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Browse the five decades below to learn more about UVic's rich history. This brief overview focuses on some of the highlights from the university's creation in 1963 up to the UVic we know today. Additionally, visit our people section to learn more about key figures in UVic's past, browse the photo gallery to view photos from the past 50 years and explore our stories' section which feature UVic landmarks and memories.


Campus under construction, 1964. 

Campus under construction in January 1964.
Credit: UVic Archives.


1960s overview

For UVic, the 1960s were a period of transformation. First, the institution transitioned from Victoria College into a university. Then UVic moved from its old campus at Lansdowne to the new Gordon Head campus. The first half of the 1960s saw the university split between these two campuses.

In the 1960s, UVic needed to establish its own unique identity, attract the best faculty and provide programs that served the community. Across Canada, university enrollment increased while funding decreased. From fall 1963 to fall 1968, UVic enrollment more than doubled from 2,085 to 4,726 students; the number of faculty also ballooned from 120 to 300.

Across the world, students demanded inclusion in governance in their universities and student protests sometimes turned violent. Although UVic students actively campaigned for their voices to be heard, the UVic student population demonstrated a typical laid-back attitude when their only protest was staged in a pub and was over the university's “no jeans” policy. Adding to internal difficulties, UVic also had to negotiate several tenure crises towards the end of the 1960s.

Despite difficulties with the split campus, funding shortages, and pressure from enrolment, the 1960s saw much excitement over the future promise of the new university.

1960s highlights

  • July 1, 1963: the University of Victoria officially became a university. The next day, the cornerstone of McPherson Library was laid and the university was officially opened.
  • 1964-65: the interdisciplinary Department of Linguistics was opened, a first in English-speaking Canada.
  • 1966: the move to Gordon Head was complete with all departments and classes finally located on campus. In the fall, the new School of Graduate Studies enrolled its first group of 45 students, as did the School of Fine Arts.
  • 1966: UVic, Simon Fraser University and the University of British Columbia founded TRIUMF (The Tri-University Meson Facility) to build and operate a cyclotron for nuclear physics research. The group later included the University of Alberta.
  • 1967: the Malahat Review was founded and soon became one of North America's best literary magazines.
  • 1968: in January, student representation on UVic senate was approved and senate meetings were opened to the public in December.
  • 1969: in the spring convocation the university's first PhD degree was granted to Frank J. Spellacy (Psychology). In July, the Faculty of Fine Arts agreed to co-operate with the Victoria Conservatory of Music to organize the Victoria Fair, an annual summer festival.
  • October 28, 1969: Royalty came to UVic. HRH Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, received UVic's first honorary Doctor of Science degree.


Aerial view of campus, 1979.

North-east aerial view of campus in 1979.
Credit: UVic Photographic Services/UVic Archives


1970s overview

The 1970s were a turbulent time at UVic because of divisions over the university's governance and continuing tenure issues. However, UVic saw much stability return to campus with the election of Dr. Howard E. Petch as president. Dr. Petch continued to lead UVic for the next 15 years.

UVic’s student population continued to grow and, more importantly, change. The average student age rose and more students were part-time; between 1969 and 1977, the number of part-time students tripled. Additionally, more women attended UVic; by 1977, women registered were in the slight majority and they comprised almost two thirds of part-time students.

Responding to this new student body, UVic provided more “people-oriented disciplines” such as nursing and social work. In order to enable more working people to attend, the university expanded its distance programs and links with the community. This change could be seen in the enrollment statistics for the new Division of University Extension. For example, in 1978-79 more than 10,000 people registered for non-credit and professional development courses off campus. This was a 300 per cent increase in enrollment from the previous year!

Community ties were strengthened with more joint university and community projects. For example, alumni and community borrowers were allowed greater access to McPherson Library and departments visited the community, offered lectures and hosted community groups on campus. UVic also raised its international presence by establishing global research and teaching links. The campus continued to expand and new dynamic schools were created.

Overall, despite budget cuts and governance difficulties, the university looked optimistically towards its growth into a “mid-sized” university in the late 1970s and 1980s.


1970s highlights

  • 1972: Western Canadian Universities joined together to buy Bamfield, a former Pacific Cable Board cable station, for use as a marine research station. In the fall, the new interdisciplinary program in Pacific Studies accepted its first students.
  • 1973-74: the School of Child Care and the School of Public Administration officially opened.
  • 1975: the Law School opened. In the fall, the Community Relations department started publication of The Ring, which still publishes today.
  • 1976: UVic’s first co-operative education (co-op) programs launched in the Departments of Physics and Chemistry; by 1980, computer science, mathematics, geography and creative writing had joined the program. In fall 1976, the Schools of Nursing and Social Work opened.
  • 1977: the university created the new Faculty of Human and Social Development, which the schools of Child Care, Nursing, Public Administration and Social Work joined. In late 1977, UVic first appeared on satellite television to transmit lectures to five locations including an isolated logging camp.
  • 1978: the newly named Division of University Extension expanded its distance programs. For example, UVic offered courses to lower mainland prisons.
  • 1979-80: with increased funding, the UVic athletes proved their worth when they won both the men and women's national university basketball championships, a first in Canada.


Aerial view of campus, 1980. 

Aerial view of campus, 1980. Credit: UVic Archives.


1980s overview

In the 1980s, UVic’s global reputation increased and the institution expanded its programs, yet UVic still had to wrangle over funding and fees. The mid 1980s saw the first drop ever in the university’s enrolment; in 1984 enrollment was down by 19 per cent. It is likely that this drop was caused partly by increasing student fees and stricter rules over student loans. However, by 1987 enrollment climbed again.

UVic's response to financial pressure was to campaign for private funds and by 1988 the university had raised $19 million for endowment funds. Student numbers also increased with more distance education programs offered in subjects such as public administration, child care and computer-based information systems.

UVic cemented its position as a top university as it garnered multiple research awards and published research widely. UVic strengthened international ties with a strong focus on links to the Asia-Pacific region. Programs took on a more interdisciplinary nature like the new combined French and English major in Canadian literature.

With innovative programs and global recognition, the university celebrated its 25th anniversary in 1988.

1980s highlights

  • 1981: UVic opened BC’s second School of Engineering, which offered electrical engineering and computer engineering. In 1986, the first students registered for mechanical engineering.
  • 1982: First Nations education programs started, enabling teachers to complete courses without having to be on campus for long periods.
  • 1983: exchange programs began between the East China Normal University and the Faculty of Education.
  • 1984: UVic ranked sixth in Canada in total research awards per grantee and per applicant. In December 1984, CFUV student radio first went on the air.
  • 1986: UVic became home to the National Coaching Institute.
  • 1987: UVic was second only to the University of Toronto in an average of Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council grants awarded to Canadian researchers.
  • 1988: 10 per cent of full time UVic students took part in co-op programs. Plus, to meet increasing enrollment demands students could now register by phone. UVic celebrated its 25th anniversary.


View of campus 1991. Credit: UVic Photographic Services.

View of campus in 1991. Credit: UVic Photographic Services.


1990s overview

The 1990s were an exciting time for UVic. The university strengthened its community links, its reputation grew internationally and it garnered multiple research grants and awards. In 1994, UVic helped host the 1994 Commonwealth Games, with many events held at the Centennial Stadium. Queen Elizabeth arrived at Centennial Stadium to officially open the competition and, 10 days later, Prince Edward closed the games.

The celebratory atmosphere of the Commonwealth Games continued as many departments celebrated anniversaries such as the Department of Writing's and the School of Child and Youth Care's 25th anniversary celebrations in 1998 and Women’s Studies’ 20th anniversary celebrations in 1999. There were, of course, some difficulties for the university with budget negotiations, a student fee freeze, and the first strike from UVic employees in the university’s history.

The university expanded its diverse distance and part-time education programs. For example, in 1992, French teachers could take a MA in French with a teaching emphasis and in 1995 a Certificate in Public Relations allowed working professionals to take courses in their spare time.  The co-op program was the third largest in Canada, with more than 25 percent of full-time UVic students participating in co-op programs, and 40 departments offering co-op. Student enrollment grew; by 1995, more than 16,000 students pursued courses in eight faculties and 12 interdisciplinary research and teaching centres and by 1998, 17,222 graduate and undergraduate students were enrolled. UVic opened an International Affairs office for the university's rapidly growing number of international students.

The end of the millennium had seen UVic established as a successful institution. A bright future beckoned UVic with a new president, Dr. David Turpin, ready to take on the next millennium’s challenges.

1990s highlights

  • 1994: UVic helped host the 1994 Commonwealth Games. Canada did very well in the games with the final medal tally placing them second to Australia. The Victoria Games were a huge commercial success with a total of $7 million raised from tickets. Additionally, UVic gained the Athletes Village as a new housing complex.
  • 1995: the Theatre Department hosted a three-day Beckett Festival.
  • 1996: UVic collaborated with other nursing programs to enable Lower Mainland students to complete their degrees. UVic co-op arranged 2,816 placements locally, across Canada and in 41 other countries. The university also became the headquarters of Co-op Japan, a program that annually placed students from 17 Canadian universities in Japanese industry.
  • 1997: thanks to a donation of $17,500, UVic purchased a new boat to study gray whales and the west coast’s ecology. Family care workers in Thompson, Manitoba graduated from the School of Child and Youth Care's new distance MA program.
  • 1998: The Vikes continued to win titles: in March, the Vikes women's basketball team won the CIAU national championship, the sixth national title for the team; in November, the Vikes women's cross-country team won the CIAU national championships, the university's 36th CIAU title; and the Vikes men's rugby and men's and women's rowing teams also took national university titles. In June, UVic awarded its 50,000th degree in spring convocation. In October, UVic researchers received $1.15 million funding to support work on forest regeneration, ocean-floor exploration, and the environment. In January, UVic’s Law School was ranked number one in Canada for the third consecutive year by recent law grads in Canadian Lawyer magazine.
  • 1999: in spring, the new U-pass system was introduced and by fall public transit to campus had increased by 30 per cent. In August, UVic gained media attention with its latest continuing studies' course “Jimi Hendrix 101.” A 1999 study revealed UVic annually injected $299 million into the Capital Region’s economy. Researchers earned $5.7 million in research grants from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC). In the same year, UVic beats rivals Stanford and Harvard in a global competition for training entrepreneurs. 


Aerial view of campus, 2010. 

Aerial view of campus in 2010. Credit: University Marketing.


2000s overview:

Research flourished at UVic in the 2000s. Over the decade, UVic was consistently named one of Canada’s top three research universities by Re$earch Infosource and led its peers across the country in two measures of research performance—growth in research income and growth in research intensity. UVic built and developed several major facilities and programs, including CanAssist, the UVic-Genome BC Proteomics Centre and the world-leading VENUS and NEPTUNE Canada cabled undersea networks, which together make up the Ocean Networks Canada Observatory. And UVic researchers strengthened their reputation as national and international leaders in the areas of health, environmental sustainability, clean energy, climate change, subatomic physics and astronomy, Indigenous studies and computational modelling.

In 2001, funding was increased for student scholarships by $500,000. UVic proved its importance to the community and the commercial sector. In December 2006, UVic-owned Vancouver Island Technology Park (VITP) delivered a major boost to the region’s economy by generating over 2,000 jobs and $280 million in revenue.

UVic continued to impress in rankings and enrolment statistics. In 2012 UVic was ranked #11 globally and first in Canada among universities less than 50 years old by Times Higher Education (THE). It also ranked in THE's elite global list of the top 200 universities, which includes approximately one per cent of the world's best institutions. UVic retained its second place overall ranking among comprehensive universities in the 2011 Maclean's annual ranking of Canadian universities.

UVic’s programs continued to offer innovative learning experiences. In February 2003, the Faculty of Engineering became the first in BC to offer a bachelor of software engineering. In 2010, The Faculty of Business launched a one-year MA in global business and a new PhD program. In February 2011, 35 years after its launch, UVic Co-op celebrated its 60,000th placement. By 2011, the Division of Continuing Studies continued to grow and by 2011 offered approximately 200 courses and 29 certificate/diploma programs. In September 2011, UVic launched the School of Public Health and Social Policy―the first new school at UVic in 20 years. The university has also reinforced its commitment to sustainability through its sustainability policy and action plan.

In 2012 to 2013, UVic will celebrate its 50th anniversary. If you have been part of UVic’s history submit your Great Moments so we can archive the university’s history and get involved with celebrations of the university’s students, alumni, faculty, staff, retirees, and community!

2000s highlights

  • 2000: a new child and youth care master's program is launched aimed at working professionals.
  • 2001: in January, UVic English professor Michael Best launched Internet Shakespeare Editions.  In August, UVic is announced as the main beneficiary of the estate of Michael Williams and receives real estate and art valued at $17 million, the largest gift in the university's history.
  • 2004: in November, UVic climate researchers received a $12.3 million tool, the NEC SX-6 supercomputer, one of the world’s fastest computers. In December, UVic helped to create the world’s largest international computer grid project.
  • February 2006: UVic engineers helped build a 30-metre telescope, the world’s largest .
  • 2007: in May, UVic became the first university in BC to sign an agreement with the China Scholarship Council that gives UVic preferred status for top graduates from Chinese universities. In the same month, UVic officially expanded into space! A 3.5-km asteroid travelling 416 million km from Earth was officially named UVic after its discovery by Dave Balam, from the Department of Physics and Astronomy.
  • December 2008: UVic becomes Canada’s first All-Steinway School with Steinway pianos in all practice rooms, studios, and concert halls.
  • 2009: On October 30, UVic welcomed the 2010 Winter Olympic Torch.
  • Jan 2011: Peter B. Gustavson School of Business is accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB); this placed the school amongst the top business schools worldwide.


Website copy written by the 50th Anniversary Organizational Team.

This overview references two fantastic books on the University of Victoria’s history:

Smith, Peter L. A Multitude of the Wise: UVic Remembered. Victoria: The Alumni Association of the University of Victoria, 1993.

The Story of the University of Victoria and its Origin in Victoria College. Victoria: University of Victoria, 1988.

We have also referenced Alumni Quarterly, The Ring and The Martlet.

Additionally, UVic Archives helped find materials and provided photos, thanks to Lara, Jane and Nada. Thanks also to Libraries’ Tina Bebbington who offered guidance.

For a detailed overview of UVic’s 50 year history, see Professor Emeritus Ian McPherson’s history of UVic, Reaching Outward and Upward, available at the UVic Bookstore.

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