All Posts Tagged With: "Canada Excellence Research Chairs"
Elizabeth May, Black Friday, possible hate crime in The Soo
1. Tomorrow is Black Friday, the annual sporting event during which Americans violently trample and pepper spray each other at Best Buy and Target, all for the thrill of scoring a cheap flatscreen TV. As a Canadian, I thought this was a day to look down on those south of the border with smug indignation, but, as Edward Keenan points out, 650,000 people from Ontario alone—more than the total number who watched Hockey Night in Canada during the 2010 playoffs—will head south looking for deals. And it turns out our own lust for bargains may be hurting our economy.
3. Someone poured water on an international student from Algoma University in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont. and shouted “Go back to your own country,” reports the Sault Star. Police are investigating it as a hate crime. It happened, ironically, near a sign boasting of The Soo’s friendliness.
The reasons may surprise you
Alberta is as a maverick when it comes to higher education. The province prepares students for post-secondary better than its neighbors, has some of the country’s most satisfied students and punches above its weight in research.
Now there’s even more evidence that the rest of Canada should pay attention to how Wild Rose Country approaches higher education.
New University of Saskatchewan research, which included 12,000 first-year students, found that grades for Albertans tended to drop just 6.4 points from Grade 12, but fell as much as 19.6 points on average for students from another province. In other words, a student from Alberta who graduates with an 86 average is likely to end first-year as an 80 student, while students from that other unnamed province would average 66.
One reason Alberta’s students are much better prepared is that they study long and hard to pass provincial standardized exams, which account for 50 per cent of their Grade 12 marks. Students in other provinces are graded more subjectively, making it easier for teachers to give high marks.
The higher standards are well-known. In recognition of the high standards, the University of British Columbia automatically raises Albertan students’ grades two per cent when they apply.
But it’s a lot more than standardized tests that make Alberta’s schools succed. Here are six more reasons the rest of Canada ought to pay closer attention to Alberta’s higher education system.
1. Public funding of universities is highest in Alberta.
Statistics Canada says that 72 per cent of funding for Alberta universities came from public sources in 2009. The next highest was Newfoundland at 69 per cent. It was only 49 per cent in Nova Scotia.
2. Albertans outperform their peers well before university.
Alberta’s 15-year-olds came second in the world in reading and fourth in the world in science in the 2009 PISA study, the gold-standard international test. Those were the top scores in Canada.
3. Alberta has two teaching-focused universities that work.
Grant MacEwan and Mount Royal Univeristy have faculty who spend most of their days teaching, rather than conducting research—unlike nearly every university east of Edmonton. And both institutions score exceptionally well on the National Survey of Student Engagement. When asked “if you could start over, would go to the institution you are now attending?,” 50 per cent of Mount Royal seniors and 60 per cent of Grant MacEwan seniors said yes. The average is just 45 per cent.
5. Alberta’s transfer system works.
In Sept. 2009, nearly 12,000 post-secondary students transferred between schools in the province. Many of the transfers are from the provinces’ teaching-focused institutions and community colleges into big research institutions. Harvey Weingarten, then-president of the University of Calgary, told the authors of Academic Reform that transfer students are “academically indistinguishable.”
6. Even with teaching-focused universities, Alberta remains a research leader.
Despite having more students in teaching-only institutions and only 11 per cent of Canada’s population, Alberta holds 17 per cent of the Canada Excellence Research Chairs, which come with up to $10-million apiece. Alberta also has 12 per cent of the prestigious Vanier Scholarships. The University of Alberta has the second highest per-faculty research funding in Canada at $309,332.
Canada poaches scientists from around the world, critics worry about lack of funds for teaching
After poaching 19 top researchers from around the world, Canada’s university sector couldn’t be more thrilled, but not everyone is happy with the money spent on the newly implemented Canada Excellence Research Chairs (CERC) program.
The 19 chairs, distributed across 13 universities, all come from outside Canada, prompting fears of a brain drain from other countries. More than half of the CERC recipients will hail from the United States (9) and Britain (4), while the balance will be made up of researchers from Germany, Brazil and France.
Industry minister Tony Clement, whose government first announced the program in 2008, touted the initiative as proof of Canada’s scientific prowess. “The CERC program confirms Canada’s standing as a global centre of excellence in research and higher learning,” he said Monday. Each CERC appointment is worth $10 million over seven years, but with help from provincial governments and private donors that number has risen to an average of $27 million. The funding will be used to support research teams, as well as the researchers themselves.
The CERC program aims to bring in top talent in the technical fields of environmental sciences and technologies, natural resources and energy, health and related life sciences and technologies, and information and communications technologies.
Since the program was announced two-years ago, Canadian schools scrambled to have their research proposals accepted, which was followed by a nomination of potential chair holders. The final appointments were made by a selection board. Many of the universities that succeeded will come as little surprise, with the University of Alberta getting four chairs, and the University of Toronto two. There were upsets, as McGill University failed to get a chair, and a few surprises, epitomized by the awarding of an excellence chair to the University of Prince Edward Island.
Convincing foreign scientists to come to Canada has been met with several sports analogies. “It [was] almost like a hockey negotiation where you are trying to entice a player from another team. And the other team wants to hang on to them, and so they offer more money,” Derek Burney, head of the selection board, told the Globe and Mail.
In its praise of the Conservative government, Paul Davidson, president of the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada, called the program “smart and strategic: smart because research is vital to Canada’s prosperity and we’re in a very competitive environment in terms of attracting and retaining world-class researchers. It’s strategic because it is focused on the four priority areas of Canada’s science and technology strategy.”
But not everyone believes the money is being well spent. The long awaited announcement of the chair holders comes at an awkward time for Canada’s universities. Many institutions are slashing budgets, including the University of Alberta which recently implemented an early retirement package, as well as furlough days. A report from the Toronto Dominion Bank, released Monday, warned of pressures on educational quality due to factors such as increased class sizes.
The contrast between money spent in the classroom and these new research chairs was not lost on Don Drummond, an economist and one of the authors of the report. “I’d still like to get my daughter into a smaller classroom,” he told the Globe. James Turk, executive director of the Canadian Association of University Teachers, also told the paper that he is similarly skeptical of the program, “We are bringing in stars at the same time that courses are being discontinued and labs are being shut.”
Others are critical that none of those awarded a research chair are women. Of the 40 shortlisted candidates provided by universities, all were male. Wendy Robbins who teaches English at the University of New Brunswick, told the Winnipeg Free Press’s Mia Rabson that she partially blames the lack of women on the program’s focus on technical fields where women tend to be underrepresented. Robbins says this is a mistake. “Unless you can patent it they’re not interested. But we need society and government to recognize not all our problems can be solved by science and engineering,” she said.