Top Ten

November 24, 2014

Heightened police presence at RRC following bomb threat

Winnipeg police are keeping a close eye on Red River College’s Notre Dame campus after a bomb threat was scrawled on a classroom whiteboard. A drawing indicated that the threat was for November 21. Police bomb and K9 units collaborated with the RCMP to conduct a search of campus, but officials said that they believe the drawing was likely nothing more than “an ill-advised prank.” Nevertheless, the threat is being taken seriously and police as well as additional security officers have been deployed to ensure the safety of the campus community. Regardless of the intent of the threat, police noted that it is illegal to make such threats and that they will continue to try to identify the perpetrator. “The investigation is continuing utilizing video surveillance and other intelligence available. Any hoax or threat of a bomb is a criminal code offence and individuals may be charged,” RRC said in a letter to students. Global News

MB throne speech promises credit-transfer portal, new hybrid university/college programs

Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger has released the province’s new throne speech, with several promises to benefit students and the overall education sector. The speech includes a promise to eliminate interest on student loans, launch a new Credit Transfer Portal to help students move more easily between programs and institutions, expand the apprenticeship model to allow certification of new occupations outside of traditional trades, create new hybrid college/university programs, and improve collaboration to bring more employers into classrooms and more students into the workplace. The throne speech also mentioned intentions to enhance collaboration around Indigenous education and to create a new PSE strategy, based on the input of local education leaders, to be released in 2015. “I am pleased to see that the province continues to recognize the importance of postsecondary education to Manitoba’s future,” said David Barnard, President of the University of Manitoba. “Eliminating interest on student loans and easing transition between institutions will further improve the student experience and help them pursue studies that allow them to take their place front and centre in Manitoba’s economy.” MB News Release | Winnipeg Free Press | Globe and Mail | uManitoba News

uAlberta faces calls for policy changes after student’s belongings are thrown away

The University of Alberta Students Union (UASU) is calling on the institution to reform some of its policies after Residence Services threw away an international student’s belongings, including a television, a sewing machine, a laptop, art supplies, and artwork. Design student Siying Chen was in China visiting family but returned to find many of her possessions were missing. She was told that her lease agreement required her to give Residence Services notice if she planned to leave her unit for more than 14 days. Chen had left some of the items in the common area of the 4-unit suite for her roommates to use, but was told in an email that Residence Services “felt that if the items in the common area were important to someone, then they would have put them in their bedroom for safekeeping while they were away. Therefore, due to your lack of responsibility, these items were considered as trash … and therefore were all thrown out and removed as garbage.” Chen said that she has traveled in the past without ever having any such issues. Doug Dawson, AVP Ancillary Services, told the Edmonton Journal that what happened is consistent with university policies, but noted that “we are committed to constantly improving those policies and procedures … Situations like this help us identify where and how we can make those improvements.” Edmonton Journal

Postscript: November 24, 2014

The University of Alberta has offered to reimburse a student whose belongings were thrown away by campus residence services, as well as to waive her rent for the remainder of the school year. “I am very, very sorry that this happened,” said uAlberta President Indira Samarasekera. The student, Siying Chen, says that while she appreciates the apology she will still move out of the residence in January. “I feel so disappointed with our residence and can’t live there anymore,” she said. Chen, an industrial design student, said among the property that had been thrown out was some of her artwork and handmade furniture, which she had intended to sell at an auction later this month. Samarasekera refuted claims made by the uAlberta Students’ Union that there is inadequate recourse for students who disagree with residence services decisions and policies. However, she added that “we recognize when something like this happens, we need to understand exactly what we need to do to avoid it from happening again and also ensure this particular student understands that we are very concerned, we care about what happened and we are going to get to the bottom of it.” Edmonton Journal

Conestoga releases 2014–2017 Strategic Plan

Conestoga College has released its new 2014–2017 Strategic Plan, which focuses on 3 strategic priorities: Capacity, Quality, and Sustainability. These priorities are supported by goals and tactical strategies, including expanding academic and community partnerships, increasing opportunities for work-integrated learning, and developing new centres for innovation and excellence. In a letter to the Conestoga community, President John Tibbits and board Chair Frank Boutzis spoke of the plan as a “framework … to build on [Conestoga’s] existing strengths to foster social and economic development, serve [the] region’s dynamic labour market needs, and provide individuals from across [the] community with the opportunity to achieve career and life success.” The Strategic Plan also reiterates Conestoga’s values of Access, Respect, Quality, Innovation, and Community, while emphasizing the vision for “recognition for excellence in polytechnic education.” Conestoga News | Strategic Plan

Controversial student websites removed

A controversial student website that offered a public sounding board for 2 New Brunswick universities has been shut down. "UNBF and STU Confessions and Compliments" was created by a student at the University of New Brunswick. Content ranged from questions about relationship help to criticisms, compliments, and personal admissions. However, content of an abusive and sexual nature also made its way on to the site, prompting a lengthy anonymous complaint to both university presidents. The complaint stated that the postings on the website had resulted in some students not feeling safe on campus. University administrators reported that the site had been taken down voluntarily by its creator, and that the institutions are seeking advice on including cyberspace activities in their student codes of conduct. A similar site, "Spotted at STU," was also removed by its creator. One professor at UNB cautioned against universities pushing for entire sites to be taken down, as “a lot of offensive speech, a lot of difficult speech, a lot of speech you don't want to hear, can actually be very valuable.” CBC

CBIE says Canada must send more students to study abroad

The Canadian Bureau for International Education (CBIE) has released its annual report on the state of international education in Canada. According to the report, the number of international students coming to Canada is increasing; however, only 3% of Canadian students are studying internationally. CBIE says that this number needs to improve to 15%. “If we don’t increase the number of students studying abroad, we won’t be involved in the trade deals that Canada is putting into place now, or in meeting global challenges,” said CBIE President Karen McBride. The report also found that 50% of international students intend to apply for permanent residence in Canada, that 55% of international students intend to pursue additional studies in Canada after completing their current program, and that 2013 figures show an 84% increase in international students in Canada over the last decade and an 11% increase over the previous year. CBIE News Release | Globe and Mail Full Report

HEQCO report finds that many employers expect experience for entry-level positions

The Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario (HEQCO) has released a new 3-part study on entry-level jobs in Canada. Researchers found that less than one-quarter of employers would consider hiring a candidate with no work experience for an entry-level position; employers wanted an average of between one and 2 years of experience. When filling entry-level positions that asked for a PSE credential, close to half of employers said that they didn’t care whether the credential came from a college or a university; about the same amount said they didn’t care which field the candidate had studied. A follow-up survey found that 59% of employers hired candidates with 3 or more years of previous employment for the entry-level positions while a quarter hired candidates with more than 5 years of experience. Among the skills cited as being most valued by employers in the study were the ability to work well with others, oral communication skills, and computer skills. While the study was limited in its scope, the researchers say that the results suggest that PSE graduates do have the right skills for the labour market, but that they also emphasize the need for alignment and collaboration between PSE institutions and employers. HEQCO Summary

Luxury private student residence in Montreal has tanning beds, microbrewery

A new private residence in downtown Montreal serves as a rich example of a demand for luxury and opulence in Canadian student housing. The 1,300-bed EVO building offers students tanning beds, a state-of-the-art gym, a mahogany-paneled study room, and a microbrewery. US-based Campus Crest Communities Inc and the European private-equity firm Beaumont Partners SA spent approximately $60 M to purchase a number of downtown properties, including the Delta Centre-Ville hotel that was turned into EVO; they have put an additional $20 M into renovations. Janice Johnson, McGill University’s Managing Director of Residence Life, said “we were worried with so many new beds opening but I think it’s just helping to raise the standards.” She adds that on-campus residences still have something unique to offer. “Our places aren’t as shiny and fancy as the new places, but many parents still want their kids at McGill having that university residence experience,” she said. Nevertheless, some Canadian institutions do offer students more luxurious housing than the stereotypical dorm room: in 2013, Brescia University College opened a 320-student residence with an emphasis on higher-end student living. Montreal Gazette

THE teams with Elsevier in revamping its World University Rankings

Times Higher Education (THE) has announced a number of changes to its World University Rankings. While the methodology for the rankings will largely be preserved, THE will bring its data collection in-house, rather than outsourcing it to Thomson Reuters, as has been done in the past. THE will also begin to draw the publication data used for the rankings from Elsevier’s Scopus database as well as from Elsevier’s SciVal research metrics analysis tool. Furthermore, THE has announced that it will now be responsible for its global academic reputation survey, rather than Thomson Reuters. Elsevier will provide support in administering the survey. THE will also expand the number of languages used in distributing the survey from 9 to 15. “We are now entering an exciting new phase in the development of THE’s gold-standard analyses. Our partnership with Elsevier will ensure that we remain at the forefront of developments and innovations in the evaluation of university performance,” said Trevor Barratt, Managing Director of THETHE News Release (1) | THE News Release (2)

Illinois lets students earn sweat equity for their education

Illinois’ Blackburn College has found a unique way to keep costs down. In order to keep the cost of its $2.5 M expansion manageable, it is hiring student work crews to do some of the labour. This isn't unusual at Blackburn: 90% of the student body works for 10 hours per week on campus at jobs ranging from construction and gardening to administrative positions. In exchange for their hard work, students receive tuition credits. College administrators say that the move benefits students as well as the college: it helps them develop skills that can make them more marketable to employers when they graduate. Some students say that they appreciate the opportunity to manage their expenses, and that the work program helps them stay on track with their studies. CNN Money