Business? Engineering? Arts? You may be surprised.
Engineering students have been known to curse friends in other majors. That’s because they often spend hours sitting in their residence rooms sweating over near impossible differential equations while their non-engineering roommates leisurely read a couple chapters and then head out to party.
Then again, ask an arts major how hard they’re working and they’ll start rattling off the number of essays they have due.
But finally, it’s settled. Engineering students study more. The new release of the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) shows that North American Engineering students spend 19 hours per week, on average, preparing for class. Arts, humanities and biology majors study 17 hours per week. Social science and business students study only 14 hours.
But don’t assume all non-engineers are slacking. Business students study the least, but they aren’t socializing any more. Instead, they work seven hours more per week at paying jobs. In fact, if you add jobs and study together, business students work the most—30 hours per week. Social sciences students work the least overall (27 hours). Engineering students are in the middle (28 hours).
NSSE, considered the gold standard of student surveys, involved polling of senior year students at 683 U.S. and 68 Canadian institutions in 2011. It had a response rate of 33 per cent.
Eight apps that can help students save money
From the Maclean’s University Rankings. For more university advice, get your copy today!
Let’s face it: university is expensive. Between tuition, textbooks and having a social life, the cost adds up quickly. Luckily, smartphones can cut costs with a range of apps designed to manage money and track expenses. Forget bank tellers. Since the first mobile banking application became available in Canada in early 2010, the number of Canadians using daily mobile banking has climbed to more than 2.5 million, according to a July report by the Toronto-based Solutions Research Group.
Not surprisingly, the number of apps has also exploded. Here, in no particular order, are the top eight for saving money via your smartphone.
1. Mobile banking apps
Available for: iPhone, iPod Touch, Android, BlackBerry or any Internet-enabled device
Standing in line at the bank is as exciting as a library tour. Luckily, Canada’s “Big Five”—the Royal Bank of Canada, Toronto Dominion Bank, Bank of Nova Scotia, Bank of Montreal and Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce—all offer a full suite of mobile apps for everyday banking transactions such as checking account balances, paying bills, and transferring money. Plus, you can use your bank’s ATM locator to avoid wallet-gouging fees from machines outside your bank’s network.
Why Canadian students graduate with more debt, not less
Canadians are graduating with more debt than their American counterparts—despite the well-known higher sticker prices south of the border.
In the U.S., average debt at graduation rose to $25,250 in 2010, according to a Nov. 3 report by the Project on Student Debt. Here in Canada, students were graduating with an average debt of $26,680 according to a 2009 report released by the Millennium Scholarship Foundation. If anything, the Canadian average is higher now.
The numbers seem almost impossible: isn’t tuition ridiculously high in the U.S.?
In my opinion, they’re paid well enough already.
More than 1,000 students at Brandon University have signed a petition asking for their tuition money back because of a faculty strike that caused classes to be cancelled since Oct. 12.
But the Brandon University Student’s Union (BUSU), which has collected the signatures, doesn’t blame the professors—who are striking for the second time in three years—for their three weeks of missed classes. BUSU supports the picketing profs. They agree they’re underpaid.
But are Brandon’s professors really underpaid? More importantly—are professors underpaid in general? It’s a question students and taxpayers should ask—they’re the ones who pay the bills.
Career expectations differ by generation
How much money do university students expect to make once they’re established in their careers?
The answer, revealed in a new study on the differences between generations’ career expectations, is one that Professor Sean Lyons, co-author of the study and University of Guelph business professor, finds “shocking.”
Millenial students, those are born in 1980 or later, expect average first-year salaries of $48,860 for men and $42,060 for women. That’s not much above what current university graduates actually make: $43,119 for men and $35,926 for women.
What’s surprising is that, after five years, Millenial women expect to make an average of $67,766 and Millenial men expect to rake in $84,868. To get there, men would need average annual salary increases of 14.8 per cent and women would need to grow their salaries 12.8 per cent per year. In real life, the average annual salary increase per year in more like three per cent.
Parents are expected to pay. But what if they can’t or won’t?
University of New Brunswick student Ben Whitney has a $5,000 hole in his budget this year thanks to the re-introduction of the parental contribution requirement for student loan funding in that province. He was loaned $8,000 last year, before the change. This year, the third-year student got just $3,000 because of what his parents—a middle manager and a secretary—took home last year from work. The 20-year-old’s parents are expected to make-up the difference. It’s money that Whitney says his parents don’t have this year.
But the issue of parental contributions, which he’s taken up with verve, means a lot more to him than sudden penury. “It’s also a matter of principle,” says Whitney. “As an adult, I shouldn’t have to depend on my parents until I’m 22,” he says. “It’s also a matter of pride to have to call my parents and ask, can you send me $20 so I can buy a bottle of shampoo?” he says. But he can’t afford such luxuries otherwise, even with a part-time job.
Students explore Jay-Z, Rap Poetics, Religion and Hip Hop
Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. has launched a new course centred on the works of rapper Jay-Z, reports The Nation.
It’s getting a lot of attention, but it’s certainly not the first time that a prestigious university has used hip-hop to help students explore big questions.
Sociology of Hip Hop: Jay-Z has units on “Hustling Hermeneutics” and the “Monster of the Double Entendre.” The course is popular so far, with 140 signed up—about three-times the normal enrollment for a Georgetown seminar.
“Many are white kids—they bring a level of criticism about the culture they have emerged from… because they’ve seen that culture through Jay-Z’s eyes,” course instructor Michael Eric Dyson told The Nation, explaining the course’s popularity among a student body that’s only 6.7 per cent African-American.
McMaster, Alberta, Montreal, Ottawa and Queen’s leap ahead
Eighteen Canadian universities are in the Times Higher Education’s Top 400 Rankings for 2012, the same number as in 2011. But take a look at the schools’ positions in last year’s Top 200 Rankings (in parentheses) and you’ll see that more Canadian schools improved this year—some greatly—than fell in rank.
The U.S. dominated once again with 18 of the Top 25 universities, compared to four for the U.K., two for Canada and one for Switzerland.
You’ll notice that big schools with huge amounts of research funding dominate the list. That’s because research and citations account for 60 per cent of the marks. For a fuller ranking of Canadian schools, click here for the Maclean’s 2010 Rankings or pick up a copy of our 2011 Rankings, out on newsstands in late October.
Nursing Guys Club created at University of Calgary
The University of Calgary has attracted so many male nurses that third-year student Tyler Hume felt compelled to start a Nursing Guys Club, reports the Calgary Herald. The school is roughly 13 per cent male. It may seem like a low figure, but it’s up from roughly nine per cent the previous year.
It’s also much higher than the 6.2 per cent national average for the profession, according to a 2010 study by the Canadian Nurses Association.
Prof. Pettigrew explains the basics of grad school
Even if you’ve just started university, you may already be wondering what graduate school is all about. By “graduate school” I don’t mean professional programs like law or medicine or education; I’m talking about continuing your studies in the same academic discipline you’re majoring in now, like Anthropology or Physics at the master’s level. Obviously, every school and program will have unique features, and you should do your own research to decide where to go and what to take. But here are a few thoughts to help you decide whether a graduate degree may be right for you in the first place.
1. Is it hard to get into a graduate program?
Yes. Graduate programs will often give a minimum requirement for admission (say a B or a B-) but in reality, the standards are usually much higher. You will generally need at least an A- average.
Scott Dobson-Mitchell reviews five apps for students
1) FoodBot [mobile site]
Nevermind medical diagnoses or space exploration. Artificial intelligence has found a more important calling — locating free food on campus! FoodBot combs the web for events where free food has been advertised, such as fundraisers, job fairs and council meetings. It puts them on a calendar that details quality, quantity, time commitment, and — importantly — awkwardness. Too bad it’s only available at a few schools so far.
Study, research and procrastinate like never before!
There’s nothing worse than paying $100 for a book that’s going to make your life miserable (I’m thinking of you, Organic Chemistry). In some cases, you might think that you’re actually finding it interesting, but it’s probably Stockholm Syndrome. Once rescued from your hostage takers by the sweet December holiday break, you won’t want to see that book ever again.
That’s where sites like AbeBooks come in. You can buy used copies for a fraction of the regular price, or older editions that are even cheaper. In most cases, older editions are practically identical to new ones, except for a few diagrams. When you’re finished, sell the books back to the site.
From cheese to zombies, there’s something for everyone
Regardless of your school, you can typically choose from dozens of clubs to find one that suits your interests, whether it be sports, the arts, politics…. or cheese. After scouring the club listings of dozens of universities across the country, I give you my list of The Top 10 Weirdest Campus Clubs in Canada
10. 420 Green Club, Mount Royal University
The club raises awareness of Marijuana “so that our members can become more responsible users and get a better understanding of the real pro’s and con’s [sic] of using Cannabis, myths aside.”
School raised price by nearly 90 per cent
Before the 2009-10 school year, the program had cost only $3,400. Last year, they raised the price by nearly 90 per cent to $29,500, prompting the Ministry of Education to fine them $2.1 million for breaking regulations. Quebec requires universities to charge domestic (Quebec) students a uniform rate, which is currently just over $70 per credit for most programs. A typical 30-credit school year costs roughly $2,100.
The new deal redefines the program as a “specialized MBA” with a focus on international business and a “mandatory study trip abroad.” Specialized MBAs are not subject to the same strict regulations. Concordia offers an EMBA with tuition at $34,000. McGill and the HEC Montréal offer a joint EMBA that costs $72,000.
Some student groups have criticized the decision. The Fédération étudiante universitaire du Québec, the province’s largest student lobby group, and the McGill Post Graduate Students’ Society issued a joint statement describing it as a step towards two-tiered education.
However, another student group — McGill’s MBA Student Association — supports the school. They condemned the government’s fine and released a survey claiming that 70 per cent of students in the program supported the increase.
Line Beauchamp, the Minister of Education, wrote that McGill is not getting special treatment. “This isn’t an exception, because there are other institutions in Quebec that already offer programs with a similar status,” she said.
McGill’s new price may allow it to better compete with other schools. The University of Toronto charges residents $40,000 per year for its MBA program; the University of Western Ontario’s one-year MBA program has a price tag of $73,500 for Canadians.
Wilfred Zerbe, Memorial University’s Dean of Business, suggested in May that tuition fees there should climb too. Currently, Memorial charges MBA students $4,400 per year. He says the school could attract better students and offer more support with tuition fees closer to $10,000 per year.
Profs working in Canada “must have no record of Falun Gong”
A rule imposed by Confucius Institutes — an educational arm of the Chinese government that operates on at least eight Canadian campuses — breaks “all human rights codes in Canada,” human rights lawyer Clive Ansley told The Epoch Times.
The main CI website says that overseas volunteer Chinese teachers must have “no record of participation in Falun Gong,” a spiritual practice with roots in Buddhism and Taoism. China’s government vehemently opposes the practice and has arrested and killed many adherents, according to Amnesty International.
Barb Pollock, vice president of external relations at the University of Regina, told The Epoch Times that she did not know about the rule, but promised that her school’s agreements with China “have everything to do with academic freedom.” She also said that although teachers are selected by their Chinese partner, Hunan University, “what they teach [here] is our business.”
In June, the University of Manitoba rejected the idea of a Confucius Institute on campus. The University of British Columbia has also declined. But more than 320 exist worldwide, where they offer credit and non-credit courses in language and history.
China says that the funding of CIs—$150,000 initially and up to $200,000 per year after that— is meant to promote cultural understanding. But along with the money, schools have signed constitutions that say that “institute activities must … respect cultural customs, and shall not contravene concerning laws and regulations in Canada and China.”
Terry Russell, an Asian Studies professor at Manitoba, says that such rules compromise academic freedom, because academics are dissuaded from discussing Taiwan, Tibet, Falun Gong, or the Tiananmen Square massacre. That could result in an unrealistically positive view of China among the students who pass through the credit courses they offer in Canada, he says.
Professor Pettigrew proposes an entirely new system
A few years ago, a colleague told me that when he was a TA, he was told never to give a grade below 45. The reason was that students earning a very low grade would dig themselves into a hole and wouldn’t be able to pass the course. At the time, I scoffed at such a practice. After all, it’s unfair to give a student who did next to nothing a 45 when another student who just fell short the same 45. And what if the student doesn’t turn in the paper at all? A 45 for nothing?
Another way to view this problem, as Douglas Reeves has argued, is to note that the standard A, B,C, D, F grading system over-punishes missed assignments which get graded at zero. Actually, it’s worse: any serious failure is systemically unfair because the F range is, compared to other grades, huge.
Still further, the traditional scale forces professors to grade with a very narrow range. Most papers are somewhere between D- and B+, a range that uses only thirty points (50-79) out of one hundred.
The solution is to revise the percentage system to equally distribute grades over the whole range from zero to one hundred. We change to old system:
to a new system:
Now, I’m not suggesting that a failing paper that used to deserve a 40 under the old system would now pass. What I mean is that the paper that deserved a 40 under the old system would now be given a 16 in the new system. The numbers are different but represent the same thing, just as 0 Celsius is no colder than 32 Fahrenheit.
The new system means that one disastrous failure or one missed assignment in an otherwise decent performance doesn’t cause a student to fail the whole course. For instance, imagine a student, Mishrump Middleton, who has four equally-weighted assignments in his course and earns a C- on the first three but fails to turn in the last one.
Mishrump is no Rhodes Scholar, obviously, but he probably doesn’t deserve to fail the course. But, under the old system, Mishrump gets a 45 as his final grade — an F — and fails because that single zero drags him down. But under my system, Mishrump gets a 30 which, remember, is now a D and so still gets credit for the course, which, intuitively, he probably deserves. Put another way, Mishrump gets the equivalent of the old 55 instead of the old 45 because the grades are more logically distributed.
But how can I use my new system? I can’t simply give a C- student a grade of 40 and expect everyone else at my university to know that what I mean by 40 is not the same as what they mean by 40. And even if I could get my whole university to switch over to my system, it might be confusing to others if Cape Breton University’s transcripts showed a middling student with a 45 average instead of a 62. The whole country will have to make the switch.
In the meantime, I have a solution for my own classes. I will give students letter grades but calculate their grades using my new scale. Then, at the end of the course, I will translate those grades back into the standard percentages. It will be more work, but it beats giving every failing paper a 45.
Click to see who made more than $1-million last year
Here are the Top 10 highest paid university officials in Canada, ranked by their base salaries.*
1. David Johnson
University of Waterloo president (now Governor General of Canada) — $1,041,881
2. Moriarty William
president of the University of Toronto Asset Management Corp. — $697,020
3. Amit Chakma
vice-president of the University of Waterloo (but president of Western as of July, 2010) — $500,000
Not all English professors like Pride and Prejudice
Every once in a while someone asks me what I think about a certain novel or play and I remark that I haven’t read it. And they seem shocked. Or disappointed. I’m an English professor, after all. How could I not have read that book?
Sometimes I try to explain that while I have not read Great Expectations, I have read David Copperfield, and Bleak House, and A Tale of Two Cities, and Oliver Twist, and A Christmas Carol. Can we talk about those? And then I make a mental note to try not to admit to not having read anything ever again.
It’s hard for academics to admit to not knowing things because knowledge is our trade. Carpenters frame walls, plumbers connect pipes, professors know everything about their respective fields. Except, of course, that they don’t. And can’t. There are always things we ought to know, or that people assume we ought to know, but never got around to. You can, of course, steer the conversation away from such lacunae, or, more shamefully, pretend to know things you don’t. When I was a graduate student, I gave a conference paper about Arthur Miller’s autobiography. Unfortunately for me, the room was filled with Miller experts and one of them asked me about how the issues I dealt with in my paper were handled in After the Fall, a play I had not read. I panicked for a moment and then stammered something about not having considered that angle until the moderator stepped in and saved me. Still, not having read everything that Arthur Miller ever wrote is far from my worst secret. I have one that is much worse.
I have never read a Jane Austen novel.
It’s not for lack of trying. I made a real effort in first year with Pride and Prejudice, but I found it insufferable. I tried again a few years later with the same result. Last year I had a spirited conversation with a colleague who convinced me to have a go at, I think, Northanger Abbey, but it, like Pride and Prejudice, had the paradoxical effect of making me anxious and sleepy at the same time. Austen is witty without being funny, like Oscar Wilde’s inane big sister, and I just can’t stand it.
Thankfully, I’m not the only one who feels this way. Though he might have been kidding some of the time, Mark Twain liked to take shots at Austen. “Any library is a good library that does not contain a volume by Jane Austen,” Twain wrote, and he once expressed a gruesome fantasy about digging her up and giving her a good beating. I know the feeling.
The worst part is that this summer I asked my students to write about how a notable work of literature has been adapted to film. There were only four students in the class, so I pretty much let them choose whatever book and film they wanted, provided I would be able to get my hands on both. You can probably guess where this is going.
The first essay is on Pride and Prejudice. So now I have to read it. I’m not that shameless.
Hint: it’s not chemistry.
Ever since I started studying for the MCAT, I’ve been worried about the physics section.
Apparently it’s just an irrational fear. Whenever I’ve brought it up here in my blog, most commenters have assured me that the physics questions are so basic, Forrest Gump could answer them all correctly and have enough time left over to start narrating his life story to the person sitting next to him. Which, of course, is why everyone who writes the test gets a perfect score on the physics section.
It turns out I might have been worrying about the wrong section. Apparently the lowest-scored section on the MCAT isn’t the physical sciences. Or biological sciences. It’s the verbal reasoning section.
According to this chart from the AAMC, verbal reasoning had the lowest mean score among test takers in 2010. The physical sciences, which consists of general chemistry and physics questions, had a mean score of 8.3. The verbal reasoning section had a mean score of 7.9 (this is on a 15 point scale). And Examkrackers claims that the average score on verbal reasoning is a 61 per cent.
For some reason I always thought that verbal reasoning was the section that most people could expect to score decently on. Perhaps it’s because, unlike the physical or biological sciences, there isn’t any specific background knowledge required.
But after looking at some practice problems, I think I’ve realized why it’s the toughest section. Most of the questions were apparently designed by Confucius, with some editorial input by Yoda and Master Po.
1. According to the passage, an image is a versatile tool that:
A) is always visual, never abstract.
B) can be either abstract or visual.
C) is always abstract, never visual.
D) is neither visual nor abstract.
That leaves me with a new hobby for this summer. Instead of whining about physics, like I’ve been doing for the past couple months, I plan to whine about verbal reasoning instead.
This scientist proves that good communication makes great lectures
In 1986, to recognize the importance of university teaching, the Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education and 3M Canada created the 3M National Teaching Fellowships. Ten university faculty members are recognized each year for their educational leadership and exceptional contributions to teaching. Maclean’s On Campus is profiling all 10 of this year’s winners. For our final profile, we look at Leslie Reid, a professor of geoscience at the University of Calgary.
Most 3M fellows will tell you that they were inspired by a specific teacher when they were younger. Leslie Reid will tell you that she is mainly inspired by her students, whose feedback — occasionally harsh feedback — is constantly improving her lectures.
“When I was a student, I had a hard time connecting in classes where there wasn’t two-way communication,” says Reid. “So I have striven to create learning environments where students have a voice.”
Those student voices have told her that they learn best with topics like climate change, earthquakes and volcanoes — the really awe-inspiring stuff that geoscientific principles help to explain.
But even less thrilling topics are made awe-inspiring with Reid’s techniques. To explain the concept of geologic time concept she weaves seemingly-infinite amounts of climbing rope through row upon row of students, asking them to hang on. The rope has flags every-so-often, which identify important geologic events and show the distances between them. The visual representation is hard for students to ignore; it’s literally in their hands.
But that rope between students symbolizes something else about Reid’s tactics — she makes students interact with each other. Curtis Morrison, who took three of her classes, says she was able to coax the entire room into a group discussion almost every single class.
That would keep things interesting. “It’s always fun when a lecture on plate tectonics gets derailed into a heated discussion about what to do if an earthquake shock was to hit the lecture theatre,” says Morrison. He says another way that she encouraged group discussion was by remembering nearly every student’s name, which can be a challenge in classes of up to 200 students.
Reid’s communication is aided by another quality too — she has “an infinite supply of patience for an infinite supply of questions,” says Morrison. Some professors are only interested in questions from budding geologists, but not Reid.
“Rocks are not for everybody,” admits Morrison. “But if you sat in on one of [Reid's] lecutres, you would probably learn more than you ever thought possible about the marvels of the earth.”
You might also learn that the best teachers are those who encourage feedback and discussion.