Top Ten

May 16, 2014

uSask “reconsiders” decision on ousted Executive Director

The University of Saskatchewan yesterday revised its decision to dismiss the Executive Director of its School of Public Health, Robert Buckingham, for criticizing plans to merge his school with the College of Medicine. Senior leaders have announced that Buckingham “will not return to that leadership position. He will, however, be offered a tenured faculty position.” uSask President Ilene Busch-Vishniac said that “the confusion on this issue stems from differing interpretations based on his contract. Because we hold tenure in high regard, we will immediately reverse that part of our decision.” Busch-Vishniac also clarified that Buckingham was never banned from campus. She added that he was not punished for his opinion on TransformUS, but because “once a decision is made at the institutional level, all senior leaders must publicly conform to that decision or resign their leadership role.” uSask News Release

Postscript: June 2, 2014

The StarPhoenix reports that Robert Buckingham, the former University of Saskatchewan Executive Director who was fired for criticizing the institution’s TransformUS plan, had himself fired staff who were critical of his vision for uSask's School for Public Health. One professor told the StarPhoenix that she was fired on Christmas Eve, not long after challenging Buckingham in a meeting. Another said that shortly after she questioned Buckingham, her name was removed from a list of professors associated with the School of Public Health and students were told that her course would not count toward their degree. Buckingham said he does not regret any of the dismissals. He added that he may have attempted to expand the School of Public Health too quickly under the orders of then-President Peter MacKinnon. The StarPhoenix adds that the school’s accreditation is with a “little-known European agency” rather than the US’s Council on Education for Public Health. StarPhoenix

Ontario PCs' plan to reach budget surplus includes education cuts

If elected, Ontario’s Progressive Conservative Party plans to cut spending and reach a $319-million budget surplus by 2016–17; however, some of those cuts will be made at the expense of education. The PCs will increase funding for health care but plan to kill a 30% tuition grant for PSE students. The PCs also say that if elected they will eliminate 100,000 public sector jobs as well as implement a wage freeze. The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives said that a PC government would face a difficult time guaranteeing job cuts in PSE as universities have independent budgeting processes. The Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations and the Canadian Federation of Students have both issued statements criticizing the PC agenda. In a news release, OCUFA said that “cuts to higher education funding would require a huge increase in tuition fees for Ontario students who already pay the highest amount in Canada.” They noted that while the province does not control hiring at universities, the government could force lay-offs through spending cuts, with a “crippling effect on the quality of education at Ontario’s universities.” Alastair Woods, Chairperson of the CFS, said that “by slashing funding to student aid and making cuts across government departments, a PC government would leave students and youth even worse off than they are now.” National Post | Toronto Star | CCPA Blog Post | OCUFA News Release | CFS News Release

MTA approves balanced budget with tuition increase

Mount Allison University’s board of governors voted this week to increase tuition to domestic students as part of its approval of a balanced budget for the 2014–15 school year; this is the 23rd consecutive balanced operating budget for MTA. Tuition for full-time students will increase by $219, in accordance with the provincial tuition cap. The board also approved the renewal of President Robert Campbell’s contract, extending it to 2018. Campbell and his administration were criticized after a faculty strike that occurred earlier this year, but the extension of his contract “reflects the Board’s complete confidence in President Campbell’s leadership and in the direction he, along with his senior team, has set for the University,” said Chair Jim Dickson. The Mount Allison Students’ Union was at the board meeting to press for further consideration of a tuition rebate to compensate students for lost class time during the strike. Although the board denied the rebate, a working group will be established to explore other options to support students adversely affected. MTA News | CBC

Specialized MBA programs on the rise

Canadian universities are increasingly offering specialized MBA programs to attract students amidst growing competition between institutions, suggests a recent article in University Affairs. According to Hugh Munro, MBA Director at Wilfrid Laurier University, including specialized electives in the MBA program is a way to respond to industry needs, as well as helping universities recruit students. WLU recently launched a new MBA with a management in the golf and resort industry specialization, in response to industry requests. Ryerson University offers a specialization in mining and corporate social responsibility as part of its Global MBA, offering students an alternative to the standard focus on operations and finance. The Université du Québec à Montréal has a new graduate studies degree in arts career management, an innovative collaboration between the business school and arts faculty that offers artists the knowledge to successfully manage artistic careers. Other schools have chosen to focus on issues of regional concern, including Aboriginal business and energy management. A new report recently found that many students are choosing specialized master’s programs over MBAs in the US. University Affairs

Attack on arts, sciences degrees “misguided,” says Trent Chancellor

Don Tapscott, Chancellor of Trent University and author of 15 best-selling business books, is the latest to publicly criticize British Columbia’s Skills for Jobs Blueprint plan. In a Toronto Star op-ed, Tapscott writes that BC’s plan is predicated on the myth that students enrolled in liberal arts and sciences programs are acquiring skills that employers don’t need. Tapscott emphasizes that the purpose of education is not simply to train workers, and adds that given challenges including climate change, economic uncertainty, and international conflicts, it is imperative to train workers who are not only skilled but are knowledgeable citizens. Tapscott says that rather than STEM, the country needs STEAM—science, technology, engineering, arts, and math—and advocates a balanced approach where humanities students learn computer or scientific skills and programmers take courses in English, ethics, or business. He cites the importance of higher education in facing Canada’s increasingly innovation-based knowledge economy, and challenges the notion of a purported skills gap. Toronto Star

UBC launches new Centre for Excellence in Indigenous Health

The University of British Columbia has officially launched the new Centre for Excellence in Indigenous Health (CEIH), an interdisciplinary initiative that will serve as the point of contact for internal support, training, and resources related to Indigenous health, and for all external health organizations and Indigenous communities. The establishment of the CEIH is part of UBC’s Aboriginal Strategic Plan; the new centre will support research into Indigenous health and increased collaboration with Indigenous communities, as well as developing partnerships with the BC First Nations Health Authority and other Indigenous organizations. The CEIH will also be the home of support services for Aboriginal students. “This new Centre will allow us to build synergies across our many diverse Indigenous health initiatives. By working with the First Nations Health Authority and other institutions in British Columbia, we will increase the number of Aboriginal students aiming to become health professionals, broaden our curriculum in Aboriginal health, and deepen our knowledge of the health challenges facing Aboriginal people,” said Gavin Stuart, Dean of the Faculty of Medicine. UBC News Release

Lambton College partners with Waterloo firm on bean protein extraction

A pilot project launched by a partnership between Lambton College and Waterloo-based R&D company Advanced CERT Canada (AdCERT) will provide students and faculty the opportunity to conduct research on bean protein extraction. The pilot project, if successful, could lead to the establishment of a $700,000 pilot plant at the Western University Research Park in Sarnia; the plant would be the first of its kind in Canada. The bean protein is used in workout supplements, and the processes being examined would reduce a significant amount of environment-damaging harsh chemicals, as well as being more economical and efficient. Lambton is getting $45,000 from the Ontario Centre of Excellence and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council for the testing, along with $5,000 cash and $27,000 of in-kind services from AdCERT. “It's a combination of strong programs, good analytical equipment available for testing, and access to government funds that creates a good platform for research projects at Lambton College,” said Mehdi Sheikhzadeh, Dean of Applied Research and Innovation at Lambton. London Free Press

Canada’s higher ed system again ranks third in world

Universitas 21 has released its 2014 Rankings report, which ranks national higher ed systems as opposed to individual institutions. Canada has once again come in at third place, following the US and Sweden in first and second, respectively. The rankings consider 50 countries which are ranked separately in 4 areas (Resources, Environment, Connectivity, and Output) before being ranked overall. Each area includes 24 measures in order to “create a very detailed picture of the higher education system in each country.” New this year is a separate ranking that includes the other 4 areas, but adds consideration of each country’s GDP and income levels; in this second ranking, Canada falls to 7th, with Sweden, Finland, and Denmark leading the pack. This is the third year that Universitas 21 has released national system rankings. The Chronicle of Higher Education | Full Rankings

MOOCs unlikely to truly disrupt higher ed

2 separate reports released this week each say that MOOCs will neither transform higher ed nor disappear altogether. Rather, MOOCs will be absorbed through a general effort to improve higher ed with technology. In one report, the authors liken MOOCs to free gyms, used by healthy people to exercise more but unlikely to do much for those who need more professional care. The second report, on the other hand, questions whether colleges will see a meaningful return on their investment in free online courses. It notes that many institutions have embarked on MOOC initiatives without a clear endgame in mind and, as a result, will be challenged to justify the expense and effort involved. In time, the report’s authors say, MOOCs will “evolve to more closely resemble regular online courses” with supplementary features such as one-on-one tutoring, credentials, and qualitative feedback on assignments available at additional cost. The Chronicle of Higher Education | Bellwether Report Summary | Full Columbia Report

Kentucky Christian university offers online chapel for students

Campbellsville University in Kentucky has developed a first-of-its-kind online chapel experience for its students. Developed by Campbellsville in partnership with Learning House, the online chapel offers live web streaming of the university’s programming, a Bible Study Center, and a Prayer Center, where students can post prayer requests or praise reports. “With these 3 components as the foundation, we created a virtual chapel environment where students can choose various spiritual opportunities in much like a video game format,” said Shane Garrison, a professor of educational ministries and Director of Theology Online at Campbellsville. The interface for the online chapel was designed to resemble Ransdell Chapel on campus; students will access different parts of the virtual chapel by clicking on the pulpit, a lectern, or a candle. “It is … great to be at the cutting edge of technology to engage the next generation of learners as well as seekers,” said DeWayne Frazier, Associate VP Academic Affairs. Campbellsville News Release