The soaring birth rates and living results of the post-war ‘baby boom’ are reaching maturity and affecting university enrollments across Canada. Suddenly, UBC sees an unprecedented flurry of undergraduate registrations that predictably results in the administration scrambling to ensure facilities and staffing are able to support student numbers.
The increased demand for higher education equals a need for more faculty — yet ‘home grown’ qualified PhDs are hard to find in Canada. As a result, recruitment from the United States, Britain and Europe grows, creating a more diverse faculty who influence curriculum and teaching.
In 1960, students, staff and faculty pay only 25 cents an imperial gallon for gas, the equivalent of 5.5 cents a litre, and a mere $13,105 for an average Vancouver single-family home. UBC’s local community is, as a result, largely an academic one as many faculty purchase and live in the nearby Endowment Lands. With increasing student numbers, however, there are more students coming from outside Vancouver, and UBC begins to invest in on-campus infrastructure and student housing. Despite this, the issue of overcrowding persists. The options are limited: either cap enrollments or embrace the expansion of facilities, equipment and programs.
UBC chooses the latter, focusing on research-related initiatives: expanding the Library and Health Sciences buildings, creating the Faculty of Dentistry, the Department of Asian Studies and the schools of Librarianship and Rehabilitation Sciences and purchasing a new refrigerator-size IBM 7040 for the Computing Centre.
In 1962, Dr. John B. MacDonald becomes UBC’s fourth president. Faced with a swelling undergraduate population and overcrowded classrooms, MacDonald looks beyond the campus, seeking to distribute education to communities through a college system based in rural communities across BC. The subsequent MacDonald Report proposes a comprehensive plan for higher education in BC and recommends the creation of additional provincial universities and two-year junior colleges for technical and vocational training.
However, budget shortages and lack of government support prevents the execution of the report’s recommendations. In keeping with the student-led ‘Great Trek’ protest of 1922, UBC students once again ‘take to the streets’ — only now it’s province-wide. With the endorsement of the Faculty Association and Alumni Association, 500 students fan out across the province, gathering public support and signatures, distributing ‘I Back Mac’ buttons and posters, and looking to protect their own futures and the future of higher education in BC.
Mounting public pressure shifts the Social Credit government enough that it amends the University Act, allowing Victoria College to become the University of Victoria and creating the British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT). As well, rather than being a four-year college as suggested by the MacDonald Report, Simon Fraser University (SFU) opens as a full-fledged university; UBC donates books and staff time to help this newest BC university get its own library established.
Meanwhile, UBC is a hive of research activity as plans for the TRI-University Meson Facility (TRIUMF) are led by UBC physicists Drs. John B, Warren and Erich W. Vogt (returning to UBC after a nine-year stint at the Chalk River Laboratories in Ontario) and J. Reginald “Reg” Richardson from UCLA. Simon Fraser University, University of Victoria and UBC jointly develop the site in the south end of UBC’s campus. TRIUMF’s massive new cyclotron is the largest of its kind in the world and positions UBC as a global academic contender in the field of nuclear physics.
Outside the benign borders of Point Grey, the Cuban Missile crisis, Vietnam War protests, the assassination of US President John F. Kennedy and other events ignite societal revolution and protests across North America.
Explore the era
- British Columbia Council on Admissions & Transfer. (n.d.). History of the BC transfer system. Retrieved from http://www.bccat.ca/system/history
- Craddock, M.K. (2014, December 12). The first beam: Ten years in the making. Retrieved from http://www.triumf.ca/sites/default/files/Cyclotron-40.pdf
- Elliott, E. (2006). The Back Mac campaign. Trek Magazine. Retrieved from http://www.alumni.ubc.ca/trekmagazine/15-summer2006/bacmac.php
- Gage, W.H. (1970). The President’s report: 1969-1970. Retrieved from http://www.library.ubc.ca/archives/pdfs/presidents/1970.pdf
- Kenny, D.T. (1979). The President’s report: 1978-79. Retrieved from http://www.library.ubc.ca/archives/pdfs/presidents/1979.pdf
- Macdonald, J.B. (1962). High education in British Columbia and a plan for the future. Vancouver, BC: The University of British Columbia. Retrieved from http://www.bccat.ca/pubs/macdonaldreport.pdf
- TRIUMF. (n.d.) TRIUMF backgrounder. Retrieved from https://www.triumf.info/public/about/background.php
- UBC Library. (1999, March). Faculty club “sit-in”: October 1968. Retrieved from http://www.library.ubc.ca/archives/facclub/facclub5.html
- Header image: Meredith L Smith, courtesy of Alumni UBC
- Pull quote and president images: The University of British Columbia Archives
- Timeline media: The University of British Columbia Archives, Alumni UBC (Alfred Scow video)
- Slideshow media: The University of British Columbia Archives, Ray Allan courtesy of the Vancouver Sun Archives (Students Pub Protest photo)
UBC is proud to mark its 100th anniversary as a global leader in education, research innovation and community engagement.
Learn more about the UBC Centennial.