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Old 10-13-2021, 08:41 PM   #1
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Interesting piece from the CBC here: https://www.cbc.ca/amp/1.6208196

While they're generally pro-academia this is very much a "lots of problems" article.

Specifically, that universities have reduced funding to education to focus on research, and are very dependent on part time/sessional labour to actually teach. But probably the biggest problem the article alleges is that institutions aren't succeeding at their twin core missions of teaching students to think critically or preparing them for the labour force.

No real suggestions were given on fixing the problem, other than maybe this quote: "Grace Cameron, a classmate of Liu's in Women and Gender Studies at U of T, said she'd like to see free tuition for students and greater pay for adjunct lecturers and graduate students."

That doesn't seem likely to fix the underlying issues to me, but it would certainly cost a lot of money.

I don't claim to have answers here. I am not employed in engineering any more, but don't regret my degree. I did learn critical thinking skills that I use regularly, and it did get me a good job for many years. But my sense is that those are proving true for less and less students.

What say you CP?
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Old 10-13-2021, 08:55 PM   #2
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I agree that all of those things are huge problems. I have no real solutions. Although I support a broader approach to studies where warranted, especially for the first year or two. Kids should get a chance to figure out what they want to do without feeling pressure to go straight into a specific major.

I also am in favour of more hands on learning. Trade schools and apprenticeships have it right.
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Old 10-13-2021, 09:15 PM   #3
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I agree that all of those things are huge problems. I have no real solutions. Although I support a broader approach to studies where warranted, especially for the first year or two. Kids should get a chance to figure out what they want to do without feeling pressure to go straight into a specific major.

I also am in favour of more hands on learning. Trade schools and apprenticeships have it right.
Interestingly, the article did mention Waterloo's co-op program as a successful innovation from the past. I wonder if that could be greatly expanded somehow.
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Old 10-13-2021, 09:23 PM   #4
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I have only a tiny bit to add here, but between my education at SAIT and U of C (which are directly related), I gained far more skills and technical knowledge at SAIT.

My instructors at SAIT were definetly not considered academics (with 1 exception), but when I look back at my time at both of those places, SAIT was far superior.
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Old 10-14-2021, 07:03 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by bizaro86 View Post
Interesting piece from the CBC here: https://www.cbc.ca/amp/1.6208196

While they're generally pro-academia this is very much a "lots of problems" article.

Specifically, that universities have reduced funding to education to focus on research, and are very dependent on part time/sessional labour to actually teach. But probably the biggest problem the article alleges is that institutions aren't succeeding at their twin core missions of teaching students to think critically or preparing them for the labour force.

No real suggestions were given on fixing the problem, other than maybe this quote: "Grace Cameron, a classmate of Liu's in Women and Gender Studies at U of T, said she'd like to see free tuition for students and greater pay for adjunct lecturers and graduate students."

That doesn't seem likely to fix the underlying issues to me, but it would certainly cost a lot of money.

I don't claim to have answers here. I am not employed in engineering any more, but don't regret my degree. I did learn critical thinking skills that I use regularly, and it did get me a good job for many years. But my sense is that those are proving true for less and less students.

What say you CP?
no idea, but free tuition is never going to happen.
Look at Alberta. Government funding was at an all time low even before the UCP then went and gutted it even more.

There just isn't any money. I don't know how you can fix the system and fix it on the cheap.
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Old 10-14-2021, 07:49 AM   #6
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I have only a tiny bit to add here, but between my education at SAIT and U of C (which are directly related), I gained far more skills and technical knowledge at SAIT.

My instructors at SAIT were definetly not considered academics (with 1 exception), but when I look back at my time at both of those places, SAIT was far superior.
I started at UofA, then graduated at UVic, and didn't have a lot of job prospects, did a SAIT Information Systems program with the co-op program and started getting all sorts of job offers about halfway through. The skills at SAIT were way more valuable for getting sills to get a decent job, but the UVic degree did definitely benefit my career along the way.

I remember the giant lecture halls at U of A. I can't imagine that is any more effective than just watching a recording online or some robot teaching. Third and fourth year classes are I guess where things get more interesting, and you do get some interaction with a teacher and classmates.

I'm always torn on these arguments for free tuition. It's obviously not a good thing to have students leave school with large amounts of debt, but on the other hand if they have no skin in the game for paying, are they putting the same effort in as someone who might think the cost is worth it? A bunch of kids going through the motions of school in free college to hide from life for a few years isn't necessarily a great thing either.

Also, if Universities become free, are they going to be able to scale to allow more students? If not, then they may become much more competitive to get into. There becomes a line where making high schools too competitive introduces problems. Having kids being engaged in high school and putting in solid effort is a good thing. Having kids and parents being pressured into hiring tutors and enrolling in academies to boost gpas and ace SAT tests becomes a bit gross and you end up in a position where parents are paying $5k-$10k or more to get their kids in these free colleges.
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Old 10-14-2021, 07:49 AM   #7
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What did you take at UofA and UVic?
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Old 10-14-2021, 07:52 AM   #8
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I have only a tiny bit to add here, but between my education at SAIT and U of C (which are directly related), I gained far more skills and technical knowledge at SAIT.

My instructors at SAIT were definetly not considered academics (with 1 exception), but when I look back at my time at both of those places, SAIT was far superior.
I feel the same about MRC (before it was MRU) vs U of C . Better instructors, more focussed coursework, and more engagement with the school and fellow-students in general. It’s never been clear to me how having instructors who are top researchers or highly published actually helps the typical undergraduate. Or why universities pay them so much more than people who are good at teaching.

One of the elements people don’t like to talk about is our assumption in Canada that two-thirds of young adults can and should pursue an academic education in the expectation of getting white-collar work. What if there aren’t enough skilled office jobs to employ all those people? And what if a lot of students attending university today simply aren’t intellectually or temperamentally suited to higher education?

A friend of mine is a sessional instructor in the history department at the U of C, and he says most of his students can barely be arsed to do the bare minimum, and about a quarter are functionally illiterate. But he lets it slide and passes almost everyone because he’s been advised by older faculty (he’s 32) that negative student feedback will undermine any chances he has of getting a permanent position.

A great many students in university today would be far better suited to trades or vocational training (which is one of the reasons I hated the change of MRC to a university). It’s possible to be middle-class without being white-collar, and even many office jobs don’t require four years of academic education. But this gets into issues of class that Canadians don’t like to talk about.
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Old 10-14-2021, 07:55 AM   #9
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My best friend is a prof at a well known university. The stories I hear are unbelievable, and have removed most faith I had in these institutions.
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Old 10-14-2021, 07:57 AM   #10
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What did you take at UofA and UVic?
Started in Engineering at UofA, then switched to a Math and Economics major, then went to Business School at UVic.
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Old 10-14-2021, 08:01 AM   #11
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One of the elements people donít like to talk about is our assumption in Canada that two-thirds of young adults can and should pursue an academic education in the expectation of getting white-collar work. What if there arenít enough skilled office jobs to employ all those people?
They just need to keep working harder at their blue collar job and eventually these nonexistent better jobs will magically appear. Or at least thatís what Iíve been told. Are you saying thatís not going to be the case?
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Old 10-14-2021, 08:37 AM   #12
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I'm a product of camp York with an almost useless degree in humanities.

I have 2 kids in the post-secondary system - 1 at U of T in a specialized program (Forensics) and 1 at Ryerson (after 3 years at Seneca College).

A friend of mine who is an admissions consultant (helps you get into medical/dental school) has often said that B.A. means Begin Again. I have often felt that a B.A. today is the equivalent of a high school diploma in 1950. You need one just to get your foot in the door of most jobs.

I think there are a couple of ways to improve the post secondary system:

1. Make schools specialize. Why does every University have to offer a liberal arts program? Or a business program? For example, McMaster is known for it's medical school. Let it focus on science programs that lead to health care jobs and ditch the medieval-french-poetry program. Let U of C focus on becoming the preeminent Poli-sci/Law school in Western Canada and let U of A focus on Medical/Sciences programs. A whole school focus would open up spaces and cut a ton of dead weight.

2. Have every student spend 2 years in college as a path to University. I think QC does something like this and I think it is valuable. It gives kids time to try things out, take a variety of courses, see what is on offer in the world from real world advisors (not high in the tower academics.) Many may think that high school does this, but clearly it is not.

3. End tenure. That tenured prof in 17th century poetry cost the university over $100 K whether he teaches or not. Paid sabbaticals, indexed pensions, teach one class, summers off. If less than 25 students are taking your class on the comparative religions of Peru, then you are out.

4. Increase tuition in certain programs. Want a BA in some SJW program, pay more for it. Want a diploma in non-profit charity organization management, pay less. Looking for a degree in literature, pay more. joining a health care/geriatric program, pay less.

5. Partner with companies/departments that have job openings. Like an apprenticeship program. Sign manufactures need people, partner with a small university (U of Lethbridge) for a degree in design and marketing and get a job.

Just my 2 (OK, 25) cents. Sorry for the long post.
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Old 10-14-2021, 08:40 AM   #13
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Upping standards would probably go a long way to improving the situation. That, and stop turning colleges into universities.
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Old 10-14-2021, 08:45 AM   #14
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Originally Posted by Bleeding Red View Post
I'm a product of camp York with an almost useless degree in humanities.

I have 2 kids in the post-secondary system - 1 at U of T in a specialized program (Forensics) and 1 at Ryerson (after 3 years at Seneca College).

A friend of mine who is an admissions consultant (helps you get into medical/dental school) has often said that B.A. means Begin Again. I have often felt that a B.A. today is the equivalent of a high school diploma in 1950. You need one just to get your foot in the door of most jobs.

I think there are a couple of ways to improve the post secondary system:

1. Make schools specialize. Why does every University have to offer a liberal arts program? Or a business program? For example, McMaster is known for it's medical school. Let it focus on science programs that lead to health care jobs and ditch the medieval-french-poetry program. Let U of C focus on becoming the preeminent Poli-sci/Law school in Western Canada and let U of A focus on Medical/Sciences programs. A whole school focus would open up spaces and cut a ton of dead weight.

2. Have every student spend 2 years in college as a path to University. I think QC does something like this and I think it is valuable. It gives kids time to try things out, take a variety of courses, see what is on offer in the world from real world advisors (not high in the tower academics.) Many may think that high school does this, but clearly it is not.

3. End tenure. That tenured prof in 17th century poetry cost the university over $100 K whether he teaches or not. Paid sabbaticals, indexed pensions, teach one class, summers off. If less than 25 students are taking your class on the comparative religions of Peru, then you are out.

4. Increase tuition in certain programs. Want a BA in some SJW program, pay more for it. Want a diploma in non-profit charity organization management, pay less. Looking for a degree in literature, pay more. joining a health care/geriatric program, pay less.

5. Partner with companies/departments that have job openings. Like an apprenticeship program. Sign manufactures need people, partner with a small university (U of Lethbridge) for a degree in design and marketing and get a job.

Just my 2 (OK, 25) cents. Sorry for the long post.

Couldn't have said it better myself.
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Old 10-14-2021, 08:47 AM   #15
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Literally none of those things are feasible.
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Old 10-14-2021, 09:08 AM   #16
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I think the piece that is making this tough is that Universities were not designed to train people for work. As society became saturated with people with degrees, the market adjusted to expect degrees as a qualification for work. This also has allowed secondary education to water down as post-secondary now prepares for entry level work in white collar fields.
So you have an academic research institute designed to contribute to society in terms of knowledge and solving complex issues now expected to do job training as well. Do those two things reconcile?
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Old 10-14-2021, 09:22 AM   #17
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Literally none of those things are feasible.
Excuse my ignorance, but why not?

I had to chuckle at the suggestion of the "Women and Gender Studies" student suggesting free tuition... Like Bleeding Red, I can get behind the idea of free, or far more subsidized tuition if it leads to more productive and contributive grads... You want a fluffy degree with dead-end prospects, you should be paying full freight for it.

I think I've read that some European countries reevaluate their domestic labour markets and subsidize studies in vocations that are in demand or underrepresented... I'm not sure of the mechanics of it, but it sounds like a better use of gov't funds than a free-for-all on tuition.

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Old 10-14-2021, 09:22 AM   #18
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I'm a product of camp York with an almost useless degree in humanities.

I have 2 kids in the post-secondary system - 1 at U of T in a specialized program (Forensics) and 1 at Ryerson (after 3 years at Seneca College).

A friend of mine who is an admissions consultant (helps you get into medical/dental school) has often said that B.A. means Begin Again. I have often felt that a B.A. today is the equivalent of a high school diploma in 1950. You need one just to get your foot in the door of most jobs.

I think there are a couple of ways to improve the post secondary system:

1. Make schools specialize. Why does every University have to offer a liberal arts program? Or a business program? For example, McMaster is known for it's medical school. Let it focus on science programs that lead to health care jobs and ditch the medieval-french-poetry program. Let U of C focus on becoming the preeminent Poli-sci/Law school in Western Canada and let U of A focus on Medical/Sciences programs. A whole school focus would open up spaces and cut a ton of dead weight.
I would agree, but you would also either A) have a spread of each type of school in the larger centres (IE each city would need 3-4 institutions specialized in those streams, or B) make them accessible to people across the nation (IE, if you want to be a nurse, but the nurse school is in Edmonton and you live in Lethbridge and can't afford the move, that needs to be made accessible in lieu of getting to pursue that elsewhere closer). And then those institutions recognized as properly accredited, which isn't something that just happens overnight, particularly if your talking about wanting an education that can travel.

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2. Have every student spend 2 years in college as a path to University. I think QC does something like this and I think it is valuable. It gives kids time to try things out, take a variety of courses, see what is on offer in the world from real world advisors (not high in the tower academics.) Many may think that high school does this, but clearly it is not.
I agree in principal, but I think the way to execute this is to re-vamp the primary and secondary education streams. I'd like to see kids at 16 going into what you're describing as the 2-year college.

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4. Increase tuition in certain programs. Want a BA in some SJW program, pay more for it. Want a diploma in non-profit charity organization management, pay less. Looking for a degree in literature, pay more. joining a health care/geriatric program, pay less.

5. Partner with companies/departments that have job openings. Like an apprenticeship program. Sign manufactures need people, partner with a small university (U of Lethbridge) for a degree in design and marketing and get a job.
I'd like to see these combined so that as we (Canada) need more of X it becomes more accessible to become X.


I do wish there was more appetite for total overhaul of these types of long-standing institutions.
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Old 10-14-2021, 09:29 AM   #19
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I do wish there was more appetite for total overhaul of these types of long-standing institutions.
Itís curious that our institutions of higher learning are among the most hidebound and anachronistic in our society. If we invented higher education from scratch today, with the technology and expectations of 2021, would it look anything remotely like the system we have?
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Old 10-14-2021, 09:45 AM   #20
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Itís curious that our institutions of higher learning are among the most hidebound and anachronistic in our society. If we invented higher education from scratch today, with the technology and expectations of 2021, would it look anything remotely like the system we have?
It would be very different. Lots of digital lessons combined with hands on applied learning and earlier availability to specialize for kids that show early signs of strong interest/aptitude.

Iíd like to see a stronger emphasis on learning languages in this country. We donít think French is useful but 1/3 of the world speaks French. Our population is quickly becoming incredibly heterogenous learning the languages of the larger groups (mandarin, Punjabi, Farsi, etc..) I think we are dumb not to embrace these things.
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