Top Ten

May 8, 2014

Libraries likely to close at uSask

4 university libraries are likely to close in the coming years as part of the University of Saskatchewan’s TransformUS program, reports the StarPhoenix. Libraries in the education, law, and engineering colleges and in the Western College of Veterinary Medicine are slated to be closed, with print collections moving to remote storage or being consolidated in remaining libraries. The vacated spaces could be used as extra group-study spaces, which would please some students, including those in engineering. Other students, including some in the law and education departments, expressed surprise and concern about the closures. But Ken Ladd, acting Dean in the University Library, explained in a uSask blog post that the proposed changes are part of a larger “transformation that has involved a shift from providing space for books to providing space for students.” Other TransformUS plans unveiled include the merging of several programs in the College of Arts and Science. Dean Peter Stoicheff called the merging of programs a “building project, not a diminishing project.” uSask Blog | StarPhoenix (1) | StarPhoenix (2)

Postscript: May 16, 2014

Officials at the University of Saskatchewan are clarifying that the law library will not be closed as part of the TransformUS plan, but will be “reconfigured.” It is not yet clear exactly what the reconfiguration will entail, but as the uSask law library is one of the few in the country that houses its entire collection on-site, there is a possibility that some of the collection may eventually be housed off-site, with easy access for students and faculty. uSask will also look at options for decreasing operating costs, while ensuring that criteria for accreditation remains in place. “The goal is to address the university's fiscal concerns while ensuring that the law library, in conjunction with the rest of the university library, continues to support the law school's mission of pedagogy and scholarship as well as its sense of community,” writes Sanjeev Anand, uSask Dean of Law. StarPhoenix

TWU goes to court over law school

Trinity Western University has launched legal action in 3 provinces in order to address what President Bob Kuhn calls threats against freedom of religion and conscience. Provincial law societies in Ontario and Nova Scotia recently voted against allowing TWU law graduates to practice in those provinces; in NS, the law society voted to accredit the school only if changes were made to TWU’s mandatory community covenant. TWU has retained firms in both provinces to challenge these decisions through judicial reviews. In British Columbia, TWU will apply to be added as a Respondent in a lawsuit launched as a challenge to BC’s approval of the controversial law school at TWU. The law school has been approved by the Federation of Law Societies of Canada and received preliminary approval from BC’s Ministry of Advanced Education last year. "We are not prepared to throw over the values that have been traditionally held in the Christian community and in the communities of many faiths just because society has changed its sexual ethic," Kuhn said in a video posted to TWU’s website. Rene Gallant, President of the Nova Scotia Barristers' Society, commented, "what Trinity Western wants to do is ... take religious freedom to the step that turns it into discrimination, and that is not protected by the law." TWU News | CTV News

BC ombudsperson to investigate PCTIA practices

British Columbia’s ombudsperson has launched an investigation into the oversight practices of private career training institutions in the province. The Private Career Training Institutions Agency (PCTIA) was, until recently, responsible for the oversight and management of private PSE institutions; the PCTIA was dissolved as part of BC’s Core Review, an internal evaluation of provincial programs and services. Ombudsperson Kim Carter stated that her office had received numerous complaints about the PCTIA, ranging from administrative fairness and enforcement of educational standards to the processes for refunding tuition. Carter noted that “this is a very timely event, from our perspective, because hopefully the contributions we can make will make the next model have a greater focus on student protection and improve administrative fairness.” The Ministry of Advanced Education will take over the roles of the PCTIA going forward. Vancouver Sun

BC commits $4.4 million for community-based training programs

The BC government has announced $4.4 million to support the Aboriginal Community-Based Delivery Partnerships Program, which provides PSE and training to Aboriginal learners in their home communities. Communities or public PSE institutions must submit program proposals in order to be eligible for the funding. Training programs can cover a diverse range of specializations, including training for employment in the resource sector, eco-tourism, wildlife management, and Indigenous language instruction. “We know BC’s need for highly-trained workers will continue to grow, particularly in the areas of skills and technical training,” said Minister of Advanced Education Amrik Virk. “Training partnerships under the Aboriginal Community-Based Partnerships programs will help to fill that need.” The funding is through the recently launched BC Skills for Jobs Blueprint: Re-engineering Education and Training initiative, designed to align training and education with projected job openings. BC News Release

Strong relationships with cities critical to future of PSE

2 researchers have suggested ways to strengthen the ties between universities and their surrounding communities. Noting that universities often remain “physically in, yet functionally separated from their metropolitan context,” the authors of a forthcoming paper argue that universities have the potential to become “altruistic actors” that help pursue urban improvement and provide space for public participation. The authors also suggest that the pressure on universities to commercialize research at the federal and provincial scale has overshadowed the immediate, and potentially farther reaching, impact university-led innovation can have on evolving urban regions. They cite university partnerships with immigrant organizations and environmental and labour groups as encouraging signs that universities’ involvement in exurban areas can help mend town and gown divides. University Affairs

OUSA releases new policy paper on international students

The Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance has published a new policy paper that addresses international student enrolment. OUSA expresses its support for increased internationalization, but suggests that if a goal of doubling Canada’s international student enrolment by 2022 is to be achieved, issues including international student tuition and student support networks must first be addressed. The report issues a series of recommendations; several focus around tuition fees, including suggestions that international student tuition should not exceed the real cost of education and that needs-based financial assistance be considered. Moreover, the report calls for international student tuition to be better regulated within the provincial framework. The report also suggests exploring strategies to increase the number of Canadian students who are able to pursue study abroad opportunities, calling for comprehensive support for inbound and outbound students. OUSA News Release | Full Report

Authors offer advice on avoiding “career paranoia”

A contributed piece in the Globe and Mail’s Education Lab series offers students advice on overcoming what the authors call “career paranoia.” The piece first cites several challenges facing young people who are preparing for the careers of the future. The authors note that job growth in Canada may be temporary, the result of the growth of the service sector and contingent labour, and suggest that the “current infatuation with credentials” is preparing students for the economy of the 1980s and 1990s, not the future. They then offer 4 pieces of advice: they caution young people against promises of a quick, guaranteed pathway to middle class prosperity and urge students to avoid swarming into the career shortages of today. They further advise that “work ethic, grit and curiosity” are always in demand, and that individual career planning is necessary to prepare for the future. Finally, they encourage young people to stay agile and alert to find job opportunities. Globe and Mail

Foreign-born PhDs in science stay in US after graduation

A study of US tax records suggests that nearly 2/3 of international PhD students in science and engineering fields stay in the country after completing their degrees. 68% of foreign doctorate recipients who had graduated 5 years earlier had remained in the country. The stay rate was highest among graduates in computer science and electrical engineering: 79% of computer science and 77% of computer/electrical engineering graduates had stayed in the US 5 years after completing their degrees. Data also varied across different countries of origin. Students from China and India were most likely to stay, accounting for 66% of foreign doctorate recipients who were still in the country after 5 years; Iran, Romania, Bulgaria, and Yugoslavia also had above average stay rates. Students from Thailand, Jordan, Brazil, South Africa, New Zealand, and Indonesia had the lowest stay rates. Gender was only a slight differentiator, though men’s stay rate declined over time more than women’s. The Chronicle of Higher Education| Full Study

US college’s post-tenure review process wins over faculty

Westmont College’s Provost Mark Sargent says he has won over faculty with his school’s approach to post-tenure review. The college will make its post-tenure review process, formerly voluntary, mandatory next year, but Sargent says that the process has been faculty-driven. Full professors will participate in a “structured process of discussion, reflection, evaluation, and future goals” every 6 years. The Provost will be involved in a final meeting; however, crucial to the process are peer mentoring groups that meet throughout the semester. Faculty members discuss how their philosophies on education have changed and share goals, insights, and advice with one another. Food and wine are encouraged. One professor spoke highly of the process, noting that it has helped develop a sense of camaraderie among faculty members. “All of us like to learn how to enrich what we do, and we like having affirmation about what’s going well. And for what’s not going well, finding some approaches and strategies to address that,” said Sargent. Inside Higher Ed

Economics students issue manifesto demanding curriculum change

Economics students from 19 countries have issued a manifesto calling for substantial revisions to the way their subject is taught. The International Student Initiative for Pluralist Economics (ISIPE) charges that research and teaching in economics is too narrowly focused and ignores evidence from other disciplines, to the field's detriment. “The lack of intellectual diversity does not only restrain education and research. It limits our ability to contend with the multidimensional challenges of the 21st century—from stability to food security and climate change,” ISIPE says in an open letter. ISIPE members have formed protest groups in over 40 countries, including the US and Canada. They are calling for universities to hire economists with a broader outlook and who will teach from a wider selection of texts. They also support more collaboration between social sciences and humanities departments as well as interdisciplinary programs between economics and other fields. The Guardian | The Chronicle of Higher Education | ISIPE Open Letter