Eduvation Blog

Down Under & Down South, in Brief


Good morning! 

It’s been a busy few days for me, with a conference keynote Sunday, a leadership team workshop yesterday, and another today. This morning I’ll be engaging with the extended leadership team and boards of 2 regional colleges in Saskatchewan with a unique collaboration in place. The Cumberland College & Parkland College Coalition was established in 2019, and to my knowledge is unique: 2 independent colleges that have 2 separate governing boards – but with identical members – and a shared president. These people have already demonstrated a willingness to think outside the box, and I look forward to meeting them! (virtually, of course)

With such a heavy schedule (I spend at least 8 hours prepping for each presentation) I am going to borrow a (partial) page from the U South Carolina students behind the student newspaper, The Daily Gamecock. They announced in an editorial Sunday that they are “going dark” for the week, because “we made a promise to prioritize mental health not only in our coverage, but in our newsroom,” but lately “the days have become a structureless blur of breaking news, online meetings, quarantines and, of course, our usual course loads.” I sympathize (and empathize) with their lack of sleep and proper self-care, so their declaration caught my eye: “We hope this decision will set an example for other organizations and students in general: It is OK to not be OK.”

Don’t worry, it’s NOT that I’m “not OK” – but to be at my best tomorrow, I’m going to settle for less than my best tonight, and keep this issue short.  

“We haven’t been sleeping. We’ve forgotten to eat. We’ve been staring at screens for hours on end. Our negligence of our mental health has started to impact our physical health, and it’s also affected our ability to produce the highest-quality content possible. There was a tension in the newsroom, a feeling that everyone was close to their breaking point.”The Daily Gamecock, U South Carolina


Down South Updates

No matter how bad things are where you are, it could always be worse…

30,000 Students in Lockdown

Yesterday, uMichigan ordered its 30,000 undergraduates to shelter in place for 2 weeks after COVID19 cases surpassed 1,000, “overwhelming” local health systems. Undergrads can still leave their residence for “exercise, work, food, medical appointments, voting and religious services.” (OK, that’s not a quarantine order at all.) Most classes are being delivered online. The isolation order expires at 7am on election day, Nov 3.  US News

Oh, and Forbes adds that “Michigan’s sports teams will be able to play as long as practices and competitions occur under medical supervision and regular virus tests are conducted by the Big Ten.” (Sheesh!)

Rutgers Furloughs 6,400

New Jersey’s largest public university, Rutgers, has laid off 901 employees and plans to furlough or reduce hours for another 6,400 – but warns that it “expects more cuts, a wage freeze, and additional furloughs for its 23,600 employees, according to a revised $4.45B budget approved by the Rutgers Board of Governors last week.” Revenues at its hospitals are down $43M, and the university faces an “unprecedented” $97M collapse in housing, dining, athletic, and tuition revenues due to the pivot to remote delivery this spring. Rutgers has cut 25% of its part-time lecturers – instead increasing the course load for full-time profs.

Academic Journals Denounce Trump

In the final fortnight before the US presidential election, scholarly journals are breaking with centuries of tradition and getting political, criticizing the openly anti-intellectual Donald Trump and implicitly endorsing his rival Joe Biden. In early October, the New England Journal of Medicine criticized Trump’s handling of the COVID19 crisis. Scientific American called out Trump’s attacks on environmental protections and healthcare, and interference with the CDC and FDA. Critical editorials also appeared in The Lancet Oncology, and Nature. The headline in Science declared simply, “Trump lied about science.” While many regard this as the ethical duty of academics in a civil society, others are concerned that it further polarizes and politicizes the work of scientists and academia.  The New Republic

Down Under Updates

Although often the Australia and New Zealand higher ed landscape is comfortably familiar to Canadians (at least compared to the Mad Max thunderdome raging south of us), the latest enrolment patterns seem to be swirling down the drain in the opposite direction of us in the northern hemisphere…

International Enrolments Drop

It’s no surprise that Australian international enrolments have fallen dramatically this year, in the wake of COVID19 border closures. (As with CdnPSE, what enrolments there are may well be international students who were already onshore, or who are studying remotely from their home countries.) Overall, as of August, universities saw a -22.2% decline in new international enrolments, but VET (vocational education and training, including trades and technology) actually saw a +4.5% increase – the opposite of the North American pattern. New starts from China dropped -22.9%, from India -16.2%, and from Nepal -8.2%. Total international enrolments declined -3.9% at universities, but rose +13.5% for VET.  Campus Morning Mail

UWA Abolishes All Faculties

U of Western Australia’s new VC, Amit Chakma (yes, formerly of Western U here in Ontario) has moved quickly, rather like his counterpart at uAlberta. Just 3 months into his tenure at UWA, the Senate has adopted Chakma’s proposal to abolish faculties, give academic schools increased autonomy, rearrange several units and executive accounting lines – including moving IT, Development and Alumni Relations to report directly to the him. “The university does not have a strong history of delivering change well or sustainably at the scale of what is now required.”  Campus Morning Mail

CdnPSE Updates

Lambton College announced that its Winter 2021 term will continue under its Hybrid Academic Plan. “Delivery of theory courses will remain online, while most hands-on training will take place on campus.”  Lambton

Simon Fraser U reports that its final undergraduate enrolment for fall is up +1.1%, and international undergrad enrolment is up +2.4%. New undergrad international students rose an astounding +25%! Masters enrolments held steady, and doctoral students increased by 1.2%, although grad certificate and diploma enrolments dropped. Student residences are running at 40% of capacity.  SFU


I’m sure I’ve omitted plenty that could have been interesting and/or important, but I’ll leave it at that for tonight!  Stay safe and be well,

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