• Life beyond the PhD

  • To be or not to be a PhD: Is that still the question?

  • Deciding on a career in the college sector

  • The Conference Board of Canada Enrolls in the skills and PSE debate

  • Canada’s sluggish labour market and the myth of the skills shortage

  • Graduate education in the UK: The postgraduate puzzle

Blog Posts

HEQCO distorts faculty teaching loads: News media play along

In March, 2014, the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario (HEQCO), published a study purporting to show that Ontario professors only teach an average of 2.8 courses per year.

The study went on to propose that professors who are not active in research should have their teaching loads doubled.

News media such as the Toronto Star, the Globe and Mail, and the CBC, faithfully reported the study results and recommendations, without mentioning that HEQCO is an “agency of

University Governance: Reflections from the Future U Conference

Last week, I spoke on a panel on university governance at a conference titled Future U:  Creating the Universities We Want, organized by the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations.  Also presenting on the panel were Professor Glen Jones and Professor Claire Polster.

My speaking notes can be downloaded at this link. Points I raised in my presentation include the following:

The BasicsTypically in Canada, a university has both a board of governors (BoG)

Do High Tuition Fees Make for Good Public Policy?

Yesterday, I gave a presentation to Professor Ted Jackson’s graduate seminar course on higher education, taught in Carleton University’s School of Public Policy and Administration.  The link to my slide deck, titled “The Political Economy of Post-Secondary Education in Canada,” can be found here.

Points I raised in the presentation include the following:

-Tuition fees have been rising in Canada for roughly the past three decades.  Yet, individuals in the 25-44 age demographic have the highest levels of

Liberal arts lead to good employment outcomes…just don’t tell the policymakers

Last week, the AAC&U released the report How Liberal Arts and Science Majors Fare in Employment (for coverage, check out Inside Higher Ed, the Chronicle, or the AACU release). Looking at both employment and earnings outcomes, the report is notable for two things: first, it actually looks at long-term data, not just a five- or 10-year datasets that have the unfortunate drawback of GIANT, RECESSION-BASED OUTLIERS. Second, it finds that – ta-daaaa – graduates from the humanities

Into the program prioritization debate

Last week, we published an article by Leo Groarke and Beverley Hamilton on program prioritization. For the uninitiated, program prioritization is a process – now much in vogue at Ontario’s universities – for ranking academic and non-academic programs for the purposes of directing resources. Some have called it a “rank n’ yank” process, where programs deemed to be under-performing are slated for cuts or outright elimination. Suffice it to say, program prioritization is controversial.

Not surprisingly, Leo and Beverley’s

We Teach Ontario launches student video contest

We Teach Ontario, OCUFA’s campaign highlighting the important connection between teaching and research, has launched a student video contest. The contest offers former and current Ontario university students the chance to win an iPhone, an iPad mini, or a trip to Toronto to attend the OCUFA “Future U” conference.

To enter, students need to make a short video explaining how a professor’s research has inspired or helped them succeed. Students then post their videos to the contest’s Facebook page

Editorial Matters: Skin in the game

We only do an issue of Academic Matters if we think the topic is important, timely, or relevant to the current state-of-play for higher education. But I have to admit that this graduate student issue has a special importance for me.

That’s the effect of having a bit more skin in the game, I suppose.

As you may have learned from my byline (and perhaps I’m flattering myself here thinking that people actually read my byline), I am myself a

Massively Open Online Embarassment

Massively Open Online Courses (MOOCs) may be the way of the future, but they show every sign of disrupting my intricate bargain with humiliation. For ten years, I’ve managed to contain evidence of my incompetence to the small number of students who had the misfortune of wandering into my lecture hall. But online lectures on YouTube? Virtual office hours through FaceTime? Interactive tutorials through video conference? These can hardly be good news.

Case in point: my recent attempt to teach

Self-censoring away from the public sphere

In recent weeks, Academic Matters has devoted some of its attention to the importance of academics’ participation in public debate. Two panels at the Worldviews Conference on Global Trends in Media and Higher Education today spoke to some reasons  why this kind of public engagement can be difficult for academics. The increasing precariousness of academic work makes it challenging for professors to speak up and speak out in public debates of national and international importance.

Discussing the differences between academic

Where have all the academics gone?

Writing in today’s Ottawa Citizen, Lawrence Martin observes that Canada’s academic are “missing in action“. That is, almost totally silent on the critical issues facing the country- everything from the “declining state of our parliamentary democracy” to the tepid response to the Federal Government’s muzzling of federal scientists and starvation of key research institutions (for more on this, check out Carol Linnitt’s scathing indictment of the Harper Government’s attack on science).

Martin’s point is a good one.

Reflections on the CSSHE Annual Conference: Good, but more policy, please?

This past week, Academic Matters was fortunate to attend the annual Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences. As a magazine dedicated to higher education issues, we were particularly interested to attend the sessions of the Canadian Society for the Study of Higher Education (CSSHE), held between June 2nd and June 6th.

The sessions were quite good, featuring a lot of insight for student affairs professionals and those interested in teaching a learning. However, as with past years,

Harper and the “dumbing down” of Canadian society

It’s almost like we planned it!

But even though we didn’t, the micro-lecture roundtable discussion sponsored jointly by the Canadian Political Science Association (CPSA) and the Canadian Historical Association (CHA) provided a perfect venue for scholars in a range of fields to address some of the themes that were raised in the most recent issue of Academic Matters. And it would seem this is a topic that piques people’s interest and incites serious concern for academics – attendees at the

Conference Board of Canada announces skills and post-secondary education project

There seems to be a recurring theme in discussions about post-secondary education policy – we talk a lot about big ideas (innovation, productivity, quality, the list goes on) but have a hard time getting consensus on what we actually mean by these terms.

When it comes to the conversation about skills training and post-secondary education, though, the folks at the Conference Board of Canada are trying to make things easier by providing us with a clear but intentionally broad definition

100 cups of coffee every minute…

It’s an eye-catching stat, but understandable when you consider it refers to the rate of caffeine consumption at the 2013 Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences.   Put 7,100 academics in one place, and you’re bound to run through an impressive amount of coffee.

But the big stats don’t stop there – 1,800 sessions, 500 volunteers, and 70 academic associations are all part of Congress 2013 at the beautiful University of Victoria. Academic Matters is here to experience the

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Featured Articles

Open season on academics: My brush with predatory publishing

One morning I opened my email to find that I had become editor-in-chief of an academic journal. Well, ‘chief editor’ to be precise. This came as a surprise. It was not something I could recall applying for, and the journal was outside my areas of expertise. I had received a message from a prospective author who wanted to know if it was normal practice to send $100USD after acceptance in order to secure publication – and, after some Googling, why

Academic Research vs. Political Propaganda: Lessons from the Fraser Institute’s Study of Minority-Language Education

In 2012 the Fraser Institute published a 138-page study entitled Official Language Policies of the Canadian Provinces: Costs and Benefits in 2006 that examined the financial impact of providing bilingual government services. It calculated that the provinces spend $900 million each year, mainly for minority-language education – English schooling in Quebec, French instruction elsewhere. A complementary report distributed in 2009, Official Language Policies at the Federal Level in Canada, estimated that the federal government spends a further $1.5 billion.

Doing the PPP: A skeptical perspective

So-called “program prioritization processes” have been a hot topic at American and Ontario universities. But as Leo Groarke and Beverley Hamilton argue, the cost of PPP is much higher than many administrators realize.

Humour Matters: The long, slow bus ride to the future

All this talk of innovation, transformation, and inspiration has got me thinking of bus rides. Universities today swim in a sea of overwrought rhetoric. They trumpet their patents, their entrepreneurship, their empowering humanities research; they build transformative community synergies and interdisciplinary partnerships; they link up with business and government to produce ground-breaking research.

And it’s not enough to exaggerate faculty accomplishment. Supercharged bluster and transformative bombast now infect graduate school and flow down to the greenest first year student. I

Editorial Matters: Skin in the game

We only do an issue of Academic Matters if we think the topic is important, timely, or relevant to the current state-of-play for higher education. But I have to admit that this graduate student issue has a special importance for me.

That’s the effect of having a bit more skin in the game, I suppose.

As you may have learned from my byline (and perhaps I’m flattering myself here thinking that people actually read my byline), I am myself a

Academic Attention Deficit Disorder

Photo by Adriaan Bloem

At conferences I sit at the back of the room. I’m a people watcher, and from the back I can observe the spectators as well as the speaker. I like to see what the audience members are up to. Are they captivated by the presentation, or are they taking a nap? Are they jotting down main points and clever questions, or mindlessly doodling on the schedule sheet? Are they actually listening to the speaker? Or are they compulsively checking their

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