Top Ten

September 3, 2014

UFV Five Corners opens in Chilliwack

The University of the Fraser Valley has officially opened a new location at Chilliwack’s historic Five Corners. The 7,000-square-foot site includes classroom space, a computer lab, meeting rooms, and offices, and will be used to deliver Continuing Education courses. The facility will also be available for community purposes, customized contract training, and for programming by other UFV departments. The site was donated to the university by the Bank of Montreal; the Chilliwack Economic Partners Corporation also provided $850,000 and helped manage the renovation project. “This excellent and much-needed new facility is a prime example of what can be achieved when corporate and community partners work together with our university,” said UFV President Mark Evered. Liana Thompson, UFV’s Director of Continuing Education, added, “we are very excited about creating a space geared towards working professionals who want to gain specific, applied, career-focused skills.” UFV News Release

Future of ESL programming in BC remains uncertain

British Columbia’s English-as-a-second-language (ESL) students and providers are facing continued uncertainty about the future of their programs, reports the Globe and Mail. The federal government announced last year that it would no longer provide $22 M in annual funding for ESL programs. Although the BC government has committed about $17 M in one-time funding to help institutions transition, the funding will not carry most programs past the 2014–15 school year. Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) has accepted proposals for federally-funded “settlement services,” including ESL training, that “can best provide newcomers with the services they need, such as language training and career counselling, for the best value for taxpayers’ dollars.” Vancouver Community College is the biggest public provider of ESL programming in BC, training nearly half of the province’s 9,000 ESL students. VCC has already announced that it will likely have to cut programs and lay off teaching staff. Other PSE institutions in BC are exploring options before announcing program cuts. Globe and Mail

uOttawa’s new tuition discount upsets some international students

Some international students at the University of Ottawa are upset with the new language-based tuition discount offered to French-speaking international students. uOttawa announced last year that it would offer domestic tuition rates to international students who want to study in French. Reported amounts vary, but French-speaking international students are saving $10,000–$15,000 in tuition annually; the discount has resulted in 3 times as many French-speaking international students enrolling so far this year. However, non-French-speaking international students at uOttawa say the discount is unfair. “I think every language is equal,” said Scott Zhoe, an international student from China. “You can't make me pay more money than they do just because I don't speak French.” Caroline Renaud, the Director of uOttawa’s international office, said the university is not aware of any upset students. “We're not seeing it as being unfair, and we just very sincerely explain the situation to international students who choose to study in English,” she said. CBC

Housing markets leave many students scrambling for accommodations

This week, many PSE students are moving into new homes. However, some students studying in cities with low vacancy rates are struggling to find accommodations. In Vancouver, a 1.7% vacancy rate, along with high rental prices, have made it difficult to find housing near the university. Calgary students are facing a similar situation. Even with some of the country’s most prohibitive zoning laws regarding rentals, the city’s vacancy rate is just 1.4%. The demand means landlords are often overwhelmed with applications, and are able to take their pick of tenants. Students, meanwhile, might find themselves considering—or unknowingly renting—an illegal suite just to get a roof over their heads. Things aren’t much better in Edmonton, which has a comparable vacancy rate to Calgary's as a result of an influx of workers migrating to the province. In all cases, PSE institutions are working to create residence spaces, but limited resources and capacity can make doing so a challenge. Parents, too, are getting creative; some are even buying condo units for their PSE-aged students, particularly for out-of-province students. The purchase is seen as a long-term investment that also ensures students have a safe, comfortable place to live. Vancouver Sun | Calgary Herald | Edmonton Journal | Ottawa Citizen

Students at Ontario deaf schools complain of inadequate education and services

The Toronto Star reports that the Office of the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth has called for a review of Ontario’s provincial deaf schools, following a number of student complaints. According to the Star, students say that they are not being provided with sufficient courses to prepare them for a university education; others say they have been told by teachers that they are not smart enough to pursue PSE. Students have also complained that some teachers refuse to use American Sign Language (ASL) regularly in school, making it difficult to follow the curriculum; they also claim that senior administrators are not able to effectively communicate in ASL beyond simple greetings. A spokesperson for Ontario’s education minister told the Star that every provincial school for the deaf has at least one administrator who is deaf, and that “every effort is made to have a teacher who is proficient in American Sign Language in each classroom”; but, she noted that a lack of qualified teachers sometimes means hiring non-specialists. Toronto Star

Op-ed encourages universities, students to aim for a broad education

A Concordia University professor argues that university students are often pushed to specialize too early in their education, and as a result may lack the perspective offered by a broad range of courses and programs. In an op-ed published in the Montreal Gazette, Paul L Allen writes that the current emphasis on specialization in PSE may cost students and our society the benefits of a general education. Allen, who is now a professor of theology, recalls a first-year economics course he took, noting that the professor challenged students to consider “how and why to think about” the subject; a history course, meanwhile, provided him with “an indispensable means for understanding the human condition.” Allen concludes by urging university students to think as broadly as possible. “At the very least,” he says, “being at university should take in as much of the universe—and beyond it—as possible.” Montreal Gazette

Mohawk SMA cites support for regional economic development, health and technology focus

Ontario has released the strategic mandate agreement (SMA) it signed with Mohawk College. The SMA identifies as Mohawk’s key areas of differentiation its specialized focus on health and technology in the Western Golden Horseshoe, its close alignment with Hamilton’s economic development strategy, and its proven success in skilled trades and apprenticeship training. The SMA also cites the college’s support for applied research through its iDeaWorks Centre, the mHealth and eHealth Development and Innovation Centre (MEDIC), and its partnerships with Hydro One, Siemens, and ArcelorMittal Dofasco. Mohawk’s focus on providing blended learning formats and its new academic plan are also highlighted in the SMA. The college is also cited for its work toward improved access for underrepresented groups via its Student Success Plan, Access Initiative, and its Aboriginal Recruitment and Project Pathfinder initiatives; Mohawk’s partnership with McMaster University on joint degree programs is also noted. The SMA identifies 4 proposed program areas for growth: health/allied health, technology, business, and apprenticeship. Mohawk SMA

uToronto SMA highlights support for innovation, learning communities, and research strength

The strategic mandate agreement (SMA) signed between the University of Toronto and Ontario highlights uToronto's international research strength, its broad range of program offerings and research activities, and its far-ranging economic and social impact. The SMA lists among uToronto’s areas of strength its contribution to knowledge translation and entrepreneurship, which has given rise to 81 new start-up companies over the past 5 years. The SMA also mentions uToronto’s support for entrepreneurship through its Innovations and Partnership Office, its 4 accelerators, and the Banting and Best Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. The agreement cites as strengths uToronto’s “embedding” of professionals in colleges, faculties and libraries; its support for small learning communities; and its co-curricular record program. uToronto’s support for technology-assisted learning and experiential learning are identified as further strengths. The SMA also lists some of the ways in which uToronto supports education accessibility, such as the Student Access Guarantee and First Nations House. 6 proposed program areas for growth are identified: biomedicine and health-related programs, engineering/architecture/environment, global affairs/public policy, business/management/finance, arts and sciences – doctoral stream, and graduate teacher education. uToronto SMA

Data-driven approach may help employers determine value of degrees

An article published in University World News says that the belief that an economic value of a degree is tied strictly to hard skills and job capabilities does not correspond with the approach that human resources experts take to evaluating the degrees of job candidates. Sean Gallagher, Chief Strategy Officer at Northwestern University, describes degrees as a “key currency powering the knowledge economy,” but argues that degrees are often used as indicators of soft attributes such as perseverance, acculturation, and leadership ability. Degrees do not simply indicate technical skill or general knowledge, but “signal” competencies to potential employers. However, Gallagher says, the value of a degree as a signal is at risk. Transnational education and a lack of standardized credentialing limit the use of degrees for this purpose. Global harmonization seems unlikely, Gallagher argues, and it may be incumbent upon private-sector recruiters to develop analytics-based solutions capable of correlating degrees, areas of study, and employee performance. University World News

Authors say US PSE students remain in “emerging adulthood” long after graduation

The authors of 2011’s Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses have published a follow-up to the original work. For Aspiring Adults Adrift: Tentative Transitions of College Graduates, Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa tracked more than 1,600 US college students at 24 4-year institutions, analyzing 918 survey responses and 80 interviews. The authors found that 53% of graduates surveyed earned less than $30,000 per year, and nearly a quarter lived at home 2 years after graduating. 70% received financial aid from their parents. Only one-third of respondents said they read newspapers online or in-print on a daily basis, and just 16% said they discussed politics and public affairs on a daily basis with friends or family. The study also found that students’ performance on the Collegiate Learning Assessment (CLA) correlated with graduates’ ability to hold a job. Arum and Roksa say that graduates are prolonging a stage they call “emerging adulthood,” and say that PSE institutions' focus on “consumer” preferences rather than rigorous academics is partly responsible. Critics of the research, however, say that broader societal factors are also to blame, though PSE institutions must play a role in finding a solution. The Chronicle of Higher Education (1) | The Chronicle of Higher Education (2) | Inside Higher Ed