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Performance funding: The burden of proof

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 much is clear.  In the Premier’s mandate letter to the Minister of Training, Colleges, and Universities, the Ministry was asked to improve the “consistency and

Register now for the first annual Worldviews Lecture on Media and Higher Education

Registration is now open for the first annual Worldviews Lecture on Media and Higher Education. The lecture, a spinoff of the popular Worldviews conference, will feature Simon Marginson, Professor of International Education at the Institute of Education, University of London. Prof. Marginson will deliver a lecture titled, “Universities, the plutocracy and the 99%: Is high participation in higher education the problem or the solution, in societies that are becoming more unequal?”

The lecture will be presented from 1:30 to

Havoc! Havoc! Smyt fast, give gode knocks!

By all accounts, February 10, 1355 began quietly enough in Oxford. It was the feast day of St. Scholastica, who, despite what her name might suggest, is the patron saint of nuns and ‘convulsive children.’ The townsfolk went about their business, while the scholars of Oxford University attended to their studies. A normal day. But trouble was brewing inside the Swindlestock Tavern.

Students Walter Spryngeheuse and Roger de Chesterfield, unsatisfied with the quality of the house libations, argued with the

Alex Usher Needs to Consider Taxation

In my previous Academic Matters blog post, I argued that there are five advantages to universal access to financial assistance for post-secondary education (as opposed to means-tested assistance for lower-income students).  They are:  1) lower administrative costs; 2) lower marginal tax rates; 3) greater transparency; 4) less opportunity for political trickery; and 5) greater social solidarity among socioeconomic groups.  My blog post was a response to Alex Usher’s blog post of May 9,  which had argued that we

Responding to Nick Falvo on tuition fees

Recently, on my daily blog, I wrote an analysis (link to: http://higheredstrategy.com/whos-progressive/) of distributional effects of tuition reductions versus those of targeted grant programs and concluded that the latter were far more progressive in their impact than the former.  Grants can be designed to be as targeted as one wishes (entirely to the bottom quartile, half to the bottom and half the second, etc), whereas tuition reductions deliver vastly more aid to wealthier families than poor ones.  Partly due

Alex Usher is Wrong on Tuition Fees

One of Canada’s best-known post-secondary education pundits, Alex Usher, recently wrote a blog post suggesting that Canada’s status quo system of high tuition fees (and means-tested financial aid for students) is in fact progressive.  Specifically, he argued that lowering tuition fees would reward higher-income earners rather than lower-income earners.  Ergo:  no government that wants to help lower-income households should seriously consider trying to reduce tuition fees.

Here are five reasons why I think Mr. Usher is wrong:

1. Administrative

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