Top Ten

October 8, 2014

Software bug may have exposed UBC students’ personal information

A bug in UBC’s Student Service Centre software may have exposed students’ personal information, the university has announced. The bug was introduced in an update made in November 2012, but was not detected until last month. UBC says that the bug was fixed within 48 hours of being identified, and officials say that the risk of any students being affected is extremely low. The bug would have been triggered in just one of every 1000 transactions, said UBC Registrar Kate Ross. She added that the consequences of being affected are “minimal." According to Ross, “even if you were among the one in a thousand who may have been affected by this bug, the only information that could have been seen by another user was your Electronic Fund Transfer (EFT) information (account holder name, financial institution number, transit number, and account number)." UBC has notified BC’s Information and Privacy Commissioner about the glitch, but emphasized that there is no cause for alarm. CBC

SMU billboard in Sydney causes controversy

A Sydney billboard advertising Saint Mary’s University has raised the ire of some members of the Cape Breton University community. The sign says, “the right future is worth the drive to Halifax,” a message that some say is a clear slight against CBU. “It’s kind of talking down on CBU. I feel like it’s saying that Saint Mary’s is better,” said one CBU student. SMU says that no offence was intended. Margaret Murphy, AVP External Affairs at SMU, said, “research shows that being in Halifax is attractive to young people … location is one of the features that we’re pushing in the billboards.” CBU President David Wheeler isn’t annoyed; rather, he described the billboard as “kind of funny.” Wheeler said that the advertisement is par for the course as PSE institutions aggressively compete with one another for domestic students. “We’re confident in our abilities,” he said. “We have the highest satisfaction rate in the province.” CBU’s Director of Marketing Stacey Black said there are no plans for a direct rebuttal. CTV | ChronicleHerald

National Consortium for Indigenous Economic Development established at UVic

The University of Victoria’s Faculty of Law and the Peter B Gustavson School of Business have announced a new consortium intended to support Indigenous economic development across Canada. The National Consortium for Indigenous Economic Development (NCIED) will focus on 7 key areas: entrepreneurship; leadership and management development; effective regulation for economic prosperity; securing resources, stewardship, and sustainability; economic development strategies; structures for economic activity; and working with and creating business. Gustavson Dean Saul Klein said, “Canada’s future is tied to the well-being of Indigenous peoples and Indigenous communities and their participation in the economy. Unlocking the potential for economic development in light of this requires careful consideration and elimination of the structural and behavioural impediments to capital investment and economic growth.” Miles G Richardson (Haida) will sit as NCIED’s interim Director to oversee its launch and development. UVic News Release

Bell donates $1 M to McGill and uMontréal to support mental health programs

Bell has donated $1 M to support mental health initiatives at McGill University and Université de Montréal. McGill University will use the funding to support the McGill Wellness Portal, an online self-screening tool used to identify common mental health issues including depression, anxiety, and eating disorders. uMontréal, meanwhile, will use its share of the donation to implement a series of initiatives designed to help students who suffer from anxiety or mood disorders or who are suffering as a result of stressful situations. The funding will be provided as a part of Bell’s "Let’s Talk" program. “Most people affected by mental health issues live in silence for fear of being judged or rejected because of the stigma that still surrounds mental health. Improving access to mental health care and talking openly about the need for these services are priorities for Bell Let’s Talk,” said Martine Turcotte, Bell’s Vice-Chair for Québec. McGill News Release | uMontréal News Release

StFX officially opens Riley Hall residence

St Francis Xavier University held a ceremony on Sunday to officially open a new residence building, which will be named Riley Hall in recognition of former university President Sean Riley. New StFX President Kent MacDonald said, “it is so fitting this hall is named after someone who has had a deep impact not only in our hearts, but in the look of campus.” Riley, who attended the ceremony, said, “what thrills me about Riley Hall is what is going to happen here this year, and maybe for the next 50 years. I’m more convinced great things will come out of Riley Hall in terms of what the students will do at StFX, and around the world.” StFX News Release

For-profit giant Kaplan starts competency-based “Open College”

Kaplan Higher Education is launching a new competency-based “Open College” that will provide adult learners with free and fee-based services to help them qualify for a degree or build skills toward a new career. Kaplan will help students identify any existing skills that may count toward a degree or a new career, as well as offer a subscription-based education model to help fill in any remaining requirements needed to obtain a bachelor's of science degree in professional studies. Kaplan officials say that most students would end up paying about $9,500 to complete a degree, based on a typical enrolment of 60 credits and a 24- to 30-month time-to-completion. A student entering with no credits who participates for 48 straight months would pay $15,000 under the initial pricing model. Peter Smith, who is in charge of the new venture, said that he expects that Kaplan will be able to capitalize on recent interest in competency-based education and online learning. The Chronicle of Higher Education

WLU to test fall reading week as uWaterloo weighs its options

Wilfrid Laurier University students will enjoy a few extra days off next week as the university begins a three-year trial of a fall reading week. “The break will be perfect, whether students want to take the time to study or just take the time to relax,” said one student. 14 of 20 Ontario universities currently offer students a fall reading week, and WLU students began pressing campus leaders to follow their example 3 years ago. Down the road, University of Waterloo students, faculty, and staff will be keeping a close eye on the results of WLU’s trial. A task force at uWaterloo has submitted a report on the feasibility of a fall break to the university’s VP Academic, and students there will have an opportunity to voice their opinion on the issue in an online referendum next month. Stéphane Hamade, VP of uWaterloo’s Federation of Students, said that a break could help promote mental health and mitigate stress; however, there are a number of logistical issues that would need to be resolved before any plan could move forward. The Record | uWaterloo News

PCAP scores show no gender gap in math and sciences, but women's STEM participation still lags

Girls at the grade-8 level have closed the gap in science and math scores, according to the latest results from the Pan-Canadian Assessment Program (PCAP). Overall, PCAP results show that students in British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario, and Newfoundland and Labrador outperformed the Canadian average in science; students in Quebec performed better than the national average in mathematics; and students in Ontario had a higher score than the Canadian average in reading. PCAP test results show that there is no longer a significant gender gap in science and mathematics scores; however, between 2010 and 2013, only girls saw a significant increase in mathematics scores. These findings point to another issue: the decline in female participation in STEM fields as girls progress into high school and eventually PSE. While the proportion of women in engineering programs in Ontario climbed nearly 2% between 2005 and 2012, Canada lags behind countries including Turkey, India, and China in correcting the gender imbalance in STEM participation. Some researchers point to gendered expectations and peer pressure in high school as having a negative impact, while others advocate more parental engagement and the incorporation of social and collaborative learning techniques in STEM education. Globe and Mail | CMEC News Release | Full PCAP Report

RSC issues position paper on importance of research in Canada

The Royal Society of Canada (RSC) has published a position paper addressing the importance of research to bolster Canada’s role in the world knowledge economy. The RSC says that it is “concerned that [Canada is] in danger of slipping behind our competitors in our support of research and thereby losing our competitive edge.” Research, the paper says, is a critical driver of prosperity; without adequate investment, Canada will fall behind other nations. Already, the RSC says, Canadian spending on research and development as a percentage of GDP risks falling behind that of nations like China. The RSC urges a broad research program that incorporates both basic and applied research as mutually reinforcing forms of inquiry. The paper recommends an increase in research funding in Canada to match the average level of OECD and G8 countries, and advises the government to develop a 10-year plan for research, innovation, and skill development, to be created in consultation with the academic and business communities. The paper also urges Canada to “establish a more extensive and more diverse system for providing expert advice at all levels.” RSC News Release | Full Paper

NSCRC finds just one-third of non-first-time students in US complete their degrees

New research from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center (NSCRC) indicates that just 33.7% of adult learners in the US who enroll in PSE after at least a year away earn a degree after 6 to 8 years, compared to 54.1% of first-time students. Completion rates were higher for non-first-time students enrolled at 4-year private non-profit institutions (52.5%) than for those enrolled at 2-year public institutions (27%); however, 2-year public institutions enroll the highest proportion of non-first-time students among the various institution types in the US. The NSCRC’s data show that completion rates vary widely from state to state; Texas, New York, and Florida have completion rates ranging from 37% to 40%, while California’s sits at 24%. The completion rate was highest in the District of Columbia, at 57%, but DC accounts for just 0.1% of all non-first-time enrolments. The NSCRC’s report considers 4.5 million students who re-enrolled in PSE between August 15, 2005 and August 14, 2008; a second study, which will look at 7 million students who re-enrolled between August 15, 2008 and August 14, 2013, is currently underway. Inside Higher Ed | Report Summary