Top Ten

August 5, 2014

UPEI takes action in response to athletics report

The University of Prince Edward Island has announced that it will act on all the findings of an independent review of its Department of Athletics and Recreation. The Department had been looking at ways to increase its revenues following budget cuts and layoffs at the institution. UPEI President Alaa Abd-El-Aziz himself will oversee a newly established Athletics Advisory Board. The report also recommended the creation of a fundraising subcommittee of the board of governors, the appointment of a dedicated Development Officer, the development of an Athletic Financial Aid stability model, and a review and adjustment of coaching salaries. “I have always said my priority would be to spend time with faculty, staff, students, and members of the PEI community to realize key issues of importance from their perspectives. And very clearly, a successful Athletics program at UPEI matters greatly to the community we service,” said Abd-El-Aziz. UPEI News Release

2 calls for changes to Canada's R&D funding

In a contribution to the Globe and Mail, Chief Economist of ATB Financial Todd Hirsch says that Canada is lagging behind other wealthy nations when it comes to total R&D funding. Trends in R&D funding at PSE institutions indicate that the majority of funding comes from government, whether federal (25%), provincial (11.1%), or from the institution itself (44.8%), which is largely government/tax-dollar funded. Hirsch also looks at the trends in R&D contributions by business, noting a decline from 9.6% in 2000-01 to 8.1% in 2012-13. This is surprising to Hirsch as Canadian businesses are “generally flush with cash” and because R&D funding has huge economic potential for businesses. Alberta is the only province that has had an increase in R&D funding by business, and that increase is marginal (0.4%). Hirsch recommends that businesses should increase their R&D funding, especially in British Columbia, Ontario, and Quebec, and that government should increase its funding to R&D in Alberta, where federal spending is lowest. Meanwhile, in the Ottawa Citizen, professor Subash Sad calls for a “radical new policy” that would shift government funding away from private sector research and back toward fundamental research. Sad says that funding cuts have forced researchers to spend too much time applying for grants and not enough time doing research or training scientists. Globe and Mail (Subscription Required) | Ottawa Citizen

College of the Rockies enters agreement with solar energy project

BC’s College of the Rockies has announced that it will collaborate with the City of Kimberley, Teck, and the EcoSmart Foundation on the SunMine Project. The SunMine Project, Western Canada’s largest solar project, will generate 1.05 megawatts of energy from 4,000 solar cells. COTR’s participation in the project means that SunMine will have access to funding opportunities offered by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC). “The SunMine will be the largest solar facility west of Ontario and has the potential to become a key industry in the area. The College is committed to pursuing joint priorities and combining strengths, expertise and resources with the City of Kimberley and EcoSmart as this project comes to fruition,” said COTR President David Walls. The partnership will also create opportunities for training and applied research projects for COTR. COTR News Release

Queen’s offers PhD students dissertation-writing retreat

Queen’s University is offering its doctoral students an opportunity to work on their dissertations against the tranquil backdrop of Elbow Lake, north of Kingston. In the pilot “Dissertation on the Lake” project, 34 graduate students will spend 3 nights in cabins at Queen’s University Biological Station. Their time will be spent writing, swimming, and canoeing. Each day will consist of 2 3-hour writing sessions with breaks in between to relax and enjoy the environment. “Writing can be a solitary endeavour, and this is an opportunity to change that,” said Sandra den Otter, Associate Dean of the School of Graduate Studies. “This trip is strongly encouraging a work/life balance. Writing successfully for a long period of time requires incorporating exercise, time with friends, good nutrition, a community and a chance to experience diversity in setting, thought, and people. Dissertation on the Lake aims to provide all those things,” she said. Queen’s News

Internationally trained lawyers get help transitioning to Canadian law at uToronto

A University of Toronto program that helps internationally trained lawyers integrate into Canadian law practice is being highlighted as a success. The Internationally Trained Lawyers Program (ITLP), reportedly the only one of its kind in Canada, helps lawyers who are qualified to practice law in their home countries obtain a license to practice law in Ontario while providing a networking and support system to help students connect with the legal system and pursue career opportunities. One recent student complimented the program, including its internship component, noting that she now has a “better understanding of the Canadian legal profession … the internship opportunity was truly very important because now I have acquired some Canadian law experience.” uToronto News

Academics argue curiosity in high school indicates university-readiness

According to Canadian academics Bill Morrison and Ken Coates, one third of Canadian university students should never have gone in the first place. In their new book What to Consider If You’re Considering University, the authors suggest that a sense of curiosity in high school may be a good indicator of whether a student will get much out of university. They argue that for many youth looking for a fast-track to a good career, colleges, polytechnics, or apprenticeships may be a better fit. Other scholars disagree, saying that many teenagers are likely not curious at first, but still may belong in university. “If we’re only going to have students who are curious, most of our universities are going to be shutting down,” said Maryellen Weimer, a Professor Emeritus at Pennsylvania State. Weimer and others feel that the purpose of university is to ignite curiosity in students, and that if 1 or 2 years in university do not inspire them, transferring to a college or vocational school may be the answer. Maclean’s

US senators present bill to curb sexual assault on campus

A bill introduced to the US Senate on July 30 would impose new regulations on colleges and universities in hopes of curbing campus sexual assault. US institutions would have to publish the results of anonymous surveys about sexual assaults, and would be required to provide confidential advisers to help students report crimes and receive help. Institutions would also be made unable to punish students for matters such as underage drinking if their admission came in the context of reporting a sexual assault. The bill would impose financial penalties of up to 1% of their operating budget on institutions that fail to comply with regulations. The bill is the product of bipartisan collaboration between Democrat and Republican Senators and coincides with a White House push for action on sexual assault. Controversial Globe and Mail columnist Margaret Wente claims that institutions are going too far in their efforts to fight sexual violence on campus and are persecuting students without due process. Globe and Mail (Regulations) | Globe and Mail (Wente)

Technical glitch causes problems for students writing US bar exams

A technical error that affected law students writing their bar exams has been described as “the biggest bar exam debacle in history.” Last week, students attempting to upload their written exams using ExamSoft software experienced what the company described as “slowness or difficulty.” Some results failed to upload while other submissions took hours to complete. The company has negotiated extensions with 17 state bar associations. However, because the exam continued the next day, many students were outraged, claiming that the added stress could negatively affect their performance. Blogger Josh Blackman pointed out that “failing the bar in this economy is a 6-month sentence of unemployment. Somewhere, a plaintiff’s lawyer is putting together a class-action suit for those who used ExamSoft and failed.” Inside Higher Ed

More countries offering their own MOOCs

A growing number of countries are beginning to offer massive open online courses (MOOCs) to students around the world.  MOOCs were initially hailed by some as a way for students around the world to access courses from the US’s best universities, but others were concerned that the technology amounted to an extension of US hegemony. Today schools in as many as 20 countries are providing courses for 1.2 million students using the edX platform alone. A group of Chinese institutions has also launched a new platform based on the edX codebase that boasts 300,000 users, and Jordan’s Queen Rania Foundation has created Edraak for Arabic language content. Last week, Saudi Arabia announced that it would create a portal through which it would offer vocational skills training.The developing world may in fact be quicker to embrace MOOCs into formal education systems, due to an overwhelming demand for education. “When we opened up the technology, that’s just absolutely something we had not dreamt about, these widespread adoptions,” said edX CEO Anant Agarwal. Fast Company

Butler U takes corporate approach to leadership development

Administrators at Butler University are participating in a program called Leadership 20/20, designed to identify the strengths and weaknesses of the administrative team at the institution. The program draws heavily on corporate management approaches, and is being seen as a test of whether private sector talent development techniques can transfer to PSE. Administrators will participate in a “360 review” process, receiving feedback from coworkers, supervisors, and subordinates. The information gleaned from the reviews will inform subsequent sessions with coaches and consultants. Participants will also receive a report that scores their abilities against a 60-point scale. The feedback is not meant to be punitive, and Butler President James M Danko says that he does not expect to see everyone’s results, nor does he want to; he just wants his staff to reflect on how they can better carry out the insitution’s strategic plan. The program has its critics: some are skeptical that such a corporate approach will work in an academic setting where shared governance is the norm. The Chronicle of Higher Education