Top Ten

March 25, 2015

BC ombudsperson calls for more oversight of private career training institutions

The results of a year-long study into provincial oversight of private career training institutions (PCTIs) in British Columbia have been released. The 180-page report, written by BC ombudsperson Kim Carter, says that "PCTI compliance monitoring has been inconsistent and students are not provided with adequate information—including their rights. When problems do emerge, students are limited in the kinds of complaints they can make to the provincial oversight body." Carter said that students attending PCTIs are frequently not offered the same avenues of recourse nor the same protections as students at public institutions. She has recommended that the province provide students with a voice on any oversight bodies; offer students clear, accessible information about their rights and policies; ensure adequate monitoring of schools; implement a progressive system of enforcement; and expand the complaint process. BC Minister of Advanced Education Andrew Wilkinson described Carter's report as "timely and comprehensive," and said that BC's new Private Training Act would address many of her recommendations. Carter, however, said that the Act does not go far enough to address her concerns. "The lack of an expanded process for students to complain to the oversight body is particularly concerning," she said. Vancouver Sun | The Tyee

NS unveils plans for university accountability legislation

Nova Scotia will introduce legislation to increase financial accountability at the province's universities. Labour and Advanced Education Minister Kelly Regan made the announcement as she shared the findings of a recent consultation process. "Nova Scotians clearly value our universities, but they also believe universities can do a better job controlling their costs, and should be more accountable for results," she said. The legislation will introduce more standardized reporting to provide the government with a better understanding of university finances; in some cases, the government may have the power to withhold grants. Universities will also be required to set outcomes and measure progress. Regan said that consultations revealed mixed opinions on funding: institutions would like to set their own tuition fees without caps, while students want a tuition freeze or free tuition. Regan said that the government will try to find a balance between the extreme positions. The province will also make changes to its debt cap program that could forgive student loans of those who graduate within a "reasonable" time. This option will be available to NS students who study at a NS university, or who can demonstrate that the out-of-province program they attended was unavailable in NS. NS News Release

AB Minister rules out immediate changes to tuition regulations

Alberta's Minister of Innovation and Advanced Education Don Scott has told student advocates that the provincial government has no plans to make any immediate changes to tuition regulations. A number of reports had suggested that the province was planning to change or eliminate caps on tuition increases as a means to deal with a $7 B fiscal gap. Scott reiterated his comments in an interview with Metro News, stating that "there are no imminent changes to tuition." Navneet Khinda, Chair of the Council of Alberta University Students, said that the Minister provided no real answers for students, but did indicate that the province will launch a consultation process in advance of the cap's expiry in August, 2016. Metro News

New report details benefits of increasing number of Aboriginal nurses

A new report by the Conference Board of Canada’s Saskatchewan Institute suggests that more Aboriginal nurses are needed in northern and Aboriginal communities. The report, Healthy Foundations: Nursing’s Role in Building Strong Aboriginal Communities, discusses the benefits of increasing Aboriginal representation in health professions, especially nursing, such as improving access and continuity of care, reducing the costs involved in attracting and retaining outside nursing professionals, and improving community self-sufficiency and self-determination. The report also examines new and innovative approaches to delivering nursing education in rural and remote communities, including the use of remote presence technologyby the College of Nursing at the University of Saskatchewan. "There is broad consensus from First Nations, Métis, and Inuit communities, all levels of government, and the health regions, that we need to have more Aboriginal nurses if we want to improve the health outcomes of Aboriginal peoples in Canada and make the health care system more representative of the clientele it serves," stated co-author and uSask nursing Dean Lorna Butler. uSask’s Native Access Program to Nursing has been assisting students with access to nursing education for more than 2 decades. Lakehead University researchers have also looked at ways to increase the number of Aboriginal nurses in Ontario. This story also appeared in Academica's Indigenous Top TenConference Board News Release | Lakehead Report

Researchers say academic misconduct is becoming more sophisticated, more frequent

Researchers working on a follow-up to a landmark survey on academic misconductsay that they believe that cheating has likely increased over the last 10 years. Julia Christensen Hughes, Dean of the College of Business and Economics at the University of Guelph, said, "because of the Internet, there are growing opportunitiesfor students to access papers written by other students and access case studies that have already been analyzed—even the teaching notes." One website,, encourages students to upload their essays in order to get access to other assignments. It includes a disclaimer asking students not to plagiarize, but Christensen Hughes is skeptical that the site serves any other purpose than to enable cheating. "It's becoming increasingly difficult, if not impossible, for faculty to be assured that work done outside a supervised setting is work done by the students alone." Large class sizes make it difficult for faculty to identify students by name, much less recognize their writing styles. She says that universities could do more to prevent misconduct, primarily by increasing awareness, educating faculty, and implementing policies and processes that faculty will follow. University Affairs

McMaster researchers launch "groundbreaking" study of K-12 students' mental wellness

Researchers at McMaster University are launching what is reportedly the first-ever large-scale study of the role schools play in students', teachers', and principals' mental health. The project will survey people at more than 240 Ontario schools to determine whether enough is being done to protect the mental health of staff and students. Ultimately, the researchers hope to provide recommendations to the provincial government to help improve support for mental health. Students in grades 6 through 12 will be asked questions about their well-being, bullying, sense of belonging, and whether they feel their school's rules are fair; teachers and staff will be asked about their perspective on students' thoughts and behaviour, their own interactions with students, how they see students managing stress, and what supports are available in schools. "The burden of suffering associated with a mental health problem is quite large," said Kathy Georgiades, one of the study's principal researchers. "It really permeates so many different domains of a child's life." Hamilton Spectator

Organization's plans to buy back Peter Robinson College buildings fall through

A group of former students will not be able to buy back parts of what was once Trent University's Peter Robinson College as they had hoped. The PR Community and Student Association (PRCSA), which already owns the former campus's Sadleir House, had hoped to raise $1 M to purchase an adjacent apartment building, cottage, and townhouse complex. However, property owner Gabriele Zeh-Abramsky, also a former Peter Robinson student, was forced to sell sooner than expected due to circumstances beyond her control. “It’s unfortunate that we were unable to come up with a workable plan” says Dwayne Collins, Steward of Sadleir House, “but this is the reality of business. Gabriele’s timeline changed outside of her control and she had to make the sale. This was always a risk in the five-year plan for the repurchase.” The PRCSA still hopes to acquire the other buildings to set up a student and academic community in downtown Peterborough. "I view this as  a setback, not a cancellation of our long-term plans," Collins said.

Simulation gives uWindsor students glimpse of life in a refugee camp

The Friends of Doctors Without Borders Club at the University of Windsor recently held a camp simulation to raise awareness of the kinds of conditions faced by refugees all over the world. The event was organized by Brian Hummel, the club's President. He constructed a tent, shared statistics, and showed videos that gave students an idea of the hardships faced by refugees. Hummel also let students know that many of them are unknowingly helping improve the situation: students each contribute $1.50 from their tuition to sponsor refugees who come to uWindsor to study. One such student is Lodai Natemo, who spent 8 years in a tent similar to the one erected at uWindsor. Natemo said that the simulation "means a lot, because putting up this kind of tent, I'm able to inform people of the situations that I lived in." CBC

US institutions use old-school advertising channels to recruit for EMBAs

Some US MBA programs are using old-school advertising techniques, including roadside billboards and radio commercials, to attract working executives. These campaigns are intended to attract the eye of commuters, a target demographic for non-traditional MBA programs. “The average [executive MBA] student is 37 years old with 14 years of work experience and still working,” explained Michael Desiderio, Executive Director of the Executive MBA Council. “They look a lot different than someone pursuing a day MBA, who is not employed, lives on campus, and doesn’t work full time.” Other campaigns have included ads on buses and on the Internet radio service Pandora. “You can segment different demographics on Pandora, so we can really target,” said Carolyn Steigleman, Senior Director of Marketing Communications at St Joseph’s University in Philadelphia. Globe and Mail

PSE, tech sector could be powerful allies

In an article for Inside Higher Ed, David G Halsted, Director of Online and Blended Learning at the University of Illinois at Chicago, says that a divide between faculty and the information technology sector is “threatening to the future stability and prosperity of academic culture as a whole.” Halsted says that the 2 sides actually have much in common, but that their different goals, values, and vocabularies make it difficult to identify common ground. He says that PSE’s “instinctive resistance to structural change” means that institutions are unable to take full advantage of what technology firms can offer, even though the talent of technology companies could help colleges and universities find ways to deliver more with less money. He also notes that the gap between the 2 sides deprives tech firms of access to a large market segment, and pulls companies away from their roots in university culture. He concludes that Silicon Valley and PSE could be powerful allies, if they work to overcome the communications gap between their 2 cultures. Inside Higher Ed