Top Ten

February 9, 2015

Suspect arrested following lockdown at UOIT and Durham campus

The north Oshawa joint campus of the University of Ontario Institute of Technology and Durham College was on lockdown for approximately an hour last Thursday afternoon after police received reports of a man with a weapon. Local police arrested an unarmed suspect “without incident,” although the campus remained in “hold and secure” mode while officers searched for the weapon and the suspect’s vehicle. No charges have yet been laid, but police reportedly said they are still investigating the incident. The restrictions were removed and normal campus activity resumed around 3 PM. Toronto Star | Hamilton Spectator | UOIT News

Some faculty contracts not renewed as Nipissing tries to fight deficit

Nipissing University has said that it will not renew the contracts of 22 professors on limited-term contracts as the institution continues to try to reduce an $11.8 M deficit. Spokesperson Bob Pipe said that the decision was made as "a continuation of the restructuring started in the fall." Pipe told Bay Today that "it shouldn't affect the [existing] students. Each one of these contracts runs until the end of the academic term, so these individuals will teach as part of their contract until the end of this academic year." He added that an increase in applications could help boost the university's revenues. But some faculty affected by the cuts say that they are tantamount to being fired. Catherine Murton Stoehr, who has taught Canadian History and First Nations History on a contract basis for 9 years, said, "that's the horror of doing contract work. The administration reserves the right to fire you even if you are doing a good job." North Bay Nugget | Bay Today

Concordia receives $1 M donation for investment management program

Concordia University's John Molson School of Business has received a $1 M donation from alumnus J Sebastian Van Berkom. The gift will help establish the Van Berkom Small-Cap Investment Management Program. The program, which will run for 18–24 months beginning in 2016, will provide space for 8 graduate students to begin as research associates before transitioning to become fund managers. "Concordia accepted me as a student and I've done tremendously well ever since," said Van Berkom. "I believe in giving back. I want to give students the same kind of experience that I had." Van Berkom has to date donated a total of $2.3 M to Concordia. Concordia News Release | Concordia News | Montreal Gazette

QC K-12 curriculum reform not achieving desired results

Montreal Gazette editorial argues that it is time to review changes to Quebec's curriculum that haven't produced desired results. The editorial cites a study from Université Laval, which found that the "pedagogical renewal" process—implemented between 2005 and 2010 to address an elevated high-school drop out rate and to get more high-school graduates to move on to PSE—is not working. The study found that students under the reformed curriculum have performed worse in French and math. QC's Education Minister Yves Bolduc defended the reforms, acknowledging that some of the findings of the study are "worrying," but saying that "often, at the beginning of a reform, changes are made that make results worse. Down the road, we think they will improve." However, one of the lead researchers behind the study says that it is not too early to act. "Evaluation is a continuous process. We have to do it early and keep doing it ... If, in the short term, [students'] knowledge of math and French is in decline, we can't wait long," said uLaval professor Simon Larose. Montreal Gazette (Editorial) | Montreal Gazette (Bolduc) | La Presse

New TFW rules impede ability of institutions to recruit internationally

Canada's PSE institutions are urging the federal government to relax new restrictions to the temporary foreign worker (TFW) program that are impeding the schools' ability to recruit internationally. Universities use the TFW program because it provides "a faster, more accessible avenue to hiring foreign academics than the federal skilled workers program, which imposed caps by occupation, including in jobs as university professors," reports the Globe and Mail. Changes made last June to the TFW program mean that employers recruiting for high-wage positions must have a transition plan showing how jobs can be shifted to Canadian residents. “You are looking at a culture where people feel they are part of an international community. Why shouldn’t they hire internationally? They have trained internationally, they collaborate internationally, they publish internationally,” said Frances Woolley, a professor of economics at Carleton University. Sources in the PSE sector told the Globe that an agreement with the government is "close." Globe and Mail

Conference Board reports on skills gaps and mismatches in BC

A new report from the Conference Board of Canada says that skills gaps and mismatches in British Columbia could cost the province billions in economic activity and millions in tax revenues each year. BC employers said that they anticipate difficulty filling jobs in areas including business, finance, and administration; trades, transport, and related occupations; and sales and service occupations. The ability of employers to fill managerial roles as experienced employees retire is a particularly acute concern. 57% of respondents to the Conference Board's survey of 854 employers said that they will be looking for employees with university degrees, while 44% said college diplomas, 41% said college certificates, and 24% said applied degrees. The skills most in demand by employers include critical thinking and problem-solving (73%), oral communication (38%), literacy (36%), and working with others (33%). The Conference Board recommends that BC align curricula and programs to meet the current and future realities of the labour market and increase investment in education and training. They also advise employers to increase investment in training and development and provide more experiential learning opportunities, and educators to improve communication with employers and provide more information to students about career outcomes. Conference Board News Release | Full Report

Recommendations to fix the unemployed doctors problem

The CD Howe Institute has released a new report that examines the growing paradox of newly graduated specialist physicians that are unable to find work, at the same time that Canadians report growing wait times to see such specialists. The report, Doctors without Hospitals: What to do about Specialists Who Can’t Find Work, suggests that one reason for this problem is the 2-silo approach to funding that exists, where specialist physicians are paid on a fee-for-service plan, while hospitals are on a fixed budget. This funding model means that physicians may be available, but the hospital cannot afford the resources or staff to support them. The report makes 5 recommendations to address this issue and prevent the problem from worsening: change funding rules by bundling payment streams; give hospitals the authority to allocate access to operating rooms and the budget to contract with specialists; partially finance hospitals according to the volume and outcomes of services provided; pay specialists a share of what the hospitals were paid per procedure and/or by salary; and establish a transition plan to a new model for bargaining with specialists. CD Howe News Release | Full Report

NS students hold provincial Day of Action

Hundreds of students marched as part of a provincial Student Day of Action in Nova Scotia last week, demanding reduced tuition fees, increased university funding, and that student loans be converted to grants. The students gathered in Halifax and in Church Point, carrying signs that said "Grants not Loans" and "Education is a Right." Michaela Sam, Chair of the Canadian Federation of Students–Nova Scotia, said, "We need to see a legitimate commitment from [NS Premier] Stephen McNeil, and not continuous cuts and not the continuous chronic underfunding we have seen for years. Our students are being left further in debt. We are seeing record-high levels. Students are now an average of $37,000 in debt. We are seeing huge numbers of out-migration." Chronicle-Herald | CFS-NS News Release

US institutions increasingly turn to full-time, non-tenure-track faculty

A new analysis of federal data performed by Steven J Shulman, a Colorado State University economist, shows that US colleges are increasingly relying on full-time, non-tenure-track faculty. As a result, the number of part-time faculty members has declined somewhat after decades of growth; however, the number of part-time faculty employed at doctoral institutions continued to grow. "Our largest and most prestigious universities are the ones that are most culpable in the employment trends that are upending the tenure system and spreading low-wage labor as a routine means of educating undergraduates," the report argues. The report also found that the proportion of tenure-track faculty who are not yet tenured has declined, a trend described by the author as "a worrisome predictor of future declines in the fraction of all faculty who hold tenure." However, Adrianna Kezar, Director of the Delphi Project on the Changing Faculty and Student Success, says that a move toward full-time faculty is a positive trend. Kezar noted that full-time, non-tenure-track faculty are more available to students and help ensure consistency in the curriculum. She also added that reliance on part-time faculty comes with hidden costs associated with high turnover. The Chronicle of Higher Education

Rate of growth in US online enrolment reaches 13-year low

The rate of growth in the number of US students taking at least one online course slowed in 2014, according to a survey released by the Online Learning Consortium (OLC). The survey found a 3.7% year-to-year increase in the number of distance education students; this represents the smallest increase since the OLC report series began 13 years ago. The report also suggests that the number of students enrolling in massive open online courses (MOOCs) has plateaued. Just 8% of institutions surveyed offered a MOOC with 5.6% saying that they had one or more in the planning stages. Moreover, fewer academic leaders said that they believed MOOCs were a sustainable method of providing online instruction. The survey also showed a divide between academic leaders and faculty. 70.8% of academic leaders said that online learning is critical to their long-term strategy, but just 28% said that faculty accept the "value and legitimacy of online education." Campus Technology | OLC News Release | Full Report