Top Ten

October 28, 2016

A forward-looking board needs to understand its strengths, vulnerabilities

“While it is impossible to ‘futureproof’ a board, assessing its strengths and potential vulnerabilities can go a long way toward ensuring that it is prepared for what’s ahead,” write Peter Eckel and Cathy Trower for Inside Higher Ed. The authors note that all boards are different, not only in culture, but in scope of work and level of sophistication; yet there are fundamental best practices that tend to traverse these differences. For example, a board chair should easily be able to say whether there are written expectations for trustees, orientation processes for new members, and formal demands for board members to prepare for meetings. The authors outline a set of standards for assessing a board’s performance and culture, and conclude with the suggestion that while boards can conduct these assessments themselves, “they may be better served by having outside experts help craft questions and make sense of the results.” Inside Higher Ed

Maclean’s releases 2017 university rankings

Maclean’s has released its 2017 university rankings for the categories of Comprehensive, Primarily Undergraduate, and Medical Doctoral. The Comprehensive category, which covers universities that conduct a significant amount of research and offer a wide range of undergraduate, graduate, and professional programs, was topped by Simon Fraser University, followed by the University of Waterloo and the University of Victoria. The University of Northern British Columbia led the Primarily Undergraduate category, followed by Mount Allison University and the University of Lethbridge. McGill University came first in the Medical Doctoral category, followed by the University of Toronto and University of British Columbia. Maclean’s

Canada needs better data if it wants to be an innovation leader, writes Polytechnics Canada CEO

“[If] we really want to retool Canada’s economy and become the ‘innovation nation’ ... so far, a key piece to this puzzle is elusive: data,” writes Polytechnics Canada CEO Nobina Robinson. The author argues that Canada’s tendency to measure productivity through credentials has “serious implications” for the country, as it does not take market demand for those credentials into account and can often leave “individuals with high levels of academic achievement working jobs far below their skill sets.” Robinson highlights data from the 2011 Review of Federal Support for R&D to show that Canadian firms hire individuals holding technologist designations, BAs, and Master’s degrees more than they do PhDs, even while many Canadians “decry our underproduction of PhDs relative to global counterparts.” It is this type of dissonance, Robinson concludes, that should be resolved with reliable data rather than “hunch or anecdote.” Globe and Mail

We need to focus on early access to savings for PSE, writes policy expert

“There needs to be a much greater effort to ensure that children from low-income families benefit fully” from the federal government’s $1B in spending on education savings incentive grants, writes Andrew Parkin for Policy Options. One of the most effective ways to accomplish this, the author argues, is to raise national participation rates in the Canada Learning Bond, which one million children from low-income families continue to miss out on each year. After explaining the financial implications of this goal, Parkin notes that focusing on early access to education savings “can help to reframe the conversation about educational opportunities within the household” by conveying to children “the expectation that they will attend college or university.” For Parkin, “this, in turn, will affect how children approach school and their futures.” Policy Options

Can emotion-driven learning work online?

“Those of us who teach online wonder: Can such courses provide the kind of student experiences that help develop critical thinking, curiosity, and creativity?” write Andy Tix and Myles Johnson for the Chronicle of Higher Education. The authors answer this question by citing new research in psychology that show how all courses—including online ones—can elicit powerful emotions that inspire long-term learning. The cited research suggests that knowledge is often generated by four major emotions, which are surprise, interest, confusion, and awe. The authors offer specific strategies for eliciting these emotions, and conclude that the way a course is offered is not as important as whether the course assignments elicit knowledge-promoting emotions. Chronicle of Higher Education (Subscription Required)

Camosun receives $5.2M from BC for trades training

Camosun College has received $5.2M from the British Columbia government to fund 2,047 seats in trades training programs. The programs covered include: electrical, carpentry, professional cook training, welding, automotive technology, sheet metal, and plumbing. “This funding allows Camosun to deliver more than 20 different trades foundation and apprenticeship programs each year to more than 2,000 students, making Camosun one of the leading providers of trades training in our province,” said Eric Sehn, Camosun’s dean of trades and technology. “Our students learn how to become practical problem solvers and gain the latest technical skills needed for the trades of today—helping them build a sustainable future for themselves and our community.” Camosun

Queen’s signs pathway agreement with UAE university

Queen’s University has signed an agreement with the Canadian University Dubai to create a 2+2 pathway program that will allow qualified CUD students to transfer into Queen’s Bachelor of Computing (Honours) degree program after completing their second year of studies. A Queen’s release says that the agreement will provide room for an annual cohort of 20 undergraduate students to transfer to Queen’s to complete the final two years of their program in the School of Computing. The release adds that all programs at CUD are accredited to award degrees by the Ministry of Education Higher Education Affairs of the United Arab Emirates. Queen’s

Two out of five Canadian university students lack food security, says report

Two-fifths of surveyed students at Canadian universities lack food security, according to a report from the national campus food organization Meal Exchange. Drawing on a survey of 4,013 university students from five Canadian universities, the research found that 39% of respondents compromised on the quality of food they ate, did not eat balanced meals, and worried about running out of food. One in four said food insecurity affected their physical health, while one in five said it was impacting their mental health. “Post-secondary institutions and governments are responsible for the well-being of their students,” says Meal Exchange Executive Director Anita Abraham. “We need to stop pretending that traditional approaches, such as food banks, are addressing the root causes of food insecurity. It’s time to share that responsibility and shift the conversation to long-term solutions.” Maclean’s

Concordia creates QC’s first open-access academic press

Concordia has launched what is reportedly the first open-access academic press in Quebec, and one of few in North America. Beginning in 2017, the Concordia University Press will begin publishing books in both French and English, offering free digital versions and paid paper copies. The stated goals of the initiative are to diversify the publishing landscape, adhere to the highest standards of peer review and editorial rigour, and “reaffirm Concordia’s mission to enrich the world by sharing groundbreaking research.” “The creation of Concordia University Press supports our university’s commitment to innovation through our embrace of next generation scholarly publishing that is digital and open access,” said Concordia Provost and Vice-President of Academic Affairs Graham Carr. “It confirms our belief in the social and scholarly relevance of books and of their adaptability, as form and content, to technology and cultural change.” Concordia

SMU’s Sobey School of Business becomes first North American school to participate in BSIS assessment

The Sobey School of Business at Saint Mary’s University has become the first school in North America to take part in BSIS, an international process designed to assess an institution's economic, intellectual, cultural, and social impact on a region. The report found that the business school contributed $329M to the Nova Scotia economy while helping 250 international students obtain their first job in this region. Students in the school’s Enactus community launched 34 businesses while creating 156 jobs. “We know that through collective impact we can accelerate change and create a better world for those who come after us,” says Sobey School of Business Dean Patricia Bradshaw. “These results demonstrate that we make a significant contribution to the economy of Nova Scotia and to the social and intellectual fabric of the region.” SMU