Home About Peter UEL Homes University Buildings University Town Gallery History Links
  A Brief History of the University of British Columbia

1877 – Initial proposal for a provincial university made by Superintendent of Education John Jessop, only six years after British Columbia joined Canada, with the total population still less than 50,000.

1890 – "An Act Respecting the University of British Columbia" passed by the provincial legislature. However, the political rivalry between Vancouver Island and the mainland leads to a dispute about where the university should be located.

1891 – The first meeting of the new university's senate in Victoria (Vancouver Island) fails to reach quorum when some members from the mainland fail to attend. A second meeting is never held, and the "Act" is allowed to lapse.

1899 – Vancouver High School establishes Vancouver College, affiliated with Montreal's McGill University.

1906 – Vancouver College taken over by McGill and is renamed McGill University College of British Columbia. MUCBC offers only two-year programmes in arts and sciences; students still have to go elsewhere to complete their degrees.

1907 – "University Endowment Act" provides for the funding of a provincial university through the sale of up to two million acres of Crown land in central and northern British Columbia.

1908 – Provincial legislature passes a new "University Act" establishing the University of British Columbia. It provides for a Chancellor, a Convocation, a President, a Board of Governors to manage the University's administration, property, and business affairs, and a Senate to administer academic matters. Convocation is initially to include all graduates of British or Canadian universities resident in the province, plus 25 members chosen by the provincial government; after its first meeting, it is to consist of members of the first Convocation, plus members of Senate and all graduates of the University. The "Act" also declares the University to be non-sectarian and co-educational.

1910 – After a province-wide survey, Point Grey, near Vancouver, is selected as the site of the UBC campus.

1912 – First meeting of Convocation. Election of Dr. Francis Carter-Cotton, head of MUCBC, as first Chancellor.

1913Dr. Frank Fairchild Wesbrook appointed first President of UBC.
– Architectural firm of Sharp and Thompson (later Thompson, Berwick, Pratt and Partners) appointed University Architects, after winning a campus planning and design competition.

1914 – Construction of first permanent buildings at Point Grey begins. Outbreak of First World War halts work the next year, with only land-clearance and the frame of the Science Building completed.
– Librarian J.T. Gerould from the University of Minnesota, hired to purchase books in Europe, is arrested as a spy in Leipzig, Germany when war breaks out; the incriminating "evidence" is a copy of the UBC site plan in his baggage.

1915 – University of British Columbia opens in temporary headquarters at the former MUCBC facilities (nicknamed the "Fairview shacks" after the surrounding neighbourhood) adjacent to Vancouver General Hospital (left, UBC Archives photo #1.1/1317). There are three faculties: Arts and Science, Applied Science, and Agriculture.
– Student enrolment in September is 379. Full- and part-time faculty number 34.
– Military training included in curriculum for duration of the war. By the end of the First World War, 697 students would see active military service – 78 would be killed in action (right, UBC Archives Photo #1.1/1373).
Alma Mater Society (student union) formed.

1916John Ridington appointed first University Librarian (right, UBC Archives Photo #1.1/1511).

1918 – President Wesbrook dies, and is succeeded the following year by Dean of Agriculture Dr. Leonard S. Klinck.

1919 – The return of students from war-time duty increases enrolment to 890 for 1919-20. The "shacks" quickly become over-crowded, with classes being held in tents, churches, and Sunday schools; however, construction at Point Grey is not resumed.
– The University offers first degree programme in nursing in the British Empire.

1920 – Victoria College opens in affiliation with UBC.
– The University imposes first tuition fees of $40 per year.
– "University Endowment Act" amended: rights to Crown lands in the interior exchanged for 3000 acres adjacent to the Point Grey site, which are intended for sale as residential properties.

1922 – Tired of over-crowded conditions (full-time enrolment reaches 1200 for 1921-22), students organize province-wide publicity campaign to persuade the government to complete the Point Grey campus. The "Build the University" campaign climaxes in a parade (the "Great Trek") from downtown Vancouver to Point Grey, and the presentation of a petition with 56,000 signatures to the Speaker of the Legislature in Victoria. The government authorizes a $1.5 million loan to resume construction. The campaign marks the beginning of active student involvement in the University's development, and is commemorated by a stone cairn erected at Point Grey (right, UBC Archives Photo #1.1/311).

1923 – Government lets contracts for completion of Point Grey buildings: the Science building (today part of the Chemistry building), the Library (today the centre block of Main Library), a power plant, and "semi-permanent" buildings (Arts, Agriculture, Applied Science, Administration, the Auditorium, and four laboratory/workshop buildings, most of which are still in use today).

1925 – UBC moves to Point Grey campus (left, UBC Archives photo #1.1/883).
– First honorary degrees awarded.

1929 – UBC's first gymnasium, built with funds raised by students, presented to the University.

1932 – Great Depression forces reduction in University operating grants by provincial government. Students mount successful publicity campaign against a suggestion that the University be closed; however, the budget is reduced from $626,000 to $250,000 and salaries are reduced. The resulting disputes between President Klinck, the Board, and the Senate eventually lead to amendments to the "University Act" in 1935 which re-organizes the University government.

1936 – Establishment of Department of University Extension (today's Continuing Studies), which provides post-secondary education around the province and year-round.

1937 – Students contribute funds toward construction of UBC Stadium.

1939 – Enrolment reaches 2400 students.
– Registration in campus C.O.T.C. (Canadian Officer Training Corps) unit doubles as Second World War begins. A total of 1680 students would eventually enlist in the armed services. Of that total, 169 would "make the ultimate sacrifice", including R. Hampton "Hammy" Gray, posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross.

1940 – Students contribute to the construction of the first student union building, Brock Hall (right, UBC Archives Photo #1.1/346).

1941 – Students waive army pay to help construct Armoury. Campus army unit reaches maximum strength of 1879, and many faculty members are on leave for special war-time duty.
– Federal government funding for defence and other research purposes increases.

1944Dr. Norman A.M. MacKenzie appointed UBC's third President.
– First student residences opened at Acadia and Fort Camps.

1945 – University begins post-war academic expansion by inaugurating the Faculty of Law, and establishing new programmes in social work, pharmacy, home economics, and physical education. To accomodate the new programmes and students, fifteen abandoned army and air force camps are dismantled and shipped to Point Grey, where the huts serve as classrooms, laboratories, and residences for both students and faculty. A few are still in use today, mainly for storage purposes (left, UBC Archives photo #1.1/1007).

1947 – Enrolment swells to 9374, with war veterans making up some 50 percent.
– Postwar construction would add more than twenty new buildings by 1951, including facilities for physics, engineering, and biological sciences, as well as the Library's north wing.
Faculty of Graduate Studies established to administer masters and Ph.D. programmes.
– Opening of the first Faculty Club, in a surplus army hut originally used as an officers' mess.

1948 – Van de Graff atomic generator installed in Hennings (Physics) Building – one of many government-supported post-war research initiatives.

1949 – Faculties of Pharmacy and Medicine established.
– First Museum of Anthropology opened in the basement of the Library.

1950 – Schools of Commerce and Education established.

1951 – Student initiative leads to construction of War Memorial Gymnasium, as a memorial to British Columbia's war dead. Mounted in the gymnasium are plaques of the University's "honour rolls" – lists of students who lost their lives in the two World Wars.
– First women's residences opened.
Faculty of Forestry – formerly a department in Applied Science – established, along with the School of Nursing.

1954 – British Empire Games swimming and diving events held at newly-constructed pool adjacent to War Memorial Gymnasium.
– Brock Hall partially destroyed by fire. Restoration funded by donations from students and alumni.

1956 – Construction of Buchanan Building for Faculty of Arts and Science begins.
– Commerce and Education promoted to Faculty status.
– UBC incorporates Sopron School of Forestry from Hungary, after students (shown at 1957 memorial service) and faculty flee their homeland after the failed anti-Soviet revolution (right, UBC Archives Photo #1.1/772-3).
– Dr. William Holland arrives to head the new Department of Asian Studies, and brings with him the library and records of the Institute of Pacific Relations, which had closed its New York office in the wake of allegations of Communist influence.

1958 – University celebrates its "Golden Jubilee" and launches the "UBC Development Fund", the first public appeal for capital funds by any Canadian university. Fund drive and government contributions together raise $35 million.

1959International House, a meeting place for UBC students from outside Canada, officially opened by Eleanor Roosevelt.
– Opening of new Faculty Club and University Social Centre, donated by Leon and Thea Koerner.

1960 – South Wing of Library completed, housing an undergraduate library (later named the Sedgewick Library, after former English Department head and Shakespearean scholar Garnett G. Sedgewick) and a Special Collections Division (right, UBC Archives Photo #1.1/4082).

1961 – Schools of Librarianship and Rehabilitation Medicine open.

1962 – Dr. John B. Macdonald becomes UBC's fourth President.

1963 – Report by President Macdonald on the future of higher education in British Columbia. A new university and a network of community colleges are among the recommendations.
– Provincial government passes new "Universities Act", which provides for the incorporation of the University of Victoria (formerly Victoria College) and Simon Fraser University.

1964 – A gift of $3.5 million by Dr. P.A. Woodward assures continuing development of UBC's Health Sciences Centre, including classroom facilities, a bio-medical library, and a hospital.
– Faculty of Arts and Science splits.
– First class enrols in new Faculty of Dentistry.

1965 – Forestry magnate H.R. MacMillan gives $3 million to expand Library book collection. This coincides with beginning of decentralization of Library system, eventually leading to establishment of thirteen branch libraries around the campus and elsewhere in Vancouver, housing over three million books.
– University begins largest expansion programme in its history, building South Campus research area.

1967 – First four students elected to University Senate.
– "Yorkeen" mansion, at north end of campus, donated by Cecil Green (former UBC student and co-founder of Texas Instruments). Renamed Cecil Green Park, today it houses the University's Development Office and the UBC Alumni Association (right, UBC Archives Photo #1.1/3292).

1968 – New Student Union Building (SUB) completed. Brock Hall turned over to student services and administration.
– American "Yippie" leader Jerry Rubin leads student sit-in at UBC Faculty Club. Occupation ends without violence 22 hours later.

1969 – Popular University alumnus, mathematics professor, and dean Dr. Walter H. Gage appointed President.
– University completes five-year, $71 million building programme.

1970 – UBC enrolment numbers 20,936 students.

1971 – UBC becomes first university in Canada to offer Women's Studies programme for academic credit.

1972 – UBC Senate adopts report advocating new emphasis on opportunities for part-time degree study.

1973 – Sedgewick Undergraduate Library moves to underground facilities west of Main Library (left, UBC Archives photo #41.1/2306).
– Investment in UBC buildings from 1915 to 1973 totals more than $173 million.
– Senate approves recommendations for election of 196 students as full voting members of UBC's twelve faculties.
– Enrolment for 1972-73 academic year in credit and non-credit programmes at Point Grey and throughout British Columbia total 66,508 students.

1974 – Senate committee proposes priorities for 16 building projects, costing an estimated $35 million, for period 1975-1980.
– Tri-University Meson Facility (TRIUMF) opened in South Campus area, housing giant cyclotron used for research in nuclear and particle physics.

1975 – Former Dean of Arts Dr. Douglas T. Kenny appointed President of UBC.

1976 – Opening of new Museum of Anthropology, partially funded by the federal government, featuring its outstanding collections of Northwest Coast First Nations (native) art (right, UBC Archives Photo #41.1/553).
– Establishment of Centre for Human Settlement at UBC, in connection with the United Nations Conference on Human Settlement (Habitat '76) in Vancouver.

1977 – UBC begins teacher education programme in Whitehorse, Yukon Territory.

1979 – UBC awards its 100,000th degree.

1980 – Final phase of Health Sciences Centre opens. The Koerner Pavilion, named for Walter C. Koerner, one of the University's most important benefactors, includes an Acute Care Hospital.

1981 – Opening of Asian Centre (left, UBC Archives photo #1.1/16474), which houses the Department of Asian Studies and an Asian Library, and which is adjacent to the classical Japanese Nitobe Memorial Garden.
– Discovery Park UBC established in South Campus area, on land leased to the provincial government for use as a research facility.

1982 – Budget shortfall of $7.5 million, and provincial government's refusal to provide additional funding, forces University to raise tuition fees an average of 32.8%, and consider cutting faculty and support staff. Student protests, including a campus-wide "day of mourning", have little effect.

1983 – Dr. K. George Pederson appointed President.

1984 – Faced with continuing financial constraints, Senate votes to limit first-year enrolment for 1984-85, and the Board of Governors raises tuition fees an average of 33%.

1985 – President Pederson resigns in protest against provincial government cuts in post-secondary funding. Dr. Robert H.T. Smith appointed President pro tem. Later in the year, Dr. David W. Strangway is named University President.

1986 – Provincial government announces "Fund for Excellence In Education", to be shared by all three provincial universities to support "Centres of Excellence" in certain areas of research and instruction.

1988 – UBC Real Estate Corporation founded to develop the University's real estate assets, for capital fund or endowment purposes. It is to administer Hampton Place, a new residential development on the edge of campus.
– Computerized telephone course registration system, known as TELEREG, introduced. This replaces the on-campus "arena scheduling" system, which required students to physically walk across campus from department to department to register for courses.

1989 – Launching of "The UBC Campaign", with its theme "A World of Opportunity". Its goal is to raise $66 million in private and corporate donations, with the provincial government to provide equal matching funds, to pay for new buildings, facilities, programmes, and scholarships. Overwhelmingly successful, by the time it ends in 1993 the campaign will have raised a total of $262 million.
– Pacific Spirit Regional Park created from undeveloped areas of University Endowment Lands.
– UBC enters into partnership with Cariboo and Okanagan Colleges, providing third- and fourth-year programmes leading to degrees in Arts and Science. The colleges are re-named University College of the Cariboo and Okanagan University College.

1990 – UBC celebrates the 75th anniversary of its opening with a series of special events, including the largest Open House in its history.

1992 – Undergraduate and graduate enrolment for 1992-93 academic year totals 30,579 students. Registration for non-credit courses exceeds 85,000. Full-time faculty number 1851, and support staff number 3774. Expenses for 1991-92 totalled $328,011,000, and funding for research (both grants and contracts) totalled $116,957,082.
– Release of a new Main Campus Plan, following those of 1959, 1968, and 1982. It is intended to direct the growth and evolution of the Point Grey campus to the year 2000 and beyond.
– Ritsumeikan House opens for students from UBC's exchange programme with Ritsumeikan University in Kyoto, Japan.

1993 – U.S. President Bill Clinton and Russian President Boris Yeltsin meet at UBC during the "Vancouver Summit".
– Opening of First Nations House of Learning. Built of western red cedar, with a copper-clad roof, its design is based on that of a Coast Salish longhouse. It houses First Nations education programmes, counselling services, and cultural events, and generally serves as a "home away from home" for some 250 First Nations students attending UBC.
– Opening of Green College, a residential graduate college designed to foster an "interdisciplinary community" among visiting scholars and students.
– UBC biochemistry professor Michael Smith receives Nobel Prize (right, UBC Archives photo #41.1/1892).

1995 – Opening of C.K. Choi Building, for the Institute of Asian Research. It is constructed largely of recycled materials (including timber beams from the demolished Armoury), and embodies the most advanced environmental design principles.

1996 – Undergraduate admissions policy revised by Senate, enabling faculties to use criteria such as leadership abilities and career-related work experience for admitting students directly from high school.
– Establishment of St. John's College, a residential graduate college, and the Sing Tao School of Journalism announced. Both would officially open the following year.
– Completion of Walter C. Koerner Central Library, which combines Sedgewick Library with a new five-storey building.

1997 – Dr. Martha C. Piper becomes UBC's new President.
– The Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation (APEC) Economic Leaders' Meeting is hosted by the federal government at the UBC Museum of Anthropology. Approximately 1,500 protesters come to the campus to voice their concerns that APEC discussions aimed at liberalizing trade between participating countries would not include any reference to human rights and social and environmental issues. Clashes between protestors and police would lead to a number of legal actions and an official inquiry.

1998 – First Annual General Meetings held – one in downtown Vancouver, the other on campus. The meetings are intended to inform both the public and the University community about UBC's goals for the future, key accomplishments of the past year, and its financial position.
– Board of Governors approves Trek 2000, a vision document presenting the University's goals and principles for the 21st century, and identifying key targets and strategies to attain them.
– Faculty of Forestry moves from the Macmillan Building, which it had shared with Agricultural Sciences, to the Forest Sciences Centre. A fundraising campaign, providing opportunities to name certain facilities in the Forest Science Centre, attracted support from the B.C. forest industry, with UBC providing matching funds.

2000 – Completion of Donald Rix Building, named after the UBC clinical assistant professor of pathology and entrepreneur who contributed to the cost of the building, and built to accommodate the growth of new companies created on the basis of UBC research. There are 22 private companies located on campus. Most of these companies are UBC spin-offs, with the remainder having research relationships with the University. Profits from lease agreements with these companies are fed back into UBC research.

2001 – The Wallace B. Chung and Madeline H. Chung Collection and Reading Room opens in Main Library. Originally donated in 1999, the collection is considered a national treasure and valued in the millions of dollars. It consists of more than 25,000 items and focuses on the exploration of the Pacific Northwest, the Chinese experience in North America, the history of British Columbia, and the Canadian Pacific Railway Company.
– Opening of UBC at Robson Square, located in downtown Vancouver. Both credit and non-credit courses are taught at the new campus, primarily from Commerce and Continuing Studies. Public lectures in a broad range of cultural and community themes are also presented. UBC at Robson Square also houses the Women's Resource Centre, as well as library and bookstore facilities.
– TELEREG course registration system eliminated in favour of an Internet-based system via the UBC Student Services website.

2002 – Completion of the Chapman Learning Commons in the 5th-floor concourse of the Main Library. The Commons features group study space, learning resources, and state-of-the-art computing and Internet facilities.

2003 – Faculty of Commerce and Business Administration changes its name to Sauder School of Business, to honour a $20-million gift from forest industry leader and former UBC Chancellor William L. Sauder.
– Construction begins on the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre, to be built around the heritage core of Main Library. Upon its completion in 2006, it will house UBC Library collections (including an automated storage and retrieval system) and reference services, as well as the Chapman Learning Commons and the Chung Collection. Named for forest industry leader Irving K. "Ike" Barber, who donated $20-million for its construction (UBC and the provincial government provided matching funding), the Learning Centre will also include lecture halls, classrooms, meeting and study spaces, and seminar rooms to support UBC's interdisciplinarity and information studies programmes.

2004 – Announcement of the merger of UBC and Okanagan University College. UBC Okanagan will open on the site of the North Kelowna campus of OUC in September 2005 – at the same time, other OUC campuses will be reorganized to form Okanagan College.
– Opening of the Michael Smith Laboratories, a $30-million biotechnology research facility, housing the former UBC Biotechnology Laboratory and named after the Nobel Laureate who died in 2000.

2005 – After a lengthy re-visioning process, the Faculty of Agricultural Sciences is re-named the Faculty of Land and Food Systems "to better reflect the diversity of its academic programs and research initiatives ".
– Official launch of revised vision document Trek 2010.

2006 – First Convocation ceremony at UBC-Okanagan.
– Dr. Stephen J. Toope is appointed UBC's twelfth president.


Logan, Harry T. Tuum Est – A History of the University of British Columbia. Vancouver: The University of British Columbia, 1958.

Scrapbook for a Golden Anniversary – The University of British Columbia Library, 1915-1965. Victoria: Morriss Printing Company Ltd., 1965.

UBC Fact Book. 1992.

UBC Reports.

The Ubyssey.

Woodcock, George, and Tim Fitzharris. The University of British Columbia – A Souvenir. Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1986.