Top Ten

May 19, 2016

Canadian higher ed places fifth in QS System Strength Rankings 2016

Quacquarelli Symonds has released its new Higher Education System Strength Rankings, and Canada’s system has ranked fifth overall. QS describes the new rankings as “an assessment of overall system strength and flagship university performance, alongside factors relating to access and funding.” The United States led the overall rankings, followed by the UK, Germany, and Australia. While Canada ranked fourth overall in the “Access” category, it ranked ninth in the “Economic” and “System” categories. QS | Methodology

Student calls MSVU counselling agreement a “gag order”

A student at Mount Saint Vincent University has stated that he was forced to sign an agreement that would prevent him from discussing his mental health issues with friends at the risk of being evicted from residence. “I was given very little clarification and no ultimatums. It was either sign it or leave,” said MSVU student Brody Stuart-Verner. According to Paula Barry, MSVU’s Associate Vice-President, Student Experience, the intention of the clause in question was to support high-risk students by ensuring that they reach “out to the right people who can provide them with the appropriate response that they’re going to need in the time of crisis.” Barry stated that MSVU will review and modify the agreements in consultation with the students’ union and health professionals. 

Postscript: (Aug 2) In response to controversy around an agreement clause, Mount Saint Vincent University has removed the confidentiality requirement from its wellness agreement. The second clause in the agreement instead now states that the student should “utilize the appropriate supports […] to avoid causing potential distress to other residence students” with an added note that other students may not have the emotional maturity to assist others.

CBC | Global News | Lethbridge Herald | Global News

UAlberta students, alumni create bursary for students affected by Fort McMurray Fire

University of Alberta students and alumni have united to raise money for a new bursary program that will support postsecondary students displaced by the Fort McMurray wildfire, reports the Edmonton Journal. It is estimated that 500 PSE students have been affected by the fire, and all will be eligible to apply for the non-repayable bursary. “We’re seeing students and families who no longer have the financial resources they expected, and who have lost both job prospects and resources such as textbooks and computers,” said UAlberta Registrar and Vice-Provost Lisa Collins, “this new bursary will provide assistance so students and prospective students can continue, or start, their studies.” Edmonton Journal

Four ways that teaching can put the “media” back in social media

Social media offers great promise for learning in the classroom, writes Dian Schaffhauser for Campus Technology, yet many of its uses tend to emphasize the “social” aspect of community building instead of the “media” aspect, which places more emphasis on the technology as a teaching tool. Schaffhauser presents four case studies in which professors have used social media to improve teaching and learning in their classrooms and beyond. These case studies include one professor who asked students to contribute original visual content to Wikipedia, and another who had students submit YouTube videos instead of written assignments for the assessment of learning outcomes. Campus Technology

CBU to receive $1 M for chair in Aboriginal Business Studies

Cape Breton University has announced that it will receive $500 K from RBC to support its Purdy Crawford Chair in Aboriginal Business Studies, along with matching federal funds that will bring the total contribution to $1 M. The donation will be made specifically to In.Business: A National Mentorship Program for Indigenous Youth, which engages approximately 300 high school students per year across Canada. “RBC believes in the importance of education and we feel deeply that it is key to improving the social and economic strength of Aboriginal people. We are simply thrilled to support a program renowned for being a leader in Aboriginal education,” said RBC’s Regional Vice President of Cape Breton and Eastern Nova Scotia Steve Wadden. CBU | NationTalk

Increased training might mean decreased education, write Chronicle contributors

“We are on the verge of becoming the best trained, and least educated, society since the Romans—and reducing the humanities to a type of soft science will only hasten this trend,” write John Kaag and David O’Hara for the Chronicle of Higher Education. The task of the humanities is not to cater to the metric-based values of hard science, the authors argue, but to question the validity of these metrics. Learning how to govern or how to interpret the law, for example, are tasks that the authors view as fundamentally different from the work of science. “If you’re interested in learning about justice,” they add, “you don’t go to the chemistry laboratory. You go to philosophy class and travel to Plato’s Republic.” Chronicle of Higher Education

ON teachers’ colleges pushing students to confront math anxiety

Teachers’ colleges in Ontario have begun implementing new evaluations to help ensure that teachers have a minimum understanding of elementary math skills, writes CBC. Serge Demers of Laurentian University’s education faculty says that many students come into teachers’ college with backgrounds like liberal arts and history, and many of them have anxieties around math concepts they have not encountered since secondary school. “You need to get rid of that negative emotion,” says Demers, “rationally speaking, there's no reason for an adult not to understand concepts that are taught to Grade 6 students.” CBC

RMC Saint-Jean to regain university status

Defense Minister Harjit Sajjan has announced that Collège Militaire Royal de Saint-Jean will be regaining its status as a university-level institution, and deems this action to be a “reflection of Canada and our bilingual heritage.” According to CBC, RMC-Saint-Jean was established in 1952, closed by the Liberal government in 1995, and reopened as a part of Quebec’s CEGEP network in 2008 by the Conservative government. Minister Sajjan stated that the involved parties are currently working on a schedule for the transition. He was not yet able to provide a budget, but assured the public that the “cost will be modest.” Le Devoir | CBC | CTV News

What does it mean when politicians talk about “hard-working students”?

Many politicians tend to talk about “hard-working students” when they pitch new higher ed policies, writes Beckie Supiano for the Chronicle of Higher Education, but it is often unclear why they use this term or what they mean by it. Supiano questions whether these politicians are attributing this “hard work” to students’ academic labour, or to the jobs that most of these students work to put themselves through school. Political communication professor Martin Johnson argues that politicians use this term because “by calling students ‘hard-working,’ they’re also pushing back against a big [stereotype]: that a student is ‘some slacker in a coffee shop.’” Johnson says this is the case because much of the public is not convinced that academic work is “real work” and that such skepticism is also what underlies much of the criticism directed at college professors. Chronicle of Higher Education (Subscription Required)

UK university bans mortarboard throwing at graduation, cites injury concerns

The UK-based University of East Anglia has banned the throwing of mortarboards at graduation ceremonies in response to a recent string of injuries caused by falling hats, reports The Guardian. Citing these safety concerns, the university has adopted a new policy in which graduating students will “mime” the act of throwing their hats, and the school will then photoshop the images of soaring hats into photos of the graduation. UEA Law Society President Louisa Baldwin contested the move, however, arguing that “if I’ve paid £45 to hire a bit of cloth and card for the day, I should be able to chuck my hat in the air!” The Guardian