Top Ten

August 26, 2015

MRU unveils $90.5 M performing arts centre

Mount Royal University will today officially open its new Taylor Centre for the Performing Arts, reportedly the largest musical teaching institution in Canada and the first major new performance hall in Calgary in three decades. The $90.5 M venue was funded through donations, government funding, reserves, and financing. The Taylor family gave $21 M, the largest donation in MRU’s history, along with $20 M each from Canada and Alberta plus $10.3 M from Calgary. The venue will house MRU’s Conservatory and the Bella Concert Hall, a state-of-the-art medium-sized hall seating 787 people. MRU | Fact Sheet

Ontario’s hospitals and universities should become “anchors” for economic development

Connecting large public institutions to their surrounding communities could be one of the best ways to alleviate poverty in Ontario, according to a forthcoming report from the Atkinson Foundation and the Mowat Centre. The report suggests that large public institutions take on an increasing role as community “anchors,” which are entities like universities, hospitals, and municipal governments that are rooted in a particular community and unlikely to leave. These institutions have the budgets and spending structures to provide significant business to the local economy; if they do so in a conscious way, adds the report, they could significantly affect local economic growth and job creation. The study concludes that “diverting just 2% of these expenditures to local small business and communities could inject $230 M into local communities.” Toronto Star

QC cuts leave hundreds of professorships vacant

Hundreds of professorships at Quebec universities will be vacant at the start of the coming school year, reports the Journal de Montréal. The Journal adds that the professor shortage is due primarily to the hiring freezes that have been enacted at many universities following the $737 M in budget cuts that the province has faced over the past three years. The Université de Sherbrooke reports that it will have 82 unfilled professor positions at the beginning of the coming school year, with Université Laval reporting 40 vacancies and the Université du Québec à Chicoutimi reporting 32 unfilled positions. Even with a hiring freeze in place, uLaval reports that it has closed an entire faculty and 37 programs of study in response to the cuts. Journal de Montréal

Technology benefits PSE instruction, but doesn’t replace student engagement and collaboration

A recent Concordia University study has concluded that while there are significant benefits from technology for formal postsecondary instruction, it is no substitute for tried-and-true student engagement and collaboration. Published in the journal Computers & Education, the study examined 1,105 courses dating back to 1990. The most obvious benefit, according to Concordia researchers Robert Bernard, Eugene Borokhovski, and Richard Schmid, was the development of technological tools showing more clearly the object of study, from cell division to internal organs. However, the study authors emphasized that effective learning still requires quality instruction and hard work. “People may have illusions that technology is making things easier and easier when it’s quite often the opposite,” said Borokhovski. Concordia | Full Study

Dalhousie’s agricultural campus damaged in fire

Fire officials in Truro, Nova Scotia have reported that a fire damaged Dalhousie University’s agricultural campus in Bible Hill on Monday evening. The fire began in the Ruminant Animal Centre and quickly spread to the 10 silos attached to the building, damaging the roof in several places. All staff and animals were safely evacuated from the building without harm, added officials. CBC

Hybrid apprenticeship may achieve outcomes comparable to in-class instruction in half the time

A new report published by the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario (HEQCO) has reached the conclusion that hybrid apprenticeship programs, which combine online theory courses with in-class learning, may be able to achieve outcomes comparable to traditional in-class programs in half the time. The study, by June MacDonald-Jenkins and Clair Cornish of Durham College, examined Industrial Mechanic Millwright apprenticeship programs at two Ontario colleges, and concluded that there was no significant difference in completion rates, grades, satisfaction and engagement levels, retention, and completion between the hybrid approach and the more traditional approach. HEQCO | Full Report

Agreements and MOU pave way for StFX, Holland collaboration

Holland College and St Francis Xavier University have signed a MOU and two articulation agreements to promote collaboration. The agreements allow graduates of Holland’s music performance program to enter directly into the third year of a Bachelor of Music or Bachelor of Arts Honours Music degree program at StFX. The MOU paves the way for potential collaborations that could include increasing joint educational and research activities and expanding efforts to collaborate on applied research, programming, student services, and recruitment. Holland

YorkU profs publish how-to guide for university life

Two York University professors have published a book advising students on almost every aspect of university life, particularly the choice of programs and the job skills they might learn in them. In addition to advice on studying for exams and managing stress, the book contains sections on how to navigate the job market after graduation and an entire chapter on how to use social media to its best advantage when building a career. The authors add that the book covers everything from taking on the day-to-day tasks of university life to stepping back and thinking of higher education as one component of a successful and fulfilling life. The book is available for purchase as a paperback or as a free ebook. YorkU | Full Book

University websites should not be all things to all people

“Retooling a website is an exercise in prioritizing some goals over others,” writes Chronicle of Higher Education contributor Eric Hoover, “even if it means de-emphasizing that blurb about Professor Bigshot’s award-winning research.” One of the biggest problems with university websites, he adds, is that they too often try to be interesting to everyone. The first step in overhauling a website is to ensure that its primary audience is prospective students and their parents, and the best way to do so is to ask current students of the university to offer candid opinions on any potential design, Hoover writes. Chronicle of Higher Education (Subscription Required)

Professors too quick to treat administrators with disdain

It is all too common for university faculty to view administrators negatively solely based on their roles in the university, writes Kellie Bean in Inside Higher Ed. Reflecting on personal experience, Bean recounts how her own transition into university administration after 15 years as a professor instantly changed her relationships with her faculty friends. She writes that “sadly, the nature of academe itself, with its intractable tension between faculty and administration, had rendered me an outsider, and I could never go back.” Bean does not anticipate that administrators will overcome this outsider status with faculty; she finds the divisions in universities too long-standing and entrenched. Yet she concludes that it is reasonable to ask for more understanding from faculty members who do not have to make the same difficult and unpopular decisions that administrators often must. Inside Higher Ed