Top Ten

September 10, 2014

Canada tops OECD rankings in PSE spending, adult PSE attainment

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has released its annual “Education at a Glance” report. According to the report, Canada spent 2.8% of its GDP on postsecondary institutions in 2010. This was sufficient to surpass the US as the world leader in this category. Canada was found to have spent twice as much as the OECD average to educate each PSE student. 43% of the cost of PSE in Canada is picked up privately, higher than the OECD average of 31%. The report says that Canada’s colleges have helped the country achieve the highest rate of adult PSE attainment in the developed world. 24% of Canadian adults were found to have graduated from a community college, and 57.3% of Canadians were reported to have achieved postsecondary degrees. Canada’s share of international students increased by about 5% between 2000 and 2012, while the US’s share slipped from 23% to 16%. However, Canada’s math scores—while still higher than the OECD average—have dropped from 2003 levels. Canada is not the only country in which math scores have fallen, with Finland and the Netherlands also seeing reductions. Full Report | Toronto Star | Times Higher Education

uCalgary denies Palestinian rights group space for student forum, citing security concerns

The University of Calgary has denied an application by a Palestinian rights student group to host a forum on campus, citing security concerns. Student Union President Jarrett Henry said, “campus security did a risk assessment and deemed that it was too risky to hold the event. The reasons they gave … were that they were worried about non-students showing up and inciting violence. They referenced the July 18 protest in downtown Calgary that had violence erupt.” But Ala Hamdan, the President of Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights, said that the concern is “baseless” and alleges that the university is unjustly blaming the group for “something we didn’t take part in.” She noted, too, that the group has hosted other events on campus without incident. Hamdan says that uCalgary also informed her that security would be otherwise engaged with orientation week events, and that the scheduled time for the forum conflicted with a football game on campus. Henry said that the rejection applied only to this particular event, and that further applications would be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. Calgary Herald

BioEnergy Research Centre opens at Confederation College

Confederation College is celebrating the official opening of its new Ontario Power Generation BioEnergy Learning and Research Centre (OPG-BLRC), reportedly the first facility of its kind in Ontario. Biomass energy systems use forestry and agricultural products to produce heat and energy with a lower impact on the environment than traditional fuel sources. The new facility will feature state-of-the-art equipment that will provide opportunities for demonstrations, training, and applied research, and is expected to produce 80% of the total required heat load this winter for the college’s Shuniah/REACH building. “We are excited at the potential this facility offers. Through the [OPG-BLRC], Confederation College is poised to become a leader in renewable biomass energy. The potential benefits seen by the communities of our region could be significant and the research and educational opportunities will further differentiate our College as a pioneer of innovative and sustainable learning experiences,” commented Confederation President Jim Madder. Confederation News

UCN creates new departments for workforce development, research

University College of the North has reorganized its existing human resources into 2 new departments: Career and Workforce Development and Research and Innovation. Career and Workforce Development is tasked with developing responsive, integrated approaches to technical training that will meet the needs of northern Manitoba, while Research and Innovation will address instructional services, academic development, quality assurance, and research. The Research and Innovation department will work with UCN’s Research and Scholarship Committee, the UCN Research Ethics Board, and the UCN Animal Care Committee as well as with partners in business and industry, health, and social services to identify research projects that will meet the needs of the community as well as provide learning opportunities for students. Rob Penner has been named Associate VP of Career and Workforce Development, while Linda Melnick was appointed Dean of Research and Innovation. UCN News Release

CBIE concerned about low rate of study abroad

While more than 260,000 international students chose to study in Canada in 2012, only about 45,000 Canadians travelled to attend school in another country. This lopsided exchange is creating what the Canadian Bureau for International Education (CBIE) is calling “Canada’s global engagement challenge.” “It creates a more well-rounded and competitive society in terms of business if your students have been educated with exposure to the larger world,” said Rory Grewar, Program Director at the Irving K Barber Scholarship Society. “A generation with a global perspective is really valuable.” The CBIE and other organizations are pushing for more federal funding and support for Canadian students who wish to study abroad, to help offset financial barriers. Many Canadian students who do study elsewhere choose Western nations, with 90% of students choosing countries such as the US, UK, Australia, France, and Ireland. The Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada is especially concerned with the lack of students studying in Asian countries, which could be detrimental to future efforts to capitalize on economic opportunities in Asia. The Province

High costs of textbooks explained by economics prof

McGill University economics professor Christopher Ragan explains in a recent Globe and Mail article why textbook costs can be so high compared to many other “trade” book of similar size. Ragan begins by explaining that publishing companies have a relatively low return on equity rate, often due to the competitive and risky nature of the industry. He then explains the 3 major reasons why textbook-production costs are so high and how those costs are deflected to the buyer: textbooks are considered authoritative sources of information, and are therefore subject to rigorous review processes; today’s textbooks are printed on high-quality paper, with considerable graphic design elements and full colour images; and lastly, today’s professors and students want an array of add-on features including instructor’s manuals, electronic lecture slides, multiple-choice exam questions, ebook access, and custom-designed online platforms to complement the textbooks. All of these items increase production costs significantly, which translates to higher costs for the purchaser. Globe and Mail (Subscription Required)

Sault SMA emphasizes practical learning, support for Aboriginal learners

The strategic mandate agreement (SMA) between Sault College and Ontario emphasizes as the institution’s key areas of differentiation its focus on regional needs; its focus on niche programming including health, environmental studies, and pilot training; and its attentiveness to future technologies and needs. According to the SMA, Sault’s institutional strengths include its collaboration with community partners, its provision of authentic work experience and specialized training, and its active Applied Research Centre. The SMA notes the variety of education delivery methods offered by Sault, emphasizing that practical learning is infused in all programming. The college is also cited for its support for community-based learning, industry partnerships, and its mandatory Global Citizenship course. The SMA also mentions Sault’s strength in serving Aboriginal learners, with Aboriginal students making up 20.3% of total enrolment. The college also serves a significant number of students with disabilities and first-generation students. The agreement identifies 5 proposed program areas for growth: aerospace, engineering technology, health sciences, applied arts, and native education. Sault SMA

YorkU SMA highlights knowledge mobilization, community-based learning

The strategic mandate agreement (SMA) between York University and Ontario highlights the institution’s highly ranked professional programs, as well as its commitment to social justice and engagement, knowledge mobilization and knowledge transfer, and community partnership and outreach. The agreement notes that YorkU is Ontario’s largest provider of college-to-university transfer programs and cites specifically the university’s partnership with Seneca College as contributing to increased student mobility. According to the SMA, YorkU offers a wide variety of programs that address Canada’s economic and community development needs, including its science and engineering faculties and its Business and Administrative Studies program. YorkU’s liberal arts programs are also noted for providing graduates with flexible, transferable skills that are essential in a knowledge-based economy. The SMA notes YorkU’s many partnerships with firms including IBM Canada and PowerStream, as well as its support for commercialization through VentureLab and the Knowledge Mobilization Unit. YorkU’s innovative Community-Based Learning Program and its commitment to experiential education in several programs are also emphasized in the SMA. The SMA identifies 5 proposed program areas for growth: engineering and science; bilingual programs; arts, digital media, performance, and design; business/management/administration; and healthy individuals and communities. YorkU SMA

AAUP report says that trigger warnings threaten academic freedom

The American Association of University Professors has formally ruled that institutionally mandated trigger warnings constitute a threat to academic freedom. In a statement released on Monday the AAUP said trigger warnings may pressure faculty members to avoid some topics and that nontenured and contingent faculty members “are particularly at risk.” “The presumption that students need to be protected rather than challenged in a classroom is at once infantilizing and anti-intellectual,” the report says. “It makes comfort a higher priority than intellectual engagement.” The AAUP also noted its concern that trigger warnings may be applied to academic libraries, pointing to an American Library Association statement against labeling and rating systems that were also derived from a demand for trigger warnings. The ALA said that such labels were “a censor’s tool.” The AAUP goes so far as to suggest that even voluntary use of trigger warnings could be “counterproductive to the educational experience.” “The classroom is not the appropriate venue to treat PTSD,” the statement says, and suggests that such cases should be referred to student health services. The Chronicle of Higher Education | AAUP Report

US News releases annual US college and university rankings

The US News and World Report has released its annual ranking of US colleges. Princeton University was named the best in the US, followed by Harvard and Yale. Williams College (Massachusetts) ranked as the best liberal arts college in the country, with Amherst (MA) and Swarthmore (Pennsylvania) rounding out the top 3. The University of California-Berkley, UCLA, and the University of Virginia were the top 3 public universities, and US Naval Academy (Maryland), US Military Academy (New York), and US Air Force Academy (Colorado) the top public liberal arts colleges. Harvard was identified as delivering the best value among national universities, followed by Princeton and Yale; Amherst, Williams, and Pomona (California) took the top 3 spots for best value among liberal arts colleges. The US News rankings are based on student selectivity, faculty resources (including class size and faculty salary), graduation rates, and peer assessment. Spending on instruction and alumni giving are also considered. Full Rankings | Wall Street Journal