Top Ten

January 28, 2015

BC aligns operating grants with in-demand career fields

British Columbia's government has announced that beginning in 2014–15, operating grants awarded to the province's PSE institutions will be aligned with high-demand jobs. In the past, BC targeted approximately 10% of its provincial operating grants to in-demand fields; under the new Skills for Jobs Blueprint, this percentage will increase to 25% by 2017–18. The adjusted funding will focus on the top 60 high-demand occupations identified in BC's 2022 Labour Market Outlook, priority health occupations, regional labour priorities, Aboriginal people, and people with disabilities. "BC is shifting education and training to better align with in-demand occupations. Aligning postsecondary funding to jobs in demand will help students get the education and training needed for our economy," said Advanced Education Minister Andrew Wilkinson. BC News Release

SMU faculty claim presidential selection process violates collective agreement

The faculty union at Saint Mary's University says that it will grieve the institution's presidential selection process, saying that it violates the collective agreement. According to the union, the board of governors' search committee will present a single preferred candidate, a departure from the traditional presentation of a shortlist of 3 candidates to the school's academic committee. The selected candidate will be the result of a closed search process, a process that was made possible by new bylaws introduced last spring in order to protect the identity of prospective candidates, allowing the university to consider a longer list of names. SMU spokesperson Margaret Murphy said that the bylaws were updated to reflect trends at other universities, and said that the search committee believes that it is in full compliance with the collective agreement. "The practice being followed is currently the one being used by virtually every Canadian university out there that's had a presidential search in recent years," she said. Chronicle-Herald

Controversy over Peter Mansbridge's apparent endorsement of student candidate

Mount Allison University Chancellor and CBC News anchor Peter Mansbridge is at the centre of a controversy after a photograph posted to Facebook showed him apparently endorsing a candidate for President of the school's student union. Candidate Piper Riley Thompson posted a photo of Mansbridge holding and pointing to a sign reading "#Piper2015." The caption of the picture included a quote from Mansbridge stating "I ... have full confidence in her ability to lead the Mount Allison Students' Union as President." Rival candidate Dylan Wooley-Berry launched a formal complaint to the student union ombudsperson and to the CBC, saying that he "felt the anchor's conduct demonstrated poor journalistic ethics." Mansbridge denied that he had made the statement in support of Riley Thompson's campaign, and said that the photo did not suggest an endorsement. "In the picture in question, I was aware of the student's candidacy and I made it clear, in front of everyone, that it was not to be used as campaign material. If the other candidate was there I would have taken a picture with him if he wanted under the same conditions," Mansbridge said. Riley Thompson defended the post before admitting that the quote had been "strung together from a conversation"; she subsequently removed the post and apologized. National Post

Largest ever gift to SLC supports student bursaries

St Lawrence College has received a $2 M gift, the largest single gift ever made to the institution, from The Joyce Foundation. The donation will establish The Joyce Foundation Ed Lumley Bursary, in recognition of The Honourable Ed Lumley, a Trustee on the Foundation's board. Renewable bursaries of up to $3,000 will be available to eligible students living in the 3 communities and counties surrounding SLC's campuses. "We are honoured to receive such a generous gift that speaks to the importance of investing in our communities. This endowment will go a long way toward helping students from our catchment area reach their goal of attaining a postsecondary education at St Lawrence College," said SLC President Glenn Vollebregt. SLC News Release

Collège Boréal releases 5-year strategic plan

The board of governors at Collège Boréal has unveiled the institution's new 5-year strategic plan, covering 2015–2020. According to the plan, the college will focus on the values of excellence, humanism, inclusion, innovation, and respect in order to position itself as a first-choice institution among French-language colleges. The plan also identifies 4 strategic directions: access, flexibility, quality, and visibility. The strategic plan is the result of an extensive year-long consultation process that included more than 300 students, staff, community members, and high school students. The plan indicates that the college will increase its program offerings, including continuing education and apprenticeship programs; improve student transferability; develop a new personnel recruitment, retention, and development strategy; conduct a review and analysis of existing services; increase the number of active members of its alumni association; and improve its marketing initiatives in Canada and abroad. Boréal News Release | Summary Document

StatsCan study shows little consistency in students' career plans

A new report published by Statistics Canada shows that career decision-making by Canadian youth is an ongoing process that lasts well into adulthood. Data from the Youth in Transition Survey, which followed students between the years 2000 and 2010, show that just 10% of youth aged 25 had maintained the career aspirations they had at age 15, and 6.9% held the same aspirations they had at age 17. Roughly one-third made their career decision during their early 20s, with 15.9% maintaining their expectations from age 21–25 and 16% from age 23–25. More than 13% of respondents remained undecided about their career at age 25, while 38% had decided to pursue a new career. The study also found that parental views were a factor in respondents' career expectations, with those students whose parents had put a higher priority on PSE demonstrating a higher level of consistency in their aims. Students from a higher socioeconomic status also demonstrated a higher level of consistency. Consistency in career decision at an earlier age was also found to be linked to earlier entry into PSE. StatsCan Daily | Full Report

Scholar argues that scientists should pull power back from big-name journals

In a piece for University Affairs, postdoctoral scholar David Kent says that scientists should act as agents of change in the scholarly publishing industry. Kent says that currently, journals with high impact factors seemingly hold all the cards: to win a research grant—and to find a job—a scientist must publish in a big-name journal. However, Kent points out that scientists are deeply embedded in that power dynamic. The journals, he points out, do not bestow grants or jobs; other scientists make these decisions. Kent suggests banning the CV from the grant review process, so that projects are ranked on their own merits rather than whether the applicant has published in a major journal. "Assess based on research merit, not journal label," he concludes. "Let's make journals tools of communication, not power brokers of scientific careers." University Affairs

New book details federal restrictions on researchers

The Toronto Star has published an excerpt from a new book by journalist Mark Bourrie, which takes aim at the federal government's policies toward its historians, researchers, and librarians. Bourrie cites records showing how Environment Canada scientists were prevented from discussing their findings on accumulated contaminants in oilsands quarries; they were instructed to tell reporters, "I'm not in a position to answer that question, but I'd be happy to refer you to an appropriate spokesperson" in media relations. The excerpt also details cuts to federal libraries that limited researchers' access to books and trained science librarians. One Health Canada scientist even felt compelled to start his own library in his basement. The government has also made cuts at Library and Archives Canada, limiting access to certain materials and outsourcing some services to the for-profit website Ancestry.ca. It further introduced a code of conduct barring librarians and archivists from activities including attending conferences and speaking at public meetings. Toronto Star

CAE publishes report on graduate skills

The US-based Council for Aid to Education (CAE) has released a new report on the 2013–14 results of the enhanced Collegiate Learning Assessment (CLA+). The report takes into account the performance of more than 31,000 students at 169 PSE institutions, measuring areas such as critical thinking and written communication skills. The results show that PSE institutions do help students develop key skills; moreover, PSE was found to narrow achievement gaps across students from different socioeconomic and racial/ethnic backgrounds. However, Arizona State University professor and author Jeffrey A Selingo argues that the results suggest that many students complete their education lacking important job skills. According to the data, Selingo writes, 40% of college seniors do not have the complex reasoning skills required to perform in the labour force. Students who studied math and science performed significantly better than those who majored in fields such as social work and business. Selingo also looks at recent surveys from the Association of American Colleges & Universities which found that employers do not believe that college graduates are well-prepared for the labour market. Selingo advocates a mix of classroom learning and practical experience, and says that there is currently too much emphasis being placed on supposedly practical fields of study. Employers, he says, need people who have broad educations and practical skills. Washington Post | Full CAE Study

Non-profit created to help US adjuncts overcome financial hardships

A new non-profit organization has been created to help adjunct faculty members in the US overcome temporary financial difficulties. The organization, called PrecariCorps, aims to help adjuncts pay their bills, especially during periods when paycheques are not forthcoming or are delayed. "I'm most excited about helping relieve the stress that accompanies our inability to pay for our basic necessities, which helps not only the adjuncts ourselves, but our families and our students, who will be given more attention and care because we'll be able to function more properly without the weight of stress," said Brianne Bolin, an instructor at Columbia College in Chicago. PrecariCorps will also share educational materials on PSE finances with students and parents, collect adjunct faculty news, and conduct research on adjunct faculty issues and education quality. Inside Higher Ed