Top Ten

November 26, 2014

BC Minister under fire as emails contradict earlier claims in compensation probe

BC Minister of Advanced Education Amrik Virk is facing criticism after the provincial opposition released a series of emails contradicting his earlier account of his involvement in determining compensation for senior administrators at Kwantlen Polytechnic University. The Vancouver Sun and The Province report that the emails suggest that as a member of Kwantlen Polytechnic University’s board of governors, Virk was involved in a plan to circumvent provincial pay limits for senior administration. The new information calls into question an earlier government report that found that Virk and the other members of the Kwantlen board at the time had no knowledge of a plan to offer pre-employment contracts that would allow the institution to offer compensation beyond the provincial cap. At the time when the initial report was being prepared, Virk told Assistant Deputy Minister Rob Mingay that he had disclosed all information he had that was pertinent to the investigation. Now, he says that the emails have “refreshed [his] memory.” “These emails are from an old account that I haven’t had access to since I retired from the RCMP. Now that I have these emails, I will forward them to Mr Mingay for review,” Virk said. BC Finance Minister Mike de Jong has asked Mingay to determine whether his conclusions should be revised based on the new evidence. Vancouver Sun | The Province

BCIT launches Centre of Excellence in Analytics

BCIT on Monday officially announced the launch of a new Centre of Excellence in Analytics. The Centre represents a collaboration between BCIT and software company SAP, and will help meet a labour-market demand for graduates with skills in applied analytics and business intelligence. The Centre will also engage in applied research projects in support of local businesses’ analytics needs. “Analytics is all about using information to forecast marketplace changes, mitigate risks, and seize opportunities for growth. Demand for these skills is increasing dramatically as companies strategize to manage and interpret diverse sources of information and complex databases,” said Jenness Murray, Chair of the Centre. BCIT News Release

New agreement lets ON college business students transfer credits to other colleges

Ontario’s colleges have signed a new agreement that will make it easier for business diploma students to transfer between institutions. According to the agreement, business diploma students who transfer at the end of their first or second year will receive full credit for their completed courses. The program applies to students studying accounting, business administration, human resources, and marketing. “This is a breakthrough agreement among all colleges that will help eliminate duplication and cut costs for students. For transfer students in business, this represents a substantial savings of time and money,” said David Agnew, President of Seneca College and Chair of Colleges Ontario. George Brown College News Release

SK launches new international education strategy

Saskatchewan has launched a new International Education Strategy that aims to increase the number of SK students studying abroad, increase the number of international students studying in SK, and increase the number and value of international research partnerships. The Strategy outlines several initiatives that will be implemented to accomplish these 3 goals, including the foundation of an annual International Future Scholarship to help SK students study business abroad; the re-establishment of a postsecondary international education council to foster collaboration between government, PSE institutions, and industry; and the development of a provincial marketing strategy to promote studying internationally for SK students and to attract international students to SK. “We want our young people to acquire the skills they need to work in a global context and strengthen our province’s cultural business expertise worldwide,” said SK’s Advanced Education Minister Kevin Doherty. “This will help to build relationships with our trading partners, to increase investments and partnerships to keep our provincial economy strong. For the students that return to their home countries, they will become excellent ambassadors of our province.” SK News Release | Regina Leader-Post

uWinnipeg students protest lack of counselling services

Student protestors attended a board of regents meeting at the University of Winnipeg on Monday, calling for increased access to general counsellors for students. The protestors presented a petition signed by more than 10% of the student body that stated that counselling services are inadequate. Members of uWinnipeg’s administration pointed to recent improvements to counselling services, including immediate suicide risk assessments and partnerships with community organizations. The student protestors said with only one general counsellor, it can be weeks before a student sees someone, unless the student is experiencing a crisis. The students want to see at least 3 additional full-time counsellors on staff. The board approved a recommendation to look into reallocating some of the annual student life fees paid by students towards additional counselling staff. Winnipeg Free Press

Muslim organization holds awareness events against radicalization

A new public-awareness campaign designed to combat the religious radicalization of youth has been launched at PSE institutions and community venues across the country. “Stop the CrISIS” was created by the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at Canada in order to help non-Muslim individuals learn more about the religion and to educate Muslims and non-Muslims about extremism and the radicalization of youth. ISIS and other terror groups have attracted young converts to their causes by “not properly conveying the proper interpretations and the proper message of the Holy Qur’an and the Prophet Muhammad’s message,” said Imam Umair Khan. The events feature a keynote speaker, a multimedia presentation, and an in-depth question-and-answer session with a panel of Islamic scholars. “We do realize that our initiative of Stop the CrISIS may not be the only solution to this problem, but we are a religious community, we are attacking this problem from a religious angle,” said Imam Mubarak Nazir. | Edmonton Journal | Calgary Herald | Stop the CrISIS website

EPRI study sheds light on earnings of degree-holders

A series of studies released by the University of Ottawa’s Education Policy Research Initiative (EPRI) has affirmed the financial value of a university degree. Researchers tracked the income of 82,000 uOttawa graduates over a 13-year period and found that students with a degree in any field realized a significant growth in earnings. Graduates with degrees in engineering and computer science had the highest earnings in their first year in the workforce at about $62,000, and remained top earners through to 2011, when they earned a mean income of just under $100,000. While business degree holders started out with lower earnings in 1998, by 2011 they also earned an average of about $100,000. However, this latter figure is inflated by the top quintile, who had a mean income of $218,000. “If you look at the third quintile, which is basically the middle, the earnings are not very different between business, social sciences, and humanities,” said EPRI Director Ross Finnie. Humanities graduates earned less to start out, but by the end of the 13-year period were earning an average income of $70,000. Humanities and social sciences graduates also enjoyed more stable careers than those in more highly paid disciplines. The study also found that female graduates earned about $10,000 less than their male counterparts in their first year of employment; the gap ballooned to $20,000 by year 13. The gender earnings gap was even greater among engineering and computer sciences graduates. uOttawa News Release | Ottawa Citizen | Globe and Mail | Council of Ontario Universities News Release | Full Report

OCUFA releases policy statement on differentiation, analysis of SMAs

The Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA) has released a new policy statement in response to the province’s approach to differentiation, as well as a summary of its observations regarding the strategic mandate agreements(SMAs) signed between Ontario and its PSE institutions. OCUFA says that the SMAs suggest that Ontario “will not be taking a hand in dictating the form and content of differentiation in Ontario,” but adds that faculty associations will need to watch carefully to see how individual PSE administrations will interpret the agreements. As part of the policy statement, OCUFA has issued a rubric to be used in evaluating PSE policies that may emerge from Ontario’s differentiation framework. OCUFA News | Policy Statement | Summary of Observations

OUSA publishes policy paper on university accountability

The Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance (OUSA) has published a policy paper addressing issues of accountability at PSE institutions, with a focus on Ontario’s strategic mandate agreements (SMAs). The paper outlines OUSA’s position on what, to whom, and how universities should be held accountable. OUSA advocates greater student involvement in university governance, increased consultation with students, and for deeper entrenchment of student-oriented accountability measures in institutional policies and procedures. The paper also addresses quality assurance, looking at ways in which the evaluation frameworks can be adjusted to better meet student needs. OUSA further calls for a new approach to student evaluation of courses and instructors, and affirms its support for expanding the powers of Ontario’s Ombudsman to reach the university sector. OUSA Blog

Montreal, Toronto, and Vancouver among world's top student cities

Montreal and Toronto are among the top 10 cities in the world for students, according to this year's ranking from Quacquarelli Symonds (QS). Montreal is ranked eighth in the world, followed closely by Toronto at ninth. Vancouver finished just short of the top ten, in twelfth place. Toronto was ranked first in the world for “desirability,” and Montreal placed third for “student mix.” Vancouver was the top Canadian city for “employer activity,” finishing 20th to Montreal’s 22nd and Toronto’s 27th. Montreal was identified as the most affordable of the 3 Canadian cities appearing in the rankings, in the 20th spot; Vancouver ranked 25th and Toronto 28th. The rankings are based on 18 criteria, including safety, corruption, tuition fees, the cost of an iPad, the cost of a Big Mac, and the proportion of international students studying at ranked institutions. Paris was named the top student city in the world, followed by Melbourne, London, Sydney, and Hong Kong. QS News Release | Full Rankings