Sunday, July 31, 2011

The Month in Higher Ed: July 2011

It's that time again--time for a short PSE round-up for the past month!

In Canada, a great deal of attention was paid to the most recent State of the Nation report released at the end of June by the Science, Technology and Innovation Council. A number of articles addressed the "innovation deficit" that Canada faces, which is seen as an impediment to Canada's progress in the knowledge economy. And of course, explicit connections were made to Canadian universities (and university graduates) and their role in this form of economic development.

One interesting point I want to mention here is that Canada really does have a (relatively) long history of producing "reports" and "commissions" on the subject of R&D and what would now be called "technology transfer" or in some cases, "knowledge translation". For decades the critique has been put forward that Canadian business simply isn't innovative enough, or that Canadian businesses don't take enough risks. The Lamontagne commission in the late 1960s/early 1970s brought attention to the same problem. Government programs and policies have apparently failed to make a difference, as this article discusses.

Canadian Aboriginal education also received attention this past month in conjunction with the annual meeting of the Assembly of First Nations in Moncton, New Brunswick; the Vancouver Sun ran a series of editorials on the issue, and these as well as a number of articles took up Shawn Atleo's criticisms on the subject. Since Canada's indigenous groups--First Nations, M├ętis, and Inuit--have the lowest proportional enrolment and graduation in PSE nationally, the criticisms are well-founded.

In the UK, the Sutton Trust released a report, "Degrees of Success", that examined undergraduate admissions at Oxford and Cambridge universities. The report showed that "[f]our schools and one college sent more students to Oxbridge over three years than 2,000 schools and colleges across the UK". These results were taken by a number of commentators as a sign that accessibility in the UK is still heavily skewed by socioeconomic class at the primary and secondary levels. In other words, it matters where you go to secondary school, more so than whether you receive high A-level grades. These critiques are all the more potent at a time when PSE policy in the UK is being radically re-vamped along marketised lines, with most universities raising tuition close to the full £9,000 now allowed by the government.

And lastly, as most readers will be aware the United States has been undergoing a political and economic crisis that's reached fever pitch as the month of July draws to a close. The US debt limit must be lifted by Tuesday, August 2nd, and the Republicans seem to be taking this time to blackmail the President; indeed, it looks like they've created a situation where Obama must take responsibility for debts racked up by his predecessor/s, whilst ceding to Republican demands in the moment and ultimately accepting that his chances of re-election have been reduced to, practically, nil.

In the midst of this maelstrom, the Pell Grant program (among other initiatives) has been on the chopping block in various versions of the debt deal that have been proposed thus far. Though the Pell program is so far preserved, federal student aid programs have already been targeted for "savings" in the past and this is likely to continue as cost-cutting measures are introduced.

UPDATE from the Chronicle of Higher Ed: "Debt-Ceiling Deal Provides $17-Billion for Pell Grants".


As a side note, my short contribution to University of Venus piece on UBC Fulbright Scholar Rumana Manzur was re-published in the Guardian UK online, on July 13th. This month we also heard part of the sad conclusion to Rumana's story, which is that she has been permanently blinded by the wounds inflicted on her by her husband. You can make a donation to help Rumana, using this web page.

No comments:

Post a Comment