Top Ten

February 24, 2015

QC protesters begin week of anti-austerity demonstrations

Students, teachers, and activists gathered in Montreal on Sunday to kick off a week of protests against provincial funding cuts to education and other austerity measures. More than 40 anti-austerity events are expected to be held across the province this week. "We're fed up, everywhere," said Véronique Laflamme, with the Coalition opposé à la tarification et à la privatisation des services publics. "[The government] has recently cut important cultural programs, high school programs, housing aid and environmental services, in culture, in CEGEP and in university, in health ... It all hurts." Laflamme suggested that the government should re-establish capital gains taxes on financial institutions and review its corporate tax rates as an alternative approach to solving QC's budget crunch. Kindergarten teacher Lucie Ste-Marie said that cuts to education programs in areas such as nursing, psychology, ergotherapy, orthophony, and orthopedagogy are increasing the pressure placed on teachers and parents to find proper care for children. Montreal Gazette

Independent review calls for changes to NS student unions

Student unions in Nova Scotia have not evolved to keep up with changes in their size and complexity, according to a new independent review commissioned by StudentsNS. The report calls for significant changes to student union governance structures in the province. Its recommendations include transitioning from workgroup boards to governing boards; amending existing policies so that the President is elected by the board from among its members; clarifying the role of the General Manager, simplifying election rules, and eliminating constituency-specific representatives in favour of active constituency engagement. The report further suggests that some student leaders' time should be freed up to allow them to work less on managerial tasks and more on stakeholder consultation and leadership. "This report proposes ways for student unions to be more inclusive and representative of the diversity of the student body. Active engagement, governance by a compensated board, and improved election processes would help to get more students involved and mitigate the current preponderance of higher income students and men," said Advisory Committee member Lisa Buchanan. StudentsNS News Release | Full Report

WesternU campus focuses on infill and campus integration

Western University plans to focus campus growth on its current core rather than establishing a presence in downtown London, reports the London Free Press. "We have a very integrated campus ... It is hard to think about taking a chunk of it and piecing it off," said VP Resources and Operations Gitta Kulczycki. WesternU's plans include turning Western Road, currently treated as a campus boundary street, into a "true campus main street" lined with buildings. The plan would also see some current parking lots developed into new buildings, and the transformation of existing campus routes into a "pedestrian-oriented arrival commons." Some geographical features would remain undeveloped in order to maintain the campus's feel, while a number of existing buildings could see significant renovations. WesternU is currently getting public feedback on the plan; it is expected to be finalized next month before going before the university senate and board of governors for approval in April. London Free Press

Donation to uOttawa will support law, medicine students

The University of Ottawa has received a donation of $1 M from the estate of Audrey Jacqueline Boyce. One of the largest planned gifts ever made to uOttawa, the donation will provide financial support for students in the Faculty of Medicine and the Faculty of Law. It will allow uOttawa to create new annual bursaries for one undergraduate and one graduate law student in financial need, as well as a medical research fellowship for one MD/PhD student. "We are grateful for the generous gift from Ms Boyce's estate. Donations ... help us improve the student experience through financial aid, research funds, and countless projects that help students fulfill their dreams," said uOttawa President Allan Rock. uOttawa News Release

Institutional collaboration could drive NS economy forward

Cape Breton University board member Pat Bates is calling for a new, collaborative mission for Nova Scotia’s PSE institutions. In an op-ed for the Cape Breton Post, Bates suggests that policy makers in Cape Breton should consider the example of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania when they think about the future. Pittsburgh, he says, endured the collapse of the steel industry and has revived itself in part because it has pursued new opportunities afforded by the education sector. He says that collaboration between institutions including CBU, Nova Scotia Community College's Marconi and Strait Area campuses, and St Francis Xavier University could fuel a powerful economic engine for the province and open up new areas of specialization. Such an initiative, Bates argues, would be a better use of provincial funding than a narrow focus on heavy industry, which is being challenged by changing technologies and consumer preferences as well as by the rise of developing economies. CBU President and Rethinking Higher Ed contributor David Wheeler has previously advocated a "super-university" model for Halifax, which he says could play a role in "building the industries of the future."  He told Academica Group that he believes Bates’ analysis “effectively extends the argument to the role of the regional universities,” which include StFX, Acadia, and CBU. Cape Breton Post

PSE institutions help foster $3 B tech sector in Victoria

Victoria's PSE institutions have played a critical role in creating "a perfect storm" that is powering the city's growing technology industry. Victoria is an unlikely location for such a thriving tech industry; typically, technology sectors develop around bigger centres, not islands. Dan Gunn, Executive Director of the Victoria Advanced Technology Council, said that Camosun College, Royal Roads University, and the University of Victoria have helped draw people who are "naturally innovative and interested in learning," while advancements in infrastructure have made it possible for tech firms to choose Victoria for its climate and lifestyle. Gunn said that if the region can retain talented graduates from local PSE institutions, tech hubs such as Seattle and San Francisco will start to take notice. He speculates that it is possible to have a $4 B tech industry in the city within the next 5 years. Victoria Times-Colonist

Why Canadians shouldn't worry about where universities appear in global rankings

Canadians institutions shouldn't worry too much about their placement in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings, argue Robert Lacroix and Louis Maheu. Lacroix and Maheu say that the THE rankings are highly unstable, especially when it comes to evaluating reputational factors. They suggest that Canadian schools' performance have been hit significantly hard by these subjective scores: in the THE rankings, the 2 factors influenced by reputational surveys accounted for 94% of Canadian schools' drop in total score. In contrast, Canadian universities' performances in the Shanghai Jiao Tong University’s Academic Ranking of World Universities have been more stable, possibly because those rankings do not include a reputational survey. Lacroix and Maheu also apply a 6-factor macro-economic model to compare research-intensive universities. When applying this model, they found that Canada has a higher proportion of research universities among the top 200 than expected. This finding corroborates their belief that countries with higher economic density tend to perform better under some ranking methodologies. University Affairs

University degrees pay off over the long term

The Financial Post has crunched the numbers to determine whether students would earn more by paying tuition for 4 years or by investing the same amount of money in a retirement fund. The study assumes that the average cost of a degree is $68,933; assuming a 5% return annually over 45 years, that amount would be worth $619,364 as an investment, and would offer students the chance to put in 4 years more time in the labour force. Based on an average income of $30,817 for a high school graduate, the hypothetical individual could, were they able to bank 100% of their after-tax earnings, make another $800,000 by investing their money at a 5% return, for a total of $1.4 M in 45 years' time. That's the same amount that the Council of Ontario Universities suggests a university graduate will make in excess of an individual with a high school diploma. However, this figure does not take into account increases in earnings due to inflation, which could lead to the university graduate earning an excess of closer to $2.1 M; wisely invested, that could make the value of a degree as much as $3.8 M greater than that of a high school diploma. A university graduate, the article says, is "more likely to be more financially independent during their working and retirement years," and would have more options available to them. Financial Post

Report critiques adjunct, tenure-line faculty models

A new report from the University of Southern California's Delphi Project on the Changing Faculty and Student Success says that a decrease in tenured and tenure-track faculty at US colleges and universities could compromise institutions' ability to fulfill their missions. The report argues that institutions' reliance on adjunct faculty members is making it more difficult for full-time faculty to fulfill their obligations to serve the public good. It recommends that institutions create a faculty model based on professionalism in faculty roles; institutional needs and mission; faculty, administrator, student, and accreditor input; and an understanding of the greater PSE landscape. The report goes on to critique the adjunct faculty model but also the tenure-track model, stating that a "disproportionate emphasis on conducting research and publishing have essentially downplayed the importance of teaching—the core mission of most institutions." Inside Higher Ed | Full Report

A glimpse into the University of Everywhere

An article in the Washington Post by Kevin Carey, Director of the Education Policy Program at the US-based nonprofit New America Foundation, imagines the future "University of Everywhere," a model of education that will emerge from the work of organizations such as edX, Coursera, and Udacity. Under this model, courses will be organized around sequences that are similar to majors, but are of variable length. In many cases, they will be built around immersive digital learning environments developed by millions of educators collaborating with one another. Businesses, colleges, universities, and nonprofit education providers will compete with one another using sophisticated artificial intelligence tools that will challenge and motivate students; these groups will work alongside a growing industry of student support organizations that will provide counseling, tutoring, advising, learning aids, and study groups. Many courses will be free, while others may come at a manageable fee to cover assessment costs. Students may learn alone, or may collaborate with others across the Internet. "The higher learning places of the future will be portals as much as meeting places, connected to the global University of Everywhere beyond," writes Carey. Washington Post