Top Ten

February 26, 2015

BC Minister asks PSE institutions to stop hiring lobbyists

British Columbia Advanced Education Minister Andrew Wilkinson said that he will ask the province's PSE institutions to stop hiring lobbyists to try to influence his decisions, and will instead invite administrators to speak with him directly. "In an era where we're trying to make sure that every dollar of advanced education money is spent on students, I'll be conveying to them that I don't see the need for them to retain government relations specialists," he said. Wilkinson's statement comes after the provincial NDP drew attention to the amount spent on lobbyists by several institutions. NDP critic Katrine Conroy said, "it shouldn't be happening. That's money that's supposed to be going to the students and classrooms. That's tuition fees that are paid by students and it's taxpayer money and it should not be used to pay for lobbyists by BC Liberal appointees [on boards of governors] to lobby their own governments." Vancouver Sun

Canadian organizations support US National Adjunct Walkout Day

The Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA) launched yesterday as part of its "We Teach Ontario" initiative a new campaign to raise awareness of issues facing contract faculty in the province. The launch coincided with National Adjunct Walkout Day, a demonstration by part-time faculty members protesting their working conditions. In a press release, OCUFA said that issues faced by part-time faculty members, including low wages, short-term contracts, and a lack of access to offices and other facilities, are having an adverse effect on students' quality of education. The Canadian Association of University Teachers released a statement in support of National Adjunct Action Week, advocating "for the fair treatment of all academic staff regardless of employment status, including compensation for research and service as part of any teaching appointment on a pro-rata basis." In November, Quest University President David Helfand published an essay on Rethinking Higher Ed critiquing institutions' over-reliance on adjunct instructors; Academica yesterday published a blog post highlighting gaps in Canadian data around part-time faculty. We Teach ON News Release | CAUT News Release

Profs at UQAM issue letter calling for end to intimidation and protests

A group of political science professors at the Université du Québec à Montréal has issued an open letter calling for an end to the recurring protests and acts of intimidation that they say have taken place at UQAM for the last several years. The letter points to a small group of militant students that the professors say disrupt campus activities with “intimidation, harassment, shoving, vandalism, looting, and repeated strikes.” The letter asserts that “these acts threaten university life itself,” and have made learning and teaching difficult, as well as costing the university thousands of dollars in damages. The letter further acknowledges that activism does have a place within a university, but that it must exist within an atmosphere of respect, “without pressure or sophistry, without physical or moral intimidation.” The letter was published just as protestors began a week of action in Montreal against provincial austerity measures and PSE funding cuts. Montreal Gazette

Academica Group collaborates on IEHP bridging program research

The Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario (HEQCO) has published a new evaluation of postsecondary bridging programs for internationally educated health professionals (IEHPs). The research was conducted by Academica Group in collaboration with researchers from Western University, the University of Ottawa, McMaster University, the Canadian Association of Medical Radiation Technologists, and the Canadian Society for Medical Laboratory Science. It examined 7 bridging programs, finding that in spite of differences between programs, each faced similar challenges around finding clinical placements for students. Funding was another common challenge; many programs received pilot funding, but were then expected to rely on tuition fees. However, variable labour market demand and immigration policies have led to fluctuating enrolment numbers, hampering long-term planning. The report recommends designing programs that offer theoretical learning alongside a practical component that should include the opportunity to learn about the Canadian workplace and the Canadian healthcare system. The report also recommends offering flexible, modular program delivery; hiring faculty who are particularly sensitive to the needs of IEHPs; better inclusion and coordination of stakeholders; sustainable and coordinated funding; and a centralized registry of bridging programs. HEQCO Summary | Full Report

Yukon College approves tuition increase

The board of governors at Yukon College has approved a 1.8% tuition increase for most programs. The increase will raise the price of a course credit from $112 to $114, with a full year of credit courses increasing by a maximum of $60 for students taking 5 courses per term. Yukon's culinary arts, renewable resources management, and practical nursing programs will not be subject to the increase. Tuition for trades pre-employment programs will increase by 13%, from $2,200 to $2,500 per course. Registrar Jennifer Moorlag said that the increase was made necessary by rising fixed costs of providing PSE. She noted, however, that the board of governors directed that tuition must not exceed that of the lowest one-third of comparable colleges in western Canada. Yukon News Release

Ryerson’s new Student Learning Centre now open

Ryerson University this week celebrated the opening of its new Student Learning Centre, a 155,000-square-foot, $112 million “library of the 21st century.” The building’s first week will be a soft launch; it is open to students, but technology is still being installed and tested and not all offices and services are fully operative. “As a 21st century library, the Student Learning Centre provides a congenial space for not just acquiring knowledge but creating knowledge. It will be a crucial hub in Ryerson’s network of digitally enhanced learning,” said Chief Librarian Madeleine Lefebvre. The new Centre features a café and casual seating on the first floor, as well as a bridge to the Ryerson Library tower. The upper floors consist of group work rooms equipped with WiFi, white boards, and LCD screens, communal areas with flexible seating, an entire floor of quiet space, and the Digital Media Experience (DME) Lab where students can access digital media equipment and new technologies. The building also boasts 3 green roofs and a temperature-moderating glass exterior. The Centre is located where the iconic Sam the Record Man store once stood at Yonge and Gould. Ryerson News | Metro News

UNBC President to forgo installation ceremony and redirect savings to student awards

Daniel Weeks, new President of the University of Northern British Columbia, has announced that he will forgo his installation ceremony and direct the cost savings toward student awards. "We know that 1 in 5 of our students receive a financial award, a significant factor in their decision to pursue their postsecondary education at UNBC. I feel it is important to invest in our students, the people who are the reason we exist," said Weeks. His installation will instead take place during UNBC's 2015 College of Arts, Social and Health Sciences convocation ceremony in May. Weeks will then make his inaugural address in June, as part of UNBC's 25th anniversary celebration. UNBC News Release

Assiniboine launches new website

Assiniboine Community College has launched its new, redesigned website. The site was designed to meet the needs of the college's various stakeholder groups, from students and parents to business partners and fans of Assiniboine's sports teams. It features a responsive layout that is optimized for the 40% of users who access the site from a smartphone or tablet, as well as new accessibility features that make it easier for all users to navigate. The website has also been optimized to be usable with slower Internet connections or older web browsers. "For many of our future students, the first interaction they have with ACC is through our website. It's important that it be a positive experience right from the first click," said Danielle Andriaansen, Assiniboine's Manager of Public Affairs. Assiniboine News Release

Bogus online university uses easy financial aid to scam students

An investigation has revealed that an online network of fraudulent universities has been bilking students out of tuition dollars while awarding phoney degrees. The universities in the network claim to be located in the United States, but typically target students in the Middle East. They offer generous scholarships but ask students to pay the balance of their fees immediately. Students have little or no interaction with professors, instead completing a series of automated tests for their coursework. The scam came to light after Dean Hoke, President of an Abu Dhabi-based education consulting firm, researched a press release from an organization called the "Middle East Office of Academic Regulation & Examination." Investigators traced this organization to MUST University, which describes itself as the world's largest university, operating in more than 180 countries and employing more than 2,500 professors. MUST claims to be accredited by the International Accreditation Organization (IAO), whose website closely resembles MUST's. Individuals listed as accreditors told reporters they had never heard of the IAO. The Chronicle of Higher Education

3% of female students in US face sexual victimization within first 6 weeks of college

A new report suggests that 3% of female students in the US face sexual victimization within their first 4–6 weeks of college. The figure comes from a survey of students at 400 US institutions. The report defines "sexual victimization" as students being "pressured or forced into sexual contact without their consent." The report also found that most respondents had "overwhelmingly healthy and positive responses" to survey questions; however, they do not often recognize that they are part of a majority who would be in a position to act on their beliefs and values. Survey results showed that most students felt they were more likely to be an active bystander than their peers were, an inaccurate perception that the report authors say "can present substantial barriers to bystander action and intervention." The survey was conducted by EverFi, an education company that offers sexual assault prevention training. Researcher Meranda McLaughlin recently advocated on Rethinking Higher Ed for better research around sexual victimization at Canadian institutions. Inside Higher Ed