Eduvation Blog

Enrolment Ebbs while Music Swells

Good morning, and happy Monday!

Originally I had a plan for today’s issue, but instead it developed a mind of its own, emerging from recent higher ed announcements and news, as well as a resurgent 19th century nautical tradition…

Read on for the latest announcements about pandemic enrolment trends, worries about a lost generation of men, plans for reopening campuses and to continue delivering online, budgetary relief and pressures – and #ICYMI, the “Sea Shanty” trend “sails” through CdnPSE!


COVID on Campus

In general, reported cases have eased on campuses worldwide this week, as the impacts of the Christmas/New Years’ holiday have peaked…

uFlorida added one-button “snitch switches” on their GatorSafe app, for students to report profs who fail to attend classes in-person, or modify them to virtual. The administration has promoted HyFlex delivery, but faculty object to the one-size-fits-all approach. (Last week, in response to pushback, the buttons were replaced with an open-ended complaint field.)  Inside Higher Ed

uMichigan athletics paused all competitions Saturday following “several” positive tests for the new more contagious COVID19 variant. All UM athletes may be in quarantine for 14 days.  US News


Over the weekend, there were reports of 26 more COVID19 cases associated with CdnPSE campuses or affiliated hospitals. (Many go unreported, but see my master spreadsheet for a running tally.)

Acadia U reported another on-campus student has tested positive, after completing a 14-day quarantine and attending classes Jan 18-20. So far, 10 close contacts have been instructed to self-isolate.  Acadia

Durham College reported another case on Friday at its Oshawa campus.  DC

McGill-affiliated Douglas Mental Health University Institute, a psychiatric teaching hospital in Verdun QC, reported an outbreak of 23 confirmed cases, all among patients.  CTV

St Clair College cancelled several classes today after a student tested positive on the weekend. So far, 3 close contacts have been instructed to self-isolate.  Windsor Star


Campus Plans

In general, the pace of the COVID19 pandemic, the rise of numerous more contagious variant strains, and disruptions in the vaccine supply chain are making it clear that health precautions will remain in place through much of 2021. (Although institutions in Atlantic Canada seem much more ready to reopen campus.) At this point, what’s interesting is the tension between optimism and pessimism for the Fall 2021 term. (You can see my summary of announcements so far in my master spreadsheet.)


Online in Red Zones

In response to Ontario’s Jan 14 stay-at-home order, most institutions are planning to stay online through the Winter and Spring/Summer terms…

Brescia, Huron & King’s UC, the Western U affiliates, announced last week that they are moving all classes online for the remainder of the academic year. On the main campus, however, Western still plans to resume in-person classes Feb 21.  London Free Press

Brock U will deliver courses primarily online in Winter, Spring, and Summer 2021, but is planning “a significant return to campus” this Fall, offering “as many courses as possible” F2F, and returning residences back to “near-full capacity.”  Brock

Confederation College scrambled to accommodate new provincial restrictions limiting class sizes to 10 students. Some 1,200 students either had to change their class schedules, or were dropped from programs entirely.  CBC

Ontario Tech imposed new restrictions to limit access to buildings and facilities to essential services or approved research only.  OnTech

Ryerson U has further restricted access to campus. Staff and faculty “must work from home at all times when possible” and require specific approval to access campus.  Ryersonian

uWaterloo will deliver courses primarily online this Spring, “in keeping with our current approach.”  UW

Wilfrid Laurier U will continue delivering courses primarily online this Spring.  Waterloo Record


Likewise New Brunswick moved many regions to “red zones” in mid-January…

NBCC reports most campuses are in red zones, except Miramichi which remains orange. Red precautions include facemasks, blended delivery, active temperature checks upon entry to campus, and campus services by appointment only. Most programs will be delivered in virtual or blended mode through Spring and Summer 2021.  NBCC

St Thomas U (Fredericton) is continuing with remote teaching and learning for the second semester, and in-person course elements are suspended. Student services offices and fitness facilities are closed.  STU


Atlantic & Aussie Optimism

Australian universities are feeling optimistic that the vaccine roll-out will allow for a “re-energized” student experience in early 2021, with continuing blended delivery but many more F2F classes and even orientation weeks. uCanberra is planning “more than two-thirds” of classes F2F; Murdoch U will conduct all tutorials and labs in person, as well as lectures under 100 students; uQueensland and Australian National U promise 90% or more of undergrad classes will include on-campus components; and uSydney already has half its students partially on campus. uMelbourne is emphasizing on-campus extracurricular and orientation activities.  The Guardian

Holland College has brought “most of its students” back on campus as of last week, thanks to low community infection rates in PEI. Classes of 30 are using the campus gym or a large performance hall to maintain social distancing, and students have been in self-isolation for the past 2 weeks. “Ideally we can get back to a closer normal in September.”  CBC

Memorial U is bringing all staff back to campus full time on Feb 1, although there are some exceptions “based on density requirements, medical accommodations, work-from-home pilot programs and business continuity planning for essential functions and services.” Faculty have discretion and most F2F classes will not resume before May 2021.  MUN


American… Persistence?

Despite dangerous infection levels across the state, uFlorida began its Spring semester last week with a “huge expansion” of F2F classes, with >25,000 students on campus in Gainsville. UF’s president emphasizes that in-person courses represent the best opportunity to protect employee jobs. (Hence the GatorSafe “tattle button,” above.) Florida governor Ron DeSantis (a Republican, obviously) has been pushing aggressively for reopening – despite the fact that average daily case counts have increased fivefold, from 2,949 in September to 15,985 in January. UF itself has reported >5,630 cases.  Chronicle of Higher Ed


Enrolments & Budgets

US Male Enrolment -5.1%

Across US higher ed, the decline in male enrolment last fall was 7x steeper than the decline in female students, according to National Student Clearinghouse Research Center data. Overall undergrad enrolment declined -3.6% in Sept 2020, but the effect was far greater at community colleges (-10.1%), thanks to more applied programming and more financially precarious students. Male enrolment overall declined -5.1% (compared to just -0.7% for females), and in the public 2-yr (community college) sector, male enrolment declined -14.7% (compared to -6.8% for females). Young men reportedly felt a greater responsibility to contribute to household finances by working, and avoided a much greater financial cost of American tuition. Many high school dual-enrolment programs have been suspended due to the pandemic, also disproportionately impacting disadvantaged students.  Hechinger Report  NSCRC Report

“In a sense, we have lost a generation of men to COVID19.”Adrian Huerta, Asst Prof of Education, U Southern California


Student Transfers Dropped 8%

The same NSCRC data reveals that total transfer students fell -8% this year (>3x the decrease in other students), and student mobility in all transfer pathways declined. The largest decrease was in “reverse transfers” from 4-year universities to 2-year colleges, which fell -19.4%, an acceleration of a longer-term trend. In particular, transfers to community colleges by Black students fell -22%, and by Hispanic students fell -20%. “It is not clear whether the pandemic is driving students to stay put because decision-making and administrative hurdles are more difficult to overcome without face-to-face guidance and advising, because financial and technological barriers are weighing more heavily on students and their families, or because they are simply more reluctant to risk changing institutions amid the uncertainty of the health and economic crises.”  Inside Higher Ed


Across CdnPSE, enrolment results varied this fall and reports are still coming in, although many institutions saw a decline in new international students and partially offset the impact through increased domestic enrolment. But even if student numbers held steady, revenues from campus ancillary operations fell, leading to budget deficits…

Collège Boréal was expecting a -35% enrolment drop in Sept, but came in just 62 students short because of “an influx of mature students looking to re-train.” Boréal had been planning on “hundreds” of new international students, however, and enrolled just 45.  CBC

Cambrian College enrolled 344 fewer students in Sept, including 300 fewer international students. The college hopes to balance its budget, but will feel the impact of fewer students next year as well.  CBC

Canadore College was short 500 students this fall, and is facing a deficit of $6M to $9M for the academic year.  CBC

Laurentian U reports overall enrolment rose +4% in Sept, mostly thanks to online programs, and grad enrolments rose +12%. However, new first-year undergraduate enrolment dropped -15%, and some are starting to worry about a “lost generation” due to the pandemic. Laurentian is projecting a $10M deficit, due to pandemic costs, lost ancillary revenues, and residences operating at just 30% capacity.  CBC  |  Toronto Star

Lethbridge College and uLethbridge report enrolment this year consistent with last. While some students are opting for a reduced course load, others seem to be making up the difference. Many more are accessing student services, such as mental health counselling and workshops, which rose +30% last year at UL.  Global

Université de l’Ontario Français, the new francophone institution slated to open in Toronto in Sept 2021, has thus far received just 39 applications. Although the goal was to open with 200 students, UOF will reportedly launch as planned, “no matter the number of confirmed students.” A number of Ontario universities report that applications are coming in slowly for the fall.  CBC

uSaskatchewan has drawn heavily on its reserve funds in recent years to cover shortfalls due to cuts in provincial operating grants, tuition freezes, and of course the impacts of COVID19. In just 3 years, the reserves fell from $243M to just $2.6M. UofS began its fiscal year May 1 with a $15M reserve deficit, and projects it will be a $31M deficit by Apr 30.  Saskatoon Star-Phoenix

Thompson Rivers U saw a decline of just -13% in international enrolment last fall (much better than the projected -30%), and domestic enrolment held steady – so instead of a $9M deficit, TRU is now projecting a $1.7M surplus for 2020-21. (15 staff were cut, many positions left vacant, and 75 employees took early retirement.)  Kamloops This Week

“While it’s still too early to describe this 15% first-year enrolment decline as a ‘lost generation,’ this cohort — many of them first-generation university graduates, rural, Francophone, and Indigenous — is the future of Northern Ontario.”Robert Haché, President, Laurentian U



Sea Shanties Ahoy!

Apparently, it started on Tik Tok (where else?), when Scottish postman Nathan Evans posted his cover of a 19th-century New Zealand whaling song, “The Wellerman.” Uploaded Dec 27, this song about a ship “to bring us sugar and tea and rum” now has 1.4M likes and >7M views, and has sparked a craze for the musical genre. (He’s also reportedly quit his job and signed a record deal.) Videos tagged #seashanty have been viewed ~3 billion times on TikTok. (This June’s Falmouth International Sea Shanty Festival may be the biggest ever.)

Yes, suddenly “sea shanties” (or perhaps more properly, “chanties”) have become all the rage. (You know something has gone mainstream when it hits Stephen Colbert and Jimmy Fallon, and even Arby’s releases a tribute like the “Crispy Fish Sea Shanty.”) These jaunty, contagious songs are ideal for creating a joyful sense of collaboration and community through sound, and for enduring painful labour on a long sea voyage – which gives sea shanties particular emotional resonance during this pandemic year. Some singers have suggested that sea shanties capture our collective longing to travel once the pandemic is past. (Plus, as a bonus, you don’t need much vocal talent for a song that tends to stay within a single octave.) Here’s a beautiful collection of the many remixes and duets created from Nathan Evans’ original (which itself has 2M views on YouTube.)

Academics have weighed in too, in a fine resurgence of the public intellectual tradition. A uWestminster neuropsychologist told the BBC how shanties are uplifting, and build a sense of togetherness. A prof of Irish cultural history at Liverpool John Moores U described the bawdy origins of sea shanties to the New York Times, often featuring “pimps, prostitutes and inebriated seamen losing their wages at the bar and in back-alley dice games.” A uKentucky ethnomusicology prof more succinctly observed that the original sailors, like the TikTok singers, “were in their late teens and their twenties” and “liked to drink and party.” uToronto Libraries tweeted out an album of sea shanties by Alan Mills in their collection. An American U communications prof pointed out that shanties were ideally suited for TikTok’s “duet” functionality, and that the disease and danger aboard 19th century slaving vessels resonates for us “in a turbulent time for a nation that wrestles with a deadly virus and its own painful relationship with race.” A Memorial U folklore gradobserves that shanties “come and go like the ocean,” but tend to rise in popularity “during times of duress and pressure, when life is hard.”

“Shanties are almost always about endurance and waiting for better times as life on the boats was pretty grim and this can be compared to modern-day living amid a global pandemic.”Emily Fenton, MA student in History, Dalhousie U


“For sailors, singing also helped stave off the mind-breaking monotony of being out on the open ocean, alone save your crew in the middle of nowhere on your stupid, creaky wooden deathtrap.”Hayes Brown, MSNBC


Now how did I wind up down this TikTok rabbit hole?  Oh, right…


King’s UC Shanty

So far I’ve only spotted one example of an academic contributing his own ditty to the movement (admittedly, with some help – thanks Jane Antoniak). Dave Malloy, Principal at King’s University College (at Western), jumped aboard the Sea Shanty trend with an original tune of his own. “We’re teaching online and I know we’ll be fine and it’s row, King’s UC, row.” (Let me know if there are others out there I should see!)  TikTok



Thanks for reading, and I hope your week gets off to a “swell” start, with a heigh-ho…


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