Top Ten

December 16, 2014

Canada invests $25 M to create Network of Centres of Excellence for cancer research

Canada will invest $25 M over 5 years toward a new $60 M Network of Centres of Excellence (NCE) dedicated to innovative cancer research. The NCE, which will be known as Biotherapeutics for Cancer Treatment, will involve a team of more than 40 researchers from 17 academic institutions working with 8 industry and 20 community partners. The team will focus on biologically based therapeutics, including oncolytic viruses, immune cells, and synthetic antibodies; this area of research, also known as immunotherapy, focuses on mobilizing the body’s natural defence mechanisms to fight cancer cells. The University of Ottawa’s John Bell will lead the initiative. “What is really unique about this funding is it allows a fantastic team of Canadian scientists to work together to develop therapeutic strategies in parallel, and then test these both alone and in combination, with the goal of finding the most effective way to help our bodies’ own defences fight cancer,” said Bell. An additional $35 M in funding has been contributed toward the project by other partners. Canada News Release | uOttawa News Release | Ottawa Hospital Research Institute News Release

Poverty research centre finds a home at King's

King’s University College has teamed with the London Poverty Research Centre (LPRC) to create the London Poverty Research Centre at King’s. In addition to providing a new home for the LPRC, the partnership means that anti-poverty advocates will be able to more easily draw on the expertise of academic researchers. Barbara Decker Pierce, Director of the School of Social Work at King’s, will co-chair the Centre with Ross Fair, Chair of Fanshawe College’s St Thomas-Elgin campus. Decker Pierce described the partnership as being unique in Canada. “It’s not just a bunch of academics sitting around saying, ‘oh what should we study today?’ The thing that is different about what we are doing here is that it is a university academic research centre but … the community is much more involved in leading the work of the centre,” she said. The Centre will look at issues including identifying who will be likely to fall into poverty in London and developing ways to reverse the trend; learning what can be done to provide safe, affordable housing to single adults struggling with mental health issues and addiction; and determining how London can more effectively get poverty reduction funding from the province. King’s News Release | London Free Press

WLU receives Imagine Canada Standards Program accreditation

Wilfrid Laurier University has received Standards Program accreditation from Imagine Canada, reportedly making it the first university in Canada to achieve the designation. The accreditation indicates that WLU meets Imagine Canada’s criteria for board governance, financial accountability and transparency, fundraising, staff management, and volunteer involvement. Imagine Canada’s Standards Program sets common standards of practice for Canadian charities and nonprofits. “Laurier’s accreditation demonstrates that it is a leader in the university sector. The Standards Program is a rigorous, peer-reviewed process that is meant to build public trust and confidence in the charitable sector. Accreditation signifies that Laurier takes accountability and operational transparency very seriously,” said Imagine Canada President Bruce MacDonald. The new accreditation expands to all university operations the Imagine Canada Ethical Code certification that WLU received in 2012 for its fundraising and financial accountability practices. WLU New Release

StatsCan report offers international context for Canada's education indicators

Statistics Canada has released a new report that puts Canada’s education indicators in an international context. According to the report, the proportion of Canadian adults aged 25–64 with college or university completion has risen from 40% in 2000 to 53% in 2012, the highest rate among Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) countries. 25% of Canadians aged 25–64 had completed non-university certificates or diplomas from community colleges, schools of nursing or university certificates below the bachelor’s level. The report also indicates that the 2012 employment rate among Canadians aged 25–64 who had completed a college or university program was 80%. Canada was found to have allocated 95.2% of the total expenditure per student to core services; the total expenditure per student at the university level was US$27,102, the highest among all OECD countries. StatsCan also notes that Canada allocates 6.4% of its GDP on educational institutions, just slightly higher than the OECD average of 6.1%. In 2011, the report says, there were 122,277 international students registered in college or university programs in Canada, accounting for 8.2% of all students enrolled in tertiary education; the highest proportion of those (27%) came from China. StatsCan Daily | Full Report

QC's medical residents feeling employment crunch

The Montreal Gazette reports on how Quebec’s changing medical system is affecting medical school graduates in the province. The article lists the several hurdles that QC’s medical students must overcome in order to establish themselves as practicing doctors, including increasingly competitive admissions standards for medical schools, a shortage of residency positions, and a lack of jobs, especially for doctors in specialty fields. A 2013 study from the Canadian Association of Internes and Residents (CAIR) found that 21% of residents surveyed reported that they were still looking for employment post-graduation. “Many specialties in Quebec have reached saturation levels,” said Joseph Dahine, President of the Fédération des médicines residents du Québec (FMRQ). Dahine noted that the problem may be even worse than realized, as many medical residents won’t speak up for fear of jeopardizing their employment chances. He said that the government has not done enough to address the issue, noting that the province has not always succeeded at gauging where jobs will be or at planning admissions accordingly. Montreal Gazette

Audit identifies executive perspectives on NRC's strengths and shortcomings

An audit of key decision-makers at Canada’s National Research Council suggests that the organization is perceived of as bureaucratic and inefficient, and that it should focus more on commercial applications. The audit, conducted between May 6 and June 6, involved interviews with 39 executives, including 22 current clients and 17 non-clients. Most interviewees agreed that the NRC was a valuable resource and that the organization had a strong track record; however, many respondents said that bureaucracy, a lack of regional- or sector-specific attention, and an academic rather than business-oriented focus have prevented the NRC from delivering on its potential. Respondents also said that they associated the NRC with a lack of innovation and motivation, an onerous application process, and a lack of understanding around commercialization. However, many also associated the NRC with words and phrases such as “expertise,” “broad capabilities,” “collaborative,” “capable,” and “world class.” The auditors recommended that the NRC build on its credibility and do more to share client success stories that demonstrate the organization’s commitment to “optimum client outcomes.” Ottawa Citizen

Researcher's op-ed calls on university presidents to support concussion research

In an op-ed for the Globe and Mail, sports medicine specialist Paul Echlin calls on Canada’s universities to do more to support concussion research. Echlin cites the numerous studies that have been released in recent years demonstrating the risks associated with concussion, especially in contact sports such as football and hockey. However, Echlin claims that universities have at times been uncooperative when it comes to moving forward with vital research. He says that university leadership has not done enough to engage with researchers who want to work with student athletes and, as a result, initiatives like the Hockey Concussion Education Project (HECP), which involved 9 Canadian universities and 425 student athletes, have not received the support that they need to best protect the health of university students. In closing, Echlin calls on university presidents to support HECP by agreeing to “a simple change in hockey”—shifting to five-on-five play instead of six-on-six—that he and other researchers believe could help make the game safer. Globe and Mail

CICIC redesigns website to better meet needs of user groups

The Canadian Information Centre for International Credentials (CICIC) has unveiled its newly redesigned website. The website offers resources to help students and education professionals find critical information on mobility and credential recognition. It offers specific information to users based on their situation and needs. For individuals, the site includes information on the credential recognition process to study or work in Canada or abroad, as well as directories of Canadian educational institutions, occupational profiles, Canadian offshore schools and international education resources, and international labour-mobility resources. Assessors can access a number of international academic credential assessment resources as well as information about important initiatives related to credential assessment. Education professionals, meanwhile, can find information on education systems and quality-assurance mechanisms in Canada. The site’s new “Connect the Dots!” feature helps users identify with a simple questionnaire the information most pertinent to their needs. CICIC Website

France creates "mega-university" to compete with Harvard, MIT in global rankings

France plans to create a new university, Paris-Saclay, that it hopes will compete against the world’s top universities in prestigious global rankings. The so-called “mega-university,” with initial funding of €7.5 B for an endowment, buildings, and transport links, will bring together 19 institutions under one roof in order to challenge Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The initiative is intended to help address France’s absence from the top of world university rankings. “My goal is to be a top 10 institution,” said Dominque Vernay, the institution’s President. Vernay said that France’s notion of a “federal university” borrows heavily from the UK’s Oxbridge model. He is confident that based on its existing component parts, Paris-Saclay will immediately rank among the top 20 institutions in the world, with its goal of cracking the top 10 attainable within 10 years. It will benefit from Nobel Prize-winning researchers inherited from its founding partners, which include France's École Poytechnique, the HEC Paris business school, and the National Centre for Scientific Research. Vernay says that he will create a knowledge hub around Paris, similar to Silicon Valley or Boston. University World News | BBC News

Harvard study looks at relationship between MOOC students' intentions, completion rates

A new study from Harvard University research fellow Justin Reich takes a closer look at completion rates for massive open online courses (MOOCs) and finds that for MOOCs, completion may come down to students’ intentions. Reich surveyed close to 80,000 individuals who enrolled in 9 Harvard MOOCs and sorted respondents into 4 categories: completers, auditors, browsers, and “unsure.” The overall completion rate was 13.3%; however, among those who said that they had intended to complete the course, the completion rate rose to 19.5%. Reich says that while he does not expect his data to silence critics of MOOCs, he feels that his work will provide a “useful reference point.” His team intends to draw up more formal guidelines to better distinguish among students who sign up for free online courses. Reich says that people shouldn’t assume that everyone signing up for a MOOC plans on completing it; because MOOCs are more accessible than traditional courses, they are likely to attract a greater variety of goals, expectations, and motivations. “This research has provided better answers to the question: Why do people come to these MOOCs? The next challenge is to get better answers to the question: Why do people leave?” Reich writes. The Chronicle of Higher Education | Full Report