November 23rd, 2012
thebriefingroom

Quebec students hit the streets to support free tuition

                      

The red squares were back en masse on Thursday as several thousand students marched through the streets of downtown Montreal in support of free tuition — the latest salvo in an ongoing student push for more accessible university education.

Although a tuition freeze is in effect for this year, about 60,000 students voted for a day, or a few days, of boycotting classes to support the International Student Movement, which organized worldwide protests in favour of free education, and opposing the commercialization of education, for the week of Nov. 14 to 22.

Students snaked their way from Victoria Square back to their favourite gathering spot, Place Émilie Gamelin, where the protest quietly dispersed. Police said there were no arrests and just a little mischief, mainly targeting them.

Although the demonstration was backed by one of the largest student groups, the Association pour une solidarité syndicale étudiante (ASSÉ), it’s not supported by either the Fédération étudiante universitaire du Québec (FEUQ) or the Fédération étudiante collégiale du Québec (FECQ).Read more. 

November 22nd, 2012
thebriefingroom

Almost half of Alberta parents not confident their children can afford post-secondary education

                     

According to a BMO Financial Group study, 42 per cent of parents in Alberta, the same nationally, are not confident their children will be able to afford a post-secondary education including tuition, room and board, books and spending money.

The study’s key findings include: 76 per cent of parents in Alberta (compared with 83 per cent nationally) anticipate they will pay for their child’s post-secondary education, while 46 per cent (compared with 44 per cent nationally) say their child will pay for at least some of it themselves; 19 per cent of Alberta parents (compared with 22 per cent nationally) have not spoken to anyone about their child’s post-secondary education, including how it will be funded; and 30 per cent of parents in Alberta (compared with 35 per cent nationally) are not aware of key benefits of the Registered Education Savings Plan (RESP), including the federal government’s contribution matching program.

BMO said post-secondary costs have been increasing steadily over the past decade, with a four-year university degree currently costing upwards of $60,000. That sum could rise to more than $140,000 for a child born this year, it said.Read more. 

November 22nd, 2012
thebriefingroom

More than 6000 students on strike at CEGEP du Vieux Montreal

More than 6,000 students at CÉGEP du Vieux Montreal started a three-day strike on Tuesday.

The strike is part of a student movement that is asking for the withdrawal of all criminal charges and penalties linked to last spring’s tuition conflict.

On Monday evening, close to 1,000 people voted at a general assembly in favour of staging a strike.

CBC reporter Morgan Dunlop visited the campus this morning. She said it was quiet, except for the occasional student who attempted to open the lock doors.

The Cegep is closed until Thursday. Normal activities will resume on Friday. 

From The Montreal Gazette

November 21st, 2012
thebriefingroom

Students take to the hill

This week, the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations (CASA) brought more than 60 student leaders from across the nation to Ottawa for meetings with more than 130 Members of Parliament (MPs) and Senators to discuss issues that affect Canada’s youth.

"With Canada’s population aging and with the labour force in decline, we must focus on Canada’s youth, as we are the key to the nation’s future," explained Pat Joyce, Chair of the Board of Directors for CASA.  “The success of students is critical to sustained economic growth and the overall wellbeing of the country.”

The productive, competitive Canada of the future will be built on an educated population. To get there, government decision makers need to ensure that post-secondary education is accessible. In order to stay competitive internationally, it is imperative that individuals be encouraged to pursue post-secondary education, be that college or university.

The federal government has an essential role to play in learning, training, and research.  CASA has made an effort to meet with different political parties from across the country to discuss issues of concern for students, including the necessary removal of earnings penalties for students, allowing Open Access to publicly-funded research, and the need to increase funding for the Canada Student Grants Program to help those most in need of financial assistance.Read more. 

November 21st, 2012
thebriefingroom

Students prefer good lectures over the latest technology in class, says survey

                           

University students prefer the “old school” approach of an engaging lecture over the use of the latest technological bells and whistles in the classroom. That was a finding in a recent study of the perceptions of students and professors in Quebec on the use of information and communications technologies, or ICTs, in higher learning.

“Students are old school – they want lectures. They want to listen to a professor who’s engaging, who’s intellectually stimulating and who delivers the content to them,” says Vivek Venkatesh, associate dean of academic programs and development in the school of graduate studies at Concordia University. 
Dr. Venkatesh says this goes against much of what he hears at professional development workshops that stress interactive learning strategies, often using technology.

The study was conducted by Dr. Venkatesh in partnership with Magda Fusaro, a professor in the department of management and technology at Université du Québec à Montréal. Together, they conducted a pilot project at UQAM before rolling the survey out in 2011 to a dozen universities across the province, to which 15,000 undergraduate students and more than 2,500 instructors responded (for response rates of 10 percent and 20 percent respectively). Read more. 

November 21st, 2012
thebriefingroom

Ontario college offers financial incentives starting in kindergarten

Bursaries and scholarships are great when students have already made up their minds to go to college or university. The challenge for Sudbury’s Cambrian College, which serves remote and rural populations in northern Ontario, is how to get students to consider going to college in the first place.

Three years ago, the school launched something called a learning account, aimed at the students least likely to attend college: Aboriginals, those with disabilities and those whose parents didn’t have a post-secondary education. The program offers students credits toward future tuition costs in exchange for attending a series of workshops. Students can earn $70 in “Cambrian Bucks” for attending a conference on coping with learning disabilities, $20 for a science workshop and $320 for a four-day program aimed at Aboriginal pupils. The college also gives $120 to parents who attend a two-day program to learn how to help set career goals for their children. So far, 410 students have signed up with an average of $250 in tuition credits, although they can earn as much as $3,000.

The tuition credits act like a bursary, but with a long-term goal of getting the kids to start working toward college while still in elementary school. “For most of these underrepresented populations, getting them to post-secondary is a long process,” says France Quirion, Cambrian’s associate vice-president of student services. “They don’t live and breathe post-secondary. It’s just a foreign concept.

“We really wanted these different individuals to start to see themselves as going to post-secondary because it was always part of the plan. You can’t do that with a bursary at Grade 12.”Read more. 

November 21st, 2012
thebriefingroom

Local politicians will now now serve four-year terms

In addition to facing four years in office instead of three, civic election candidates in Alberta next fall will also likely have to adjust to a small suite of new rules governing how they declare campaign surpluses and deficits.

Municipal Affairs Minister Doug Griffiths had long telegraphed the four-year term plan. The newly released elections amendment bill that brings in the change doesn’t adjust the main donation caps or fundraising rules in civic races — something Mayor Naheed Nenshi had called for — but does aim to add some clarity around what Griffiths’ press secretary called “murky” rules.

Candidates will now be required to erase campaign deficits if they want to run again, and would no longer keep the first $500 of campaign surplus. Under the bill, any surplus must be given to charity or the municipality, unless the candidate plans to use the leftover campaign cash in the next election.Read more. 

November 21st, 2012
thebriefingroom

Quebec universities left in limbo

For Quebec universities, the budget delivered by the Parti Québécois on Tuesday leaves them in a kind of financial limbo, still unsure of how much or when they will be compensated for the cancelled tuition increase.

Even students — who finally got to see their hard-fought tuition freeze right there in black and white — had some concerns with a budget they fear is shortchanging university research.

“There is no new investment in university research and this is a big concern,” said Martine Desjardins, president of the Fédération étudiante universitaire du Québec, who was disappointed in some elements of the budget. “We think the government is financing teaching and the tuition fee freeze with the budget from research.”

And while students benefited this year from increased financial aid that was put in place to offset the tuition increase, students were upset to see that aid next year will return to 2011-12 levels.

The budget seemed to spark some anxiety among university leaders, with Daniel Zizian, director general of the Conférence des recteurs et des principaux des universités du Québec (CREPUQ), saying some elements were positive but others were worrisome.Read more.

November 21st, 2012
thebriefingroom

Bill afoot to allow multiple-riding voting for Alberta students

Rumours of proposed changes to the post-secondary provisions in the Alberta Elections Act proved true Tuesday when the provincial government introduced Bill 7, the Election Accountability Amendment Act, into legislature.

The announcement came as a breath of fresh air for students planning on moving out-of-city for the summer, and heralded a win for student organization CAUS, the Council of Alberta University Students, who made the initial recommendation for change to the government.

Although only in its first reading, with two more sessions of debate before it, the new law includes a provision for students to cast a vote either in the electoral district they reside in while attending school or the one they live in during the summer, if the two should differ.

“I’m ecstatic about the changes — we thought multiple constituency voting was something that we weren’t going to get,” said University of Alberta Students’ Union Vice-President (External) Petros Kusmu.

“This is an absolutely positive change forward, and this is a good testament as to why student advocacy can make a difference and why we need to be invested in these kinds of things. We single-handedly made this an issue, and we got it changed. There’s no bigger win than this.”Read more.

November 21st, 2012
thebriefingroom

Job action begins at more B.C. universities

Five more BC community colleges are on strike.  The job action comes after failed last minute efforts by CUPE to get the provincial government to sign off on collective agreements with BC’s 3,000 CUPE college support workers.

Campus-wide CUPE strikes start at 6am this morning and include North Island College, Vancouver Island University, Camosun College, College of the Rockies and the College of New Caledonia. Initial plans call for a two-day shutdown. Vancouver Community College was completely shutdown at both its campuses in Vancouver yesterday by CUPE 4627 members.

At issue is a blockage in negotiations at the province’s Public Sector Employers’ Council and the ministry of advanced education. CUPE’s BC Colleges Coordinator Ian McLean says, “if it wasn’t for government interference in collective bargaining, we would be heading to work this morning with a reasonable contract in our pocket. Instead, we are heading for the picket line.”

CUPE support workers at BC’s community colleges have been without a contract since 2010.  The unionized workers are looking for a no-concessions four-year deal with 2 percent wage increases in the last two years, in line with other recent public sector settlements in BC. 

From CUPE News

November 21st, 2012
thebriefingroom

Socialization key to university success

In a sea of thousands of students it’s all too easy to be alone in a crowd or to fall into the trap of going from class to home without ever experiencing all that a university campus has to offer. But as students’ unions and associations will attest, classes are only a piece of the overall university experience.

One of the main themes of this year’s first-year orientation was impressing on students how important it is to take advantage of the full post-secondary experience, says Students’ Association of Mount Royal University president Kaylene McTavish.

“It’s the professional development that you can get out of different experiences on campus, it’s a different kind than what you would normally get in a classroom, one aids the other,” she says. “Getting involved gives you an opportunity to explore new interests, discover new passions and make friends.”

McTavish says one of the best ways to meet other students, pursue interests, and expanding horizons is by joining campus clubs. Mount Royal University offers more than 60 clubs ranging from popular faculty-based clubs such as the Joli Fou Geological Society to hobby- based groups like the Stitch n’ Bitch club.Read more.

November 21st, 2012
thebriefingroom

Tutor time at Calgary universities

Making the time to get extra help may seem like a novel idea when there’s countless social gatherings to attend, but a little can go a long way in creating an edge for academic excellence. Many first-year students could benefit from tutoring, to help them get the marks they need. They can take advantage of a variety of resources at university, which have been designed to help students up their game.

“Take advantage of some of the opportunities, so you can have a positive academic experience,” says Roxanne Ross, manager of learning support services at the University of Calgary’s Student Success Centre.

The U of C offers a variety of resources to help students hone their time management skills, which are strongly connected to academic success, and are one of the most important skills for first-year university students to develop, according to Ross.

“Make use of any organized group study opportunities, which could include student study halls or programs.”

“Students should seek help as soon as they need it,” says Ross, noting that going for help includes talking with their professors and TAs.

Students at Mount Royal University also have access to a wide range of resources to help them start out on the right foot academically.Read more.

November 21st, 2012
thebriefingroom

Alberta MLAs pass revamped Education Act

                    

School board leaders meeting in Edmonton welcomed news early Tuesday that new legislation to guide Alberta’s grade schools has finally passed.

The government’s third attempt to pass the Education Act succeeded around 12:40 a.m. Tuesday. Hours later, Education Minister Jeff Johnson told education leaders at an Alberta School Boards Association meeting they will have a say in developing the regulations that give the Education Act its teeth.

School board officials are pleased with that commitment, said Edmonton Catholic school board chair, Becky Kallal, one of about 400 trustees and superintendents who attended the ASBA meeting that ran Sunday to Tuesday in the Westin Edmonton hotel downtown.

“He was very clear that he wants to have not just window-dressing engagement of boards but really meaningful engagement of boards in developing those regulations. We’re delighted with that,” Kallal said.

“The devil’s in the details, so the regulations are what’s really important.”Read more. 

November 21st, 2012
thebriefingroom

Report finds UVic has $3.2 billion impact on the economy

Anthony Sukow arrived from Kelowna a dozen years ago to attend the University of Victoria. He stayed in the city to help found a company that now employs 40 people.

Sukow, 36, and his brother, Andrew, 31, helped create Tera-peak, a company developing software for businesses conducting transactions over the Internet.

Based in Victoria, Terapeak has now sold $30 million worth of software to tens of thousands of businesses worldwide. Sukow credits UVic for much of his success.

"Our roots are here in the University of Victoria - we have grown out of the university and we probably wouldn’t be here without the university," he told community leaders and media at a press conference Monday, where UVic released details of a study examining its annual economic impact on the surrounding community and province.

That impact amounts to $3.2 billion annually, according to the study, which used an analysis method first undertaken at the University of British Columbia in 2009.Read more.

November 21st, 2012
thebriefingroom

U.S. Homeland Security dept. moves to tighten rules on student visas

Colleges will no longer be able to grant visa documents to degree-seeking foreign students who first need to brush up on their English skills, according to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, a change that could affect an increasingly common route into American institutions.

The Student and Exchange Visitor Program, or SEVP, the arm of the Homeland Security Department that oversees and ensures compliance with the student-visa system, is signaling that it will require universities to issue separate I-20 forms, the immigration documents needed to apply for student visas, to students who need to improve their English before beginning regular academic courses. Only after they demonstrate proficiency will they be granted a second I-20 for academic study.

Currently, many colleges issue just a single I-20 to students who meet academic but not linguistic requirements, an increasingly popular practice known as conditional admission. Read more. 

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