Top Ten

March 7, 2016

BC institutions using student fees to bypass tuition cap, says NDP critic

British Columbia’s NDP advanced education critic alleges that the province’s colleges and universities are using increases in mandatory student fees to get around the province’s 2% tuition cap. "It's a sneaky move," said Kathy Corrigan, "they are trying to say they have a two per cent cap at the same time they are sneaking around the corner and allowing them to add a whole bunch of fees that are very clearly not allowed under the policy." Corrigan supported her claims by citing a recent case where one BC college increased non-tuition fees to effectively hike its overall cost to students by 4.5% without technically breaking the 2% tuition cap. Advanced Education Minister Andrew Wilkinson, however, has said that his ministry is monitoring all new fee increases. "We've told the institutions, colleges and universities, that they have to be able to justify those fees by showing benefits to students," he said. "Most of those fees are in the range of about $80." CBC

StFX, Students’ Union agree to terms on “historic” consultation agreement

Saint Francis Xavier University passed a motion last week to accept a new Consultation Agreement with the school’s student union on university finances. The new “precedent setting” agreement contains several clauses related to increasing tuition, ancillary, and auxiliary fees; introducing new fees; and installing a strict timeline for consulting with the Students’ Union. Of particular note is a clause that enables the Students’ Union to initiate a student referendum if ancillary or auxiliary fees are shown to increase by more than 5%; if the students vote with a 75% majority against the fee increase, StFX will not institute it. “This agreement is the first comprehensive document in the province to truly give students a voice in the realm of University decision-making,” said StFX Students’ Union President Troy Mrazek. StFX Students’ Union

uWaterloo set to make $34 M expansion to recreation complex

The University of Waterloo is reportedly set to expand its Student Life Centre and Physical Activities Complex in a $34 M project. “Waterloo is making major investments in the student experience on campus to ensure that the support and services we offer to those who study here matches the world-class education they receive,” said Waterloo President Feridun Hamdullahpur. The project is the result of a partnership between the Federation of Students, the Graduate Student Association, and the university, and will be funded by both a $10 M contribution by the university and $24 M collected in student fees from the students. The project will include the addition of a climbing wall, increased lounge spaces, and a fitness centre three times the size of the original centre. uWaterloo

Net billing might be most significant aspect of ON higher ed changes

While Ontario has provoked many headlines with its free tuition announcement, the introduction of net billing for higher ed might be just as big of a cause for celebration, writes Laura Bassett for the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance. Ontario provided student aid prior to the latest announcement, she adds, but the system has not been designed to clearly tell students what PSE will actually cost. Under the new system, provincial grants and entrance scholarships can be deducted up-front from the cost of tuition, allowing students to see the exact cost, after deductions, a given school. “By providing them with the full picture sooner rather than later,” concludes Bassett, “the government is making bold changes to student financial assistance that decrease informational and psychological barriers to access.” OUSA

MHC and uLethbridge to offer dual admission program

Medicine Hat College and the University of Lethbridge will offer a new dual admission program, allowing students at MHC to transition to a uLethbridge degree program. This dual admission program will allow up to 10 MHC students in Fine Arts (University Studies) and Visual Communications (Bachelor of Applied Arts) to continue their studies at uLethbridge in a Bachelor of Fine Arts (New Media) or a pre-Bachelor of Fine Arts (New Media)/Bachelor of Education. “This dual admission program is a milestone in clearly defining pathways for students to further their postsecondary educational opportunities at a comprehensive academic research institution,” said uLethbridge President Mike Mahon, “we are pleased to offer this option to students at Medicine Hat College who want to continue their education and obtain a degree.” Medicine Hat News | MHC

Women of a visible minority most educated people in Canada

According to a newly released report by Statistics Canada, Canadian-born visible minority women are more likely to have a university degree than other women or men. This number of degree holders is even higher among second-generation Canadians who are part of a visible minority group, which report author Tamara Hudon explains by saying, “we do have some research that shows that children of immigrant parents do tend to be more likely to have a degree.” Experts have expressed concerns about the quality of data from the 2011 National Household Survey due to the fact that it was voluntary. According to Hudon, the mandatory 2016 census will collect the same data on visible minority status and education, and will allow updates to be made to these statistics. Vancouver Sun | Global Sun | StatCan

uRegina signs agreements with two Mexico universities

The University of Regina has signed international agreements of cooperation with the Universidad del Claustro de Sor Juana and the Universidad Anahuac, Campus Mexico Norte. These agreements will support collaboration between students and faculty members, as well as exchanges and faculty mobility, from uRegina’s Faculty of Media, Art and Performance. Both partnerships will allow students to study abroad with the partner institution and take courses for credit toward their undergraduate degrees. “Our international partnerships provide vast opportunities for our students and faculty,” said uRegina President Vianne Timmons. “Our agreements here help provide the necessary supports for our students and that includes our international undergraduate and graduate students who come from more than 90 countries and choose to study at our University.” uRegina

India to create 20 world-class universities

The Indian government reportedly plans to turn 20 universities into world-class institutions. Indian Finance Minister Arun Jaitley announced in February that “enabling regulatory architecture will be provided to 10 public and 10 private institutions to emerge as world-class teaching and research institutions” and that a not-for-profit Higher Education Financing Agency would be created to “leverage funds from the market” to support improvements. While the announcements were “encouraging” to Boston College Center for International Higher Education Director Philip Altbach, he dubbed the plan a “tall order” and expressed wariness due to a historical lack of success in India’s previous efforts to achieve similar goals. Times Higher Education | Study International 

Bias for white, male instructors raises deep questions about student evaluations, study says

Students using to assess their PSE instructors are much more likely to use terms like “brilliant” or “genius” to describe white, male professors, according to a new study. The study examined 14 million anonymous student assessments of instructors, and for Inside Higher Ed’s Scott Jaschik, these assessments clearly indicate that “students are not equal opportunity in what they write in their anonymous reviews.” Princeton Philosophy Professor Sarah-Jane Leslie noted that these findings hold significant implications for higher ed, as student evaluations can often affect hiring and promotion decisions. For her, the report builds on a growing body of research demonstrating that “we’re at a tipping point where we need to recognize that teaching evaluations are too problematic to be sustained in their current form. We need to start looking for innovative alternatives." Inside Higher Ed |Report

PhDs embracing non-traditional dissertations, but hiring committees lagging

Humanities programs in the US have increasingly allowed doctoral dissertations to take on non-traditional formats, writes Vimal Patel for the Chronicle of Higher Education, but academic hiring committees are yet to catch up with this new development. Patel notes that it is becoming common for some PhD candidates in the humanities to submit dissertations in the form of documentaries, interactive analyses of texts, or even comic books. But he notes that many hiring and promotion committees, though, think that students who pursue non-traditional dissertation formats “may be ‘guinea pigs,’ participating in an experiment that could hobble them on an already tough academic job market.” Chronicle of Higher Education