Top Ten

December 1, 2014

Dropping oil prices may affect Alberta’s future PSE budgets

As the price of oil continues to drop, Alberta’s education minister is warning PSE institutions to be ready for a new “fiscal reality,” reports the Globe and Mail. Minister of Innovation and Advanced Education Don Scott said he has been given instructions from the premier to be “fiscally prudent going forward,” but he also pledged to ensure that colleges and universities in the province are not taken by surprise by any future funding changes. Budget cuts of almost 7% in 2013 shocked many institutions, who were left grappling with the decrease in funding; much of the funding was re-introduced in subsequent budgets. Scott suggested that proposed market-based tuition hikes are “one technique that institutions have to maintain their competitiveness.” Scott has been gathering feedback from students and administrators about the proposed fee changes, and said student groups are divided on the topic. While no decisions have yet been made about future PSE budgets in the face of a projected 8% drop in oil prices, Scott was clear that “the one thing that is important is that institutions need the lead time to plan.” Globe and Mail

MUN launches $50 M partnership to improve health research

Memorial University has announced the launch of the new Translational and Personalized Medicine Initiative (TPMI), a partnership between the federal and provincial governments, MUN, and industry. Approximately $50 M will be invested in the initiative over the next 5 years, including $10 M in equipment and staff, and $20 M in big data and analytics software from private-sector partner IBM; $13 M from the Canadian government through the Canadian Institutes of Health Research SPOR SUPPORT Units program and the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency; and $7.2 M from the government of Newfoundland and Labrador. The TPMI will consist of 2 major programs: Newfoundland and Labrador Support for People and Patient-Oriented Research and Trials (NL SUPPORT) which will work to bring the latest in medical research to patients to improve outcomes, and the Centre for Health Informatics and Analytics (CHIA), which will use high-performance computational infrastructure and de-identified patient datasets to facilitate patient-oriented research. MUN News Release | NL News Release | IBM News Release

WLU task force issues recommendations for program prioritization and new budget model

A Wilfrid Laurier University task force has wrapped up an 18-month program and resource review initiative, releasing a report with recommendations around WLU’s academic and administrative priorities. The Integrated Planning and Resource Management (IPRM) initiative consisted of faculty, staff, and student representatives, who evaluated all administrative and academic programs, considering the alignment of each with institutional priorities. The task force also reviewed budgeting processes and examined alternative budget models. The report suggests the adoption of a new “responsibility-centred” budget model that would allow administrative and academic units to conduct their own budget decision-making. The review process determined that a majority of WLU programs are viable and of good or excellent quality; however, the report does recommend that 9 administrative and 18 academic programs be “maintained at a minimal level or considered for phase-out.” WLU News Release | Full Report

YorkU creates new aging research and education centre

The York University senate has approved a new interdisciplinary health-focused centre to enhance research and education around aging. The York University Centre for Aging Research and Education (YU-CARE) will be based out of the Faculty of Health and will include representatives from nursing, psychology, kinesiology and health science, and health policy and management. Researchers will focus on graceful aging in a variety of settings, concentrating on 4 key themes: care practices, caregiving and care delivery, aging policy and promotion of healthy aging, cognitive neuroscience of aging, and physiology and biomechanics of aging. “YU-CARE will provide a dedicated setting for interdisciplinary researchers and community stakeholders to collaborate and exchange knowledge,” said William Gage, YU-CARE’s inaugural Director. Faculty of Health Dean Harvey Skinner added, “the diverse academic disciplines and community partners of YU-CARE will spark innovations for achieving graceful aging for all people and communities in Canada and indeed worldwide.” YorkU News

NAIT launches $100 M fundraising campaign

The Northern Alberta Institute of Technology has officially launched its largest-ever fundraising campaign. “Essential: The NAIT Campaign” aims to raise $100 M by 2018 to support students and applied research, and for the Centre for Applied Technologies, currently under construction. NAIT is already more than half way to meeting the campaign’s goal, thanks to donations during the “quiet” phase of the campaign. “Our role in providing hands-on, technology-based education for our students is essential to meet the labour market needs of Alberta and build prosperity,” said President Glenn Feltham. “We need to increase our applied research with industry partners to provide timely solutions and accelerate commercialization.” $15 M will go towards the applied technologies centre, with the remaining $85 M earmarked for student-learning initiatives, applied research, and increases to program and equipment funding. NAIT News Release | Edmonton Journal

New Professional Accounting Centre launched at UTM

The Professional Accounting Centre (PAC) has been launched at the University of Toronto Mississauga, created to conduct research on topics such as responding to the impact of globalization, improving financial and environmental disclosure, and understanding fiduciary responsibility. PAC will bring together researchers, professional accountants, and regulators from around the world to address challenges facing the profession and to communicate the validity of the accounting profession to a wider community. PAC will be guided by an advisory board that will provide input on operations and direction, and a research adjudication board to review and advise on research programs and funding allocation. “Real evidence, rather than opinion, is needed to convince people about the importance of good financial reporting,” said advisory board member Tricia O’Malley. “The formation of the Professional Accounting Centre plays directly to what policy makers see as a need, and that also provides confidence to the market.” UTM News

CEGEPs network contributes almost $10 B to Quebec economy

A new study released by Quebec’s La Fédération des cégeps, “La contribution économique des cégeps et des centres collégiaux de transfert de technologie,” suggests that the CEGEP network and other affiliated colleges and training centres contributed $9.8 B in 2012-13 to Quebec’s economy. The majority of this contribution is in the form of increased productivity on behalf of working individuals; it is also estimated that CEGEP graduates contribute around $1 B to government revenues in the form of taxes. The report notes that a college graduate will earn 32% more in their lifetime than a high school graduate, a difference of approximately $560,000. The study suggests that taxpayer funding experiences a positive ROI, benefitting government and industry as well as the students. La Fédération des cégeps recently launched a 3-year promotional campaign to highlight the value of CEGEPs. News Release (in French) | Full Report (in French)

Students at UoGuelph hold mock funeral to protest program cuts

Students at the University of Guelph held a mock funeral on campus this week to protest programs affected by budget cuts. UoGuelph is facing an estimated $32 M deficit over the next several years, and somewhat based on a program prioritization process, has asked academic colleges to reduce budgets by a combined $24 M. Students say the program cuts have diminished the university’s reputation as one of the most comprehensive institutions in Canada. “We are outraged with the process. Students and faculty were not consulted. Things that are important to our experience of university were not considered. And each year, tuition rises by $200 or $300,” said one student protestor. New President Franco Vaccarino said in October that he was committed to maintaining UoGuelph’s comprehensive focus, regardless of fiscal restraints. The Record

Canadian history institute at McMaster gets funding boost

Philanthropist Red Wilson has donated $2.5 M to McMaster University to support the study of Canadian history. McMaster will also contribute $1.5 M towards the LR Wilson Institute for Canadian History, originally created thanks to funding from the Wilson Foundation. The institute will eventually operate out of Wilson Hall, currently under construction, which will be the new home of the liberal arts at McMaster. “You can't make good decisions unless you understand the context of things. A broad education is important. You may have a great medical student, but it is also important that the aspiring doctor know something about history and psychology and other areas of liberal arts,” said Wilson. The institute provides grants for Canadian history books, scholarship funding, and hosts symposia and lectures on Canadian history. Hamilton Spectator

Polytechnics Canada CEO calls for better labour market info

In a recent op-ed, CEO of Polytechnics Canada Nobina Robinson calls for the creation of an independent, national Labour Market Information Council to ensure the accurate collection, verification, consolidation, analysis, and provision of reliable and timely labour market information. “Without reliable long-term, cross-sectoral, local labour market data, Canada cannot build the high-quality talent pool needed to supply the 21st century workplace, let alone propel future economic growth,” she stated. There is an information gap around both labour-supply and labour-demand, which Robinson says creates risks for policy decisions and for students trying to decide on a future career. Robinson echoes earlier calls by Canadian economists and analysts for more informed labour market information. iPolitics