Top Ten

January 20, 2015

12 CEGEPs reported deficits for 2014

The Montreal Gazette reports that 12 of Quebec’s 48 publicly funded CEGEPs posted deficits in the 2014 fiscal year, up from 9 in 2013. The CEGEPs posted an average budget shortfall of $333,000 per institution, for a total of nearly $4 M; the largest deficit was at CEGEP de Sherbrooke, which is projected to be in the red again this year and for the 2015–16 school year. All CEGEPs posting deficits will meet with the province to develop a recovery plan. Jean Beauchesne, head of the Federation of Quebec CEGEPs, said that the deficits were the result of provincial funding cuts, and that he anticipates additional financial difficulties next year due to further reductions to QC’s education budget. Montreal Gazette

Additive Manufacturing Resource Centre opens at Mohawk

Mohawk College has opened what is reportedly Ontario’s first Additive Manufacturing Resource Centre. Mohawk students and faculty will work with 43 industry, education, and government partners at the new, $2 M centre. The Centre will be used to transform digital images into three-dimensional prototypes and parts using materials such as titanium, aluminum, nickel, stainless steel, bronze, and other metals. The facility makes Mohawk one of just 3 PSE institutions in Canada capable of manufacturing metal parts for industry. “Our Additive Manufacturing Resource Centre helps strengthen our region’s global competitiveness on 2 fronts. Advanced manufacturers can test and develop new and improved products while our students work with emerging technologies and go into the workforce as highly skilled, future-ready graduates,” said Mohawk President Ron McKerlie. The Centre was funded in part by $720,000 in funding from both the Canada Foundation for Innovation and the Ontario Research Fund, a well as by support from a number of industry partners. Mohawk News Release

LSSO asks for fair pay for students in law firm placements

The Law Students Society of Ontario (LSSO) has issued a letter to the Law Society of Upper Canada, requesting that all students participating in the recently-created Law Practice Program (LPP) be fairly compensated. Currently, about one third of LPP placements are unpaid, according to a report by the Toronto Star. The LPP program was designed to address the shortage of articling positions for law students, necessary for licensing. The new program allows students to complete an online training course before participating in a 4-month placement in a law firm. LSSO members are concerned about “the potential for employers to take advantage of free labour and the coercibility of indebted students with no alternatives to secure their licensing.” In addition, LSSO says that the new program runs the risk of reinforcing historical inequities in a profession that is trying to be more diverse, socially and economically. Susan Tonkin, spokesperson for the Law Society of Ontario, said it is “not within the Law Society’s mandate or power to require firms or organizations to pay licensing candidates.” Toronto Star (1) | Toronto Star (2)

SaskPolytech reports increased enrolments, high grad employment rates

Saskatchewan Polytechnic is reporting a significant overall enrolment growth for the winter semester. The enrolment increase was driven in large part due to Aboriginal student enrolment and English language programming for newcomers; the Saskatchewan Collaborative Bachelor of Science in Nursing, culinary arts, and several apprenticeship programs also contributed to the increase. Meanwhile, Aboriginal enrolment was up 7%, totaling nearly 3,300 students. SaskPolytech also announced the results of 2 surveys that show a high graduate employment rate and a high employer satisfaction rate. Employment for SaskPolytech graduates increased to 94%, a 10-year high, and 98% of employers who had hired a SaskPolytech student said they would do so again. The graduate survey—conducted 6 to 12 months after students’ graduation—indicated a 95% graduate satisfaction rate with program quality. The employment rate for Aboriginal students reached 90%, matching the high from 2 years ago. SaskPolytech News Release (Enrolment) | SaskPolytech News Release (Graduates)

Medical researchers increasingly funding own projects

As the competition for public funding for medical research in Canada grows, researchers and medical personnel are increasingly contributing their own money to projects. For an upcoming clinical trial involving arthritis patients, Toronto’s University Health Network (UHN) is using money from a $1.25 M fund started 5 years ago by 10 orthopedic surgeons at UHN’s Toronto Western site. Last year in Thunder Bay, 8 orthopedic surgeons committed $2 M over 10 years for a research project aimed at reducing amputations due to diabetes complications among the Aboriginal population in northern communities. These instances, and others, point to the difficulties of gaining funding, especially for projects in the so-called “valley of death,” the “chasm between basic scientific breakthroughs and late-stage clinical trials for which public funding has always been scarce.” Researchers hope that personal donations will encourage granting agencies and the public to make donations as well. Globe and Mail 

Language skills prevent skilled immigrants from realizing economic potential

In a piece for the Vancouver Sun, columnist Don Cayo calls on Canada to do more to help immigrants develop their English and French language skills. Cayo says that while many immigrants to Canada are highly educated, they must often settle for lesser jobs and smaller paycheques because of difficulty communicating in one or both of the country’s official languages. Cayo cites research from scholars at the University of Waterloo and Princeton University that suggests that “linguistic proximity”—the degree of similarity between an immigrant’s mother tongue and one or both of Canada’s official languages—bears a relationship to an individual’s ability to get a better job in Canada. Language difficulties, Cayo says, prevent immigrants from reaching their professional and economic potential in Canada, and inhibit them from contributing to the broader economy. Cayo goes on to suggest that improving language skills is essential in the face of a looming shortage of skilled, articulate, and well-educated workers. Vancouver Sun

Postdocs, grad students in sciences "perfect" for launching start-ups

In an article published in University Affairs, Jonathan Thon, an instructor at Harvard Medical School, argues that graduate student and postdoctoral researchers in the sciences “are perfect” for creating start-up businesses. Thon admits that there are many difficulties involved in launching a start-up, and notes that “you’d have to be crazy to want to start one, and need super-human determination to see it through given the overwhelming near-certainty of failure. Until you have successfully completed your first major funding round you are most likely not going to see any financial compensation for your blood, sweat, and tears.” For this reason, he says, graduate students and postdoctoral researchers should consider start-ups: they have less to lose than more established scientists. He notes that salaries of grad students and postdocs are often “next to nothing,” and says that “just about any other job for which the graduate student or postdoc is qualified would pay them more,” to the extent that even failure as an entrepreneur would leave the student better off. Thon said that PSE institutions should do as much as they can to help scientist-entrepreneurs succeed. University Affairs

Former uSask President Peter MacKinnon publishes book on PSE leadership

Former University of Saskatchewan and current Athabasca University President Peter MacKinnon has written a book, University Leadership and Public Policy in the Twenty-First Century. The book, appearing in bookstores today, examines MacKinnon’s time at the helm of uSask, and addresses notable events since his departure nearly 3 years ago. MacKinnon offers his take on the controversial dismissal of Robert Buckingham as Executive Director of the School of Public Health, describing the administration’s response as an overreaction; however, he does say that he feels that once an institution’s governing body has come to a decision, its administrators should no longer debate it. He also suggests that uSask has suffered from “mission ambiguity” as a result of its competing aims to be “the people’s university” and to be a world-class institution. He also defends the right of the university president to give recommendations on tenure decisions to the board of governors, a matter that has been contested between uSask and its faculty association. StarPhoenix

Harvard study sheds light on extent, impact of microaggressions on US campuses

A new study from Harvard University examines how “microaggressions” contribute to unwelcoming environments for women and minorities at PSE institutions in the US. The study involved interviews and surveys with students at 4 campuses. Respondents reported experiencing overt acts of discrimination as well as microagressions, such as a male student who rolled his eyes whenever women spoke or another student who refused to participate in study groups involving members of other races. Respondents also said they perceived that white male students were called on in class more than other students. The study notes that many students say they are reluctant to speak out against microaggressions for fear of courting further hostility; many added that they were unsure of to whom they were supposed to report such instances. The study issues a number of recommendations to help communicate to students the effects of discrimination; one of the universities involved, Missouri State University, has already started to implement some of these. Huffington Post

PSE institutions use badges to promote faculty and staff professional development

An article in Campus Technology looks at the growing interest in badges as a way to allow students to demonstrate their credentials. In Canada, St Lawrence College and George Brown College are among those using badges to allow students to validate their accomplishments. Other institutions have turned to badges as a way to measure the professional development of employees. Indiana University, for instance, has introduced a badge program for faculty members who participate in training around education technologies. Texas Wesleyan University uses a badging system to increase engagement with its Centre for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (CETL). Faculty and staff can earn points for attending workshops, visiting the CETL office, and participating in social media activities; they are also able to view their progress and compare their points total with those of colleagues on an online leaderboard. While some participants dismissed the points system as “juvenile,” the number of participants in CETL programs increased significantly. Campus Technology