Top Ten

May 27, 2014

StFX earth sciences helps create 400 jobs in 10 years

St Francis Xavier University’s earth sciences program is enjoying remarkable success when it comes to securing research funding. As a result, the small, 6-person department has helped create approximately 400 jobs over the past decade. These include summer jobs for undergraduate students as well as year-long post-doctoral and faculty positions. “This enhances the research atmosphere, allowing our undergraduate students to learn and work with our graduate and post-doctoral researchers,” said Hugo Beltrami, a faculty member in the department. The success of the department has helped build StFX’s role as an academic university, and in turn helps put faculty in a competitive position when applying for additional grants. Former student Jocelyn Egan said, “it really shows that even though it is a small department, there are lots of opportunities for researchers elsewhere to come and do work and for students to get the experience of doing research and help prepare them for the workforce afterward.” Chronicle Herald

University College of the North opens new campus

The University College of the North officially opened its new campus in Thompson, Manitoba on Friday. The $82-million, 84,400-square-foot facility provides space for 15 distance-learning classrooms, computer labs, a 60-seat lecture hall, math and science labs, a nursing simulation lab, a library, an Aboriginal student centre, and a child-care facility. The new campus will also allow UCN to increase its number of students by almost 175. “By giving people access to high quality training and postsecondary education this new state-of-the-art campus means more opportunities for our young people to build their life right here in the North,” said Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger. “When people have the skills they need to get good jobs the whole region benefits.” Manitoba News Release

Ontario partnership launches Connected Health and Wellness Project

A collaborative partnership between York University, NexJ Systems Inc, McMaster University, and 13 Ontario private sector, academic, and not-for-profit research organizations, including George Brown, Seneca, and Centennial colleges, has launched the Connected Health and Wellness Project (CHWP). CHWP is a people-centred, technology-enabled health and wellness system that allows people’s health information to be easily-accessed through a smart phone or laptop. CHWP also involves various apps that can be used to monitor health and provide access to health professionals and advice. CHWP’s electronic medical record and personal health records are compatible with many other technologies, such as hospital information systems, provincial eHealth systems, and clinical health tools and applications. The CHWP collaboration was made possible by $38 million in investments, and “will not only ensure better health for all Canadians, but a more accessible and efficient health-care system, plus economic growth through job creation.” YorkU News | CHWP website

Success of work-integrated learning requires close examination of guidelines

New research from the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario (HEQCO), conducted by Academica Group, suggests that universities must carefully re-examine the criteria they use when developing work-integrated learning programs. HEQCO’s Executive Director Richard Wiggers emphasized that work-integrated learning requires a plan tied to specific outcomes, as well as effective assessment. The program should also link back to students’ studies. Wiggers also noted that 50% of college students and 8% of university students who completed a co-op placement reported that they were not paid, highlighting the need to follow criteria for how different types of work-integrated learning are defined. The final report from the five-year study is expected to be released in the fall. FHSS News Release

Canadian business schools focus on female applicants

Several Canadian business schools have developed recruitment strategies designed to attract a demographic that has been historically underrepresented in MBA programs: women. Queen’s University, Simon Fraser University’s Beedie School of Business, and the University of British Columbia’s Sauder School of Business are among those who have made female students a priority. Sauder says that it wants to lead “Canada’s globally ranked business schools in female MBA enrolment within 5 years.” Dean Robert Helsley said, “There is no sense in which this is affirmative action. We are just trying to make sure that qualified applicants from all populations want to come here and have the opportunities we can provide them to be successful.” To encourage female applicants, business schools are collaborating with female leadership organizations as well as offering scholarships and one-on-one recruitment sessions. Jennifer Berdahl, an incoming professor at Sauder, says that while there is much more work to be done, such efforts stand to benefit male as well as female students. Globe and Mail

London, ON designs website for communicating with students

City officials in London, ON are exploring a new idea to better communicate with the city’s PSE students. Currently in the design stage, Your London Calling is a website that would be a one-stop shop for information valuable to the city’s students, including information about city events, bylaws, and media releases. It was discovered that students were not using existing sites to access this information, so officials decided to “get the students to build a website for students, and use it as a central repository for all the agencies that deal with student issues and student housing issues.” According to Metro News, the initiative is thought to be the first time a municipality in Ontario has taken this approach to communicating with students. Metro News

Up to half of US business schools threatened by online programs

Business schools in the US are increasingly embracing online delivery models in a shift that may leave many programs at risk. An article in Businessweek suggests that online programs offered by schools such as Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Kenan-Flagler Business School could force a significant number of competitors out of business. At the greatest risk are those schools whose focus is executive or part-time programs; they may lose students to more recognizable institutions that can offer online degrees. While some business schools may emphasize that the value of a bricks-and-mortar MBA program lies in their networking opportunities, this may be a tough sell for some midcareer candidates. Some also predict that the online shift will also contribute to increasing specialization as smaller schools try to stay relevant against their better-known competitors. Businessweek

Mental health symptoms a growing problem among UK academics

Faculty members, as well as students, are struggling with overwhelming levels of stress, according to a report in The Guardian. The article says that as many as half of all academics in the United Kingdom exhibit symptoms of psychological distress. The piece is a follow-up to a recent blog post published on the paper’s website that pointed to a “culture of acceptance” of mental health issues in UK universities, noting a high level of depression, sleep issues, eating disorders, alcoholism, and self-harm among PhD students. The new report adds that academics in the UK—facing job insecurity, heavy workloads, long work hours, and conflicting management demands—experience higher stress than those in the wider population. Alan Swann, Chair of the Higher Education Occupational Physicians Committee, suggested that many academics do not even realize how “out of kilter” their professional lives have become. Moreover, stress issues can be exacerbated by what Swann describes as academia’s “macho,” uncaring culture. The article includes individual testimonials from academics around the world, including Canada. The Guardian

EI regulations pose major challenge for adjunct faculty

The challenges faced by many adjunct professors in Canada are made all the more difficult by EI rules that do not accurately reflect the academic life, writes part-time Western University professor and consultant Kane X Faucher. Faucher points out that rules compelling EI recipients to spend all of their time looking for work does not sit well with faculty members who must spend parts of the summer preparing for fall assignments; moreover, EI regulations prohibit recipients from traveling outside of Canada, even for professional reasons such as presenting at a conference. He also notes that it is difficult for faculty members to apply for work when they may be unable to commit to an employer beyond September. Faucher suggests that Service Canada should adjust their framework to treat preparatory activities and professionalization as a kind of job training, and encourages a more open discussion of these issues among the academic community. University Affairs

Ontario tuition much cheaper than it looks, says YorkU prof

A Toronto Star opinion piece by York University Economics professor George Fallis claims that tuition in Ontario is cheaper than it looks. Fallis says rising fees in Ontario obfuscate the fact that university has become cheaper across the board and especially for lower-income students. He attributes the confusion to the failure of some to assess “net tuition”—tuition minus grants. He notes that “over the last 20 years, the array and value of grants available to Ontario students has ballooned, both in terms of across-the-board need and needs-based assistance.” He specifically cites income tax credits, the Ontario Tuition Grant, and the Canadian Education Savings Grant as offsetting as much as 70% of tuition’s “sticker price.” He adds that lower-income students have it “even better,” as they can access the Canada Student Grant as well as needs-based bursaries from individual universities. Toronto Star

Postscript: May 27, 2014

The Executive Director of the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations has offered a rebuttal to George Fallis’s recent contention that education in Ontario is deceptively affordable. Jonathan Champagne cites the number of students graduating with massive debt, and says that “net tuition” does not accurately reflect the financial realities of most students. Champagne says that students with the greatest need are often overlooked by government programs intended to help them out. He notes that financial aid programs are often based on parental income, though many parents are unable or unwilling to support their children. He also argues that of the $1.5 billion in tax credits spent by the federal government, nearly 80% does not make it to the students who need the money, instead being transferred to parents or saved until after students have completed their studies. Moreover, Champagne notes, lower-income households are less likely to take advantage of RESPs or CSGPs. Toronto Star