Top Ten

June 19, 2014

BC report recommends compensation transparency

Kwantlen Polytechnic University failed to meet government disclosure requirements when it topped up the salaries of senior executives with “pre-employment contracts,” reports BC’s Assistant Deputy Finance Minister Rob Mingay. The report concludes that KPU violated government requirements in 2 cases when it offered $50,000 pre-employment contracts to senior executives; the payments were found to be “inconsistent with the spirit and intent of Public Sector Employment Council's guidelines." The report will not result in any sanctions or penalties against KPU, and recommends mandatory one-day training sessions on disclosure and reporting for all provincial PSE executives handling employment issues, as well as ensuring provincial PSE board members are aware of transparency and reporting guidelines. "The public wants to know that there is total transparency in reporting executive compensation in the entire public sector," said the report. "Transparency in reporting is one of the foundations of public trust." KPU pledged to review its processes and procedures in order to improve these in the future. Globe and Mail | The Province | Times-Colonist | KPU Statement

Postscript: June 30, 2014

Kwantlen Polytechnic University President Alan Davis has launched a probe into the institution’s compensation practices. KPU was found to have failed to meet government disclosure requirements when it topped up the salaries of senior executives with “pre-employment contracts.” In a statement Davis said “I am very troubled by aspects of administrative compensation at KPU that have recently come to light. It is clear that, prior to my arrival at KPU, there was an established pattern of issuing pre-employment consulting contracts to people being hired to senior positions. The recipients, including myself, were unaware that these contracts might be non-compliant in some way with BC public sector regulations.” Davis says that he intends his review of the matter to restore the confidence of KPU’s board of governors and the public. KPU News Release | The Province

uWinnipeg opens new $40-million RecPlex

The University of Winnipeg officially opened its new $40-million UNITED Health and RecPlex this week, a facility that will be used by uWinnipeg students and staff, inner-city community members, and local amateur sports organizations. The 189,000-square-foot RecPlex includes an artificial-turf multi-use field, a rubberized sprint track, a community gym/meeting space, batting cages, a multi-purpose room with climbing wall, a student lounge, and the Great-West Life Healthy Campus and Research Centre. The Province of Manitoba contributed $15 million and the City of Winnipeg committed $2 million to the project; student fees and multiple private and corporate donations also contributed to the funding for the facility. “This is a world-class facility that gives youth a safe place to play and thrive,” said uWinnipeg President Lloyd Axworthy. “Our students and faculty have gained an important new resource on campus, with access to hands-on academic and community-based research opportunities and new practicum experiences.” At the ceremony, Axworthy also announced the naming of the Gupta Faculty of Kinesiology and Applied Health, the first faculty at uWinnipeg to be named after a donor. Doctors Daya and Chander Gupta donated $1.5 million to the faculty, to go towards research and scholarships. uWinnipeg News | Winnipeg Sun | Winnipeg Free Press

WesternU opens residence for med students in Windsor

Western University’s Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry officially opened its new residence building in Windsor for the use of medical residents and learners undertaking training in Windsor hospitals. The historic Medical Arts Building allows up to 23 residents and their families to be housed in one location. “Offering prime accommodations for our postgraduate learners while they’re in Windsor is just one more way in which Schulich Medicine & Dentistry continues to improve its distributed education experience,” stated Schulich Dean Michael Strong. The 83-year-old building has a long medical heritage and was the site of the development of the forerunner to the Ontario Health Insurance Plan. WesternU News Release

Report encourages “fresh curriculum” for Canadian international education policy

A new report published by the Canadian Council of Chief Executives (CCCE) says that Canada needs to do more to attract foreign students. The study claims that Canada is “punching below its weight” in international student enrolments, especially when recruiting from China, and emphasizes the value of international enrolments in terms of trade, international development, and diplomatic opportunities. Given increasing global competition for international enrolments, the report recommends that Canada create a new Crown corporation to promote its international education strategy and help the federal government coordinate with the provinces and territories. This body would spearhead new marketing initiatives to replace the current “Imagine Education au/in Canada” campaign. The report also recommends greater investment in an international education strategy that would encourage Canadian students to study abroad. Canada hopes to double the number of international students in Canada by 2022. CCCE News Release | Report Summary | Maclean’s

NS to recruit students to public service

Nova Scotia has announced that it will take steps to encourage new graduates to work in the public service. Public Service Commission Minister Labi Kousoulis announced that NS is developing a strategy to better inform high school and PSE students about public service careers, create new entry-level positions for graduates and skilled youth, develop internships and co-op programs, and offer mentorship and career counselling for employees who join the government. “There are many talented youth contributing to communities across our province. They are leaders of the future, and we want to create the conditions that will welcome them into the public service and contribute to our workforce here,” said Kousoulis. NS News Release | CTV

Lakehead partners with Orillia firm to build big data philanthropy project

Lakehead University has teamed up with Orillia’s Third Sector Publishing to take a “big data” approach to philanthropy in Canada. Third Sector runs CharityCAN, a database of more than 85,000 Canadian charities, foundations, and donors. The company also produces with the Globe and Mail an annual “Top 1,000 Non-Profits Report.” The complexity of the database demands sophisticated tools in order to streamline and automate searching. That’s where Lakehead comes in: a research team of graduate students and research assistants, as well as software engineering professor Rachid Benlamri, are helping Third Sector develop a software solution that’s up to the challenge. “This groundbreaking research is an exciting project for us,” said Benlamri. “Our students have the opportunity to apply their knowledge and creativity to cutting edge research and witness, first hand, how it will be used in a real company.” The initiative has been supported by funding from the Ontario Centres of Excellence, NSERC, and Connect Canada. Lakehead News Release

AUCC President says employers want PSE to produce flexible, adaptable employees

Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada (AUCC) President Peter Davidson and New Flyer CEO Paul Soubry have published an op-ed detailing what they believe employers are looking for from Canadian PSE. Davidson and Soubry argue that employers want new hires to possess “social qualities,” or “soft skills,” citing economist Todd Hirsh’s claim that PSE needs to “prepare students not for a job, but for a lifetime of morphing careers.” While they bemoan the paucity of good data on labour market needs, they emphasize that policy makers should embrace a broad understanding of the skills that PSE should impart, including technical skills as well as teamwork, multi-dimensional thinking, and cross-cultural competencies. They also suggest that policy makers should understand the need for worker adaptability. “We can’t know everything about labour market needs of the future,” Davidson and Soubry write, “but we do know that flexibility, variety and fit will be essential.” AUCC News

Western Governors University competency-based model recognized by US teacher training group

Utah’s Western Governors University has been recognized by the US National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) as a “Top Ranked” institution for its elementary teacher training program, and has been cited as the best program in the US for secondary teacher training. WGU, which primarily delivers instruction online, was one of only 10 schools in the US to achieve “Top Ranked” status in both categories. Its success marks what is reportedly the first time a competency-based education (CBE) program has topped the rankings. WGU was lauded in particular for its observation of future teachers’ classroom skills, described as “light years beyond what most programs have.” Phil Schmidt, Dean of WGU’s Teachers College, said the rankings are a sign of growing acceptance of the CBE model. The NCTQ changed its ranking methodology after facing heavy criticism last year. 118 US colleges cooperated with its data collection for this year’s rankings. The Chronicle of Higher Education | Full Report

ASU prof proposes radical changes to bachelor’s degree

A professor at Arizona State University has proposed radical changes to what he calls the “overworked” bachelor’s degree. Citing student loan figures, underemployment rates, and polls of employers, Jeffrey Selingo says that the bachelor’s degree today is overburdened by excessive expectations. He recommends a “makeover … that isolates the liberal-arts education everyone needs in a fast-changing global economy and is flexible enough to accommodate the demand for skills training throughout one’s life.” He recommends a bifurcated structure wherein students complete a one-year general education program followed by specific programs of varying lengths. Noting that many 18-year-olds are unprepared to begin college, Selingo proposes institutions incorporate a structured gap year of national or international service, as Tufts University does. He also suggests that students could pay a subscription fee to “dip back in and out” of curricula to later update their skills, a model based on a program offered at Stanford University. The Chronicle of Higher Education

Non-profit publishers beat for-profits on cost-per-citation

A team of US economists has found that journals published by non-profit organizations yield 2 to 10 times the value to universities as those published by commercial firms. The research is based on 360 contracts obtained through Freedom of Information Act requests to 55 university libraries and 12 library consortia. The contracts showed that universities paid an average of $1.1 million to access journals from one for-profit publisher. The researchers calculated the “cost per-citation” of access to each journal and found that some for-profit publishers cost libraries 10 times the cost-per-citation that a non-profit did. The researchers also revealed that some libraries were able to significantly reduce their costs by bargaining with for-profit publishers, saving, in some cases, millions of dollars. The Guardian (UK) | Article abstract