Top Ten

February 23, 2015

Ontario shuts down Everest College

Citing financial concerns, Ontario’s Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities has suspended the operations of Everest College, a private career college with 14 locations in the province. Approximately 2,400 students and 450 staff have been affected by the move. Everest College is owned by the US-based Corinthian Colleges, which has been under investigation by the US government. The province said that it has allocated $3 M for students who wish to apply for refunds; students may also be eligible to transfer their tuition to comparable programs. "Our first concern is for the students and faculty affected by the suspension of all Everest College campus activities," said Minister Reza Moridi. Corinthian spokesperson Joe Hixson said that Ontario's action took the company by surprise. "We were informed this morning, just like the students were," he said. "We've been working with the ministry for the past few months to try to find a path forward, so this came, in our mind, out of nowhere." In a statement, Career Colleges Ontario (CCO) said that "this cessation is an adverse result of the US parent company ... terminating its operations in the United States last year ... CCO is diligently working alongside the MTCU to transfer existing Everest College students to alternative career colleges, while ensuring that all current students are properly accommodated." CCO News Release | Globe and Mail | CBC | National Post

Postscript: February 24, 2015

Everest College filed for bankruptcy protection on Friday, one day after Ontario shut down its 14 campuses in the province. Provincial Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities Reza Moridi said, "since the suspension occurred, the superintendent [of private career colleges] has been working diligently to put training completion plans into place for students. While this is still a challenging situation for students, Everest's bankruptcy does not change these ongoing efforts." Moridi also emphasized that the bankruptcy should not affect the province's ability to administer the Training Completion Assurance Fund set aside for Everest's former students. CBC

Ottawa writes off $300 M in uncollected student loans

The federal government has written off $295 M in uncollected debt from 63,450 Canada Student Loans. This brings the total student loan debt written off by the government to more than $837 M over the last 3 years. A document tabled in the House of Commons on Thursday stated that "amounts being written off are for debts for which reasonable efforts to collect the amounts owed have been unsuccessful. The vast majority of these are debts of borrowers who defaulted in repayment in 2008 or earlier." Data show that 87% of Canada Student Loans are repaid; however, this latest announcement has prompted some to call for Ottawa to change its approach to funding students. According to Jessica McCormick, National Chairperson of the Canadian Federation of Students, the write-offs demonstrate the need for Ottawa to offer more grants to low-income families. Employment and Social Development Canada said that federal student loan default rates are at an all-time low. Globe and Mail | National Post

Lakehead to include Indigenous content in all faculties

Lakehead University will be introducing Indigenous knowledge and perspectives into courses across all faculties starting in 2016, reports CBC. The initiative is part of Lakehead's strategic plan and constitutes a step toward making it mandatory for all undergraduate students to participate in Indigenous education. The Indigenous content will be tailored to the specific academic program. Yolanda Wanakamik with the Office of Aboriginal Initiatives noted that in addition to increasing understanding of Indigenous people, the intent of the initiative is to encourage open discussion about racism. Wanakamik believes that Lakehead is the first Canadian university to incorporate mandatory Indigenous content across all faculties; earlier this week, student groups at the University of Winnipeg proposed mandatory Indigenous courses for all students. CBC

Queen's Provost shares findings of investigation into anti-vaccination course material

Queen's University Provost Alan Harrison has issued a response to concerns that anti-vaccination material was being taught in a course offered by the university's School of Kinesiology and Health Studies (SKHS). Harrison said that after a review of the slides as well as meetings with several parties, he is "not able to state unequivocally that the instructor's sole intention was to present the case against vaccination." Harrison said that much of the negative reaction to the slides came from individuals viewing them out of context, which may have led to a mistaken conclusion. Harrison also stated that Melody Torcolacci, the instructor who presented the slides in question, will not be assigned to teach that course next year and that SKHS "will work with Ms Torcolacci to ensure the courses for which she is responsible next year are intellectually rigorous, that any scientific evidence is presented objectively, and that any personal biases are declared." Queen's News Release | National Post | Globe and Mail

TRU releases 5-year strategic research plan

Thompson Rivers University has shared its new Strategic Research Plan, intended to guide the institution's research for the next 5 years. The plan was approved by TRU's board of governors on February 13. It identifies 5 key areas of "collaborative excellence and emerging strength": education, health, and diversity; community and cultural engagement; sustainability, environment, and the physical world; Aboriginal understanding; and technology and optimization. The plan also sets a number of specific objectives, including the development of a research culture on campus, an increase in the number of research chairs, and support for research conferences, workshops, and outreach efforts. "Our researchers are providing excellent opportunities for their students, and in doing so, are successfully drawing some of the brightest minds to this campus," said Will Garrett-Petts, TRU's AVP Research and Graduate Studies. TRU News | Full Plan

Carleton to support North-South Institute

Carleton University has announced a partnership between the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs (NPSIA) and the North-South Institute (NSI). The agreement will allow NSI, recently ranked the best small think tank in the world, to continue operations as an independent policy think tank. The Institute had been facing closure due to funding cuts. "We are pleased to provide support for NSI to allow it to continue its mission of 'research for a fairer world.' NPSIA and NSI share the common objective of helping Canadians to understand the challenges of international development through evidence-based, policy-relevant research," said NPSIA Director Dane Rowlands. Carleton News Release

PSE leaders gather in Halifax to talk innovation in education

Canadian PSE leaders gathered in Halifax last week for the Atlantic Association of Universities' Atlantic Leaders Summit. Attendees discussed a variety of issues including talent, innovation, and entrepreneurism. University of King's College Chancellor, University of Waterloo board Chair, and BMO Financial Vice-Chair Kevin Lynch expressed his concern that there are no universities in Atlantic Canada that rank among the world's top 200. He suggested that the region must fight a culture of complacency and said that education has been the slowest sector to embrace innovation. New Brunswick's Assistant Deputy Minister of Post-Secondary Education, Training and Labour Charles Ayles said that the province's government wants to see universities focus more on producing job-ready graduates. "You don't go to university to get a job but you are darn well sure when you get out of university you expect to get a job," said Ayles. "We have to do a better job marrying the two." Several speakers, including Lynch and Dalhousie VP Research Martha Crago, emphasized the value of experiential learning and co-op education; NB entrepreneur Gerry Pond pledged to give $500,000 to any university willing to start an "international sales academy" to train businesses to market their goods and services to different cultures. CBC

ON MPP says unpaid internships should be replaced by work-integrated learning

In an op-ed published in the Toronto Star, Ontario NDP MPP Peggy Sattler argues that work-integrated learning should replace unpaid internships. Sattler cites research showing that work-integrated learning programs—including co-ops, internships, and field placements—help students find a better fit between education and employment and can help disadvantaged youth as well as immigrants gain experience in the labour market. Sattler also notes that work-integrated learning provides significant benefits to employers as well, by fostering the development of in-demand skills. In contrast, she says, unpaid internships are bad for the economy, privilege those who can afford to work for free, and rarely translate into permanent employment. A recent Academica StudentVu quick poll found that 62% of respondents were willing to participate in an unpaid internship for the work experience. Toronto Star

Barnhart says leadership crisis made uSask stronger

The leadership crisis faced by the University of Saskatchewan last year has made the institution stronger, according to interim President Gordon Barnhart. Barnhart, speaking at a Greater Saskatoon Chamber of Commerce event, said that uSask learned a great deal from the upheaval, and that the community's response emphasized how important the university is to Saskatoon. "It's a reminder that we're simply not a tenant in the city paying taxes. We are here as a key part of the city. We're part of the fabric and when the fabric starts to tear, it hurts us all. So we have a responsibility to you to be the very best university we can be," Barnhart said. Barnhart also emphasized that even in the midst of the crisis, there were good things happening on campus, such as the installation of a new cyclotron. He also denied that the institution has invested in sciences at the expense of arts and humanities. Finally, Barnhart emphasized that while uSask is "not rolling in money ... we're in good shape, and with some prudent financial decisions we'll be fine." StarPhoenix

Report calls for sweeping changes to journalism education

The Knight Foundation, a US non-profit focused on journalism, media, and the arts, has published a new report calling for significant change to journalism education. The report says that journalism schools must respond to shifts in the "news-and-information ecosystem" by adopting a digital-first focus. "There exist no campus-based journalism education equivalents to the digital-native upstarts that are transforming the professional media landscape," the report states. While journalism students must still know "the basics," currency—defined as "the capacity to identify and master emerging market trends and media technologies and integrate them quickly"—is of paramount importance. The report says that this shift will require fresh perspectives from faculty who have experience in digital journalism as well as "all new systems, structures, and operating assumptions, designed to ensure that all faculty ... are teaching what they know." Finally, the report says that accreditation models should focus on outcomes rather than tradition. In Canada, some journalism programs have faced significant changes or closureInside Higher Ed | The Chronicle of Higher Education | Full Report