Top Ten

January 21, 2015

Total application numbers to Ontario universities strong, but down from last year

The Ontario University Application Centre (COU) has released preliminary application figures for the province, showing a slight decline compared to this point in time last year. According to the data, the total number of secondary students applying to universities dipped  from 89,272 to 87,639. The Council of Ontario Universities (COU) described the application rates as strong given a predicted demographic downturn in university-age population numbers. “Demographers have long predicted a decline in the 18–20-year-old population so it is very gratifying that, even with a smaller potential pool, high school students are still turning to universities in such large numbers,” said COU Chair Max Blouw. A number of institutions, including Nipissing University, OCAD University, and Brescia University College saw increases of more than 5% in total applications. Nipissing’s number of first-choice applications jumped by 15% over last year, the highest increase for any university in the province. However, a number of other institutions saw declines of greater than 5% in applicant numbers compared to last year, including Algoma University, Brock University, Lakehead University, Laurentian University, Huron University College, and the University of Windsor. COU News Release | COU Data | Nipissing News Release

Premiers sign 10-year funding agreement for Atlantic Veterinary College

The premiers of Canada’s Atlantic provinces have signed an agreement that will ensure 10 years of stable funding for the Atlantic Veterinary College. Previously, funding agreements for AVC had been renegotiated every 1–3 years. Christian Lacroix, VP Academic at the University of Prince Edward Island, welcomed the agreement. “It provides us with a very stable window of funding, long-term funding. And also it’s a testimony that our Atlantic provinces are supporting the vet college,” he said. Under the terms of the agreement, AVC may be eligible for additional provincial funding should it meet specific research goals or sell more veterinary services, a provision that Lacroix says could work to the school’s significant advantage. CBC News

Canada announces $16.5 M Research Support Fund investment for uAlberta

The federal government has announced that the University of Alberta will receive $16.5 M through the Research Support Fund (RSF) to help support research overhead costs. The RSF, formerly known as the Indirect Costs Program, provides funding to universities and colleges to help them meet costs of research that are not covered by the direct investment in postsecondary research provided through the tri-council agencies. “The Research Support Fund is essential in maintaining our labs and equipment, providing administrative support, and in the planning, coordination, and set-up of these collaborative research projects,” said uAlberta researcher Amit Kumar, NSERC Industrial Research Chair in Energy and Environmental Systems Engineering. RSF News Release | uAlberta News Release

UoGuelph receives federal funding for dairy research

The University of Guelph will receive $3 M to help establish a new dairy research centre. The centre will explore areas including reproduction, nutrition, animal well-being, and value-added milk components. The federal funding was provided through the Canadian Agricultural Adaptation Program and will complement $20 M received from the Ontario government, $1 M provided by the Dairy Farmers of Ontario, and $1 M from other private partners. “Our government is proud to join with the province and industry to get this world-class facility off the ground. This project will help ensure that Ontario’s dairy industry continues to be a major contributor to the economic growth of Canada,” said Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz. Canada News Release

University of Moncton faces criticism for student kiss in promotional video

Some members of the University of Moncton community are upset about a new promotional video for the institution. Complaints have mostly focused on a scene of 2 students kissing in the university library. The video highlights the French language as a reason to attend the school; however, some have noted that the language of the video places heavy emphasis on the word langue, which in French means both "language" and "tongue." Marie-Noëlle Ryan, President of the uMoncton professors’ and librarians’ association, charged that the video is “selling the university like it’s a beer product … And it’s not that way that you will recruit serious students and people who really want to learn and have good diplomas.” However, other members of the campus community say that critics are over-reacting. “I think that’s what young students want to see. There is some controversy over the little kiss in the library, but it’s not the point of the publicity,” said one student. CBC News

McGill graduate students vote to disaffiliate from CFS

The Post-Graduate Students’ Society (PGSS) of McGill University has voted to disaffiliate itself with the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS). The referendum, which concluded earlier this week, comes after a protracted legal battle between the PGSS and the CFS. 25% of the PGSS’s 8,000 members voted in the referendum, with 97% voting for decertification. CFS President Jessica McCormick said that “the federation respects the right of individual members to vote on the question of continued membership through the democratic processes set out in the bylaws”; however, she added that the results must go before local students’ unions at the next national general meeting for ratification. Montreal Gazette

BCIT to offer new degree in mining and mineral resource technology

The British Columbia Institute of Technology will soon offer a new Bachelor of Engineering degree in Mining and Mineral Resource Engineering, reportedly the first such degree in Canada. The program will offer students “a unique combination of geology, mineral exploration, and mining.” In a news release, BCIT says that this will be the only degree in Canada that combines skills such as mineral exploration geology with mine engineering. “This degree will close the knowledge gap that often exists between geologists and engineers. By leading the way in our field, BCIT is addressing a direct industry need for qualified persons with a diverse skill set,” said Robert Stevens, Associate Dean of Engineering and Natural Resources. The program is expected to launch in September. BCIT News Release

Universities have key role to play in revitalizing southwestern Ontario

An article published in the Globe & Mail suggests that southwestern Ontario could benefit from plummeting oil prices, but says that the region’s PSE institutions must play a leadership role. The article explores what southwestern Ontario can learn from a revitalized US Rust Belt, and notes the role strong university leadership played in the recovery of cities like Akron, Ohio and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. University of Akron President Luis Proenza, for instance, made significant investments in campus facilities, added an engineering school, and helped develop an entrepreneurial culture in the city. Proenza cites a foundation dedicated to commercializing research as “the single most important” economic initiative undertaken during his tenure. He notes that he did meet resistance from some colleagues who felt that universities should not participate in industry, but argues that such work is necessary for universities to become key economic players in their regions. The article says that cities like Windsor, London, and St Catharines, which have suffered from poor employment numbers, have much to learn from these examples. Globe & Mail

US community colleges seeing steady growth in humanities degrees

New data released by the American Academy of Arts & Sciences show that humanities fields have seen steady growth at US community colleges. According to a new Humanities Indicator report, liberal arts and liberal studies associate degrees awarded at community colleges increased by an average rate of 4.3% per year from 1987–2013, and the total number of associate degrees awarded each year in these fields grew from 113,587 to 338,688. Growth was most pronounced from 2010–12, reaching an average annual rate of 8.5%. These figures run counter to the trend at 4-year colleges in the US, where the number of degrees awarded in core humanities disciplines has dropped 3 times in the last 4 years, and where the share of degrees awarded in humanities fields hit 6.5% in 2013—the lowest level ever recorded. Inside Higher Ed | The Chronicle of Higher Education | Full Report

Students, employers have very different perspectives on graduate job readiness

US college students believe that they are well-prepared for their future careers. Employers, however, feel otherwise. A survey from the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AACU) asked 400 private-sector and non-profit executives, as well as 613 college students, about job readiness. Among the areas with the biggest gaps between employer and student perceptions of job readiness were locating, organizing, and evaluating information; oral communication; written communication; critical/analytical thinking; analyzing/solving complex problems; and applying knowledge/skills to the real world. In each of these areas, students were substantially more confident in their preparedness than employers. A majority of employers also emphasized the importance of applied learning, with 73% saying that an applied learning project would be valuable in terms of career preparation and 60% saying that such a project should be mandatory before graduation. The Chronicle of Higher Education | Inside Higher Ed Full Report