All Posts Tagged With: "British Columbia"
Ski and Board club members divided over value
There’s a popular saying among members of the Ski and Board Club at the University of British Columbia, one such member reports: “If you can’t find a better solution, there’s always the lodge.”
In the future, there might not be. Whistler Lodge, in the famous resort town two hours up the coast from Vancouver, may be sold to help improve the financial situation of the Alma Mater Society, the undergraduate student group that owns it.
One might expect an uproar about losing the 42-bed chalet built in 1965 but even Ski and Board Club members are divided on whether it’s worth keeping.
Platform also includes ferry rate freeze
British Columbia’s Opposition New Democrats promised Wednesday to freeze ferry rates for two years while conducting an audit of BC Ferries’ operations, targeting a service that coastal residents have made a sport of griping about in the face of increasing fares and reductions in service.
The NDP released its plan for BC Ferries on the second day of the campaign for the May 14 election, including it among a list of platform promises that also pledged hundreds of millions of dollars for skills training programs and post-secondary education grants.
The Liberals immediately attacked the announcements, saying the NDP had already committed to spending $1 billion, which the governing party said was far more than the province can afford.
If elected, an NDP government would launch an audit to determine how BC Ferries can save money or shift resources to keep fares low and ensure the service is meeting the needs of coastal communities, said party Leader Adrian Dix.
Prof. Pettigrew is skeptical
This week, the B.C. government announced its plan to make free textbooks available to its students. This is one of those concoctions that smells delicious until you get a bit closer. And then it seems half baked. And then you realize it might even have been a recipe for disaster all along.
First, it is not at all clear who will be writing these books. None of the published reports I have seen make this point clear, and the government press release says they will be “created” with “input” from faculty and others. That sounds ominous. The only textbook that sounds worse than a free government textbook is a free government textbook created by a committee.
Even more ominous, none of the “quotes” in their press release is from an actual university instructor. Were faculty even consulted about this scheme?
Premier Christy Clark announces plan to forgive more loans, provide more help with repayment
B.C. Premier Christy Clark announced her government’s plan to help students repay their provincial loans. Effective July 1, students with incomes above the previous limit to receive relief will qualify for reduced repayments, the Province reports.
“The new repayment assistance plan is based on the borrowers ability to pay, meaning that income, family size and student loan debt-load are all accounted for in the eligibility process,” Clark told reporters, quoted by the Province. “Our goal is to replace previous programs that were intended to help students manage their loans.”
The changes will help students in two stages, Clark explained. The first will help students pay the interest on their debt, while the second will focus on paying down the principal on their loans.
Average student debt in B.C. is more than $27,000 after the completion of a four-year program, the highest of any province west of the Maritimes, according to the Canadian Federation of Students-British Columbia. The organization says tuition fees in the province have more than doubled since 2001.
Public funds should not go to political parties: Minister
A Simon Fraser University official spent $2,045 of university money to attend seven B.C. Liberal Party fundraisers, the Vancouver Sun has revealed. The official in question, director of government relations Wilf Hurd, is a former Liberal Member of the Legislative Assembly himself.
Don MacLachlan, an SFU spokesperson, told the Vancouver Sun that the university had no policy on such expenses until now, but he promised that such donations will not be allowed in the future.
Liberal Minister of Advanced Education Naomi Yamamoto said that such donations are wrong. “I don’t think taxpayer dollars or public funds should be going to political parties,” she said.
It’s not just B.C. where university officials have used public money to attend political events. The University of Lethbridge, Athabasca University, Portage College and Grande Prairie Regional College have all illegally donated to the Alberta Progressive Conservatives, CBC News reports.
Will study moving
British Columbia has provided $1.7 million to create a business plan for moving Emily Carr University of Art and Design to a new location in Vancouver’s east on Great Northern Way.
The 1,800-student school is currently on Granville Island, a very desirable area near downtown.
Advanced Education Minister Naomi Yamamoto noted how crowded the school has become when she made the announcement on Monday.
The news comes just after B.C. released its 2012 budget, which includes a $70-million cut to higher education over the next three years.
“While we’re exercising spending restraint across government and asking our public post-secondary institutions to find administrative efficiencies, we’re also providing carefully considered, responsible investments,” Yamamoto said in a release of the funding for Emily Carr.
A cluster of educational institutes including the University of British Columbia’s Department of Art History, Visual Art and Theory and the British Columbia Institute of Technology’s Centre for Architectural Ecology are already located on Great Northern Way.
Although Emily Carr has an increasing number of applications, other Canadian art schools are struggling to attract students. Queen’s University’s Fine Arts program was recently suspended.
Would cost $12-million more
Vancouver’s transit authority has released a report on the viability of a gondola to ferry students and professors up Burnaby Mountain to Simon Fraser University. The report by CH2M Hill found that it would cost $12-million more than using buses over a 25-year period. That means it won’t be built anytime soon. The option may be considered in a “future strategic transportation plan,” says TransLink. Many people supported the aerial alternative because winter weather often keeps buses from navigating the icy roads and because the gondola may be more environmentally friendly than buses. However, the gondola was opposed by some homeowners who would have lived underneath it.
Kwantlen University to capitalize on trend
Kwantlen Polytechnic University is looking for a couple dozen recruits for its new four-year Bachelor of Applied Science in sustainable small-scale agriculture, reports the Vancouver Sun.
The degree will focus on agriculture that saves energy. Students will take business, biology, soil management and complete a hands-on practicum in year three. It will be taught mainly in Langley.
There’s growing interested in sustainable agriculture on Canadian campuses. To learn more, read The dirt on Farming by Jason McBride from the 21st Maclean’s University Rankings.
We’ve heard of the rural shortage. But a suburban shortage?
Just months after British Columbia opened its first new law school in 30 years, a top lawyer is advocating for another one, this time in Surrey.
B.C.’s newest law school is at Thomson Rivers University in Kamloops, where its mission is, in part, to address the rural lawyer shortage.
Tony Wilson, an adjuct professor at Simon Fraser University, makes the argument that there’s a pending shortage in suburban Surrey too. He notes that the city near Vancouver is projected to be the biggest in B.C. by 2020. Surrey grew by 13.6 per cent between 2001 and 2006.
There’s plenty of work, Wilson argues in his letter to Canadian Lawyer. “Surery has… clients, many of them in real estate, real estate development, or other small or medium-sized businesses,” he says, “and if you’re into criminal law, the newspapers would suggest that opportunities abound.”
When all teachers are paid the same, hard work isn’t worth it
There is virtually no other profession in Canada whereby termination due to incompetence is so rarely handed down.
In recent years, the annual average of termination due to poor performance for teachers was just 0.002 per cent Ontario, and zero in many major city boards across the country. Unsurprisingly, teachers’ unions are some of the strongest unions in Canada and besides job security, most express unequivocal support for the pay-for-seniority type wage model. So when British Columbia Liberal leadership candidate Kevin Falcon proposed the idea of merit pay for educators, the B.C. Teachers’ Federation—predictably—was not in favour.
But there is support for the proposition, and it’s easy to see why. The remarkable security enjoyed by teachers across the board and rewards based on amount of time served (not quality of time served) in no way motivates improved performance. Of course, there are teachers who take it upon themselves to seek new challenges and improve their methods of teaching, but those who don’t are rewarded just the same. The logic is backwards for a society that is supposedly meritocratic. When those who strive for excellence and those who just coast along are rewarded just the same, it sends the message that hard work really isn’t worth the effort. That is, unless we find some new form of trade involving intrinsic worth.
The obvious problem with merit pay lies in its application. Is there really a valid way to measure merit? It’s easier in some professions—real estate, for example. But it’s more difficult to measure the efficacy of teaching without employing some sort of standardized testing. These tests are limited still in that students’ scores are often based on a variety of factors (parental involvement, community values, socio-economic status, etc.) and do not necessarily reflect the instructor’s ability to teach the material. The idea is further complicated when you consider that teachers—some of them, at least—are exceptional not for their ability to break down the complexities of learning logarithms, but for their roles as classroom mentors. One of my best teachers once told me that the lessons I’ll learn from taking a look around once in a while will surely outweigh anything I’ll pick up from a book. Of course, that sort of attitude won’t ensure the best standardized test results, but its impact is still valuable. Those sort of intangibles are practically immeasurable.
If Falcon was serious about his proposal (which, based on the amount of political pandering that’s gone on during this campaign, I’d say is doubtful), it would be worth running a pilot campaign in a few schools before overhauling the B.C. education system altogether. Testing should measure improvement in a single class over a single school year—say September to June to see how students have progressed—rather than comparing scores from across the province. And teachers should be assessed for their non-academic contributions to the classroom as well. Just like in other professions, exceptional teachers should be entitled to higher pay, but only if we can properly identify who the exceptional ones are.
Translink is taking proposals to determine the feasibility of a 30-person gondola linking Production Way SkyTrain Station to SFU
Simon Fraser University students may be getting a new way to hitch a ride to school. In response to growing demand for more sustainable, reliable transit service to the mountaintop campus, Translink, B.C.’s transit authority, is taking proposals to determine the feasibility of a 30-person gondola linking Production Way SkyTrain Station in Burnaby to SFU. The proposed 2.6-km sky lift would cost an estimated $70 million, and effectively replace the need for Translink’s fleet of 60-foot diesel buses to travel up and down the mountain’s steep, icy slopes each winter—a route that is closed between 10 and 15 days a year due to heavy snowfall, often causing class cancellations. The new service, say proponents, could also be responsible for removing some 50,000 hours of bus service from the mountain.
“It would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by about 1,870 tonnes in the first year alone,” says Gordon Harris, president and CEO of SFU Community Trust, which initially raised the idea with Translink. SFU Community Trust’s initial feasibility study estimated that a gondola could save Translink $1.6 million a year in operating costs.
Modelled after the Peak 2 Peak Gondola, which connects Whistler and Blackcomb mountains, the new route could potentially move up to 3,000 people an hour in roughly half the regular transit time—about eight minutes. But despite community enthusiasm for the project, Translink must prioritize. “We do not, at this point, have money for expansion,” says Translink spokesman Ken Hardie. The money to get this project off the ground, he suggests, may have to come from some sort of public-private partnership.
Maybe we should just convert high school diplomas to degrees
One way to create more university spaces is to build classrooms, or erect new universities. Another is to just rename an existing institution a “university.” While Dalton McGuinty is not adverse to creating more classroom space, largely by shifting the classroom to the internet, his Open Ontario plan also includes a rebranding of the Ontario College of Art and Design (OCAD), as a university. Well sort of. Judging from the proposed name change–the Ontario College of Art and Design University–suggests that OCAD will still just be a lowly college but also a swanky new university.
(editor’s note: OCAD received independent degree granting status in 2002)
This bipolar approach to naming institutions is something of a fetish in Canada. As is the presumption that renaming every college a university will somehow improve educational quality. For years, British Columbia designated several schools as “university colleges” before renaming them universities in 2008. The name change, of course, didn’t bring with it any new expectations for the institutions.
More weirdly, last spring the Manitoba government gave William and Catherine Booth College, the right to market itself as “A Christian University College” despite the fact that the school has no plans to include the word “university” into its title. Advanced education minister, Diane McGifford, defended the decision by dismissing concerns that Booth College has been granted amnesty for lying. “They’re using the term university college solely for the purpose of advertising,” she said at the time.
We use to take universities to be institutions that offered a broad range of degree programs and research in at least the core arts and science disciplines. Now we take the term to mean any institution that offers a degree in anything. I don’t intend to diminish OCAD, but is a specialized school that only offers degrees in fine arts and design. If it were an American institution, it would be a college, and it would not feel too bad about it.
To be clear, I don’t think there is anything wrong with a college education. Colleges are not inferior to universities, but they do have different goals, and this name game is little more than a gimmick designed to confuse.
Sometimes schools evolve and become legitimate universities (Ryerson for instance) but the problem isn’t so much with what we call schools, but with the fact that all you have to do to elevate your institution is lobby the province. The same way one might lobby city council to change the name of a street.
Rebranding allows the government to say it is creating more university spaces, without actually having to do anything. So I have a suggestion for McGuinty, if you think the proportion of Ontarians who are university educated is too low, why not just convert high school diplomas to degrees? No good?
Dalhousie stops accepting credit cards for tuition to save on transaction fees
For the story, click here.
Don’t be born in Ontario
For med school hopefuls, Ontario might seem like the perfect province to live in.
There are 17 med schools in the country. Six of those are in Ontario, more than any other province. But as I recently discovered, being born in Ontario is actually a huge handicap.
Most med schools prefer applicants from their own province. It makes sense: if you train local doctors, you produce local doctors. It’s not unusual to reserve 85 percent or even 90 percent of the available seats for in-province applicants. Most med schools even have higher entrance requirements for out-of-province applicants.
Everyone likes their own brand.
Except for Ontario. Not a single med school in Ontario reserves spots for Ontario applicants.
On the surface, the Northern Ontario School of Medicine and the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry at the University of Western Ontario might seem like exceptions to the rule. On it’s website, Northern says that it encourages applications from “students who are from Northern Ontario and/or students who have a strong interest in and aptitude for practicing medicine in northern urban, rural and remote communities.” Western Ontario gives special consideration to applicants from “rural/regional communities in Southwestern Ontario.”
But neither of these med schools actually reserve spots for in-province applicants. Not to mention, those “rural and remote” communities that Northern Ontario mentions could actually be anywhere across Canada.
McMaster’s policy is a bit more complicated. They don’t actually reserve med school spots for in-province applicants. Instead, they award 90 percent of interview positions for Ontario residents.
Yeah, I know. I had to read that twice, too.
It means that once you reach the interview stage, it doesn’t matter which province you’re from.
Even if McMaster offered a genuine advantage to in-province applicants, it wouldn’t make much of a difference anyway. With over 4500 applicants and a success rate of 4.9 per cent in 2006/2007, getting into McMaster is like winning the med school lottery.
UBC dominates the top ten, but it’s probably not who you think
The head of the University of British Columbia is earning one of the biggest paycheques in British Columbia’s public sector, according to new executive compensation figures recently released by the provincial government.
In the 2008/2009 academic year, UBC president and vice-chancellor Stephen Toope brought home $575,813, which includes nearly $200,000 in pension contributions and a housing allowance.
But topping the list for total post-secondary compensation in the province is former University of Northern British Columbia president and vice-chancellor Don Cozzetto. While he only received $47,958 in salary last year, he was also paid nearly $600,000 in severance, pension, relocation, tuition waivers, housing allowance, car allowance and vacation payout. That made him, by far, the best-paid public-sector employee in the province. (Right-click to open chart in new tab.)
With salaries ranging from $311,951 to Toope’s $575,813, the University of British Columbia dominates the top-10 list of top-earning university officials in the province. The university, in its disclosure, gives thereasoning behind the six-digit salaries.
“As one of the highest ranked universities in Canada, and one of the top 40 universities in the world, UBC seeks to retain and attract the best senior administrators it can by remaining competitive in its compensation practices with other large research-intensive universities,” reads the document’s preface. “Compensation values for senior administrative roles reflect a weighting of public and private sector values, with a clear weighting in favour of the public sector, and more particularly UBC’s university competitors in Canada and internationally.”
Toope is currently earning the third-highest salary of all provincial public service employees. Simon Fraser University president Michael Stevenson (at $483,665) and University of Victoria president David Turpin (at $467,671) are also on the top-10 list of overall compensation, weighing in at ninth and tenth respectively.
While high, these figures can be compared to the salary of University of Alberta president Indira Samarasekera, who earned $627,000 in salary and benefits in the 2007/2008 fiscal year. Her number two, provost Carl Amrhein, earned $618,000, while Phyllis Clark, VP of finance and administration, received total compensation worth $654,000 and Don Hickey, VP of facilities and operations, made $668,000.
In Ontario, McMaster University’s Peter George made $534,000 in salary and benefits in 2007/2008. Other top earners that year included University of Waterloo president David Johnston, who made $488,242 total compensation and York University president Mamdouh Shoukri, who, despite his university’s lengthy strike, took home $484,357. In fifth place was University of Guelph president Alastair Summerlee, who made a total of $464,013. For reasons discussed here, while pay packages may appear to be larger out West, it may be partly due to the fact that compensation disclosure by Alberta and B.C. universities is more honest and complete.
For more on university executive compensation, click here.
Media-shy Buddhist speaks exclusively to Maclean’s OnCampus about his time in British Columbia
Twenty-three years ago, a young Spanish toddler, born Osel Hita Torres, was recognized by the Dalai Lama as a reincarnated lama. The announcement made headlines around the world. Osel was identified as a Buddhist “golden child,” and was renamed Tenzin Ösel Rinpoche. His destiny was to lead the Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayna Tradition (FPMT), a Tibetan education organization, and to teach Buddhist principles to the west.
But destiny apparently had other plans. Late last month, following two interviews with Spanish media outlets, the world found out that the lama had rejected his new name. Moreover, if not quite denouncing the Buddhist order (an accusation he has since denied), he was quoted as distancing himself from his divine calling and the FPMT. As the world press seized the story, scores of sensational details emerged: That as a child, at times the only non-monk he was allowed to see was Richard Gere. That he was only allowed to watch the movie The Golden Child. That recently, he had shown up at the new-age music and art festival Burning Man.
To Buddhists around the world, he is a spiritual figurehead. To the media, he is an irresistible curiosity, an anointed religious leader who has possibly rejected his path. But to those who attended St. Michaels University School (SMUS), a private school in Victoria, he was simply Osel, the foreign transfer student who asked strange questions and said strange things. He may have been one of the most important religious figures in the world, but I heard the news, my first thought was: “That guy? The kid in my creative writing class who didn’t know what a Popsicle was?” Of course, if I had read some of his poetry, published in the annual Creative Writing 12 anthology, I might have had an inkling:
I convince myself existence is a course,
like the ones rivers take, downstream
with one way and no other
[excerpt from "Darkness", written by Osel Hita Torres in 2004]
Osel’s time in Canada happened very much by chance. From an early age, he traveled to monasteries and Buddhist centres around the world, in an effort to reacquaint himself with his reincarnated teacher. By the age of seven, Osel had settled at Sera monastery in India, where he was taught by monks, in relative seclusion, for a decade.
But by 2002, he needed a change. “I had to come out, I had to see what’s going on. I couldn’t know from the TV, or what people said, or from books, I had to experience it first-hand,” he told Maclean’s in an exclusive telephone interview. “I had the philosophy down, but I really didn’t know much about the outside world.”
After a period of time back home in Spain, he was placed under the guidance of Peter Kedge, a board member of the FPMT who had overseen his education. Kedge happened to live in Sooke, a small oceanside town on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, and it was there that Kedge went about trying to find a school that would take Osel.
B.C. grad students tell us what they think about their programs
After putting in four years or more to achieve an undergraduate degree, how likely is someone to dive in for more? Are graduate studies worth the cost, time and considerable commitment? A first-of-its-kind study in British Columbia is shedding light on what masters and doctoral students really think about their programs, and is helping to determine how relevant graduate studies are to the workplace.
B.C.’s Ministry of Advanced Education and the Universities Presidents’ Council surveyed the graduates in 2006 in order to measure graduate outcomes and to obtain feedback on the relationship between graduate education and the labour market. The online survey was administered to 3,602 graduates from the University of British Columbia, the University of Northern British Columbia, Royal Roads University, Simon Fraser University and the University of Victoria. Two cohort years were selected—2000-2001 and 2003-2004—in order to obtain sufficient data for analysis. In total, 929 masters and doctoral graduates responded, for an overall response rate of 25.7 per cent. (Article continues below.)
Selected charts from the B.C. University Survey of Graduates from Masters and Doctorate Programs:
Survey analyst Walter Sudmant believes this is the only survey of this type to examine graduate outcomes, and while it included some of the satisfaction questions typically found on surveys designed for undergrads, the survey also asked specific questions to measure whether or not grads were applying the higher level of thinking, creativity, research and teamwork skills they acquired during their grad work to their current jobs. Grads were also asked if they were employed in jobs related to their graduate program. “We talk about graduate students and how they are the true carriers of new knowledge into the economy,” says Sudmant, “yet we don’t have any evidence of that directly.” With the results of this survey showing a strong link between graduate education and the labour market, Sudmant observes: “Now we’ve got some data to back up our rhetoric.”
The study found that skills acquired during graduate studies are highly transferable to the workplace. Ninety-four percent of respondents stated that the knowledge, skills and abilities acquired during graduate education were very or somewhat useful in their work. The skill set cited included: specific techniques and methods; translating scholarly research into applications relevant to work; motivation to develop new ideas; and the ability to work as part of a research team. The study also found that 91 per cent of respondents found their job was very or somewhat related to their program. This compares to only 73 per cent of undergrad degree holders who see the same level of correlation between their job and their bachelor’s degree program.
Graduates expressed a high level of satisfaction with the education they received, with 93 per cent declaring they were satisfied or very satisfied. Similarly, 88 per cent said they would recommend their university to prospective students. Only 73 per cent, however, said they would take the same program again, suggesting room for improvement in the educational process. Student comments pointed to a number of areas of dissatisfaction, including the quality of supervision and course instruction, lack of timely feedback and access to committee members, cost of an education, perceived better opportunities in other provinces or in the United States, as well as changed interests and lack of career opportunities.
When asked about their reasons for pursuing graduate studies, 60 per cent of respondents cited the need to enhance career opportunities and 40 per cent included the desire to continue pursuing scholarly and research interests among their reasons. Only 3.4 per cent of respondents mentioned a lack of employment opportunities, challenging the notion that students enter graduate studies due to poor job prospects.
A university’s reputation is critical as competition for top students and researchers can be fierce. A solid reputation also helps attract corporate partners and donors. Survey respondents held a positive view of their alma maters with 85.6 per cent rating their institution as good or very good. In your opinion, how good is the university’s [...]
A university’s reputation is critical as competition for top students and researchers can be fierce. A solid reputation also helps attract corporate partners and donors. Survey respondents held a positive view of their alma maters with 85.6 per cent rating their institution as good or very good.
In your opinion, how good is the university’s reputation? (Click chart to enlarge.)
Source: B.C. University Survey of Graduates from Masters and Doctorate Programs
The high number of respondents (88 per cent) who said they would recommend their university to prospective students illustrates the high satisfaction levels among graduates of masters and doctoral programs. Other results from the survey suggest why those who have followed a course of graduate studies have reason to be happy: fewer than three per [...]
The high number of respondents (88 per cent) who said they would recommend their university to prospective students illustrates the high satisfaction levels among graduates of masters and doctoral programs. Other results from the survey suggest why those who have followed a course of graduate studies have reason to be happy: fewer than three per cent were unemployed; more than 90 per cent of grads worked in professional or management occupations; and the average salary was $76,218.
Would you recommend the university to prospective students? (Click chart to enlarge.)
Source: B.C. University Survey of Graduates from Masters and Doctorate Programs
Ninety-four per cent of grads indicated that the skills and knowledge acquired during their graduate studies were very or somewhat useful in their jobs, with doctoral grads reporting the higher percentages. The survey asked questions about such specific high-level skills as conducting research and pursuing new ideas. These skills, utilized to a high degree by [...]
Ninety-four per cent of grads indicated that the skills and knowledge acquired during their graduate studies were very or somewhat useful in their jobs, with doctoral grads reporting the higher percentages. The survey asked questions about such specific high-level skills as conducting research and pursuing new ideas. These skills, utilized to a high degree by masters and in particular doctoral graduates, indicate that the jobs they hold require the creation of knowledge, innovation and independent thinking.
Usefulness of knowledge, skills and abilities acquired during graduate education in work (Click chart to enlarge.)
Skills used in job (to a great extent/some extent):
Source: B.C. University Survey of Graduates from Masters and Doctorate Programs