Top Ten

July 6, 2015

ON court upholds law society’s denial of accreditation for TWU law school

The Law Society of Upper Canada’s decision to deny accreditation to Trinity Western University’s law school has been upheld by an Ontario Superior Court. While the court agreed that the denial infringed on TWU’s freedom of religion, it also determined that this action was done to protect individual rights. The controversy centres on TWU’s Community Covenant, which asks students to refrain from sexual contact outside heterosexual marriage, threatening suspension or expulsion for those who do not comply. The ruling “points a knife at the freedom of faith communities across Canada to hold and practise their beliefs,” said Guy Saffold, a TWU spokesperson. TWU has said it will appeal the decision as soon as possible. Earlier this year, a NS court ruled that accreditation could not be denied to TWU grads. Globe and Mail | Toronto Star | TWU Release

BC universities show fastest growth in federal research funding

BC’s research universities have experienced the fastest growth rate in federal research funding, according to the Research Universities Council of British Columbia (RUCBC). RUCBC’s figures show that in 2012–13, BC universities attracted more than $700 M in research funding from outside the province and increased their per capita share of federal research grants by 148%, which is almost double the Canadian average. RUCBC Chair and Simon Fraser University President Andrew Petter said, “the fact that we’re seeing this level of growth and the fact that we are outperforming other jurisdictions I think is evidence that we’ve done a good job of hiring the best and the brightest.” Vancouver Sun | SFU News Release | UBC News Release

New uAlberta president committed to provide more, better student housing

The University of Alberta’s new president David Turpin has told the Edmonton Journal that providing available and adequate housing for first-year students “will be an important initiative” during his time in office. uAlberta currently has just 3,470 residence spaces for undergraduates, although the university’s student population is nearly 39,000. According to Turpin, more housing would make the institution more attractive to students and improve campus life. Turpin also noted that his other immediate priorities included recruiting more students from across Canada, attracting more top-tier professors, and providing better access for Aboriginal students. Edmonton Journal

Recent column a “missed opportunity” for contrast, says Fullick

A recent column by Joseph Heath published in the Ottawa Citizen was a “missed opportunity to contrast Canadian and US higher-ed systems,” says Melonie Fullick in University Affairs. Heath argues that because elite US institutions are both smaller and more expensive, they are more beholden to their students than Canadian institutions are. However, Fullick notes that by definition, these institutions only teach a small fraction of American students. Fullick concludes by saying that while it is necessary and important to compare the Canadian higher ed system with its international counterparts, there are many more important issues than whether students here are “too ‘politically correct.’” University Affairs

McGill students help create centre for community, entrepreneurship in Lac-Mégantic

Next year, the town of Lac-Mégantic, Québec is set to open the doors of the $1 M Centre Magnétique, an affordable work space and gathering place for entrepreneurs, the self-employed, community members, and culture and tourism organizations. The idea for the centre originated with two McGill University students, Bernard d’Arche and Cécile Branco. The two conceived the idea while taking a course in entrepreneurship and innovation at McGill’s Desautels Faculty of Management. Referring to the explosion that shook Lac-Mégantic and killed 47 people nearly two years ago, d’Arche said, “There is always the memory of what happened […] but also growing consensus that now is the time to rebuild.” Globe and Mail

Guns, prisons, social causes emerge as concerns in campus divestment debate

While there are hundreds of fossil-fuel divestment campaigns at campuses across the US and Canada, only a small number of institutions have actually followed through. Recently, however, Columbia University was in the spotlight for a different cause, when it decided to divest its holdings in for-profit prison companies. Although the dollar figures may be comparatively small, roughly $10 M in this case, “investment choices are an effective way for an institution to take a moral stand,” according to the Chronicle of Higher Education. Michael T Jacobs, a professor at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and a former US Treasury official, argues that divestment on one issue opens a “Pandora’s box,” bringing “an infinite number of social causes” to the table. Chronicle of Higher Education (Subscription Required)

PSE institutions making steady technological progress

PSE institutions are steadily incorporating technology to meet instructional and operational goals, according to a new report from the Software and Information Industry Association (SIIA). Using benchmark statements and questions about the use of technology, the survey determined that the most common use of data in both PSE and K-12 was to track student performance, with 75–81% of respondents listing this use. The second most common use was to improve instruction, which appeared in 70–72% of responses. The authors write that the survey “indicates that educators in both K-12 and postsecondary have a desire to integrate technology at a deeper and broader level, and recognize the need for support and assistance to make that happen.” Campus Technology

Increasing number of US seniors retiring with student loan debt

People over the age of 60 have the fastest growing educational loan balances of any age group in the US, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Over the past decade, the total loans for this group grew from $6 B in 2004 to $58 B in 2014. While 18% of the debt comes from “Parent PLUS” loans for their children or grandchildren, the remaining 82% comes from loans for their own education. According to a Government Accountability Office report, student loan balances in retirement were nearly nonexistent before 2004, with just 1% of people over 60 holding student loan debt. These findings suggest that the increase in senior student loan debt has been both drastic and relatively sudden. TIME

Surviving court challenge, US “gainful employment” rule goes into effect

Last week, the US Department of Education’s “gainful employment” rule survived a legal challenge by the Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities. Although the rule was first created in 2011, earlier court challenges forced revisions to the final rule, which went into effect on Wednesday. The rule stipulates that if graduates of career-training programs are unable to pay their loans, then the school risks losing access to federal financial aid. “There are too many [institutions that] have been morally unconscionable with what they’ve done ... Too many of these guys took advantage,” Education Secretary Arne Duncan told CNN. Winnipeg Free Press (AP) | EdCentral | CNN | Chronicle of Higher Education | Inside Higher Ed

Indian higher ed commission releases list of fake universities

The University Grants Commission (UGC), the regulatory body for higher education in India, has published a list of 21 “fake” universities operating in that country. Indian law prohibits any institution from describing itself as a “university” without obtaining the proper government permission. Eight of the 21 “universities” are in Uttar Pradesh, with a further six in Delhi. While the UGC’s decree prohibits these institutions from continuing to grant degrees, it is worth noting that many of the institutions on the new list were also on an earlier list. Times of India | Daily Mail India | India Today