Top Ten

October 18, 2017

ON college strike reveals a broken PSE business model: Cohn

“Post-secondary education is in a boom, but a bust looms in this unsustainable business model,” writes Martin Regg Cohn in a reflection on the factors that led to the current Ontario college faculty strike. The author argues that rising enrolments, combined with declining teacher inputs and restrained tuition fees, have created a college system in which “we mass produce graduates in a factory setting.” Cohn further contends that under this model, students and teachers alike will find themselves facing the same precarious future with limited career prospects. Cohn critiques the positions of both college administrators and faculty in the current strike, yet concludes that “the dirty little secret of higher education is that working conditions have hit rock bottom.” Toronto Star

UAlberta should do more to pursue international students: Simons

“Despite hopes the election of U.S. President Donald Trump and the chaos of Brexit might encourage more international students to apply, overall international student enrolment [at the University of Alberta] rose by less than one per cent this year,” writes Paula Simons. The university has stated that it does not plan to grow its international enrolment to more than 15% of its student population, citing concerns about displacing domestic students. Yet Simons argues that international student tuition fees underwrite more seats for domestic students, and adds that attracting more of these students boosts a school’s international reputation and its on-campus diversity. Simons closes by offering profiles of several international students who decided to enrol at UAlberta and explores their reasons for doing so. Edmonton Journal

Telling adjuncts to quit won’t stop the devaluing of teaching: Warner

“Recommending that contingent faculty quit and move on is good advice at the individual level,” writes John Warner, but it will not solve the underlying forces that have given rise to precarious academic labour. Warner argues that even if the entire contingent academic labour force were to suddenly quit and disappear, universities would be unlikely to start hiring more full-time faculty again. Rather, Warner predicts that universities would simply lower the required credentials for teaching or would offload some of their for-credit teaching to “alternative” providers. “The devaluing of the labor of teaching is a fait accompli,” Warner concludes. “Telling adjuncts to ‘just quit’ is giving up on education, and only hastens the ultimate demise of security for any faculty.” Inside Higher Ed

Hamilton makes student patrol program permanent following pilot

A pilot project that saw Mohawk College co-op students patrolling the neighbourhoods near McMaster University to enforce property maintenance rules has been made permanent by Hamilton politicians. After months of complaints from homeowners about litter, uncut lawns, and late-night noise in select neighbourhoods, Hamilton Councillor Aidan Johnson suggested in December 2016 that the city hire students to conduct limited bylaw enforcement. 736 orders were issued by two Mohawk students during the pilot project, according to Hamilton bylaw enforcement coordinator Kelly Barnett, and the program’s costs were covered by fines and fees. The Spectator discusses the concerns that other city councillors have raised around the legality and ethics of the program. Hamilton Spectator

RDC students receive $450K commitment from RBC Foundation for wellness, programming

Red Deer College has announced that RBC and the RBC Foundation have committed $450K over five years to the college to support three key areas: student leadership opportunities, career development, and student mental health and wellness services. “It is a tremendous opportunity for Red Deer College to develop and provide programs that will directly and positively impact our students in order to ensure their success,” says RDC President Joel Ward. “As we look to RDC’s exciting future, we know that the contributions from RBC and the RBC Foundation will be an incredible benefit to our College and to the learners we serve.” RDC

How much does online education benefit introverted students?: Costa

“Very little has been written about whether introverts are more successful in online courses,” writes Karen Costa, yet some evidence exists to suggest that these courses are better suited to this personality type. Citing previous research on the subject, Costa notes that introverts have been found to prefer online courses while extroverts prefer face-to-face course delivery. Costa argues that her own teaching has left her with many more questions that she would like to see pursued through research, such as whether introverts are more likely to succeed in online courses, or whether introverted professors are more likely to prefer these courses. “Isn’t it our job, after all, to help all of our students claim their power, even if that means letting go of our deeply held beliefs about primacy in learning modalities?” concludes Costa. Inside Higher Ed

McMaster $500K donation for ‘omics’ health research

McMaster University has received a donation of $500K from philanthropist and local businessman Alfred (Fred) Voytek supporting research in the area of ‘omics,’ including technological research to uncover genomic, metabolomic and gut microbiomic signatures of future disease development. “Fred Voytek’s generosity is amazing,” said McMaster Professor and Canada Research Chair Sonia Anand, who noted that the donation will allow for multi-ethnic studies of ‘omic’ influences on cardio-metabolic traits including adiposity, insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome. “Mr. Voytek’s generous support will propel innovative and fundamentally important projects that are key to the future health of Canadians,” added McMaster Faculty of Health Sciences Dean and Vice-President Paul O’Byrne. McMaster

UBC researchers retract paper linking vaccine component to autism

Researchers from the University of British Columbia have reportedly retracted a scientific paper that linked aluminum in vaccines to autism in mice. The retraction comes after one of the study's co-authors stated that the figures published in the study were deliberately altered. “It appears as if some of the images in mostly what were non-significant results had been flipped,” said UBC Professor and study co-author Chris Shaw. “We don't think that the conclusions are at risk here, but because we don't know, we thought it best to withdraw.” UBC Vice President of Research and Innovation Gail Murphy said that UBC “takes the responsible conduct of research very seriously,” and explained that all such allegations are “thoroughly investigated” and that cases of confirmed misconduct are addressed accordingly. UBC | CBC (1) | CBC (2) | Globe and Mail

Online learning a core form of course and program delivery in Canadian PSE: survey

Online learning is now a core form of delivery for Canadian universities and colleges, according to a report released at the World Conference on Online Learning in Toronto. The survey targeted over 200 public PSE institutions across Canada, with responses covering 78% of all university and college student enrolments. The survey revealed that almost all Canadian colleges and universities now offer online courses, and that online enrolments have expanded at a rate of 10%-15% per annum over the last five years. It further found that online learning now constitutes between 12%-16% of all PSE for-credit teaching, and that two-thirds of Canadian post-secondary institutions see online learning as very or extremely important for their future plans. World Conference on Online Learning

SFU pledges to move forward on reconciliation recommendations

Simon Fraser University says that it will spend $9M over the next four years to help implement recommendations from its Aboriginal Reconciliation Council. Council Co-Chair Chris Lewis spent months performing consultations both on and off the SFU campus to help shape the recommendations. “It was the first step in terms of  transforming SFU to make sure that it's a welcoming place for our Indigenous students and for all students that they can hear our songs, witness our ceremonies and protocols,” said Lewis. The report includes 33 calls to action that are organized into four clusters: creating safe and welcoming spaces for Aboriginal peoples; curriculum innovation and Indigenization; student pathways and support; and administration, hiring, and project implementation. CBC