Top Ten

September 15, 2015

uToronto addresses concerns over death threats against women

The University of Toronto has increased its campus police presence since informing the public last week of a recent series of online death threats made against women and feminists on its campus, threats since deemed not credible by the Toronto police. The university also informed students and faculty members that it was aware of similar threats made last June. CUPE 3902 Chair Ryan Culpepper said that failing to share these details at an earlier time was “inexcusable,” adding that “there’s no question” people’s lives were put at risk. uToronto President Meric Gertler responded to the recent threats made on the website BlogTO by saying, “violence against women is a despicable reality in Canada and around the world. We must take every opportunity to condemn it and work tirelessly to bring it to an end.” uToronto Professor Bonnie Burstow suggested that the long-term effect of the threats will be to galvanize women’s rights on campus rather than suppress them. CBC (Sept 10) | CBC (Sept 11) | Globe and MailuToronto | (Burstow)

Lakehead receives $2 M from Simcoe County

Lakehead University’s Orillia campus has received $2 M from Simcoe County as part of an ongoing $10 M funding pledge. Lakehead President Brian Stevenson explained that it is the county’s support that “made this campus viable.” Since 2006, the campus has grown from 100 to 1,500 students, about half of whom are from Simcoe County. County Warden Gerry Marshall reported that Lakehead continues to have a major, beneficial part in the Simcoe community’s wellbeing, saying “Lakehead [is] key to our success in the county. Having a university [that provides] postsecondary opportunities that didn’t exist before [is] fantastic.” Barrie Examiner | Lakehead

MB introduces Open Textbook Initiative

Manitoba has announced its new Open Textbook Initiative, an effort that makes postsecondary education more affordable by giving students free online access to textbooks in the most commonly enrolled subject areas, such as Introductory Psychology or Physics textbooks. The initiative is delivered by Campus Manitoba, and currently uses material available through BCcampus, a website designed for the BC Open Textbook Project started in 2013. The Open Textbook Initiative currently gives students access to 80 textbooks, a figure set to increase this fall. The first phase of the initiative will fund 25 academic reviews by Manitoba PSE instructors and faculty of the available open textbooks, to be completed by next March. MB

YorkU, HEC Montréal, make Forbes’ Best Business Schools List

Forbes has released its 2015 Best Business Schools rankings and two Canadian institutions have received special attention. York University’s Schulich School of Business placed ninth in the Best 2-Year International Business Schools category while HEC Montréal placed 11th among the Best 1-Year International Business MBA Programs. Stanford’s Graduate School of Business placed first among America’s Best Business Schools, with Harvard Business School coming in second and the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University coming in third. Forbes has included a special article with this year’s rankings emphasizing the importance of business schools’ statuses, especially in light of the dwindling job prospects being reported by graduates of many of the US’s most expensive business programs. Forbes (YorkU) | Forbes (HEC Montréal) | Forbes (US)

Tax cuts will not help Canada’s innovation woes

“When we look at Canada’s performance on a wide range of innovation scorecards, both domestic and international, the failure to absorb any of the lessons that can be learned on how to improve our performance has led to results that are all too predictable,” write Dan Breznitz and David Wolfe in the Globe and Mail. Citing Canada’s mediocre innovation “report card” from the Conference Board of Canada, Breznitz and Wolfe argue that one of the biggest sources of Canada’s innovation problems is a lack of business-sector spending on research and development. While Canada’s public R&D spending is among the highest in the world, they add, it is also not implemented as part of a suitably cohesive federal policy. Ultimately, the authors conclude that Canada’s recent attempts to spur innovation through federal tax breaks for R&D are doomed to fail and need to be replaced by a federal “comprehensive innovation policy” if Canada wishes to catch up with world-leading competitors. Globe and Mail

Universities have changed with the times, says Royal Roads president

Universities are no longer elitist, traditional institutions, but rather have adapted to changing times, writes Royal Roads University President Allan Cahoon, the longest-serving president among BC’s research universities. “Increasingly, students view a postsecondary education less as a rite of passage and more as a way to help them become more effective, personally and professionally, in their career choices,” he wrote. Students are not simply “empty vessels that need filling up,” but are rather “active partners in their education.” Cahoon goes on to detail some of the ways in which today’s universities are responding to this changing reality, such as blended programs and “flipped classrooms.” Times Colonist

Payoff of extra education depends on field of study, says StatCan data

One in four Canadians with a university degree end up returning to school to pursue a diploma, certificate, or university degree of equal or lower level, according Statistics Canada data released Friday. Yet the National Post suggests that it is not always clear whether this extra education pays off in Canada’s job market. According to the same data, Canadians who pursued further education after obtaining an undergraduate degree saw their employment rate only rise from 73.7% to 77% compared to those who did not pursue further education. The National Post adds that the job-market payoff of further education can vary significantly by program. Graduates with additional physical and life sciences and technologies training, for example, saw marked improvements in their employment rate, while architecture and engineering grads saw little improvement. National Post | StatCan

Faculty “wage gap” should be an election issue

While the average salary for a full-time tenured professor in Canada is “somewhere north of $100,000,” a sessional teacher with the same load may make just $30,000, according to Gail Lethbridge writing in the Chronicle Herald. Many of these workers, she writes, “are feeling exploited by a system that is cranking up tuition for students, building beautiful glassy towers bearing the names of benefactors and paying presidents and senior administrators princely salaries.” While this may be part of a broader trend, universities are different in that they are not private-sector corporations, but rather are funded by taxpayers and students. She argues that low pay for these faculty members affects the quality of education and therefore should be a political issue in the upcoming federal election. Chronicle Herald

New US college “scorecard” puts spotlight on post-graduation earnings

The White House has pulled back further on its initial attempt to establish a government-run US college rating system and has replaced it with a newly announced college “scorecard” system. This system will place significant focus on the post-graduation earnings of colleges’ students and these students’ ability to pay down their federal loans. However, critics have argued that the system only tracks students who have received federal student aid, which might drastically skew the scorecard’s ratings. The scorecard will specifically track the average earnings of students 10 years after graduation and compare it against average US incomes to verify whether student investments in education are justifiable from a financial perspective. Again, critics have been quick to point out that the current scorecard system does not account for what subjects the students of certain colleges studied in, which could also skew overall ratings. Chronicle of Higher Education | Inside Higher Education | Cape Breton Post (AP)

Spike in student loan defaults is correlated with for-profit colleges, says Brookings

The spike in US student loan defaults over the past decade has been fueled primarily by students attending for-profit colleges and community colleges, according to a new paper by the Brookings Institute. The paper, released last Thursday as part of the Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, found a strong correlation between high student loan default rates and institutions classified as “for-profit.” However, the study also found that the spike was largely connected to the massive increase in student borrowing that occurred after the recession of 2008–09; much of this borrowing was used to attend for-profit institutions and many of these students faced a historically poor job market upon graduation. According to the report, students of for-profit institutions have accounted for nearly 50% of all federal student borrowing while also accounting to 70% of student loan defaults. Inside Higher Ed | Full Report