Top Ten

May 28, 2014

Alberta schools participate in active shooter education initiative

Several Alberta postsecondary institutions are participating in a program to educate staff and students on appropriate responses to "active shooter" situations. An active shooter situation refers to an incident in which an individual is actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a confined, populated area. While Philip Stack, AVP, Risk Management at the University of Alberta said that it is "extremely unlikely" that such an incident would occur, he emphasized that "we need to recognize that unthinkable things like this can happen anywhere." The Campus Alberta Risk and Assessment Committee has created an instructional video that stresses 3 courses of action: hiding, barricading when necessary, and, as a last resort, using force. The participating institutions include Concordia University College, MacEwan University, Mount Royal University, NorQuest College, SAIT Polytechnic, the University of Alberta, and the University of Lethbridge. uAlberta News Release | uLethbridge News Release

uOttawa, MHC raise tuition, while BrandonU faces “difficult choices”

2 more PSE institutions have increased tuition in order to balance their budgets. Last week, Medicine Hat College announced a 1% increase in tuition in its balanced budget announcement; and, on Monday, the University of Ottawa’s board of governors voted amidst student protest to accept a balanced budget that included a 3% tuition increase, the maximum allowed by the province. uOttawa will allocate an additional $4.6 million to financial aid to help offset the cost of the increase. Brandon University did not announce a tuition increase; however, President Deborah Poff said that her institution will face “some really difficult choices” following the unanimous approval of its operating budget. She says that relying on surplus funds to cover extra costs is not a sustainable model for the university. In the approved budget, cost increases will be partially recovered from savings in positions. The university also plans to invest in hiring recruitment officers to boost enrolment and tuition revenue. Medicine Hat News | uOttawa News Release | Winnipeg Free Press

uWaterloo expands Velocity startup incubator into new space

The University of Waterloo is expanding its Velocity Garage with a Velocity Foundry after adding 11,000 square feet of space in a former Kitchener shopping mall. The space will be used as a technology startup incubator for alumni and graduates who participate in the university’s Velocity program and means that software and hardware startups will have  designated spaces. “We were finding that kind of contrast between the 2 different types of teams a really big challenge,” said Mike Kirkup, Velocity Program Director. “In a room when you are building physical products, it can be noisy.” The hardware startups will move to the new location this summer. By that time, the Velocity program will be working with 40 new businesses, well on its way to its goal of 50 by the end of the year. Velocity startup firms have raised over $100 million in funding since the program’s launch. The Record

New manufacturing jobs will need diverse skill sets from university grads

Manufacturing jobs are increasingly demanding more specialized, technological skills from prospective employees, and, according to an article in the Financial Post, universities are not doing enough to meet those needs. While internships and co-op programs are helping some graduates develop the practical skills required to work in the manufacturing sector today, as the field becomes increasingly technologized employers will come to expect more from graduates in terms of empirical skills and the ability to practically apply their knowledge. The article suggests that universities and high schools are falling behind colleges in this respect. While many universities champion technology startups, they fail to adequately support the manufacturing principles required to put many of those ideas into production, says Karna Gupta, President of the Information Technology Association of Canada. The article says that while some institutions are preparing their curricula for the "new manufacturing" landscape, schools will need to help students graduate with a more diverse skill set. Financial Post

Northern College Board approves new business plan

Northern College’s board of governors has approved the institution’s latest business plan. The 2014–15 plan outlines the college’s tactical approach to meeting its 4 strategic emphases: accessible education, signature programs, the northern experience, and Aboriginal perspectives. The college plans to improve access by integrating new technologies for program delivery and support services; further developing its distinct, relevant programming; and offering additional program entry and exit points. It also plans to expand its outreach and programming efforts in Aboriginal communities. Northern also intends to implement a new strategic enrolment management plan as well as pursuing further integration between placement opportunities, applied research projects, and program curricula. Northern News Release | Business Plan

McMaster signs on with Coursera

McMaster University has become the 4th Canadian university to partner with online education provider Coursera. McMaster will offer Experimentation for Improvement, a course designed to help students learn to use statistics to find solutions to problems such as improving water quality, reducing energy use, and improving product sales. The 6-week course, developed by Kevin Dunn, focuses on experiment design and uses a free textbook as well as video lectures to deliver content. Assessment will be based on in-lecture quizzes, short homework assignments, and a peer-reviewed final project report. Students who complete the class requirements are eligible to receive a verified certificate and a statement of accomplishment. Coursera Blog Post

Smartphone and tap card access systems offer colleges enhanced security

Colleges in the US are turning to technology to help them control building access and maintain security of campus buildings. Online access systems that take advantage of a user’s smartphone or contactless “tap” cards are beginning to replace key-code entryways. They allow administrators to monitor and control access to individual doors, and can help universities accommodate temporary guests who need access to campus areas for a limited period of time. Students with cell phones no longer have to worry about remembering their keys; they can access their rooms with their smartphones or by texting a designated number to request entry. The technology comes with significant security advantages as well: it helps avoid the problem of students leaving doors propped open for visitors or their own access. It also offers colleges the ability to generate a record of every entry and exit, which can be used in case of emergency. The Chronicle of Higher Education

Georgetown’s successful support system for underprivileged students

Georgetown University has developed a comprehensive support system to help underprivileged students find success at college. The Georgetown Scholarship Program—established decades ago as a financial aid program—now offers myriad benefits including access to student advisors, who provide help on resumes, interview prep, and job searches; a “budget bootcamp” to help lower-income students live within their means; and networking and professionalization events. The program helps lower-income students deal with social and emotional challenges of coming to college as a lower-income students, as well as helping them develop valuable skills for college life and beyond. The financial aid part of the program also helps students keep their college debt as low as possible, providing grants, scholarships, and work-study programs to offset tuition costs. Many students, though, value the support network most of all. “It’s a sense of family,” said one participant. The Chronicle of Higher Education

CFHSS President encourages student mobility

The President of the Canadian Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences is urging Canadian students to explore Canada and the world as part of their studies. Antonia Maioni notes that only one in 10 undergrads leave their home province for university, with many staying within 20km of home. She also says that only 2.2% of Canadian students go abroad. These numbers are at odds with Canada’s commitment to cultivate global perspectives, she says. She points to Ontario’s Council on Articulation and Transfer (ONCAT) as providing a model that could be followed across Canada and globally to encourage mobility across provincial and international borders. She further cites programs such as Mitacs Globalink, and says that inter-provincial and international experiences can help expand student horizons and promote interdisciplinary diversity. Globe and Mail

Do universities have a responsibility to hire PhD graduates?

An anonymous piece published in the UK's The Guardian argues that universities must play a role in helping their PhD graduates find post-doctoral employment. “There is an astonishing culture of non-responsibility when it comes to ensuring that PhD graduates have academic roles to go into when they graduate,” the author writes. The article notes that while universities have emphasized the “employability” of their undergraduates, they have done little to offer the same consideration for PhD students and continue to focus their training narrowly on a shrinking academic job market. However, because universities exert considerable control over supply and demand in that market, the author suggests that they have a responsibility to create jobs for early career researchers. They must “cease the irresponsible recruitment of as many PhD students as possible” and “start redressing the balance between early career research supply and demand,” the author claims. The Guardian