Top Ten

April 15, 2019

ON government trying to control schools with new budget, says NDP

CBC reports that the Ontario government's new budget will increasingly tie funding for post-secondary institutions to performance outcomes. According to the government, a small proportion of funding has been linked to performance outcomes in previous years—1.4% for universities and 1.2% for colleges. The new budget includes a planned increase to 60% over the next five years. NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said the move will effectively force institutions to teach what the government wants them to teach, while the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations has expressed alarm at the government’s decision to tie funding to 10 unannounced metrics. CBC Sault Online (ON)

USask says tuition hike not tied to budget shortfalls

The average cost of tuition at the University of Saskatchewan is set to rise by 3.4%, reports the Saskatoon StarPhoenix. Domestic arts students can expect to pay an additional $218 per year, from $6.2K to $6.4K, while science students will see a $268 increase as their fees rise to $6.7K. The StarPhoenixadds that international students pay nearly three times as much as their domestic peers. USask stated that rising enrolments contributed to the tuition hike, adding that tuition rates are not raised to compensate for budget shortfalls. According to the StarPhoenix, USask’s operating budget has been flat since a slew of cuts by the provincial government in 2017-18. Saskatoon StarPhoenix Global News (SK)

AB election should be about post-secondary: Mason

While people argue about the creation of a new pipeline, most Albertans realize that the fossil fuel industry has entered a terminal decline, even if that decline might take decades, writes Gary Mason for the Globe and Mail. Bearing this new reality in mind, Mason argues that post-secondary education should be the primary area of policy focus for AB parties and voters in the upcoming provincial election. Mason notes that AB has the lowest post-secondary participation rates in Canada, due in part to the opportunities for those without PSE to obtain high-paying jobs in the oil and gas sector. As the AB economy changes, however, people will increasingly require PSE to participate meaningfully in the labour market, and that will mean making higher education a greater priority. Globe and Mail (Subscription required) (AB)

McGill to change Redmen team name 

McGill University has announced it will change the name of its men’s varsity sports teams, the Redmen, due to widespread acknowledgment of the term’s offensiveness toward Indigenous peoples. McGill Principal Suzanne Fortier announced the decision by email to students Friday morning, saying it was based on new principles of commemoration and renaming that the university established in December 2018. In the email, Fortier also cited major English dictionaries as sources confirming the term’s offensive connotations. “We cannot ignore this contemporary understanding. Intention, however benign, does not negate prejudicial effect,” said Fortier. “Inclusion and respect are at the core of our university's principles and values; pejoratives run contrary to who we are as a community.” CBC (QC)

Cheap online course delivery means you’re doing it wrong: Reed

“Good online courses—of the sort that most of us would be willing to accept as equivalent to traditional classes—are not cheaper” to deliver than in-person courses, writes Matt Reed. The reason, the author argues, is that the vast majority of the value of a university course comes from instructor/student interaction. “Professors need to be able to grade papers, respond to student queries, adapt instructional materials, and maintain accessibility far beyond what they would for a classroom course,” Reed states, adding that human labour in PSE is not as scalable as many would like to believe. Reed also notes that online courses do not cost less from an infrastructure perspective, either, as the cost of classroom maintenance is traded for the cost of additional IT support. Inside Higher Ed (International)

Gitxsan, Wet’suwet’en course at TRU equips nurses to help Indigenous clients

A second cohort of nursing students is preparing to depart for Hazleton, Gitxsan, and Wet’suwet’en First Nations as part of Thompson Rivers University’s CPE 3 immersion course. A TRU release explains that the program, which integrates western and Indigenous ways of knowing, was developed in partnership with the two nations. “The practice course is a reflection of a partnership with the Gitxsan community,” School of Nursing faculty member Sheila Blackstock said. “It allows students to experience rural Indigenous nursing practice while working with interdisciplinary teams and Gitxsan peoples, to improve health outcomes.” Students spend three weeks training on reserve at the Gitxsan Health Society and three weeks in Hazleton in hospital, public health, and diagnostic and treatments centre settings, adds TRU. TRU (BC)

Expert panel to assess IP, innovation in ON universities

Ontario says that it plans to convene a panel of experts to assess the effectiveness of provincially funded institutions that commercialize innovations. The Globe and Mailreports that the panel is expected to study how to make post-secondary institutions and related startup accelerators more focused on generating intellectual property to boost economic growth. Sources say that the panel will focus on improving the province’s return on investment in tech-focused institutions while encouraging small and medium-sized businesses to commercialize the work of these institutions. Further, the panel would also look at how to educate post-secondary institutions on the importance of IP and how to share expertise among schools. Globe and Mail (ON)

“Painting a more complete picture” of student achievement with micro-credentials

The use of micro-credentials or badges in academia is one that “stirs both excitement and unease,” writes Jennifer Lewington. Supporters say that these credentials offer a better way to represent students’ achievements and learned skills, especially skills that employers seek but which typically do not appear on a traditional transcript. David Porter, chief executive officer of ecampusOntario, notes that today’s employers are looking for assurance that future graduates have technical knowledge and broad competencies to make them adaptable in an technology-driven economy. Porter adds that post-secondary institutions across Canada are now testing micro-credentials and badges as a supplement to the academic transcript, with a focus on volunteer activities, internships, and other activities that complete a picture of the whole student. Maclean's (National)

Healthy ways to deal with academic rejection

“When all applicants are equally talented, the final decision often comes down to factors that are completely beyond our control,” writes Andrea Eidinger in an article about how to cope with rejection on the academic job market. The author offers a series of tips to aspiring academics that include accepting one’s feelings, not allowing the experience to undermine one’s sense of self-worth, and being willing to reach out for help and lean on close friends and loved ones. University Affairs (National)

New investment sparks next-gen battery research at Western

Western University has officially opened GLABAT Solid-State Battery Inc, which will be located in the campus’ Research Park. A Western release states that the company was borne out of a 2017 partnership between Engineering professor Andy Sun and the China Automotive Battery Research Institute Co Ltd, which initially invested $3.35M to create the Solid State Battery Research Joint Laboratory. “[GLABAT] will be the incubator of new technologies and products to contribute to the future electrical vehicle,” said CABRI President Baiqing Xiong. “I want to thank Western and the City of London for their support as we transform research results from the lab to practical battery prototypes.” Western (ON)