Volume 12, Number 3 September 24, 2004

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Private U for Victoria

VICTORIA – University Canada West, a new private institution, has received formal approval from the British Columbia government and plans to start offering classes in January.

Spearheaded by David Strong, former president of the University of Victoria, UCW has the power to grant two degrees – a bachelor of commerce in technology management and a master’s degree in business administration.

Now negotiating a 99-year lease on an empty elementary school building, the university has plans to expand its offerings to include a range of degrees in arts, science and business.

The first institution to receive approval under the province’s Degree Authorization Act that was passed in 2002, UCW will receive no government funding. Tuition is set at $1,000 per course. In news reports, Strong is quoted as saying the university expects 2,000 students when classes begin.

School funding falls behind

In a recent study, the Paris-based Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) suggests government’s focus on post-secondary education over the past 10 years has been at the expense of elementary and high schools.

The study ranks Canada 19th out of 30 developed countries for its funding of primary and secondary schooling in 2001, which totals 3.4 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP). University and college funding, however, is ranked third as a percentage of GDP, with Canada’s 2.5 per cent surpassed only by the United States and South Korea.

The 459-page report also stated that 43 per cent of 25-64-year-olds in Canada have a university or college education, the highest in the study.

Sweden funds research

The endosperm in wheat and barley, the structure that contains much of the starch, protein and fat in the seed and the most important compound used to determine crop quality, is the focus of a joint U of S-Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences study.

The four-year project involving Ravindra Chibbar, Canada Research Chair in crop quality and plant sciences professor Brian Fowler, was recently awarded a $273,000 grant from the Swedish Foundation for International Co-operation in Research and Higher Education. The work will build on U of S infrastructure and expertise built up in the large-scale Genome Prairie/Genome Canada project launched in 2001.

Tuition hike smaller

Statistics Canada is reporting that although undergraduates will pay more for this education this fall, those tuition fees mark the smallest increase in three years.

Students will pay an average of $4,172 in the 2004-05 academic year. That is up 3.9 per cent over the previous year. Helping to create the lower average are tuition caps in four provinces: Manitoba, Newfoundland and Labrador, Quebec and Ontario.

According to StatsCan, tuition fees jumped by an average of 9.7 per cent per year through the 1990s but since 1999-2000, have slowed to 5.3 per cent annually. That said, between 1990 and 2003, fees increased at four times the average rate of inflation.

Fungal defence studied

The ability of crops like canola and cabbage to protect themselves from the devastating effects of fungal diseases is the focus of work by U of S chemistry professor Soledade Pedras.

Recently awarded $400,000 in federal funding in the form of an Accelerator Grant for Exceptional New Opportunities, designed to back new and daring ideas with great potential for a major breakthrough, Pedras and her team will focus on biotrophic fungi. These fungi infect plants cells, then change attack and defense programs and, in the process, kill the plant cells. The key, she believes, will be understanding the biochemical pathways of biotrophic fungi.

The one-time-only NSERC funding will support two graduate students and two post-doctoral fellows.

CFI grants awarded

U of S research projects, into age-related illness and underground greenhouse gas storage, were given a $138,693 boost recently with an equipment grant from the Canadian Foundation for Innovation.

Chris Hawkes in civil engineering was awarded $74,800 for the purchase of a rock compression system that will measure the strength and fluid transport properties of rock. The aim is to be able to drill stable wells, and to evaluate rock formations suitable for long-term underground storage of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide.

In Pharmacy and Nutrition, Brian Bandy will use $63,893 toward a microscope and luminometer that will be used to study how oxidative stress contributes to aging, cardiovascular disease and cancer.

Website highlights sexual diversity

The U of S Library’s rich collections of material on sexual diversity is now being publicized on a website launched by its special collections department.

Amassed over 30 years, the collections are surpassed in size in Canada only by the Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives in Toronto, according to Janet Catterall, special collections librarian and website project co-ordinator. The site also promotes the availability of the books and journals to any Saskatchewan resident through interlibrary loans.

The site aims to be “a starting point for anyone with either a personal curiosity or academic interest in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities in Saskatchewan, including their histories, literatures and cultures,” Catterall said. “The Saskatchewan Resources for Sexual Diversity (SRSD) site will record and in some cases present in digital formats, important documents and images about these communities.”

The site will also include guides to holdings of other archives and governments.

“ Our goal in designing the site was to produce something that was as lively and colourful as its subject, the local lesbian and gay communities, and a site that would easily accommodate future additions and expansions,” said Catterall.

It can be viewed at http://library.usask.ca/spcoll/srsd

Ont. reviews funding

TORONTO – A review of Ontario’s colleges and universities headed by that province’s former premier Bob Rae will key in on sustainable funding.

The Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations says Ontario is last in the country in terms of per-student post-secondary funding. The review panel should also address the use of tuition to offset reductions in grants to institutions over the past two decades, the OCUFA said.

For more information, contact communications.office@usask.ca

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