Top Ten

January 29, 2015

Algonquin set to open new Construction Research Centre

Algonquin College will on Friday celebrate the opening of its new Construction Research Centre, part of the college's Am-Tech Electrical Lab. The facility will provide students and faculty with access to approximately $2.8 M in equipment and software for use on applied research projects related to the school's Centre for Construction Excellence and its Media and Design programs. Among the equipment available in the facility are a professional 3D laser scanner; a "HoloStation," an immersive environment used to visualize 3D models; a 3D printer; and infra-red cameras. The facility was funded by the Canada Foundation for Innovation, the Ontario Research Fund, and other private contributors. Algonquin News Release

CAUT calls for restoration of long-form census

The Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) has joined several other public interest groups in issuing a joint statement calling for the federal government to support Bill C-626, which would restore the long-form census. The census was eliminated in 2011 amid much controversy. The statement says that the long-form census "provided critical information ... that helped determine public policy, guide researchers, and give businesses a leg up." Under the new voluntary survey, the statement notes, response rates have dropped while costs have gone up; the loss of statistical data has also had a negative impact on market research, social programs, and service delivery. In addition to CAUT, the statement has been signed by the University of Toronto Faculty Association, the York University Faculty Association, and the Politics of Evidence Working Group at YorkU, among other organizations. CAUT News Release | Joint Statement

uManitoba research group launches e-book press

The Education for Sustainable Well-Being (ESWB) Research Group at the University of Manitoba has launched a new e-book press. The ESWB Press will publish monographs and collections that focus on human well-being, as well as those that support education and research in sustainable well-being. "Our group is concerned for human well-being--not just for this generation but also for future generations ... and what role can education play in promoting sustainable well-being," said ESWB member Thomas Falkenberg. The press has already published its first title, Sustainable Well-Being: Concepts, Issues, and Educational Practices; it has also received 2 proposals that are currently in development. Books published by the press will be made freely available to all, said Falkenberg. "As faculty members we are already paid by the public to do a service—I see this as a way of giving back to the public," he said. uManitoba News

HEQCO report examines value of Apprentice Retention Program

The Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario (HEQCO) has published a new report that examines the development, implementation, and efficacy of the Apprentice Retention Program (ARP), a program developed by Western University and Fanshawe College in collaboration with several other organizations. The ARP comprises 9 hands-on and 2 online workshops on topics including workplace learning, communication, and employer expectations. 26 apprentices receiving in-class training at Fanshawe participated in the study. Most ARP participants agreed that the program provided them with valuable information, especially around employer expectations and budgeting. Participants indicated that they felt they would benefit from additional face-to-face support from Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities (MTCU) employment and training consultants, and that they would appreciate more information on available support services. The authors of the report said that their research indicates a need for multi-faceted interventions to improve retention rates, and that programs should incorporate assistance programs as part of the core curriculum or pre-apprenticeship training offered at PSE institutions. HEQCO Summary | Full Report

Demand for cooking schools is very high, but so are expectations

Interest in the culinary arts is perhaps higher than ever, but this means that many cooking schools are being forced to turn applicants away. Across Canada, instructors are reporting that enrolments have climbed, leading to long wait-lists for many programs. However, while demand is high, many are unprepared for the reality of cooking school. Students whose ideas about professional cooking are based on hours spent watching the Food Network often do not expect the rigourous demands of most programs. At Ontario's exclusive Stratford Chefs School, more than 10% of first-year students drop out; more follow in the second year. Students who aspire to be celebrity chefs may also have a skewed sense of what a restaurant cook's paycheque actually looks like. However, there are other opportunities for qualified graduates, many of whom pursue culinary studies not because they want to work in a restaurant but because they are interested in other food-related careers. Globe and Mail

Blog offers view into life at UVic

A new blogging project aims to shed light on what life is like as a student at the University of Victoria. The My UVic Life series follows 18 UVic students who write and share videos and photos of their day-to-day lives. Visitors are encouraged to interact with the bloggers, commenting and asking questions. The initiative is described as being "for students, by students," and is intended to reach both prospective and current UVic students. The bloggers are meant to represent the diversity of UVic's student population, and the site will feature contributions from undergraduates in 7 different faculties as well as one who has not settled on a major. "I want to share with you the raw, uninterrupted university student life, in all its messed up beautiful imperfection," wrote one contributor. The project is being co-produced by UVic's Student Recruitment and Global Engagement department and University Communications and Marketing. UVic News Release | My UVic Life

The changing role of PSE communications offices

In a recent blog post for University Affairs, Léo Charbonneau gives a nod to the folks working in university communications and media relations, exploring the difficulties they often face and the changing nature of university communications in general. Charbonneau notes that often the communications department is dealing with “silly or just irksome” issues, such as the library kiss in the recent promotional video from Université de Moncton. But sometimes, the issue is much larger and more complex, such as the Dalhousie University dentistry scandal. The post cites Academica’s Ken Steele, who said, “they haven’t been able to let go of the old media and have been trying to do more and more things with the same budget.” Social media and the digital age in general have changed the communications landscape, and adjusting to the new order is both exciting and challenging, suggests Charbonneau. University Affairs

Sugar Daddy website continues to gain traction with Canadian students

The “Sugar Daddy” website SeekingArrangement.com has released a list of the Canadian universities with the most sign-ups in 2014, indicating that the trend is continuing to grow as students struggle to meet the financial challenges of PSE. Topping the list is the University of Toronto, with 195 new members in 2014, followed by McGill University (161) and the University of Saskatchewan (151). The dating site brings together “sugar babies” and “sugar daddies” for mutually agreed upon encounters. The sugar babies receive gifts or money for their company, which has led to criticism from some. According to the website, university students make up 42% of the site’s membership. “It’s a dating site just like any other,” said spokesperson Brook Urick. “The only difference here is the women and men know exactly what they’re looking for.” Huffington Post Global News

Study questions effectiveness of performance-based funding at US colleges

A growing number of US states are turning to performance-based funding to allocate PSE funding; however, a new report calls into question the effectiveness of such an approach. 30 states now allocate at least a portion of their PSE funding based on measures such as graduation rates and student retention. However, the new study from the not-for-profit American Educational Research Association (AERA) suggests that linking funding to these metrics has had little effect in states including Washington, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee. Rather, performance-based funding has only increased the number of short-term certificates, many of which, the authors claim, have little labour-market value. Moreover, in some cases performance-based funding has compelled PSE institutions to raise admission standards. However, advocates of performance-based funding say that it is simply too early to effectively judged the effectiveness of the programs; they also question the report's assertion that the short-term certificates are of little value. The Chronicle of Higher Education

Donations to US institutions hit record high in 2014

Donations to US colleges hit an all-time high of $38 B in 2014, reports the Council for Aid to Education (CAE). The previous high was $33.8 B in 2013. The increase between 2013 and 2014 represents the greatest single-year growth since 2000. All sources of donations, including alumni, non-alumni, corporations, foundations, and other organizations gave more in 2014 than 2013; however, the alumni participation rate dropped slightly, continuing a 20-year trend. This may be explained in part by the fact that institutions are getting better at tracking their alumni. Much of the giving was concentrated at the top, with just 2% of all institutions that participated in the survey receiving 28.6% of the funding. According to the report, the total value of the endowments of the 959 institutions that provided data increased by 15%, buoyed in part by increases in the 4 major stock indexes. Harvard University received the greatest amount in donations at $1.16 B; this reportedly makes it the second US institution to surpass $1 B in donations for a single calendar year. Inside Higher Ed