Top Ten

January 22, 2015

MB releases review of financial, human resources practices at RRC

Manitoba has released the results of its review into financial and human resources practices at Red River College during the tenure of former President Stephanie Forsyth. The report focuses on expense claim requirements, contract management practices, and the college’s $2 M deficit for the year ending June 30, 2014. The report says that changes made to financial practices at RRC removed accountability, and calls for the restoration of previous policies. It also says that the board of governors should have additional financial information so that it can provide better oversight of the budget process. The report notes that some expenses claimed by Forsyth were not approved by the BOG or signed by the President. Moreover, some expenses claimed by other RRC employees included expenses for the President; this circumvented the BOG approval process and effectively allowed the President to approve her own expenses. With regard to RRC’s $2 M deficit, the report says that the budget did not account for all relevant costs and that the college’s responses to the deficit “were more reactionary than self-sustaining for the benefit of future years.” The report makes 45 recommendations in all, which RRC has accepted and has already begun implementing. MB will also introduce legislation to address financial management and accountability, board governance and oversight, and capital project management at RRC. MB News Release | Winnipeg Free Press | CTV NewsFull Report

Target's departure costs UoGuelph a revenue source

The announcement that US retailer Target would be pulling out of the Canadian market could cost the University of Guelph an important source of revenue. UoGuelph owns significant tracts of land in Guelph, portions of which are occupied by retail space. This real estate brings in between $3 M and $4 M to the university each year, which is then allocated to an endowment fund. When Target purchased Canadian retailer Zellers, it also took over a lease between Zellers and UoGuelph that won’t expire until 2056. Philip Wong, Director of Real Estate at the university, says he hasn’t yet heard from the company about the status of their lease. “As far as we’re concerned, they’re still under the obligation of the lease,” he said. “They may sell the building to somebody else and find us a new lessee for the land." Alternatively, Target could pay a fee to break the lease. Wong noted that “we could potentially have a vacant building for quite some time. Unless we’re able to find a replacement tenant, it’s possible that we might not get the rental income that we’ve been relying on.” Guelph Mercury

uToronto student group apologizes for plans to support human trafficking charity with date auction

The University of Toronto’s University College Literary and Athletics Association (UC Lit) is facing criticism from students for using a date auction to raise funds for a human trafficking charity. Critics felt that holding a date auction was insensitive to persons who have experienced human trafficking firsthand. The event was originally intended to raise funds for Walk With Me Canada Victim Services; however, in light of the complaint, UC Lit changed the recipient to Central Neighbourhood House. UC Lit posted an apology to its Facebook page, noting that it had not considered that the event might trivialize victims’ experiences, and said that its next charity event will benefit Walk With Me Canada. Walk With Me Canada founder Timea Nagy said, “nobody’s forced to come to these date auctions. These are people who are trying to find love, so I don’t really completely understand why it got attacked.” However, she also noted that she was unsure if her organization would have accepted money raised by a date auction. Toronto Star

uManitoba receives $2.4 M for environmental remediation centre

Canada will invest $2.4 M to establish a nationally accredited analytical centre in environmental monitoring and remediation services at the University of Manitoba. The new Centre for Oil and Gas Research and Development (COGRaD) will enhance the work of researchers in uManitoba’s chemistry department, who have been studying the monitoring and analysis of environmental contaminants for nearly a decade. The funding will provide uManitoba with access to new equipment that will enable researchers to work with private industry on sample testing as well as on developing new tools and techniques to solve monitoring and remediation challenges. “This centre will establish the University of Manitoba in a new field of research and development that is an institutional priority: environmental sustainability,” said Digvir Jayas, uManitoba VP Research and International. Winnipeg Free Press

CFI awards $35 M in research infrastructure funding

The Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) has awarded $35 M in research infrastructure funding to 37 universities across the country. The funding was awarded through the CFI’s John R Evans Leaders Fund, which was created to help universities develop infrastructure in order to attract and retain highly skilled researchers. Canadian Minister of State (Science and Technology) Ed Holder made the funding announcement at the University of Saskatchewan, where researchers will use CFI funding for projects related to animal health, pet food, biofuels, cancer, and freshwater monitoring and rehabilitation. “Thanks to new CFI-funded research tools, our researchers are working with industry partners … to come up with innovative solutions that address real-world challenges and help build healthy and prosperous communities,” said uSask VP Research Karen Chad. A complete list of recipients is available as part of CFI’s announcement. CFI News Release

Study suggests full-time enrolment may not be best for all students

A new study out of the US has found that full-time PSE enrolment may not be the best approach to PSE for all students. The study examined the persistence of non-first-time students pursuing associate degrees, finding that they are more likely to attain their credential with a combination of full- and part-time enrolment. Researchers suggest that a combination of full- and part-time schedules allows returning students to adjust to changes in their circumstances as they strive to balance their education with other commitments. The results varied between different states and institutions, even among those serving similar populations. The authors of the study say that more research is required, but added that their results call into question the efficacy of mandatory “15 credit per semester” policies employed at some community colleges. The Chronicle of Higher Education | Full Report

OUSA recommends ON take steps to prioritize PSE teaching quality

The Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance has released a new submission to the provincial government urging Ontario to prioritize teaching quality in PSE. In Those Who Can, Teach: Evaluating Teaching and Learning Strategies in Ontario’s Universities, OUSA calls for strategies to help faculty develop stronger teaching skills, including stronger encouragement for scholarship of teaching and learning; the conversion of contract appointments into tenure-track, teaching-focused positions; the integration of existing practices with new technologies and teaching materials; and the use of learning outcomes, evaluations, and performance measures for students, faculty, and universities. Among OUSA's specific recommendations are the allocation of funding to improve instructional support centres and for mandatory education professional development for all instructors, including teaching assistants; the reduction of the compensation gap between tenured and non-tenured faculty through limitations on post-retirement teaching contracts and compensation ceilings; improvements to student evaluations of teaching; and a greater emphasis on teaching in hiring, promotion, and tenure decisions. OUSA News Release | Full Report

HEQCO compares apprenticeship systems

The Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario (HEQCO) has released a new report offering an international perspective on apprenticeships. Researchers examined apprenticeship systems in 7 countries, finding that in most cases, federal governments are more involved than they are in Ontario. The report notes that while in Canada apprenticeships are usually confined to the trades, other countries offer a much broader range of options with apprenticeships in areas such as information technology, finance, digital media, and business administration. Moreover, researchers found that apprentices in North America are typically older than in Europe and that North American programs are distinctive in that participants are mostly adults. The report says that policymakers should pay attention to the examples of Australia and England, which have undergone significant changes and expansion in their apprenticeship programs in recent years. HEQCO Summary | Full Report

Google ends sales of wearable Glass technology

Google has announced that it has suspended sales of its wearable Glass technology. The tech giant will continue research and development for the project but in a Google+ post described the initial availability of the hardware as a successful “open beta.” The technology had been used at a number of PSE institutions for a variety of purposes: Royal Roads University recently used Google Glass technology as a means to offer prospective students a glimpse of life on campus, while some professors used Glass to provide students with feedback on their assignments. Many have predicted that wearable technologies will have a significant impact on teaching and learning. However, as Marketing magazine points out, the Google Glass example points to some of the risks of investing too heavily in consumer products that may have a limited lifespan. Marketing | Google Announcement

Investment firm with ties to US for-profit education sector buys Inside Higher Ed

US-based education trade publication Inside Higher Ed (IHE) has been purchased by Quad Partners, an equity firm that is heavily invested in the for-profit college industry. Quad Partners also owns college admissions management company Noel-Levitz. The purchase has raised questions about IHE’s ability to objectively cover issues related to the for-profit education sector. Quad Partners founder Lincoln Frank co-chaired the Coalition for Educational Success, a lobbying group that opposed President Barack Obama’s gainful employment rule and other oversight laws pertaining to for-profit colleges. Doug Lederman, an editor and co-founder of IHE, says that the purchase agreement includes a clause that should prevent Quad Partners from having any involvement in editorial operations. IHE has added an “Ownership Statement” to its website stating that “owners of Inside Higher Ed stock who are not editors play no role in the editorial policies of the company.” But Washington, DC-based education expert Barmak Nassirian described the purchase as “vexing ... The high margins and easy money activity that for-profit colleges represent should be the target—not the owner—of investigative journalism outfits,” he said. Huffington Post | Ownership Statement