Top Ten

April 19, 2017

Which schools best prepare students for employment?: Maclean's survey

In its second annual nationwide student survey, Maclean’s asked students whether they felt that their school had adequately prepared them for employment. St Francis Xavier University received the highest level of confidence among all Canadian institutions, with 53% of its students strongly agreeing. Students from St Thomas University felt most strongly that their education had provided them with writing skills. Among programs, Canada's nursing students felt most strongly that their program had prepared them for employment, while students studying philosophy most strongly agreed that their program had provided them with writing skills. Maclean’s

Unlocking the potential of Indigenous youth is vital to Canada’s success: VIU president

Canada’s federal budget contains encouraging new funds for Indigenous education, writes Vancouver Island University President Ralph Nilson, but Canadians must remember that Indigenous peoples continue to face significant barriers to PSE. Nilson adds that the current PSE attainment gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous students is “not only an issue of social justice, [but] a major economic issue.” Nilson applauds recently announced funding for the Post-Secondary Student Support Program, changes to the Canada Student Loan Program, and $25M in new funding to Indspire as initiatives that will significantly benefit Indigenous learners. Yet there is still much more to be done, the VIU president concludes, adding that “when government talks about building a prosperous future, it must remember that unlocking the potential of Indigenous youth is vital to that success.” Vancouver Sun

ON colleges especially vulnerable to demographic shifts: HEQCO

“Demographic shifts over the next two decades pose enrollment challenges for Ontario’s public postsecondary sector, but the province’s colleges are particularly susceptible,” according to a new report from the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario. HEQCO reports that colleges rely heavily on their surrounding provincial regions for their incoming enrolments, and that the declining number of youth in ON will force these schools to compete with universities for this declining group. The report adds that Ontarians represent 81% of full-time students in the college sector, and that the reliance on students from a local catchment area makes these institutions particularly vulnerable to demographic shifts. HEQCO

U of T, UWaterloo become only Canadian universities chosen for self-driving car competition

The University of Toronto and University of Waterloo have become the only two universities chosen to participate in a North America-wide competition to develop a self-driving car by 2020. Dubbed the “AutoDrive Challenge,” the contest involves teams of undergraduate students in the research and development of self-driving car technology, an opportunity that UWaterloo Professor Derek Rayside says is not always available due to the amount of infrastructure involved. Commenting on students' intense interest in the contest, U of T engineering professor Tim Barfoot adds that “there’s something about turning a robot into a vehicle that really captures people’s imaginations.” Financial Post

UNB sees rise in popularity of Arabic language courses

New Brunswickers are entering Arabic language courses in increasing numbers as more Arabic-speaking newcomers learn English and integrate into the local workforce, according to UNB College of Extended Learning program assistant Sandy MacKay. “I kept getting calls from people who were working with newcomers asking if we offered Arabic,” says McKay, adding that many of the people taking the courses have experienced a growing sense of connection with their Arabic-speaking community members. “So many students commented on the increased connection with their [Syrian] families,” says McKay, who notes that much of the interest in the courses have come from families who are hosting Syrian refugees. CBC

Closing the gap for first-generation students

US-based Smith College President Kathleen McCartney reflects on her experiences as a first-generation student attending postsecondary school, and as a president seeking to narrow graduation rate gaps within her own institution. McCartney highlights five key lessons learned while tackling this issue, which require leaders to: include context in admission decisions, go beyond school counselors by partnering with community organizations, build pathway programs in partnership with community colleges, help students' families understand the costs of postsecondary school, and level the playing field by providing mentoring to first-generation students. McCartney concludes by calling on others to help make social mobility through education a possibility “to all qualified students.” Chronicle of Higher Education

New telescope at the top of the world to look at universe's earliest origins

Over 40 researchers from Canadian institutions have joined a global project to use a new telescope, located in the Chilean desert, to look at the universe’s origins. Dalhousie University astrophysics professor Scott Chapman states that Canada became involved in the 20-year-old project in 2011 as part of a consortium that acted as a founding partner. “The community is really excited that this is finally going through as a next step for the next generations of astronomers to continue this next level of Canadian expertise with the top notch facilities in the world,” said Chapman of the project. CBC reports that Canadian researchers working on the $20M initiative come from institutions such as Dal, the University of Waterloo, McGill University, McMaster University, the University of British Columbia, the University of Calgary, the University of Toronto, and Western University. CBC

Suspect behind $24K computer theft from WLU arrested, two remain at large

One man has been arrested and two suspects remain at large over the theft of $24K worth of computers from Wilfrid Laurier University. Police say that the three suspects broke into a building at the school on February 21 and again on February 25, taking a large number of new computers from a building on WLU’s Waterloo campus. A 32-year-old Kitchener man was arrested Friday and faces several charges, including two counts of break and enter, possession of break and enter instruments, and two counts of breach of probation. As of yesterday morning, none of the computers had been recovered. CBC | Waterloo Region Record

Failure is the most fulfilling part of being a professor: IHE contributor

“This may sound perverse, but for me, one of the most fulfilling parts of being a (sort of) professor has been not the successes, but what others might call ‘failures,’” writes John Warner for Inside Higher Ed. While other professors might delight in seeing their students go on to find tenure-track jobs or achieve other academic successes, Warner notes that his favourite part of teaching has been the freedom to experiment, fail, and improve his methods through an iterative approach that Warner compares to that of writing. “These are pursuits that feel worthy to me, failing and trying again,” Warner adds. “In fact, if I was granted a single wish, it would be to make failure more central to school and learning.” Inside Higher Ed

Some questions to ponder for those thinking about becoming department chairs

“One characteristic that distinguishes academics from professionals in the corporate world is the former don’t necessarily aspire to climb the management ladder,” writes Rob Jenkins for the Chronicle of Higher Education. Jenkins notes, however, that there are many professors who want to become a department head or dean. For these individuals, Jenkins poses seven basic questions to help determine whether an administrative role might be a good fit. These questions are: Why would I do this? Will I miss the classroom? Will I mind being chained to a desk? How much do I hate meetings? How much do I value my work friendships? Where do I see myself going from here? Are the money and the perks worth it? Jenkins concludes that if a professor can answer these questions and if they think they have something to offer, “then by all means, apply for the job—or accept the position that’s been offered.” Chronicle of Higher Education