Top Ten

March 30, 2016

MRU provost leaves amidst budget discussions

The provost and vice-president at Mount Royal University has left her post as the university works to address concerns raised about its forthcoming budget. Kathryn Shailer declined to comment to the Calgary Herald following her departure, and the university has reportedly not confirmed whether she resigned or was terminated. The university’s faculty association recently voiced criticism and concern about $4.3 M in alleged cuts to the school’s budget. MRU President David Docherty has countered these claims by insisting that ongoing discussions have been about the extent of proposed budget increases rather than cuts. Docherty scheduled a town hall meeting for yesterday to discuss the upcoming budget. Calgary Herald | CBC | Calgary Sun

StatCan releases new numbers on educational attainment

New data from Statistics Canada show that within the OECD countries, Canada is currently placed around the middle with respect to university completion rates and is leading in earned diplomas in other types of PSE, including at the college, trade, or vocational level. Overall, 65% of Canadians aged 25 to 64 had completed PSE compared to the OECD average of 41%. Only 28%, however, had obtained a university degree, which placed Canada 16th out of the 34 OECD countries. 37% of Canadians aged 25 to 64 had obtained a diploma, compared to the OECD average of 13%. In 2011, Canada spent 6.4% of GDP on education compared to the OECD average of 5.3%. The share of GDP devoted to educational institutions varied across the country, ranging from 5.2% in Alberta—with its relatively high GDP—to 9.8% in Nunavut. StatCan

Lack of tech talent in Canada means PSE might not be as necessary

Canada’s technology companies are currently in stiff competition for top talent, and many are struggling to find qualified applicants. “There is a huge talent shortage within Canada,” says Matt Mickiewicz, co-founder of Hired, who explains that the high interest in technology job seekers signifies that there are too few qualified candidates for the available jobs. With the current level of demand, PSE credentials may no longer be requirements for employment. The rapid changes in software development can make it difficult for postsecondary institutions to appropriately prepare students for the field, as Shopify Director of Engineering for Data Platforms Harrison Brundage explains that “there are many techniques that will be obsolete by the time a curriculum for them is finalized, taught, and used by its graduates.” The Record (CP)

BC universities look to open source to address “absurd” textbook prices

Since 2012, British Columbia has pursued a strategy to create open digital textbooks to help meet the soaring prices of print materials required for many classes. Kwantlen Polytechnic Instructor Rajiv Jhangiani tells CTV that according to his survey research, roughly 40% of BC university students currently download textbooks illegally, 35% have not signed up for a class based on textbook prices, and 23% have dropped a class because of textbook prices. The article highlights the success BC has had in addressing this issue, especially through the Open Textbook Collection. “Really, for me, it’s a social justice issue,” says Jhangiani, “because if students can’t afford the required course materials, who are we saying higher education is reserved for?” CTV News

Data and transparency can help reshape higher education

Brian Mitchell of the Huffington Post focuses on how data can help solve the current issues with the higher education business model. Mitchell explains that many institutional leaders lack the understanding and information that they need. Researcher William Massy explains in a recent study that “institutions that learn to employ [data and learning metrics] effectively will empower faculty and department chairs, deans and provosts, financial executives, and governing boards to fulfill their responsibilities more effectively.” While Mitchell acknowledges that encouraging transparency and full disclosure may come with certain risks, he emphasizes the benefits of information and transparency on shaping higher education policy and leadership. Huffington Post | Report

Higher education must learn from the newspaper’s mistakes

Higher education can learn a number of lessons from the fall of the newspaper, writes Frederick Singer for Forbes. The author explains that newspapers were slow to make the structural changes required to meet the new challenges that accompanied the development of technology, and as a result, “even the most important news institutions are a shadow of their former selves.” On top of improving interactivity and the use of real-time data in the classroom, Singer advises institutions to reengineer and protect their most profitable courses, predicting that “the real threat won’t be a frontal assault on core degree programs, but the erosion of the most profitable continuing education courses and graduate programs.” Forbes

Fixed term contracts not as beneficial to knowledge creation as permanent

Helen Lees discusses the importance of having a long-term contract to fall back on in the educational world, and her experiences living “two academic lives”—first on a three-year fixed-term research contract, and then as a lecturer. She explores the difficulties associated with fixed-term contracts, such as a lack of supports and the constantly looming end of employment, and argues that relying on fixed-term employees for the sustainable creation of new knowledge is simply “bad science.” “Long-term employment for research staff is not just a moral or industrial relations imperative,” she concludes, “it is about care and careful knowledge creation.” Times Higher Ed

Why professors might want to stand by “noncompliant” learning outcomes

PSE institutions can sometimes be seized by the urge to reassess their compliance metrics for curricula, writes Professor Robert T Dillon Jr, and this reassessment will often find long-standing courses to be “noncompliant.” Dillon Jr recounts his own story of working toward a dialogue about the “noncompliant” learning outcomes he included in his teaching, but notes that “when I tried to engage my bosses in a dialogue that might resolve what seemed to be a difference in teaching philosophy, my dean accused me of playing ‘silly, sanctimonious games.’” He goes on to reflect on what these conversations might mean to both administrators and instructors moving forward, and on what room—if any—they might leave for instructors to pursue non-traditional teaching methods or learning outcomes. Chronicle of Higher Education

Fewer senior PSE officials aspiring to become presidents

“The traditional roadmap of faculty to department chair, to dean, then provost, then president is becoming the road less and less traveled,” writes Yves Salomon-Fernandez, “as surveys of provosts reveal that fewer and fewer of those in such positions aspire to become presidents.” The author goes on to explore how this trend might be influenced by the changing role of presidents and by the changing career ambitions of younger generations. The article concludes with a discussion of how these trends might affect the diversity found in presidential appointees. Inside Higher Ed

What will next-generation universities look like?

While no one can predict the future, it is still productive to imagine what lies ahead for universities, writes Steven Mintz, Executive Director of the University of Texas System's Institute for Transformational Learning. To this end, Mintz gives his own predictions about what will happen to higher ed institutions. Among these predictions is the ongoing expansion of experiential learning, technology-enhanced education, trial-and-error learning, and personalized learning pathways. Mintz concludes with a note of caution, however, as he writes that with so much change happening, “a great danger is that the future of higher education will be even more stratified than it is today.” Inside Higher Ed