Top Ten

January 26, 2015

Residence fees at UVic could see large increase

Students living in residence at the University of Victoria could see a significant increase in housing costs come September, if a proposed fee increase is approved by the board of governors. The 10-year plan for residence fee increases includes a 13% jump in the first year, followed by a 6% increase in each of years 2 and 3, with the remaining 7 years each seeing 4% increases. This would bring the current average yearly cost of living in residence from $4,094 to $5,200 by 2017. The UVic Students’ Society is protesting the proposed rate hikes, and has organized several workshops about tenants’ rights for students. Kathryn MacLeod, UVic’s Director of Residential Services, said that the university is facing a large amount of deferred maintenance costs, as well as the need to upgrade aging residence buildings. Moreover, UVic’s housing currently costs about 30% less than the average for comparable institutions. “Even with the increases that we’re proposing, after 10 years we’ll still be 14% less than the average,” MacLeod said. UVic’s board will vote on the proposal in the spring. Times-Colonist

MB minister says institutions with low-enrolment programs should collaborate

Manitoba’s Minister of Advanced Learning Peter Bjornson has said that PSE institutions wrestling with low enrolment in some programs should consider collaborating with one another. In a Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) town hall at the University of Winnipeg, Bjornson stressed that he wasn’t telling institutions what to do. However, when queried by a student who feared that programs such as philosophy and sociology could face cuts, he said that “universities have to assess their individual programs and the ways they can maintain those programs … [such as] having programs collaboratively offered by 2 universities, or by one university and one college.” Bjornson would not get into specifics about the future of PSE funding in the province, but said that “we would do our best to resource universities to the best of our abilities. It is getting more and more challenging. Our economy is tied to a global economy that has been less than forgiving and doesn’t show any sign of getting better.” Winnipeg Free Press

MRU to launch ambitious 10-year plan next month

Mount Royal University is set to unveil an ambitious 10-year strategic plan that would see the institution expand its degree offerings, roll back its applied programs, and significantly boost enrolment of Aboriginal and international students. According to a draft of the plan obtained by Metro News, MRU will look to add 4 baccalaureate degree programs and phase out its 5 applied degrees. It also hopes to increase the number of majors offered from 42 to 60 and boost total enrolment to 13,000 students by 2024–25, a 60% increase over the current number. In the draft version of the document, MRU President David Docherty describes the plan as “a framework for excellence” that “identifies our key strengths as well as areas where additional focus will benefit our students and university.” The plan, entitled Learning Together, Leading Together, will go before the board of governors for approval in late February. Metro News

Windsor presses feds to refurbish deteriorating building into law school

Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens renewed his push to get the federal government to refurbish the Paul Martin Building and turn it into a downtown University of Windsor law school. The building is deteriorating rapidly; last summer, the main entrances were closed off due to the risk of falling stone and have yet to re-open. Last year, the Toronto Star discovered that the federal government is spending $100,000 each year on engineers who monitor the building and make sure that it is still safe. In 2013, Windsor had pledged $15 M for a conversion project that would have also made space for displaced federal employees in an expanded city hall. “There’d be such a huge potential in moving the university law students downtown,” said Dilkens. When asked about the federal government’s plans for the building, a representative of Public Works and Government Services Canada said only that a decision will be made “in due course.” Windsor Star

SK highlights increased retention rates for provincially trained doctors

The Saskatchewan government is reporting that the retention rate for doctors trained in the province is improving, with an 11% increase in retention over last year. This brings the retention rate of provincially trained doctors up to 69%, from 58% a year ago. SK has been working to improve the number of doctors remaining in the province to practice, and has also increased medical training spots at uSask and residency spaces in the province. The overall number of physicians grew by 24% from March 2007 to March 2014, and overall physician turnover has decreased in the same time period. “Physicians that are newly-trained in Saskatchewan play a key role in the health care system,” Rural and Remote Health Minister Greg Ottenbreit said.  “We want patients right here in Saskatchewan to benefit from their expert training and homegrown leadership.  Our government will continue to look for new ways to make sure that Saskatchewan is where these valued health providers want to practice.” In March, uSask reported that 63% of its graduating class had secured residencies in SK. SK News Release

uWaterloo’s Institute for Quantum Computing receives $15 M from feds

The federal government has announced an investment of $15 M over 3 years for the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo. The IQC conducts research in quantum information science, leading to the development of technologies that are used in areas such as computing, information security, and sensing technologies. “This funding will help the Institute for Quantum Computing to continue attracting world-leading research talent and to increasingly translate new knowledge into innovative quantum-based technologies for the benefit of Canadians,” said Ed Holder, Minister of State (Science and Technology). The IQC is located in the Mike & Ophelia Lazaridis Quantum-Nano Centre, where it shares space with the Waterloo Institute for Nanotechnology. uWaterloo News Release | Canada News Release

BC PSE funding not keeping up with population growth south of the Fraser River

Community leaders in the region south of the Fraser River in BC—comprising the cities of Richmond, Surrey, Delta, and Langley—are calling for more funding for PSE in the area. The region has grown rapidly in recent years, and has close to a million residents. However, there are just 2 PSE options: Kwantlen Polytechnic University and the Surrey campus of Simon Fraser University, which as of 2010 together provided just 11,451 full-time seats. Geoff Dean, who sits on Kwantlen’s board of governors, says the situation is getting worse. The region has grown to include over 20% of the province’s population, but funding from the provincial government has dropped. Many students, he says, are forced to commute to other parts of the lower mainland. Not only is this a strain on those students who have to balance family and work obligations, but it could also have a negative impact on the local economy. Anita Huberman, CEO of the Surrey Board of Trade, said, “if they have to look elsewhere for postsecondary education, then the likelihood is that they will work in other [regions]. So our human capital and our ability to attract businesses decreases.” Provincial funding, she said, is simply not keeping pace with the region’s explosive rate of growth. The Tyee

triOS offers bursaries for those affected by retail chain closures

triOS Corporation, a private career college company that operates triOS College and Eastern College, is offering $1,500 bursaries to individuals who lost their job as a result of the closures of Target Canada, Mexx, Jacob, Smart Set, and Sony Stores. The offer is available to anyone who was laid off by a retail chain since January 1, 2015 and is applicable to those wishing to study at any of 9 triOS College and 6 Eastern College locations in Ontario and Atlantic Canada. “As career colleges, triOS and Eastern College provide training to get laid-off employees back into the workforce. Our bursary is a financial contribution to help people explore their career options,” said triOS Corporation President Stuart Bentley. TriOS News Release

Amazon launches education-focused e-publishing platform

Amazon has launched KDP EDU, an extension of its Kindle Direct Publishing platform that is targeted specifically at educators and textbook authors. Amazon says that KDP EDU will allow authors to “easily prepare, publish, and promote e-textbooks and other education content for students to access on a broad range of devices.” Published textbooks can include features such as highlighting, a notebook, flashcards, and integration with a dictionary or Wikipedia. The platform offers creators royalties of up to 70%, and authors will be eligible to submit their work under other Amazon royalty programs. Authors reportedly retain the rights to the content that they publish. The platform seems to target authors wishing to convert and self-publish existing print versions of their books. Campus Technology

MIT MOOC at centre of "unprecedented" sexual harassment case

MIT has confirmed that a number of women participating in a massive open online course (MOOC) were subject to sexual harassment by professor Walter H G Lewin, a noted physicist. One student said that the harassment “started day one.” Lewin, she said, contacted her via a Facebook group for the course, and pressured her to send him naked pictures of herself and to participate in sexual role-playing. Experts on online harassment have described the case as “unprecedented.” Questions remain about MIT’s liability for not protecting the victims, as it is unclear whether students’ participation in the MOOC constituted enrolment at the university. Many legal experts say that US Title IX legislation should apply in the case, but that the matter may depend on whether or not MIT was aware of the harassment and failed to act. As an additional wrinkle to the case, students in the course who were not aware of the details of the case were upset regarding the decision to remove the contents of the course from the delivery platform. MIT has attempted to remove all traces of the course from the Internet; however, it has been unable to completely do so. Inside Higher Ed | MIT News Release