP system by 2018. However, Kuali’s other offerings, which include a research administration system and a library management system, are gaining traction. The Foundation’s future will depend on its ability to overcome institutional reluctance to forgo the RFP process as well as perceived risks often attached to open-source initiatives. The Chronicle of Higher Education

Facebook to offer new privacy options and mobile advertising network

At its F8 conference in San Francisco, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg unveiled changes to its social media platform. Facebook will step away from its “Move Fast and Break Things” model to offer developers a 2-year core API stability guarantee. Zuckerberg also announced that users will have the option of “anonymous login” that will allow users to try out an app without sharing all of their information. The option will not offer users complete anonymity, as Facebook will still see the user going anonymous. Moreover, if a user decides to continue using the app they will have to log in at some point. Facebook also revealed its new mobile advertising network, “Audience Network,” which will allow it to serve advertisements to outside mobile applications, a sign the company intends to compete more directly with Google for advertising revenue. Facebook is the most popular social media platform for American PSE advancement departments. MarketingMag | The Wire

NY school axes kindergarten play to better prepare kids for college

A school in New York has cancelled its kindergarten students’ annual year-end concert, citing its responsibility for “preparing children for college and career with valuable lifelong skills.” The school acknowledged that “the changing face of education is beginning to feel unsettling for some people,” but assured parents that the move signaled how the school “is changing to meet the demands of a changing world.” In response to one reporter’s questions, a spokesperson for the school added that its administration “believe that this decision is in the best interest of students.” A student in the class, on the other hand, described the move as “unfair.” NBC reports that the concert will be replaced with a “Game Day.” An online petition to reinstate the show, started by a frustrated parent, had close to 4,000 supporters as of Thursday afternoon. CBC | Winnipeg Free Press | NBC New York