Top Ten

March 31, 2016

UBC faculty pass non-confidence resolution on board of governors

The University of British Columbia Faculty Association has passed a resolution of non-confidence in the board of governors over their handling of former president Arvind Gupta’s resignation. While the motion has no legal impact on the board, according to association member Kalina Christoff, she hopes that “knowing that they are operating without full agreement—and in fact with majority disagreement—on their operations is something that will generate a greater motivation for change in the way the university is run.” UBC has released a statement asserting that the vote reflects the faculty’s interest in the governance of the institution, and that they “look forward to a respectful and ongoing dialogue about improving governance practices.” National Post (CP) | Inside Higher Ed | UBC

UoGuelph President discusses higher ed’s role in government plan for innovation, creation

“The new federal government’s first budget walks that line, tackling the country’s immediate need for stimulus spending while trying to look to Canada’s longer-term needs,” writes University of Guelph President Franco Vaccarino, “In universities, the government sees a partner that can deliver on both.” Vaccarino discusses the importance of the infrastructure funding announced last week, and universities’ roles in helping the government achieve its goals for Canada. “While government does not directly discover, invent and commercialize, it can put in place the conditions that allow these good things to happen—notably at our universities,” he concludes, “this budget is an opportunity. And it's up to all of us—students, researchers, community leaders, businesses—to bring this opportunity to life in powerful and forward-looking ways.” The Record

NB releases new details on $261 M investment in education, new economy fund

New Brunswick Premier Brian Gallant has announced that the province will invest $261 M in its Education and New Economy Fund and nearly $1 B over the next three years. The announcement builds on the details included in an NB release from last week, which only mentioned $14.5 M for the new fund. Most of the money is reportedly slated to go toward existing programs. A statement from Gallant says that the new investments will mark the largest financial commitment to education in the history of the province. He adds that “by strategically co-ordinating new and existing investments in education, training and innovation [NB] can eliminate silos within government to provide the greatest positive impact for our province's people and economy.” CBC

Higher ed should strive for more than anecdotal, polarizing critique

Debates about the future of universities have generated many productive ideas, writes Melonie Fullick for University Affairs, but they have also led to many unproductive arguments based on little more than animosity and anecdotes. Fullick critiques a 2015 article by a UPEI professor, which allegedly condemns nearly every member of the university community and “demonstrates a lack of perspective or indeed any connection to the ongoing discussion about, or areas of scholarship and research that already critically address, developments in the university and in higher education.” Fullick says that “clickbait rant[s] about the woes of higher ed” are nothing new, but she questions the value of giving a platform to these pieces if the goal is to have a respectful conversation about higher ed that is based on more than anger and “anecdata.” University Affairs

uToronto chooses ESG strategy over divestment, protesters hold sit-in at McGill

The University of Toronto has elected to include environmental, social, and governance (ESG) factors in its investment decisions rather than pursuing full divestment from fossil fuel companies. A number of Canadian universities have seen similar petitions for divestment. Institutions like UBC and Simon Fraser University, like uToronto, have decided instead to adopt a new set of ESG principles to guide future investment. “The virtue of an approach such as the one I am outlining is that it allows us to look at the practices of firms not just in fossil-fuel-producing sectors, but in the rest of economy as well,” said uToronto President Meric Gertler. On Tuesday, students supporting divestment at McGill University held a sit-in to protest the school’s recent decision not to divest from fossil fuel companies. Globe and Mail | Montreal Gazette (McGill) | uToronto

HEQCO researchers address misconceptions about learning outcomes assessment

“Learning outcomes assessment is no longer a sad substitute standing on the sidelines hoping for a chance to play when the game is out of reach,” write Lauren Hudak and Greg Moran of the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario. The authors argue that learning outcomes assessment is, and will continue to be, essential to the education sector. They address common misconceptions that have fueled recent criticism of HEQCO's proposed assessments. They dispute the suggestion that these assessments strive to be “magic bullet” solutions to determine whether PSE is adequately preparing students for life beyond higher ed, and explain that these assessments will not be used to rank institutions. They conclude that “we owe to all who have a stake in postsecondary education … to demonstrate the effectiveness of our programs by more than anecdote and lofty claims unsubstantiated by evidence.” HEQCO

Health minister says “don’t go” to young scientists

Federal Health Minister Jane Philpott has asked young Canadian scientists to reconsider any plans they might have of leaving the country. “With the change of government there has been a change of focus as well and a new emphasis on science and scientists,” she says, “so I think that has helped reassure the research community that we are very supportive and very open to listening to their concerns and addressing those concerns.” HealthCareCAN President Bill Tholl has said that he is encouraged by the new government. “If health research were a patient,” he adds, “it has been severely traumatized over the last five years. The first job is to stabilize the patient and then figure out where you are going to transport that patient. This budget stabilizes the patient but it doesn’t figure out all of these strategic questions.” Ottawa Citizen

Understanding the language of online learning

Many faculty members and administrators might have a lot of difficulty understanding the language of online learning, writes Contact North | Contact Nord, and so the organization has published a brief article explaining key terms that will help to inform others about this major trend in higher ed. These terms include “blended learning,” which refers to the mixing of online and face-to-face learning experiences, and “asynchronous learning,” in which individuals or groups of students complete tasks at their own pace while connecting with each other at any time. Contact North | Contact Nord

BrandonU, Saint George’s sign MOU for medical and veterinary students

Brandon University has signed an MOU with Saint George’s University in Grenada, allowing students to obtain medical or veterinary degrees at Saint George’s after taking either a three- or four-year pre-professional science degree at BrandonU. “In today’s world, it is important for students, citizens, and universities to look globally for the best solutions,” said BrandonU President Gervan Fearon. “Not only have we found a great partner in Saint George’s, but our partnership helps us supply solutions right here in Brandon and in Manitoba.” BrandonU

Higher ed authors explore the “slow professor”

In an interview with Moira Farr, Maggie Berg and Barbara Seeber explain their writings on the principles of the “slow movement” applications to academia, and why they challenge the “frantic pace” of contemporary university life. They argue that professors need to take back the “intellectual life of the university” and encourage them to slow down. “Pushing back against a system that wants to quantify everything we do will look different to different people. … Getting offline more often, making time to do “nothing,” not rushing your research, fighting against the pressure to submit work before it’s ready,” explains Seeber, “being a 'slow professor' is about making considered choices about what we do, and not simply about doing less." University Affairs