Top Ten

July 22, 2014

uSask board chair to step down this fall

The StarPhoenix reports that the Chair of the board of governors at the University of Saskatchewan will be stepping down in the fall. Susan Milburn has served on the board since being appointed by the university senate in 2006, and has served as Chair since 2012. The reasons for her departure are not clear, although Milburn has served almost three full 3-year terms on the board, and the provincial University Act prevents board members for sitting more than 9 years. The StarPhoenix suggests that some questions have been raised about “Milburn's legitimacy as a board member and chair.” uSask has been wrestling controversy since the firing of tenured professor and Executive Director of the School of Public Health Robert Buckingham in May. More recently, the university has drawn criticism for appealing a ruling that its president should not have the power to veto tenure decisions. An election for a new Chair will be held in October. StarPhoenix | CBC

Canada adds 10 occupations to “priority” immigration program

The federal government has announced the addition of 10 occupations to its “priority assessment program” that fast-tracks the recognition and processing of foreign credentials for in-demand occupations. The 10 new occupations increase the program’s list to 24, and include geoscientists, carpenters, electricians, heavy duty equipment technicians, heavy equipment operators, welders, audiologists and speech language pathologists, midwives, psychologists, and lawyers. Healthcare and trades have been highlighted as experiencing skills shortages in certain areas across Canada. Skilled immigrants have often complained that they must take on low-skilled employment while waiting for paperwork to be processed. “We recognize that skilled newcomers help fill shortages in key occupations and make an important contribution to Canada’s economy. That is why we are speeding up foreign credential recognition for 10 more occupations … This means that even more new Canadians can put their skills to work sooner across Canada,” said Jason Kenney, Minister of Employment and Social Development and Minister for Multiculturalism. Canada News Release | Toronto Star

Employers overlook skilled workers with disabilities

A new report published by the Conference Board of Canada says that persons with disabilities frequently match the skills and education levels of persons without disabilities but are nevertheless 3 times as likely to be unemployed or out of the labour force. Overlooking persons with disabilities comes at a cost to businesses, who are missing out on a number of opportunities including better access to some consumer markets, improved customer loyalty, better job retention, lower turnover, and enhanced job performance and work quality. “We need more inclusive and accessible workplaces and practices that attract new employees with disabilities and at the same time allow existing employees with disabilities, and those that develop them, to remain in the workforce,” said Ruth Wright, the Conference Board’s Director of Human Resources Research. Conference Board News Release | Report Summary

uManitoba refutes charges of discrimination in engineering faculty admissions

International students enrolled in the University of Manitoba’s Faculty of Engineering are protesting proposed changes to admissions policies. According to a news release from the Canadian Federation of Students-Manitoba, proposed changes would cap the number of international students admitted to the faculty at 13.69%. The CFS-MB also says the changes would demand a higher GPA from international applicants than domestic students. Astitwa Thapa, President of uManitoba’s Nepali Students Association, described the policy as “discriminatory.” But engineering Dean Jonathan Beddoes says that there are no caps on enrolment, that students have been aware of this fall’s admissions process since December, and that uManitoba has had different approaches to domestic and international student admissions for over 30 years. He added that the 13.7% of available seats allocated to international students for 2014 was not the result of a cap, but of a competitive pool of applicants vying for a limited number of spaces. CBC | Winnipeg Free Press | CFS-MB News Release

Tyndale recognized as Designated Learning Institute by CIC

Toronto's Tyndale University College & Seminary has been recognized by Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) as a Designated Learning Institution. The designation means that Tyndale’s international students will be eligible to obtain employment off-campus. Previously, international students were only permitted to hold on-campus jobs. James Brook, Coordinator of Community and Global Engagement at Tyndale, said “this is the best thing to happen to international students at Tyndale in a long time.” International students will be able to work up to 20 hours per week off campus, not only earning money to continue their education but also gaining valuable experience in the workplace. Tyndale will also now appear on the CIC’s list of approved institutions, which Brook believes will encourage more international students to choose Tyndale. Tyndale News Release

Study identifies barriers experienced by international students looking to work in Canada

A recently-released research project out of the University of Guelph and York University examines the experiences of international students transitioning to the Canadian labour market and identifies a number of barriers these students must overcome in order to integrate into employment. The researchers framed the study around the new International Education Strategy, which aims to double the number of international students studying in Canada, and Ontario’s focus on international students as potentially filling labour gaps. The study found that difficulties finding work in one’s field of study, prejudice against international students, and “inconsistency of information and lack of clarity on constantly changing immigration policies and processes” were some of the barriers experienced by international students. The study also found that the respondents viewed the educational experience at Ontario’s PSE institutions very highly, and often found support and employment within the PSE sector after graduation. The report makes several recommendations for PSE, policy makers, and employers to help ease the transition for international students, including creating more internships and co-op employment opportunities. Study Website

Some Michigan community colleges outsource adjunct faculty

6 community colleges in Michigan have signed collective bargaining agreements that allow them to outsource adjunct hiring and payroll to EDUStaff, a PSE staffing firm. In most cases, EDUStaff is in charge of recruiting and hiring instructors as well as distributing payroll, while the colleges are responsible for interviewing, final candidate selection, and orientation. The idea was initially proposed at Kirtland Community College in 2009 in order to help the university avoid a legally mandated contribution to the state’s retirement fund, but the plan was held up due to controversy surrounding the proposed arrangement. However, a similar plan moved forward at North Central Michigan College (NCMC), where adjuncts constitute 84% of its faculty. A spokesperson for NCMC said that the move saved the institution $250,000 in retirement contributions. Kirtland has since brought EDUStaff on board. Skeptics are concerned that such initiatives not only build barriers between part-time faculty and administrators, but also undermine the role of faculty in university governance. Inside Higher Ed

Low-income students in US aspire to PSE but are often under-prepared

American College Testing (ACT) has published a new report on college and career readiness of students from low-income families. The study says that 95% of students from low-income families who took the ACT’s college readiness assessment test aspired to pursue PSE, compared with 87% of all tested students. However, only 59% of students from low-income households immediately enrolled in PSE, versus 71% of all students. Students from low-income backgrounds were also less likely to study a recommended core curriculum in high school. Only 20% met at least 3 of 4 ACT College Readiness Benchmarks, compared with 62% of students from high-income families. 49% of students from low-income families met none of the benchmarks. “There’s great room for improvement and an urgent need for reducing the barriers faced by students from low-income families,” said Scott Montgomery, ACT VP for Policy, Advocacy, and Government Relations. ACT News Release

New report examines “unbundling” of faculty roles in US

A new study published by the American Council on Education examines the “unbundling” or “disaggregation” of faculty duties in US PSE. Unbundling describes the “differentiation of tasks and services that were once offered by a single provider or individual”; in a faculty context, it refers to the distribution of institutional, professional, and instructional tasks among multiple individuals. The report suggests that the accelerated rate of technological change has contributed to the unbundling of instruction on campus. The report also describes how in some cases a curriculum is designed by one set of faculty while others—often contingent, part-time faculty—are responsible for delivery and assessment. This is most common for large, introductory courses and online courses. The report cites one concern with this approach as being the decline of the “complete scholar” whose research, teaching, and service are all beneficial to students. The paper says that unbundling is not inherently bad for students but that more research is required to identify best practices for each educational context. Inside Higher Ed

THE profiles young, innovative universities

Times Higher Education has profiled 5 young universities from its “100 under 50” rankings that are adopting innovative approaches to education. The article features Turkey’s Koç University, South Korea’s Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST), the Netherlands’ Maastricht University, Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University, and Hong Kong Polytechnic University. The author emphasizes how each benefits by not being burdened by traditions or institutional customs. Koç, for instance, has no department chairs and does not offer anyone tenure. KAIST has reduced undergraduate admissions to improve its undergraduate-to-staff ratio. Maastricht is noted for its international approach to education and its learning model, which places students in small tutorial groups that tackle socially relevant questions; Maastricht also offers a liberal arts model whereby students in its 3-year bachelor’s degree program are free to choose their own curriculum and are not forced to specialize. Nanyang has aggressively recruited foreign “star” professors and offers an “interactive tech-based learning environment” at its medical school. Meanwhile, Hong Kong Polytechnic offers exceptional work-integrated learning facilities including a 262-room luxury hotel with 3 restaurants. Times Higher Education