Latest Posts


The persistent myth of the “skills gap”

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You’ve likely heard or seen a story somewhere in the media that employers face a skills shortage, or “skills gap”. The message coming from employers is that workers or education system—or both!—just don’t cut it. Unfortunately, the story that there are too few qualified workers for the jobs available is largely a myth. Nobel Prize-winning […]

Congress 2016 Day #3 – Learning outcomes and the Weingarten Hypothesis

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Two very interesting sessions today, but for two very different reasons. The first featured research by Mary Catharine Lennon on learning outcomes. This is a hot topic in Canadian policy circles, part of a push for universities to demonstrate to government and the public the value created by their teaching activities. Lennon suggests that we’re […]

Congress 2016 Day 2: Governance controversies and reconciliation in the university

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It was another interesting day here at the Congress of the Social Sciences and Humanities at the University of Calgary. Two sessions stood out as particularly relevant, one on university governance and another on what universities must do to enact the principles and recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The governance session, hosted by […]

Editor Matters: Whose University is it anyway?

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The past few years have seen university governance jump from relative obscurity and into the headlines. How universities are run is suddenly big news. The issue of Academic Matters you have in your hands right now contains first-hand accounts of some of the campus stories that have found their way into the national media. From […]

Congress 2016 Day #1: Climate crisis, student unions, and even more controversy

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The team at Academic Matters is always thrilled to attend the Congress of the Social Sciences and Humanities, this year in Calgary, Alberta. We tend to gravitate towards the Canadian Society for Studies in Higher Education (CSSHE), as their program tends to align with the interests of our readers. But with over 70 scholarly associations […]

Editorial Matters: The relationship between higher education and the state has always been a complicated one.

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THE FIRST European universities, for the most part established through papal bulls, coexisted uneasily with secular authorities. They were located within kingdoms and nascent nation states, but they were not of those states. In China, ancient universities were entrusted with training the bureaucrats that made imperial rule possible. They were very much organisms of empire. As […]

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Congress 2015: Challenges, opportunities for public sector unions facing austerity

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Austerity and precarity figured largely on the agenda at the Canadian Association of Work and Labour Studies conference this week at the Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences in Ottawa. Conversations about how to define precarious work and its impacts on workers’ lives ran through the sessions. Meanwhile, reflections on how to organize workers in a climate […]

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Book Launch: A Penny for Your Thoughts

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A new book on the impact of corporatization on Canada’s universities was launched on June 4 in Ottawa by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. In A Penny For Your Thoughts, authors Janice Newson and Claire Polster document how the transformation of postsecondary education over the last 35 years has been driven by corporatization. The […]

Congress 2015: The humanities go deep, while Wente plays in the shallow end

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The annual Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences brought academics from across the country together in Ottawa this past week. As if on cue, the Globe and Mail published a column by Margaret Wente that took potshots at humanities and social science scholarship. While there are few in attendance at Congress who take this […]

Editorial Matters: The reality of precarious academic work around the world

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On February 25, 2015, many adjunct faculty members in the United States walked out of their classrooms to protest their working conditions. Just days later, contract faculty at York University were out on strike. Across North America, reporters and media outlets began to wake up to a sorry reality: for thousands of professors across North […]

Congress 2015: The Canadian higher education data problem

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Every year at the Canadian Society for Studies in Higher Education (CSSHE) meeting, you can count on someone – or a lot of someones – complaining about the state of higher education data in Canada. And with good reason- Canada lags behind its OECD in the amount and quality of higher ed data produced. Researchers […]

Congress 2015: Dilemmas for PhD graduates and doctoral education

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The Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences frequently offers an opportunity for reflection on the current state of an academic discipline and prescriptions for the future. The incisiveness of analysis can vary as can the questions asked. Particularly striking is this vein was a fascinating session hosted by the Canadian Society for the Study […]

Congress 2015: “Athens to the new Romes”

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Yesterday, the Governor General of Canada, David Johnston gave a lecture as part of Congress 2015‘s Big Ideas lecture series. The topic of his talk was “Education & Innovation,” but it was more of an exhortation for the assembled scholars and administrators to be innovative, rather than a prescription for how to bring innovation to […]

Congress 2015: The one-sided higher ed conversation

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There are missing voices in the public conversation around higher education, and it is hurting our ability to articulate alternative visions for the future of our universities. I’m at the annual conference of the Canadian Society for Studies in Higher Education (CSSHE) at the excellent Congress of the Social Sciences in Ottawa. As usual, it’s […]

Performance funding: The burden of proof

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When a policy is proposed, the burden of proof lies with the people making the proposal. They need to explain why the new policy is better, and they need to provide evidence to support their claim. This is how sensible policy gets made. The Government of Ontario is interested in performance funding for universities. That […]