Top Ten

June 16, 2014

Responses to Ontario election results

PSE interest groups are reacting to the results of Ontario’s provincial election. Bonnie M Patterson, President of the Council of Ontario Universities (COU), said that COU “is looking forward to continuing to work collaboratively to ensure our economy is strengthened as a result of the highly educated workforce our universities produce.” Jen Carter, President of the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance, congratulated Wynne while urging "further investment ... to address serious issues relating to the affordability and accessibility of Ontario’s higher education system.” The Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA) issued a lengthy response entitled "What the 2014 election results mean for professors and academic librarians," noting that the government will likely continue its policies of the last several years. OCUFA predicts that this will actually lead to a decline in PSE funding in many areas. OCUFA also expects differentiation to continue, as well as the growth of satellite campuses and online education. Wynne indicated that she would re-introduce her proposed 2014 budget, which included $500 million over 10 years for maintaining and modernizing PSE infrastructure, $250 million over 3 years to support research infrastructure, and funding for regional skills-training programs for aboriginal peoples and for expanding work-integrated learning options. COU News Release | OUSA News Release | OCUFA Blog Post

Postscript: June 16 2014

The Canadian Federation of Students-Ontario has issued a statement in response to last week’s elections in Ontario, saying that it looks forward to working with the government while emphasizing the need for significant changes to PSE in the province. CFS-O Chairperson Alastair Woods said that “we hope the Liberal government will change its tune on tuition fees and student debt and work with students to make education more affordable and accessible in Ontario.” He added that “we’re prepared to continue to pressure the government to make students and youth a priority.” CFS-O News Release

uWindsor files no board report in bargaining with faculty union

The Windsor University Faculty Association (WUFA) is bracing itself for a lockout after being informed that the institution intends to file a no board report with the Ministry of Labour. WUFA and uWindsor have been in conciliation talks since early May. A representative of the university told the Windsor Star that the request was made to spur negotiations along. “We want to do everything we can to ensure there aren’t any adverse effects on our students and campus community, so that’s why we want to make sure there’s a new agreement in place by the time the current one expires [on June 30],” said Holly Ward, uWindsor’s Chief Communications Officer. Ward explained that filing a no board report is quite common. However, WUFA President Brian Brown said the faculty association was surprised at the university’s move, describing it as “an unusual step at this stage of the negotiations.” “It was kind of expected at some point,” Brown said, “but not expected when it came, just because talks have not been bogged down.” WUFA said that it had also been surprised when uWindsor asked for a provincial conciliator earlier in the negotiation process. Windsor Star | CTV | Blackburn News


Postscript: June 24, 2014

The University of Windsor has received approval for its no-board request and has issued a lockout date of July 3 for members of the Windsor University Faculty Association (WUFA). The 2 sides are currently in negotiations for a new collective agreement; the current agreement expires June 30. WUFA President Brian Brown noted members were surprised by the no-board report and the lockout date, as they thought negotiations were going well. A statement on the uWindsor website explains the no-board report was requested to “enable the conciliation officer to become a mediator” in an effort to reach an agreement before the current contract expires. According to Brown, an Ontario university has never locked out its faculty, making this an “unusual” situation. uWindsor News | CBC | Windsor Star

uManitoba Centre for Global Public Health receives $23 million from Gates Foundation

The University of Manitoba’s Centre for Global Public Health (CGPH) has been awarded $23 million from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to support its work on child and newborn health in India. CGPH will provide technical and managerial support to the government of Uttar Pradesh in northern India to help reduce the mortality rate of mothers and children during and shortly after childbirth; it will also work to promote interventions that will help reduce the deaths of children under 5 from common illnesses. “We have a very dedicated and talented team in India and Canada that sees this as both an important responsibility and a challenge that will demand all our best skills, effort and teamwork to make the project a success. It is a rare opportunity for us to participate in work that can affect the lives of so many women, children and their families and communities” said CGPH Director James Blanchard. uManitoba News Release

Northern Lakes receives funding for mobile trades training

Northern Lakes College has been given $3.05 million in funding from Alberta’s Ministry of Innovation and Advanced Education for Mobile Trades Training facilities. The mobile units enable the college to bring training to remote and rural communities in northern Alberta. Demand for millwrights, welders, carpenters, and other trades is high in Alberta’s remote communities, but these places often lack adequate facilities to support trades training. NLC President Ann Everatt said, “these cost-effective mobile training facilities are a necessary component that will allow Northern Lakes College to provide training to better meet training and labour market demands across our vast service region.” Alberta Premier Dave Hancock said, “Northern Lakes College can now meet the needs of students in communities where these opportunities haven’t traditionally been available and better respond to local labour market demands for more skilled tradespeople.” NLC will also receive $523,000 annually to support program delivery. NLC News Release

WesternU enrolment climbs in spite of provincial trends

Western University's projected enrolments for 2014 are increasing even as the Ontario provincial average has dipped slightly. Data from the Ontario Universities' Application Centre indicates that WesternU's confirmations are up by 11.6% over last year's figures. The provincial average dropped 3% overall. Meanwhile, applications and confirmations from out-of-province and international students also climbed. Applications rose 10.4% and confirmations 14%, compared to a 5.3% increase Ontario-wide. The results confirm the success of a number of recruitment initiatives launched by WesternU in the past year, including a social media campaign, enhanced e-newsletters, and student video testimonals. "Western's admission numbers reflect the collaborative efforts of the faculty and staff across campus," said WesternU Provost Janice Deakin. WesternU News Release

More med students opt for GP track

Family medicine is an increasingly popular option for Canadian medical students. At the University of Calgary, 45% of graduating students sought a residency in family medicine, up from 18% in 2008. Medical schools at Queen’s University, the University of Toronto, Western University, and the University of British Columbia are also reporting increased interest in family medicine. The surge is no accident: universities have made training new family doctors a priority in order to correct an imbalance in the Canadian healthcare system. There is currently a shortage of primary care physicians in Canada, with approximately 7% of Canadians not having a family doctor. To this end, med schools have hired more family doctors as faculty, created new programs and courses, and run targeted pre-med programs to encourage students to pursue family practice. University Affairs

Profs divided on best approach to K-12 math instruction

Some math professors say that K-12 instruction methods in their field are hindering students' numeracy. Sherry Mantyka, Director of Memorial University of Newfoundland's Math Learning Centre, says that the discovery-based learning approach for performing multiplication is leaving some students behind when it comes to vital concepts and skills. "Thirty years ago this only affected students who wanted to pursue degrees in science. Now, it affects degrees in so many disciplines. Even a degree like social work has a fourth-year course in research methods, which is essentially statistics," Mantkya said. Robert Craigen, a math professor at the University of Manitoba, says that the discovery method is not bad, but that it needs to be supplemented by other techniques. However, proponents of the discovery method say that it imparts a deeper understanding of math by allowing students to uncover concepts rather than memorizing facts. Regardless, faculty agree that teachers at the K-12 level need a stronger foundation in math, as when the discovery method is used, teacher flexibility is crucial. University Affairs

US college mobilizes faculty as "secret weapon" in student retention

North Carolina Southwest Community College has mobilized its faculty to help improve its student retention rate. The college brought passionate professors on board with what it calls "Retention Action Committees," small task forces created to help generate specific goals to help retain students. The groups developed initiatives including a revival of a mandatory first-year student success course and a retention alert process that notifies faculty when concerns arise. Faculty were enthusiastic participants and helped champion a "cultural shift" across campus. "Improving retention and completion is a responsibility that belongs to us. It's not just something that resides in student services," said NCSCC VP Instruction and Student Learning Thom Brooks. American Association of Community Colleges News   

Adaptive learning increasing in popularity

Adaptive learning—loosely defined as the use of software to create individualized learning experiences for students—is growing in popularity, especially among for-profit institutions in the US. For-profit education chains, with their extensive budgets and streamlined governance structure, are ideally positioned to take advantage of adaptive learning technologies, which typically minimize the role of the professor in providing instruction. Firms like the Apollo Education Group, who owns University of Phoenix, are now experimenting with a variety of approaches to adaptive learning. Apollo is testing adaptive math software as well as an application that will help tutor students in writing and grammar. Meanwhile, the American Public University System, a for-profit chain, has begun incorporating adaptive technology into the instructional design of its courses. Its business school curriculum includes “semantic mapping” technology that searches for gaps between content and learning goals at the course and program level. More platforms are emerging, as well, with over 70 companies now offering adaptive solutions. Inside Higher Ed

New documentary tackles rising US college costs

Filmmaker Andrew Rossi has released a new documentary about nonprofit higher education in the US. In Ivory Tower, Rossi traces what he sees as a shift in the cultural understanding from the university being a public good to being a private good that should more like a business than a social institution. He also examines the role of student debt in this larger narrative. He speaks to individuals including the Presidents of Harvard, Stanford, and the University of Virginia, as well as disruptive figures like Udacity founder Sebastian Thrun. Rossi spends little time on community colleges but does take a close look at several universities and colleges of varying size. Rossi also deliberately omitted for-profit colleges, saying that his interest was in “the mission of educating students in its purest form.” Some critics have said that this omission compromises his exploration of student debt. Inside Higher Ed