Top Ten

November 20, 2014

BC Minister says he may revoke consent for TWU law school

The Globe and Mail reports that British Columbia may revoke its consent for Trinity Western University’s proposed law school. The Globe and Mail obtained a letter sent to TWU President Bob Kuhn by BC Minister of Advanced Education Amirk Virk. In the letter, Virk notes that ongoing legal battles between TWU and the law societies of Ontario and Nova Scotia, as well as a suit that may be launched against the benchers of the Law Society of BC, are unlikely to be resolved by the time the province’s conditional consent expires on December 18. “As you are aware under the terms and conditions of consent TWU must enroll students within 3 years from the date of consent. As a result, I am considering revoking my consent for TWU’s proposed law program,” Virk wrote. At the centre of the dispute is a community covenant that requires all TWU students, administrators, and faculty to abstain from “sexual intimacy that violates the sacredness of marriage between a man and a woman.” Kuhn told the Globe and Mail that he was surprised by Virk’s letter, but that the institution will fight to maintain its beliefs. “This is a matter of religious freedoms being exercised by a university whose purpose is to be a Christian university,” Kuhn said. Should consent be revoked, TWU will be able to reapply following the outcome of the legal cases. Globe and Mail

Concordia looking for more ways to cut costs in light of budget cuts

In response to provincial budget cuts, Concordia University in September offered staff a Voluntary Departure Program (VDP) in an attempt to cut expenses. Officials were hoping that up to 180 staff members might take advantage of the program, resulting in $12 M in savings; however, Concordia President Alan Shepard said in a letter to the university community that only 90 people submitted a VDP application. Shepard’s letter discusses the budget constraints facing Concordia, and other PSE institutions in Quebec, noting that in light of a further $1.5 M cut to Concordia’s operating budget, officials are exploring alternate ways to save costs. “I have warned [government officials] that the repeated and cumulative financial constraints we are facing, if maintained in the future, will affect our capacity to sustain quality education and research,” Shepard stated in the letter. Ted Stathopoulos, President of the Concordia University Faculty Association, told the Montreal Gazette, “first you have the money, then you don’t; it changes from week to week … It makes it extremely difficult to plan.” Concordia News | Montreal Gazette

$10 M Alouette University Building opens in Sept-Îles

Quebec is celebrating the opening of the new Alouette University Building in Sept-Îles, a partnership between Université du Québec à Chicoutimi (UQAC) and Cégep de Sept-Îles. The 2,700-square-metre building was made possible by a $10 M donation by Aluminerie Alouette, the largest employer in the region. The new facility will provide space for up to 400 students, and incorporates a number of sustainable design features, including solar energy and geothermal systems. “The Alouette building is a tangible example of what a partnership based on a collective commitment to success, instead of individual ambitions, can produce,” said UQAC Rector Martin Gauthier. The building will welcome its first student in the winter 2015 term. Aluminerie Alouette News Release 

What universities are best positioned to succeed in an uncertain PSE future?

In a new article for Academica Group’s Rethinking Higher Ed Forum, former President of the University of Windsor and Laurentian University Ross Paul examines which Canadian universities are best positioned to succeed—and which are most at risk—given the current rapid pace of change in PSE. Paul identifies 4 groups of universities that he says are better positioned to respond to technological and demographic shifts: high reputation, medical-doctoral institutions; small, residential teaching institutions; focused institutions with a particular cachet; and other institutions located in major metropolitan areas. Paul argues that many university leaders have been too narrowly focused on accessibility and growth rather than quality, a fixation that could have serious long-term consequences. He offers specific recommendations to institutions in order to shift toward an emphasis on quality, but provides some cautionary advice, as well. Rethinking Higher Ed

Booth UC receives its largest ever donation, $1 M for Petersen Hall

Booth University College will name its new business/learning centre Petersen Hall in recognition of a $1 M donation from Allen and Janet Peterson. The new centre is currently under construction and is expected to open for the winter semester, with an official opening celebration to take place during convocation in April. “We are deeply grateful for the Petersens’ landmark donation. Naming the centre in honour of the Petersen family is a fitting tribute to their generosity and recognition of their longstanding support of Booth UC and the mission of our institution,” said Booth UC President Donald Burke. “Petersen Hall will enhance greatly our students’ learning experience. It will transform the facilities currently available to them with state-of-the-art technology infrastructure and a range of new educational and training opportunities.” Booth UC News Release

MSVU opens new Learning Commons

Mount Saint Vincent University celebrated the official opening of its Learning Commons on Tuesday. The new, flexible space features student meeting rooms, reconfigured and expanded collaborative spaces, new tables, a technology hub, and an open-concept design. “A Learning Commons has been a goal of ours for quite some time,” said MSVU President Ramona Lumpkin. “There is increasing need among students for more flexible learning environments; as well, the profound effects of technology on education and changes in how professors teach and how students learn require support reflected in the campus environment.” Paul Whyte, President of the MSVU Student’s Union, said, “we, the students, spoke about this need and we received a response. There is nothing more satisfying to me than to see the student voice being acknowledged and embraced. I look forward to the innovation this space will foster.” The Learning Commons was funded in part by a provincial Excellence and Innovation Fund grant. MSVU News

Young adults from Ontario, Quebec head west for jobs

A new Fraser Institute report says that young people from Ontario and Quebec are flocking westward to find employment. According to the report, over 60,000 persons aged 24–34 moved to Alberta; British Columbia and Saskatchewan also gained and employed more youth, but to a lesser degree. Over the same period, Ontario lost 27,451 persons in the same age bracket, and Quebec 24,355. However, some business leaders in Ontario say that the tide may be turning back in that province’s favour, citing growth in the technology sector, as well as a rise in the number of small and medium startups. Matt Marchand, CEO of the Windsor-Essex Regional Chamber of Commerce, said, “we are doing our best to encourage young folks to match the skill requirements with what’s needed in the workforce.” He pointed specifically to the work the Chamber is doing with St Clair College on the Magnet Network, an initiative designed to keep students informed of local opportunities. Marchand also said that the Alberta boom has been driven by the oil industry, and that the demand for new infrastructure may be nearing an end. Windsor Star

Report on use of engagement technologies in humanities classroom shows mixed results

A new study published by the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario (HEQCO) has found that not all humanities students benefit equally from engagement technologies in large classes. Researchers at the University of Toronto Mississauga studied nearly 300 students in 2 semesters of a large history course. In the first semester, students used clickers in class and participated in online quizzes after class. In the second semester, students were taught in a more conventional style. The researchers found that students who already met a moderately good standard of academic performance improved the most when using technological tools; those who achieved the highest scores on the pre-intervention test, however, improved more in the conventional class. The researchers also noted that those students with previous university experience also performed better in the traditional format than those who entered directly from high school, who performed better with the technology. However, there was a significant difference in the attendance levels across the 2 semesters. The attendance under the traditional lecture format averaged just 58%, compared to 78% in the technologically oriented semester. HEQCO Summary | Full Report

PSE institutions respond to rise of e-cigarettes

As e-cigarette use becomes more prevalent in Canada, universities and colleges are taking a variety of approaches to allowing their use on campuses. University Affairs looked at the policies at a number of institutions, finding that while some have banned e-cigarettes inside campus buildings and residences, others are waiting for further guidance from Health Canada before making any firm decisions. Université de Montréal has received a number of complaints this fall about e-cigarette use inside buildings, as has the University of New Brunswick. Both institutions responded to the complaints by including e-cigarettes in their smoking policies, banning their use wherever smoking is not allowed. Concordia University has banned e-cigarettes in student residences, but is otherwise waiting to see what other institutions do. The Université du Québec à Montréal is tolerating e-cigarette use for now, saying it hasn’t yet been an issue on the campus. David Sweanor, a professor in the University of Ottawa’s Faculty of Law and an expert in smoking and public health, said that universities should wait before taking action, as it is a “complicated” situation that needs more “scientific evidence.” University Affairs

Survey shows international students believe Canada is safe, affordable for studies

A new survey of international students from Asia and the Middle East has shown that, among English speaking destinations, Canada has a strong reputation for affordability and safety. The survey polled 1,000 students who had used the services of the global education agency IDP. Canada ranked as the top nation for affordability and safety, and was ranked second for graduate employment opportunities and government student visa requirements and policies. Canada ranked fourth for quality of education, finishing behind the US, Australia, and the UK. 44% of the students completing the survey were enrolled or planned to enrol in STEM fields; 43% in commerce and management; and 10% in health. Three-quarters said that they had parental support to fund their education. Respondents said that the top reason they felt an international education was “worth it” was “to gain better knowledge/skills than at home,” followed by “obtaining a good job in a chosen field” and “earning more money.”  The majority of respondents were from India. Asian Pacific Post | Survey Infographic