Top Ten

December 11, 2014

uOttawa approves construction of $83 M student learning centre

The board of governors at the University of Ottawa has approved construction of the new $83 M Learning Centre, to be located at the centre of uOttawa’s downtown campus. The 6-storey building will feature 26 classrooms, including 4 equipped with state-of-the-art technology to facilitate hybrid and blended learning, a food court with seating for 350, and areas for private study and group work. The project will be funded by the university and government, and is expected to be completed by 2017. “The Learning Centre will become the new place where students congregate on campus,” says Christian Detellier, VP Academic and Provost. “The Centre will be a friendly meeting place and is designed to respond to the needs of not only our students but also new teaching practices.” uOttawa News Release

St Clair to open entrepreneurship centre

St Clair College plans to open a new centre that will provide students with entrepreneurship resources and development opportunities. The Genesis Entrepreneurship Centre, which could open as early as the end of this school year, will provide mentors, contacts, lecturers, and other resources to students in any program interested in starting their own business. “We think we provide our students with great skills. What we need now is a place that gives them enough skill to be entrepreneurs on their own. This final phase is the connection of postsecondary education to jobs,” said St Clair President John Strasser. Strasser says that St Clair’s Centre will build on the incubator concept but will go well beyond existing facilities. “We have too many smaller incubators. That fractiousness is hurting us rather than helping us,” he said. In time, he foresees the Centre providing certificates or diplomas recognizing student participation. St Clair has hired local businessman Chris Ryan as Director of the Centre. Windsor Star

TRU releases 5-year sustainability plan

Thompson Rivers University has released a 5-year Strategic Sustainability Plan (SSP) designed to assist the university in reducing its carbon footprint and increasing sustainable initiatives. The SSP provides a means of measuring and monitoring sustainability efforts such as reducing the amount of garbage going to the landfill, creating on-campus gardens, reducing on-campus traffic, and reducing water usage. The plan consists of 4 goal areas—operations and planning, advocacy and engagement, learning, and administration—with themes of transportation, water, internal advocacy, external advocacy, research, curriculum, monitoring, and communication in each goal area. The SSP was developed in accordance with the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System (STARS), of which TRU is a charter member. “This plan is progressive because it’s not just about reducing our carbon footprint, it’s about creating a richer work environment for faculty and staff, and a richer learning environment for students, said Jim Gudjonson, TRU’s Director of Environment and Sustainability. TRU News

Ottawa PSE institutions team up to promote hiring local

Representatives from 4 Ottawa PSE institutions are working together to encourage area businesses to hire hometown employees. “We really want to work as a group to show companies that they simply need to look in the Ottawa area to find some of the best and brightest students that are available. Rather than having 4 different groups knocking at each door, we thought, ‘Let’s do this together,’” said Marc-Andre Daoust, Associate Director of Co-Op Programs at uOttawa. He’s been working with counterparts at Algonquin College, Carleton University, and La Cité Collegiale on the initiative, along with partners from Invest Ottawa. Invest Ottawa’s Kathryn Moore said, “as a collaborative group, we know that if we want to make dramatic improvements to Ottawa’s co-op placements, we’re going to have to really deepen existing relationships and forge some new partnerships with Ottawa regional employers.” The group also wants to encourage those companies that do not currently offer co-op programs to consider implementing them. “I see this as really helping Ottawa’s economic growth and keeping our co-op talent in Ottawa,” said Moore. Ottawa Business Journal

AUCC report shows that internationalization is a priority, but flow goes one way

The Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada (AUCC) has released a new report on internationalization at universities. According to the report, 89% of universities surveyed said that the pace of internationalization is accelerating on campus, 96% ensure internationalization is integrated in strategic plans, and 80% identify internationalization as being among their top 5 priorities. 97% of Canadian universities offer international experience, with nearly all allowing students to complete coursework abroad, 70% sending students to foreign field schools, 67% offering service work or volunteer opportunities abroad, 67% helping students do research abroad, and 66% offering foreign work experience. 53% of institutions said the most important reason for internationalization was to “prepare internationally knowledgeable and interculturally competent graduates.” However, the survey also shows that internationalization remains a largely unidirectional affair: just 3.1% of full-time undergraduate students had an international experience in 2012–13, with just 2.6% participating in a for-credit experience abroad. Cost and inflexible credit transfer policies were cited as particular concerns in this area. The report also found that China is the top focus of most universities’ internationalization activities, while students’ preferred destinations are primarily English-speaking and major western European countries. AUCC News Release | Full Report

HEQCO report explores outcomes for graduates of doctoral programs

A new report released by the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario (HEQCO) outlines the results of a pilot program that attempted to gather outcomes data from graduating doctoral students and recent graduate program alumni. The project was conducted at Western University using surveys; because the response rate was fairly low, researchers determined that future projects will need to improve outreach in order to get higher rates of completion. However, the survey did produce some valuable results for the researchers, indicating that students felt their education best prepared them for a career in academia, and provided the least preparation for careers in industry, business, or entrepreneurship. 75% of respondents to the graduating student survey indicated that they had already begun their job search, with 40% saying they had secured employment. The majority of respondents to the alumni survey were employed (95%), and the majority of those employed had careers that were related to their graduate education. Alumni from medicine and health sciences programs had a higher rate of full-time employment than those in the arts, humanities, and social science programs. In a recent post on the Academica Higher Ed Forum, Catherine Maybrey discusses the need for career and job search initiatives dedicated to doctoral students/graduates who are looking for work outside of academia. HEQCO Summary | Full Report

McGill, Concordia looking to revitalize campus libraries

McGill University has launched a feasibility study to identify ways in which its libraries can better meet the teaching, learning, and research needs of the campus community. The study will focus on envisioning the library of 2050 as well as identifying the best ways to stay on top of rapid change. McGill also aims to address a space crisis, and is working with architectural firms to identify ways to better store its special collections and rare books and to provide more flexible seating for student groups. “We need to do something, because we are certainly not keeping up with the vision of 21st century librarianship. Our gate counts are higher than ever. Our libraries are overcrowded all the time. There are no vacant seats now,” said McGill Dean of Libraries Colleen Cook. Concordia University is also looking to make better use of space: it recently approved plans to double its study seats while preparing its libraries for the future. Digitization is one option on the table, but Cook said that there is still a demand for printed books. “We will always add print. We still add 10,000 volumes in a year,” she said. Montreal Gazette

Academics launch petition to save WLU press

More than 1,100 individuals have signed a petition started by professors at Wilfrid Laurier University to save WLU Press. Faculty members Tamas Dobozy, Ute Lischke, Eleanor Ty, and Tanis MacDonald wrote to WLU President Max Blouw expressing their concerns after the university’s Integrated Planning and Resource Management initiative recommended it “phase out or minimize” the press. The petition cites WLU Press’ importance to “Canadian and international scholarship, and its enormous contribution to the reputation of Laurier as an institution whose cultural and intellectual outreach is thereby made more than the sum of its parts.” Moreover, the petitioners charge that the Press is not, in fact, an “administrative program within the university” eligible for cuts under WLU’s program prioritization process. The petitioners call instead for “a new model of sustainability” to be developed. WLU English News Release | Quill and Quire

Postscript: March 17, 2015

Wilfrid Laurier University has announced that WLU Press will be integrated into the administrative structure of the WLU Library. Under the new structure, the Director of WLU Press will report to the University Librarian, with the press becoming part of a planned Cultural and Learning Commons. The move to integrate the press with the library follows the example of a number of PSE institutions across North America, including MIT, Stanford University, and Purdue University. "I am confident that we have found the best way forward in terms of both fiscal responsibility and preserving and cementing Laurier's tradition of cultural and scholarly leadership," said WLU Provost Deborah MacLatchy. Brian Henderson, Director of WLU Press, said, "partnering with the library will enhance our mutual abilities to pursue new models of scholarly communication, engage with the challenge of the digital information environment, and support the research enterprise through the publication process." WLU News Release

Study finds that gender perception may affect student evaluations of teaching

A new study from North Carolina State University has found that students’ perception of their professor’s gender has a significant impact on their assessment of teaching ability. The research, based on a small pilot study of one class, found that students gave better evaluations to an instructor they thought was male, even though the 2 instructors’ identities had been switched. While small in scale, the authors say that their work complements other research indicating gender bias in students’ evaluations of articles and in students’ judgment of teaching qualifications, as well as studies that show that students expect women faculty instructors to be more nurturing and supportive. The researchers found that the male identity scored higher across all 12 variables studied. The differences in scores were statistically significant in 6 variables: professionalism, promptness, fairness, respectfulness, enthusiasm, and giving praise. The researchers say that they plan to expand their pilot study to a greater variety of courses. Academica Group recently worked with a number of Ontario PSE institutions on improvements to evaluation techniquesInside Higher Ed | NC State News

UK academic says pursuit of accessibility may limit availability of some forms of knowledge

Sue Clegg, emeritus professor of higher education at Leeds University, says that efforts to expand access to PSE may actually restrict the availability of some forms of knowledge to the socially elite. Speaking at the annual meeting of the Society for Research in Higher Education, Clegg argued that efforts to expand PSE participation have led institutions to focus on “generic” undergraduate courses that “veer toward mundane everyday knowledge and … do not give students access to the specialist knowledge that forms the basis for generalization and critique.” Clegg singled out programs such as business studies in particular, noting that new qualifications introduced in the name of expansion are often dominated by students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds. Meanwhile, “social elites” have increasingly exclusive access to “the best that higher education strives to offer.” “There are good reasons for thinking that in some contexts less privileged social groups have less access to powerful knowledge,” Clegg said. Clegg also warned against expanding graduate enrolment in light of a lack of expansion in graduate-level jobs, and claimed that a “high-skill low-wage” workforce will increase income inequality. Times Higher Education