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Speculative Diction

Higher education news round-up: October 2011


The “teaching vs. research in universities” debate was lively in Canada this month after the Globe and Mail published an editorial entitled “Canadian universities must reform or perish.” The authors place undergraduate teaching firmly at the centre of the university’s responsibilities, decrying the systemic valuing of research work and suggesting that funding for research and teaching should be separated and the latter made competitive. The Globe is contributing to a debate that cuts to the heart of questions about the “purpose” or ideal goals for the university, which is why it’s not surprising that the editorial triggered quite a few responses from bloggers and also one from OCUFA. I added my two cents as well.

In one of October’s many provincial elections, Ontario kept its Liberal government, now forming a minority (though they’re only one seat short of a majority). The Progressive Conservatives kept opposition status with the NDP coming in third. This means the OLP will need to work hard to follow through on their promised tuition grant for full-time, “dependent” undergraduate students, which they planned to implement by January. Throughout Canada, provincial election results seemed to reflect little desire for a change to government: in Prince Edward Island the Liberals stayed put, while the NDP won a fourth term in Manitoba and the Progressive Conservatives kept their position in Newfoundland.

October was rankings month, beginning with the (UK) Times Higher Education international rankings on October 5; the University of Toronto was the only Canadian university to make it into the top 20 (ranking 19th), while UBC was 22nd and McGill was in 28th position. The ranking methodology was adjusted again this year, raising the perennial questions about the nature of rankings, their validity and reliability, and their function in a global university market. Nationally, the Globe and Mail Canadian University Report was released, followed by the Macleans rankings. To all these we can add the QS World University Rankings that appeared back in September.

Canadian Tidbits:

  • “The Canadian Council on Learning released its last report, “What is the Future of Learning in Canada?,” in which it called for more national standards and research, and more cohesion for Canada’s education policies; of course, not everyone agreed with these recommendations.
  • The ongoing debate about innovation and R&D in Canada was stoked by a report released recently, which triggered a spate of articles and blog posts commenting on the reports (and their relation to previous reports and policies!).
  • Canada has assembled a panel to begin the process of developing an international education strategy.
  • Undergraduate enrollment has reached 1 million in Canada.
  • The AUCC has adopted a new statement on academic freedom that was received critically in some quarters.
  • Lastly, from the Canadian blog Hook and Eye comes a truly fabulous post on how we feel about being graded.
Melonie Fullick
Melonie Fullick is a PhD candidate at York University. The topic of her dissertation is Canadian post-secondary education policy and its effects on the institutional environment in universities.
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