Top Ten

May 9, 2016

PSE tax credits, incentives have disproportionately benefited high-income families, says PBO report

Canada’s system of tax breaks and incentives built around postsecondary education has disproportionately benefited high-income families, according to a new report from the Parliamentary Budget Officer. The report states that in 2015, families in the top 20% income bracket received nearly 38% of the overall non-refundable tax credits for education, textbook, and tuition expenses. Canadian Alliance of Student Associations Executive Director Michael MacDonald says that these findings demonstrate an urgent need to offer students more up-front financial support. Canadian Federation of Students Chairperson Bilan Arte adds that the report also demonstrates a need for the federal government to provide more funding to provinces to drive down tuition costs. iPolitics | Chronicle Herald | Windsor Star

uOttawa receives $5 M from Alex Trebek for Forum for Dialogue

The University of Ottawa has received a $5 M donation from Jeopardy host and uOttawa alumnus Alex Trebek to create the Alex Trebek Forum for Dialogue. This forum is intended to serve as a platform for discussion on issues that matter to Canadians, and will leverage the institution’s location, community, and expertise in public policy. The forum will include a variety of programming, including speeches from senior government officials and foreign dignitaries, as well as an annual Alex Trebek Distinguished Lecture series. “This type of platform will provide students with meaningful learning experiences outside the classroom and give them the opportunity to share in the insights of highly knowledgeable dignitaries, researchers, and professionals,” said Trebek. uOttawa

Hydro-Québec commits $1M to support research in electrical networks at UQAC

Hydro-Québec has committed $1 M to the Université du Québec à Chicoutimi over the next five years to support research in electrical networks, and to provide scholarships to students in certain degree programs. Hydro-Québec Vice President Corporate Affairs and Secretary General Pierre-Luc Desgagné commented that the 25-year long partnership between UQAC and Hydro-Québec has resulted in great achievements, and expressed delight in being able to continue with this relationship moving forward. UQAC Vice-President Academic, Research, and Creation Mustapha Fahmi stated that this funding will allow UQAC to continue research in the area of electrical networks, in addition to supporting the next generation and encouraging student retention through scholarships. uQuebec | UQAC

To keep students in the "war of attrition," mentor them

One of the best ways to fight the “war of attrition” is with “boots on the ground in the form of mentors,” writes Tricia Serio for Chronicle Vitae, and the way in which that mentoring occurs can have a massive effect on students. Serio lists five ways that her mentors helped her grow: by encouraging her to compete with only herself, giving her the space to make her own decisions, allowing her to voice opinions safely, pushing her to do more, and mentoring her as a colleague. “Once our paths crossed, these mentors simply reached out and took me under their wing,” writes Serio, “such small moments can have a big impact, which is why more of us in academia should be on the lookout for opportunities to help.” Chronicle Vitae

NS needs ways to measure outcomes of universities, writes Chronicle Herald

“In Nova Scotia we are blessed to have so many universities,” writes the Chronicle Herald, “but we need to ask whether we are getting the best return on our investment.” The article argues that NS taxpayers pay approximately $400 M per year to support the province’s universities, and although these universities “help to introduce Nova Scotians to ideas from other parts of the world while introducing hundreds of thousands of people around the world to Nova Scotia,” the province’s weak numbers in numeracy and literacy skills are still placing good jobs beyond the reach of too many Nova Scotians. The Herald concludes that this is why the province requires standardized ways for reporting on the outcomes and performance of universities so that the public can gauge how well its tax dollars are being spent. Chronicle Herald

Digital humanities: productive disruption or neoliberal tool?

Disruption does not equal progress, write English professors at Carleton University, Virginia Commonwealth University, and the University of the West of England, and nowhere can this be seen better than in the hype surrounding the concept of the “digital humanities.” The authors argue that on its surface, the digital humanities are about working with and producing digital archives, tools, and research methods. Yet their true purpose, the authors argue, is to promote project-based learning and lab-based research over reading and writing, among other objectives. The professors contend that the instrumental quality of the digital humanities is part of the reason why the movement is “is pushed far more strongly by university administrators than it is by scholars and students.” Critics of the professors' argument, however, argue that it unfairly characterizes digital humanities as a single, vague entity linked to one overarching concept of neoliberalism in the academy. LARB | Inside Higher Ed (Follow-up)

How ON has become a hotbed of campus-linked innovation

“If there’s one standout global trend pertaining to today’s young people,” writes Tom Corr for University Affairs, “it is an embrace of entrepreneurship as both a career path and a way a life.” Corr notes that this generational trend has fit nicely with the objectives of governments looking for new ways to drive economic development. The author highlights the success of the Ontario Network of Entrepreneurs and Campus-Linked Accelerators, both in fostering innovation and in attracting enthusiastic participation from students. Corr concludes with a discussion of how specific initiatives are helping to make Ontario’s campuses into powerful drivers of innovation. University Affairs

uSherbrooke to incubate tech startups with $1 M in new funding

The University of Sherbrooke will enjoy new opportunities to support technology startups with $1 M in new funding from Investment Quebec. The funding will come through the ACET capital initiative and will benefit uSherbrooke’s University Entrepreneurial Centre, an incubator for academic projects that have the potential to develop into technology startup companies. “Today's announcement is great news for the region and especially for our young students and future entrepreneurs,” said MNA Pierre Reid, “we are fortunate to have a vibrant business community that is ready to invest in the economic development of the region.” uSherbrooke

US MOOC model shows opportunities for innovation despite disappointments, says study

The Conference Board of Canada has released new research on the effects of Massive Online Open Courses on higher education in the US. The study discusses how the disappointment from the initial optimism towards MOOCs has overshadowed a number of the contributions MOOCs are making towards higher ed. The report goes on to investigate the new possibilities in pedagogy, knowledge dissemination, and commercialization through MOOCs, affirming that while they will not replace traditional higher ed, MOOCs will offer an opportunity to complement and improve higher ed’s offerings. Conference Board of Canada

Should postdocs be the default goal for PhD students?

Postdocs have become the goal for many PhD graduates even when undertaking one might not make practical sense, according to a new US study. The report, titled “Why Pursue the Postdoc Path?” found that the supply of postdoctoral fellows has continued to rise even as opportunities for permanent academic jobs has declined. According to Inside Higher Ed, these findings suggest that in a difficult academic labour market, pursuing a postdoc may have “become a holding pattern rather than a bridge to more permanent work.” The authors conclude by calling for PhD students, mentors, and graduate schools to focus more heavily on the realities of career planning in the earliest phases of doctoral programs. Inside Higher Ed | Report