Top Ten

May 26, 2014

DeGroote donates $50 million to McMaster medical school

McMaster University’s Michael G DeGroote School of Medicine will receive an additional donation of $50 million from its benefactor and namesake, Michael G DeGroote. The funds will allow the school to increase focus on national and international health leadership, to develop a closer working relationship with McMaster’s DeGroote School of Business, and to form partnerships that enhance biomedical research. The donation will also allow for the creation of a seed fund to promote innovative, promising medical research in the Faculty of Health Sciences that could be commercialized. “[DeGroote]’s vision and the belief he has once again shown in McMaster is unparalleled,” said McMaster University President Patrick Deane. “Our goal is to see the medical school rise even further in its international prestige and such a landmark gift is the key to making that goal a reality.” The Michael G DeGroote School of Medicine is the first named medical school in Canada, named after DeGroote made a $105-million donation to the school in 2003, the single largest cash gift to a Canadian PSE institution. McMaster News

New $18.5-million alumni centre at UBC

The University of British Columbia has revealed plans for a new $18.5-million alumni centre. The Robert H Lee Alumni Centre, named after UBC alum and prominent business leader Robert Lee, will house a new innovation centre to encourage entrepreneurship, classroom and meeting spaces, a 300-person event space, and a café and library for informal networking. Construction has already begun on the 3,870-square-metre building and the completion date is set for spring 2015. Lee has served on the UBC board of governors and as Chancellor of the University, as well as creating the UBC Properties Trust and serving as Chair for more than 2 decades. “The Robert H Lee Alumni Centre will become the heart of campus,” says UBC President Stephen Toope. “When we first imagined its creation, [Lee] was the obvious person to name it after. He brings people together and we thought that was the perfect symbol for the alumni centre.” UBC News Release

NAIT officially opens Boreal Research Institute facility

The Northern Alberta Institute of Technology celebrated the official opening of its new Boreal Research Institute facility on Thursday. The facility will help oil and gas companies reclaim well sites that have reached the end of their lifespan. Staff will research methods for seed collection as well as storage and planting techniques to help support large-scale reclamation projects. The 9,000-square-foot facility includes 2 labs, office space for 15 people, and a 3-bay greenhouse. Prior to the facility’s completion, researchers had to use greenhouses as far as 600km away. “The new facilities opening today will allow researchers here to continue to work at the leading edge to find solutions for the sustainability of important Canadian industries,” said Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) President Gilles Patry. The $4.4 million project was funded by NAIT, the CFI, and Alberta Innovation and Advanced Education. NAIT News Release

Tuition freeze part of ON NDP election platform

Ontario’s NDP party has released its election platform ahead of the upcoming provincial election. Titled the “Plan that Makes Sense,” it includes commitments to freeze undergraduate tuition at current levels and to eliminate the provincial interest on student loans. There is no mention of PSE funding levels increasing or decreasing. The Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA) applauded the NDP’s plan to freeze tuition and reduce interest on student loans, but noted “any tuition freeze must be accompanied by additional public funding for universities to compensate for lost tuition revenue and maintain the level of per-student funding that institutions receive.” The Canadian Federation of Students-Ontario also suggested that more must be done to reduce student debt and make PSE more affordable. ON’s PC party recently released its election platform, promising to cut a 30% tuition grant and eliminate 100,000 public sector jobs. ON’s governing Liberals vowed to spend $750 million over the next 10 years to improve and maintain PSE infrastructure and research infrastructure. NDP Plan Summary | Guelph Record | Toronto Star | OCUFA News Release | CFS-O News Release

Researcher says US STEM shortage is exaggerated

A new book by Harvard researcher Michael S Teitelbaum suggests that the US is not falling behind in the production of STEM graduates. In Falling Behind? Boom, Bust & the Global Race for Scientific Talent Teitelbaum says that notions of a shortage in STEM grads are “inconsistent with all available evidence” and may be biased by the influence of technology industry lobbyists who are interested in expanding the H1-B guest worker visa program. He goes on to argue that the narrative of STEM scarcity is nothing new, identifying 5 “alarm, boom, and bust” cycles since World War II. He also tackles critics who lament the performance of American students in math and science, suggesting that test scores point to more systemic issues in the American education system. He also issues a series of recommendations to ameliorate what he describes as “symptoms of malaise” in US science and engineering infrastructure, including better linking between graduate production and labour market needs. Teitelbaum’s research corroborates earlier research conducted by the Economic Policy Institute on the purported STEM grad shortage. Inside Higher Ed

Pathways program helps low-income students obtain educations

A charitable program intended to help students from lower-income communities pursue higher education is achieving remarkable results. The Pathways to Education program was launched in Toronto’s Regent Park in 2001 and now serves 13 communities across Canada. Students are offered mentoring sessions and tutorial classes and are assigned a support worker; they are also eligible for bus passes and lunch vouchers. Moreover, for each year of high school a participating student completes, he or she can earn a $1,000 bursary that can be put toward college or university tuition. In the 2 years before the Pathways program established itself in Ottawa, the average graduation rate in the public housing communities it serves was 52%. Among the 2 cohorts who have completed the Pathways program, the graduation rate is 82%, on par with the provincial average. 82.5% of Pathways graduates went on to study at a college or university. Ottawa Citizen

PPPs on the rise at Canadian universities

In light of the recent events at the University of Saskatchewan, Maclean’s has taken a look at some of the issues surrounding program prioritization processes (PPPs), reminding readers that uSask’s TransformUS PPP is just one of many launched by Canadian institutions in recent years. The University of Guelph completed its PPP last year, with results serving to inform budget decisions in the near future. York University launched a PPP last year, but in a slight departure from many other schools, is relying less on outside consultants, preferring a “made-in-York” approach. While many administrators defend PPPs as a “fair way to improve quality in a time of fiscal restraint,” others suggest that there are many flaws in the PPP approach, including not accurately assessing a program’s value or ROI and unfairly ranking programs that bring in more research dollars higher than those that bring in less funding. As we saw at uSask, PPPs can be a controversial issue for staff, faculty, and students alike. Maclean’s

BrockU launches recruiting website for international students

Brock University has launched a new website designed to help attract and assist international students. The website describes for students the variety of programs available at Brock and offers information about campus life and the Niagara region. Students will also be able to access information on policies and procedures that will be relevant following their application, including information on applying for study permits, registering for courses, and paying fees. The site includes a calendar of important dates, including dates and times of recruitment events. It is currently available in English and Chinese, but plans are in place to add additional languages. BrockU News Release | Future International Students Site

Science Horizon Youth Internship Program receives $1.1 million in funding

Canadian Minister of the Environment Leona Aglukkaq announced $1.1 million in funding for the Science Horizon Youth Internship Program on Wednesday. The funding will help support paid internships for recent PSE graduates in fields related to environmental science. Internships, which will last a minimum of 6 months, will be made available to 93 graduates seeking practical work experience. Organizations will be able to access up to $12,000 in Science Horizons funding for each approved internship they provide. “Projects have continuously provided valuable work experience and networking opportunities for interns, while allowing our organization to expand its mandate and provide leadership on important environmental issues,” said Donald Killorn, Executive Director of Eastern Charlotte Waterways Inc, one of the organizations that will be offering internships. Canada News Release

University of London defers decision on School of Advanced Studies merger

The University of London’s School of Advanced Studies (SAS) has backed off on a proposed plan to merge its Institute of English Studies (IES) with its Institute of Historical Research and Institute of Modern Languages. The merger was proposed at a May 15 IES Advisory Board meeting in response to a 3% cut in funding to the university by England’s funding council. However, SAS Dean Roger Kain said on May 23 that he, the university’s board of trustees, and the vice-chancellor decided “that we need time to explore a wider range of options regarding the structure of SAS.” While emphasizing the need for “long-term financial sustainability,” he said an extended timescale will enable further consultation with stakeholders. The initial proposal had been met with outrage from some scholars who felt that the work of the IES could not be effectively reflected in the university’s “research excellence” prioritization framework. Times Higher Education (1) | Times Higher Education (2)