Top Ten

June 11, 2015

VCC launches internal review into loan given to new president

The Province is reporting that Vancouver Community College has launched an internal investigation into an $84,000 loan allegedly granted to its new president, Peter Nunoda. According to The Province, the loan was approved by VCC’s Executive Director of Human Resources without the knowledge of the board in order to “temporarily bridge” Nunoda’s relocation costs; the board was advised of the loan afterward. Pam Ryan, Chair of the board's HR committee, said, “while the board is satisfied that the loan was executed in accordance with proper business protocol … the board has initiated a review to confirm whether all Vancouver Community College protocols were properly followed.” Nunoda paid back $69,796 of the loan in May, with the rest due by next year. The Province

Athabasca sustainability report proposes actions to stave off insolvency

A report released by Athabasca University warns that the institution may be unable to pay its debt in two years unless action is taken. Interim President Peter MacKinnon cited the institution’s increased reliance on tuition, decreased government funding, caps on tuition, and employee collective agreements as sources of the financial troubles. He noted that information technology was another challenge, as the provincial education budget does not treat it as a capital expense, though AthabascaU is focused on online education. The report, produced by the AthabascaU Sustainability Taskforce, offers four options that would allow the institution to remain sustainable. Two options on the table include becoming a federation with another Alberta institution or joining an affiliation with other institutions. Athabasca Advocate

AB midwife funding cap forcing grads to leave the province

Mount Royal University has graduated its first class of midwives; however, almost half of the class may have to leave the province to find work. While there are 900 Albertans on the waitlist for a midwife, the province has capped funding at just under 2,400 births per year. “It’s difficult at this time. However, I am hopeful that we’ll be able to talk to the new government and open up more access for the women of Alberta and hopefully be able to bring those midwives back,” said Nicole Matheson, President of the Alberta Association of Midwives. CBC

OUAC data show slight decrease in total applications, but increase in confirmations for June

The Ontario Universities' Application Centre has released data on undergraduate enrolments and confirmations for June. Total application numbers dipped just slightly this year compared to 2014, from 562,762 to 562,649. However, total confirmation numbers as of June 1 were up, increasing from 90,051 to 92,512. Increases in high-school direct applications were strongest at Brescia University College (8.1%) and OCAD University (7.9%). Non-direct applications increased by 13.4% at Wilfrid Laurier University, 11.2% at the University of Guelph-Humber, and 9.9% at Queen's University. High-school direct confirmation numbers increased the most at Nipissing University (16.8%), Huron University College (10.4%) and WLU (9.1%). Non-direct confirmations increased by 32.6% at Huron, 28.1% at the University of Toronto, and 28% at WLU. OUAC Data (Applications) | OUAC Data (Confirmations)

NSERC, Mitacs sign MOU to enhance accessibility of programs

The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) and Mitacs have signed a new memorandum of understanding that will lead to further collaboration between the organizations on the delivery of complementary research programs. The MOU formalizes an existing working relationship between NSERC and Mitacs and will provide researchers and private companies with additional flexibility to access initiatives offered by the organizations. “Working in collaboration will allow us to promote our shared goal of support for talented people behind the research, which will ultimately bring new ideas, novel solutions, and innovative technologies to Canadians,” said NSERC President Mario Pinto. NSERC News Release | Mitacs News Release

HEQCO study examines cross-disciplinary development of online resources

A new report published by the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario (HEQCO) looks at OCAD University’s efforts to bring faculty from various disciplines in its School of Design together to develop online learning resources. According to the report, faculty members participating in the initiative were exposed to new teaching strategies; however, the response to the online resources they produced was mixed. Integration of the online modules was inconsistent, and some faculty and students complained about the quality of the content. The authors of the report suggest that clear guidelines for the development and integration of online resources will be critical for future success. HEQCO Summary | Full Report

Students may benefit from gap year

The Globe and Mail reports that many Canadian students could benefit from taking a gap year—a year off after high school to travel, work, or volunteer—before starting college or university. The article notes that while gap years are common rites of passage in Europe, they remain relatively rare in Canada. Advocates say that a gap year can help students explore their interests and possible career paths before committing to a particular educational program. Lauren Friese, founder of online career resource site TalentEgg, says that a gap year can also provide the opportunity for students to differentiate themselves to prospective employers further down the line. There are now programs in Canada that offer young people structured gap years, including life coaching and personal development options. Globe and Mail

Liberal arts courses enhance STEM education

University Affairs has published an article from Donna Kotsopoulos, Acting AVP Research at Wilfrid Laurier University, that emphasizes the value of the liberal arts for students studying STEM subjects. Kotsopoulos notes that as an undergraduate student in mathematics, she also studied the history of India, the history of women in Canada, communication and the media, and French. She said that these courses were invaluable in teaching her to engage critically with mathematics, and also helped her write and communicate more effectively with diverse audiences. Kotsopoulos argues that educators in the sciences and other disciplines “must also advocate for and acknowledge the complementary and essential nature of liberal arts education for their students.” University Affairs

Predatory journals thrive in academia’s publish-or-perish “audit culture”

The rise of predatory journals has come about in large part due to academia’s publish-or-perish culture, writes University of Regina professor Marc Spooner for the Ottawa Citizen. Spooner commends the Citizen’s recent investigative coverage of fraudulent publications, but says we must also question the academic culture that has produced a demand for predatory publishing. Spooner suggests that a pervasive “audit culture,” which measures a scholar's worth using “a very simplistic calculation” based on peer-reviewed publications, impact factors, and research grants, is to blame. Spooner argues that this audit culture compels scholars and institutions to chase arbitrary key performance indicators rather than producing truly valuable research. He says that academia must resist measurement by “such narrowly defined outputs in a one-size-fits-all factory model of knowledge creation, dissemination, and accounting.” Ottawa Citizen

Lady Gaga and Andrew Cuomo advocate for NY campus sexual assault policy

Lady Gaga and NY Governor Andrew Cuomo have joined forced to advocate for the passage of a state law designed to address the problem of campus sexual assaults. In an op-ed published in Billboard magazine, they encourage lawmakers to extend an affirmative consent policy already in place for the state’s public universities to apply to the private ones as well. The new policy would also create a victim’s bill of rights and increase training for students, faculty, and law enforcement. “We all have a responsibility to make sure that the strongest possible laws are in place to safeguard our students,” they write. Toronto Star (AP) | Inside Higher Ed | Billboard

Postscript: July 8, 2015

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has signed into law a bill extending the state’s affirmative consent policy to include private colleges, in addition to the public colleges already covered by earlier legislation. The law also creates a victim’s bill of rights and increases training for faculty, students, and law enforcement. “A woman isn’t going to be made to feel guilty or complicit or fearful if she goes forward,” Cuomo said. “We’re not going to allow the schools to cover it up anymore. Those days are over.” New York Times (AP) | Albany Times Union