Top Ten

March 16, 2015

AB Auditor General says MHC has implemented all recommendations from 2013 report

Medicine Hat College has implemented all recommendations from a 2013 review of its International Education Division (IED). A follow-up report from Auditor General Merwan Saher confirms that MHC administrators have increased the level of awareness and detail in their reporting of international education activities to the board of governors, redefined goals and targets for international activities to align with those of the college, redefined the roles and responsibilities of the IED, and revised and improved monitoring of travel and expense reporting. The report also notes that MHC is cancelling its partnerships in China and improving its contract management practices. “These changes have improved the college’s transparency and accountability for the results of its international education activities,” says the report. MHC has also reportedly implemented a safe-disclosure whistleblower process to allow those with concerns to report them to a third party. CBC | Medicine Hat News | Full Report

Staff, students at uCalgary concerned about deferred maintenance costs

Staff and students at the University of Calgary are concerned about how the institution will address $450 M in deferred maintenance given anticipated cuts to the province's PSE budget, reports the Calgary Herald. "Our maintenance, staff electricians, plumbers, you name it, are stressed to the limit," said Kevin Barry, Chair of Local 52 of the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees, which represents 4,000 staff members at uCalgary. Barry said that the university has been turning to outside contractors to perform upgrades, while internal staff work to stay on top of maintenance work. According to the Herald, a uCalgary Management Discussion Analysis document identifies deferred maintenance as a "significant financial risk." According to the document, a reduction in provincial Infrastructure Maintenance Program funding "significantly impacts the university's ability to proactively manage and address this deferred maintenance balance." Meanwhile, students say that there's a critical need for more classroom and study space. uCalgary VP Academic Dru Marshall agreed that deferred maintenance is an issue. "The [provincial] funding does not meet the full requirement and we acknowledge this is an issue. We are working collaboratively with the ministry to address it," she said. Calgary Herald

ON's new funding formula to focus on outcomes, consider input from employers

Ontario's Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities (MTCU) says that everything will be on the table for upcoming talks on the province's university funding formula, and employers and industry groups will have a role to play in the discussions. It is expected that the province will look to factor student outcomes, including employment rates, into the formula. Currently, most of the revenue that institutions receive from the government is based on enrolment; however, the upcoming review will look to mitigate the impact of an anticipated drop in enrolments, especially at smaller universities. "In Ontario, our largest university has 80,000 students and the smallest, Algoma, has 1,000, with many in between. Using the old formula impacts smaller universities [more]. The new system will put universities on a good footing where quality will be a driver," said Minister Reza Moridi. The talks, set to begin in April, will also address how tuition rates will be decided. ON's current 3% tuition increase cap will expire in 2017–18. Globe and Mail

Calls for government regulation of private safety training industry after firefighter deaths

The family members of 2 firefighters who died during training exercises are calling on Ontario to provide more oversight of private sector companies that provide safety courses. Firefighting student Adam Brunt died during an ice training exercise last month; Gary Kendall, a volunteer firefighter, died under similar circumstances 5 years ago. Now Adam's father, Al, is pushing for government regulation of the safety training industry, which offers highly technical—and often highly dangerous—courses to firefighters and other first responders. The courses are not mandatory, but many firefighting students take them in hopes of gaining an advantage on the job market. Companies offering the courses are not required to follow best practices. ON's Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities (MTCU) has said that it will look into regulating the industry; it also plans to review the Private Career Colleges Act with an eye toward making recommendations this fall. Toronto Star

SAIT receives 4 gifts totaling more than $5 M

SAIT Polytechnic has received 4 donations worth a total of over $5 M. The gifts will support students in 4 different schools and departments, including the MacPhail School of Energy, the School of Transportation, the School of Information and Communications Technologies, and the Centre for Academic Learner Services. The largest gift, a $2.5 M twin-engine executive jet, comes from Wayne Henuset and his business partner Richard Stewart. Gordon and Cheryl Dibb provided a $1 M coil tubing simulator for petroleum engineering technology students. Xerox donated an $850,000 digital printing press, while Trevor and Gail Lamb contributed $700,000 for SAIT's Learner Success Centre. "These gifts ensure SAIT students have cutting-edge technology and resources at their fingertips for the highest-quality training. Thanks to our supporters, we continue to set our students up for successful careers in industry," said SAIT President David Ross. SAIT News Release | CTV 

COTR launches new strategic plan

Cranbrook, British Columbia's College of the Rockies has unveiled its new 5-year strategic plan. Entitled Our Road Map to New Heights, the plan introduces a new mission statement—"to transform lives and enrich communities through the power of education"—and a new vision: "to create and deliver the most personal student experience in Canada." The plan names 4 overarching priorities for the college. These include increasing capacity, improving strategic processes, ensuring financial health, and improving student outcomes. The plan also lays out objectives and desired results for each of these areas. According to the document, COTR will seek to recruit and retain more students and prepare them for the job market or for the next stage on their educational journey. Moreover, the college will work to maximize its resource allocation and increase its revenue from diversified sources. COTR will also focus on improving student access to services such as academic advising and tutoring; short-term medical and mental health support; and social, recreational, and sporting activities. Applied research, demand-driven programs, and program quality will be points of emphasis, as well. COTR News Release | Full Plan

Algonquin joins LinkedIn pilot to improve student and alumni employability

Algonquin College is the reportedly the first Canadian PSE institution to participate in a LinkedIn pilot project that will allow students and alumni to quickly post their educational information to the social-networking site. The program offers an "Add to LinkedIn" button that automatically posts Algonquin information to the "Education" section of users' LinkedIn profiles. If users are not already LinkedIn members, the feature will allow them to easily sign up. The initiative is intended to improve students' and graduates' employability. "This initiative encourages our students and graduates to be proud of what they accomplished, and helps them make the most of it as they head out into the working world. It is one more tool in our graduates' kit to help them get to their new career," said Eric Hollebone, Algonquin's Director of Marketing and Recruitment. In December, media monitoring firm MediaMiser named Algonquin Canada's top social media collegeAlgonquin News Release

Historical context for contract faculty issues in Canada

An article from University Affairs contributor Melonie Fullick provides some historical context to Canadian PSE institutions' increasing dependence on contract faculty. Fullick looks back at the uneasy transition from the rapid expansion of Canadian universities in the 1960s to a decline in government funding in the 1970s. By 1978, she says, some were already speculating that institutions would turn to graduate students and part-time faculty to fill vacant teaching positions rather than hire more tenure-stream professors. Subsequently, "flexible" labour was used to help maintain the status of tenure-stream faculty members. Fullick notes that there is currently a significant lack of data around part-time teaching, due in part to different classification methods used to describe contract faculty at various institutions. The work of contract faculty, she says, "isn't visible or recognized" in the university system; moreover, contract faculty lack the security to speak out about the issues they face without fear of reprisal. She also notes that contract teaching work is a gendered issue, with women being over-represented among part-time and non-permanent academic staff. Academica Group recently began working on a projectfunded by the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario (HEQCO) to help address the data gap around part-time and contract faculty. Quest University President David Helfand president critiqued institutions' dependence on part-time faculty in a post for Rethinking Higher EdUniversity Affairs

Columnist blames contract faculty strike on tenure model

Striking part-time faculty members at York University were "canaries in an ivory tower no different from a coal mine," writes Toronto Star political columnist Martin Regg Cohn. Cohn says that while YorkU's contract faculty members quickly reached a deal, the strike served as a reminder of "the byzantine hierarchies that persist on campus, where part-time teachers toil in classroom sweatshops for low pay while full professors are protected on their rarefied perch." Cohn points to what he describes as an "outdated tenure model" as a key part of the problem. He argues that if tenured faculty members whose research productivity has declined were asked to increase their teaching loads, ON's universities could increase their overall teaching capacity by 10%. "Restoring greater balance, efficiency, and fairness to university teaching roles won't be easy after decades of drift and centuries of tradition," he writes. "We should demand greater accountability and clarity from universities." Toronto Star

Inside Nanyang Technological University's new Learning Hub

Slate has published an article looking at the Learning Hub at Singapore's Nanyang Technological University, which opened last Tuesday. Designed by innovative architect Thomas Heatherwick, the Learning Hub was built for the Internet age. According to the project description, "university buildings have ceased to be the only site where students are able to source educational texts, and have become unappealing spaces with endless corridors, no natural daylight, and only hints of other people's presence." In contrast, the Learning Hub encourages collaboration and mixing between students and professors. The 8-storey structure consists of 12 towers that surround a central atrium. It features 56 cornerless tutorial rooms with large open spaces, terraces, gardens, and communal spaces. "The most important function of this new university building was to be a place where students and professors from various disciplines could meet and interact with one another," said a press release announcing the building's opening. The Learning Hub was designed to promote accessibility, serendipity, and connectivity between people. A number of institutions have recently been paying closer attention to the importance of architecture to learning. Slate