University of King's College

From Academic Kids

Missing image
The King's Quad in a Halifax spring fog. The main building is the Arts and Administration building.

The University of King's College is a post-secondary institution in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. King's is a small university offering only undergraduate programmes. It is affiliated with Dalhousie University, sitting in the northwestern corner of Dalhousie's campus. King's main program is a "foundation year" (FYP) for first year students, in which they read famous works from throughout history. Other programmes for upper year students include a journalism programme and several other "interdisciplinary" offerings.


Early Years at Windsor

Canada's oldest chartered university was founded in 1789 in Windsor, Nova Scotia by a group of United Empire Loyalists fleeing the American Revolution, led by Bishop Charles Inglis. (There had been a King's College in New York, which after the Revolution became Columbia University; whether there is a historical connection between the two is a matter of debate). The Windsor campus was granted a Royal Charter by King George III in 1802. It is now the oldest English-speaking university in the British Commonwealth outside Britain.

It is asserted by locals that students at King's invented hockey circa 1800; a similar game developed, perhaps independently, in Quebec a few years later, and has led to occasional misattributions of the sport's history.

During the 19th century all students were required to take oaths confirming their devotion to the Anglican Church. The university hardly kept enrolment above a dozen. Eventually this requirement was dropped.

On February 3rd, 1920, "children playing with matches" (the exact cause is unknown) set fire to the buildings, and because the fire hydrants were frozen the blaze could not be put out. The buildings burned down, and for two years classes were held in the woods.

Move to Halifax

In 1922 the Carnegie Foundation offered King's money to rebuild, on the condition that they surrender their independence and enter into an affiliation with Dalhousie University in Halifax with the projected plan that one day all Nova Scotia Universities would merge into a single body, much like the University of Toronto. King's joined with Dalhousie but they subsequently chose not to pursue the broader plan. King's built a new campus on the northwest corner of Dalhousie University's land. The contract with Dalhousie stipulated that degrees in Arts and Sciences would be granted jointly by Dalhousie and King's; King's would continue to grant its own degrees in Divinity.

When World War II broke out King's patriotically declared itself a ship in His Majesty's navy. King's would be a "stone frigate", training sailors at home before they shipped off. The academic life of the College carried on during those years elsewhere in Halifax, aided by Dalhousie University and the United Church's Pine Hill Divinity Hall. In reflection of this naval past, the student bar on campus is still known as the HMCS King's Wardroom, or simply "the Wardroom."

During the war the Germans would occasionally broadcast names of Allied ships they had sunk. Because the ships had to keep radio silence these reports could not be verified, and it was suspected that many were false. Allies circulated lists of non-active ships in the hopes of feeding the Germans disinformation; when the German's broadcast that they had sunk HMCS King's College their ruse was made plain.

After the war King's returned to King's, but the Faculty of Divinity was left at Pine Hill - later to be the Atlantic School of Theology. In 1971 King's' Faculty of Divinity was formally amalgamated into the Atlantic School of Theology, an ecumenical venture with the United Church of Canada and the (Roman) Catholic Church.

King's reformed

In the early nineteen-seventies, King's faculty and alumni created the Foundation Year Programme (FYP, pronounced fip), a first-year "Great Books" course that would count for four of a student's first five credits. The programme consisted of six sections from The Ancient World to The Contemporary World, in which students would read the work of major philosophers, poets, historians, and scientists, receive lectures from a range of experts in all these areas, write critical papers and engage in small-group discussion and tutorials. The programme initially had 30 students; it now draws over 250 a year.

In 1977 King's introduced two bachelor of journalism programmes: a four-year Honours degree and a one-year compressed degree for students who already had a Bachelor's degree.

In 1993 King's created the "Contemporary Studies Programme," an interdisciplinary humanities programme that could constitute one of a student's majors in a Combined Honours degree.

In 2000 and 2001 King's launched an Early Modern Studies Programme and a History of Science and Technology Programme modelled after Contemporary Studies but with different subject matters.

1984 517
1994 691
2004 1109

Today there are just over 1000 students at King's, which although a small number for a university represents significant growth over the few hundred students more typical in the 1960s and 70s. Its first year class is made up primarily of Foundation Year Programme (FYP) students, many of whom transfer to other universities after completing their first year. In 2001, the FYP class was 274 students, with slightly over a hundred of these students coming from Ontario. King's has been accused of catering more and more to rich Ontario students, ignoring its own province. However, many students still come from Nova Scotia, the number of Nova Scotians rising 23% between 1994 and 2004.

One problem for King's, as for all Canadian universities, has been the relative decline in government funding. In 1990, 78% of the university's operating costs were government funded; in 2004 only 31% were. Part of the reason has been a large expansion of the university, with only modest increases in government funding. Another reason is that the government of Nova Scotia funds the universities on a "per Nova Scotia student" basis, resulting in under funding to universities with large numbers of out of province students. Large increases in tuition fees have been used to cover the university's costs. As of 2005 over 50% of costs were covered by student fees.

A New Academic Building (as it is fondly called) was built in 2000, and residence rooms were added in the basement of the female residence (Alexandra Hall) in 2001 to accommodate some of the new students. A new president, Dr. William Barker, was installed in October 2003, replacing Dr. Colin Starnes, to lead the university for at least the next five years. Dr. Barker and the rest of the university administration believe that King's has grown as much as it can and should. They describe the coming years as 'a time of consolidation'. The growth has changed some King's traditions. Formal meals, with Latin grace and academic gowns, formerly held at regular intervals, were suspended from 2001 until 2003. Only with the arrival of Dr. Barker were they reinstated. Traditional residence parties, known as 'bay parties' have been cancelled for the first time in 2003, theoretically because of the increased number of minors enrolled due to the elimination of grade 13 in Ontario. The university administration feels it would be inappropriate to expose so many young people to the excesses of alcohol that usually mark those events. Another consequence of increased enrollment has been a more unbalanced composition of the residences. Traditionally students from all years of study have lived in residence, but increasingly, very few upper year students continue to live on campus making way for extra first years.

University of King's College in Autumn
University of King's College in Autumn

Notable staff

  • Bishop Charles Inglis - Founder
  • Dr. John Godfrey - President, 1977–1987
  • Dr. Marion G. Fry - President, 1987–1993
  • Dr. William Barker - President, 2003–present
  • Dr. Angus Johnston - Director, Foundation Year Programme
  • Dr. Stephen Boos - Director, Contemporary Studies Programme
  • Dr. Kathryn Morris - Director, Early Modern Studies Programme
  • Dr. Gordon McOuat - Director, History of Science and Technology Programme
  • Laura Penny - Teaching fellow, Foundation Year Programme

Notable alumni

External links

Template:NS Uni


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