Top Ten

March 11, 2016

UBC receives $11 M gift, launches Stewart Blusson Quantum Matter Institute

UBC has launched the Stewart Blusson Quantum Matter Institute with the help of a $11 M gift from UBC alumnus Stewart Blusson and his wife Marilyn. “The thing about this kind of exploratory research is that you never know when something really significant is going to come out of it,” said Stewart Blusson. “With this gift we are paving the way for potentially transformative advances in energy, computing power, and new materials,” added Institute Director Andrea Damascelli. The institute currently has a research team of 16 professors, as well as students, postdocs, and technicians, and will move into its new state-of-the-art facility in the fall of 2016. UBC

Canada needs more tech grads, says ICTC

Canada’s school systems are not producing enough technology graduates to fill the thousands of jobs that will be available in 2019, according to the Ottawa Citizen. A recent report by the Information and Communications Technology Council estimated that at least 182,000 information and communications technology jobs will be available by 2019, followed by an additional 32,000 in 2020. By comparison, only 12,800 students graduated with information and communication technology-related degrees in 2015, and 126,000 students are currently enrolled in programs related to a technology sector job. “We’ve seen a new wave of digital transformation that will have a profound impact on our economy and in the labour market in the next few years,” said ICTC President Namir Amani, “our most important advantage for 2020 and beyond is going to be digital talent.” Ottawa Citizen | Ottawa Business Contributor | Report

Three uToronto start-ups receive nearly $6 M in federal funding

Three University of Toronto start-ups have received nearly $6 M of combined funding from the federal government. Nanoleaf has received $2.9 M from Sustainable Development Technology Canada to continue developing its intelligent, energy-efficient light bulbs; QD Solar has received $2.5 M for a solar panel project; and ARDA Power Inc has received $400 K for a Burlington DC Microgrid project. “Researchers at uToronto are regularly turning their discoveries into marketable inventions,” said uToronto Vice-President of Research and Innovation Vivek Goel, “I’m very pleased to see the support that these three companies are receiving from the government to continue the important work they’re doing in sustainable development.” uToronto | Betakit

Canada must bolster liberal arts, social sciences to remain relevant

Canada will need to bolster the study of the liberal arts and social sciences if it wishes to compete in a 21st-Century economy, according to industry and higher ed experts interviewed by iPolitics. A report released this month by the Business Council of Canada showed that for Canadian employers, skills like teamwork, good communication, problem-solving, and collaboration are more desirable than technical expertise when hiring a new employee. Ultimately, the broad and adaptable skill set of a liberal arts or social science graduate remains valuable “regardless of what price the oil is in a given year and sudden swings in the economy,” said Universities Canada President Paul Davidson. iPolitics | Report

Students at 9 Atlantic universities to participate in app-based mood research

Students from nine Atlantic Canadian universities will participate next week in a new app-based initiative to track and study moods. The MoodCheck Challenge will program students’ phones to ask them twice a day, at random times, how they are feeling, what they are doing, where they are, and who they are with. “The goal of this challenge is to motivate students to be mindful about how the things they do affect the way they feel,” said Peter Cornish, Director of the Student Wellness and Counselling Centre at Memorial University of Newfoundland. “This increased awareness is known to be a strong predictor of improved mental health and well-being. This challenge is part of our commitment to providing students with the tools they need to help manage their personal well-being.” AAU | Memorial

Queen’s approves new sexual violence policy

The board of trustees at Queen's University has approved and published a new sexual violence policy for the institution. The policy covers a variety of topics, such as sexual violence awareness and Queen's commitment to those who have experienced such violence. One student commented that “the fact that Queen’s prioritizes that really makes me feel safer, it makes me feel comfortable on campus.” Although the policy was finalized prior to provincial legislation, Queen’s Provost and Vice Principal Academic Alan Harrison says that “given our commitment to this issue, we felt that it was nonetheless important to proceed with the approval of our policy so that the university has a policy and process in place to support students.” Queen's (1) | Queen's (2) | The Whig | CKWS TV

Registrars look to enhance transmission of student data through new international network

Registrars are looking to enhance the ways that student transcripts and other data can be transmitted within the country and abroad, reports Becky Rynor for University Affairs. In May 2015, the Association of Registrars of Universities and Colleges of Canada signed on the country’s behalf to join the Groningen Declaration Network on Digital Student Data Portability, an initiative designed to create digital networks between academic institutions to improve the exchange of transcripts, diplomas, and applications. “It’s about making it easier for Canadians to transmit their credentials within Canada and abroad and to have them fairly recognized in a timely fashion,” said McGill University Executive Director of Enrolment Services Kathleen Massey. “We don’t want Canada to be left behind.” University Affairs

Six technological advances preparing students for future

George Lorenzo of Fast Company highlights six technology advances in higher education that are preparing students for the future of work. Citing a recent NMC Horizon report, Lorenzo touches on makerspaces, informal workshop environments for creating prototypes of projects; and affective computing, the effort to program machines to understand human emotions. The article then discusses robotics on campus, augmented and virtual reality projects, learning analytics and adaptive learning research focused on improving pedagogy, and the increased intentional use of personal devices in the classroom. Fast Company | NMC | Report

PSE institutions work to avoid losing research in the event of a “digital dark age”

The world’s most valuable research is at risk of disappearing, writes Carl Straumsheim for Inside Higher Ed. As more research begins to exist solely in digital format, the risk of a widespread system failure opens up the constant threat that the academic community will be plunged into a “digital dark age.” PSE institutions and non-profits have begun preparing for such an event by working toward a “preservation ecosystem,” says Mary Molinaro, chief operating officer of the Digital Preservation Network. The point of this system, she adds, is to “take in all that rich content, pass it forward, and structure it in a way that guards it [against] all kinds of failure. … It’s something that you hope you won’t ever tap, but if you need it, it’s there.” Inside Higher Ed

Equity and excellence are not mutually exclusive at universities, says English official

Universities should provide students with access to PSE based on their future potential rather than their past achievements, says Alan Milburn, Chair of England’s Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission. As the Chancellor of Lancashire University, Milburn also believes he is well-positioned to argue that setting diversity quotas and equity requirements by no means compromises the academic excellence of an institution. “When I see some of the greatest universities in the world in the US practising very overt diversity admissions procedures and policies, they are doing so because they don’t see excellence as being compromised–they see it as being strengthened,” he concludes. Times Higher Education