5 Things You Didn’t Know About UBC


University of British Columbia Archives [UBC 1.1/862].
Each week we’ll uncover some unusual and (hopefully) interesting facts about the city. This week we take on the University of British Columbia.

1. Classes were once held in tents, churches, and Sunday schools

UBC’s faculty and their spouses pose outside of the Arts Building on the Fairview campus. Photo: UBC.

Construction of UBC’s first permanent buildings in Point Grey halted because of the first World War and as a result, the school opened in temporary headquarters at the former McGill University College facilities adjacent to Vancouver General Hospital. The return of students from war-time duty increased enrolment to 890 by 1920, forcing classes to be held in tents, churches, and Sunday schools. Despite of the overcrowded classrooms, construction at Point Grey did not resume.

2. Student protests led to the completion of the UBC Campus

Tired of overcrowded conditions, students organized a province-wide publicity campaign to persuade the government to complete the Point Grey campus. The “Build the University” campaign climaxed in a parade from downtown Vancouver to Point Grey known as “The Great Trek”. As a result, the government authorized a $1.5 million loan to complete construction.

3. Following WWII, more than 53% of the students were war veterans

UBC campus and City of Vancouver — aerial view looking east (1945). Photo: UBC.

By the end of World War II, Point Grey’s facilities could not handle the amount of veterans returning to their studies. The student population rose from 2,974 in 1944–45 to 9,374 by 1947–48. Between 1947 and 1951, the university built twenty new permanent buildings, including the War Memorial Gym, built with money raised primarily by students.

4. It broke a world record last year

UBC’s Brock Commons student residence was deemed the tallest wooden building in the world in 2016. The structure was completed ahead of schedule and took less than 70 days to complete after the initial prefabricated components were delivered to the site. The building is 53 metres high.

5. They have the craziest VHS collection in the city

When Vancouver specialty-video store Videomatica (RIP) closed, it donated its $1.7 million VHS, DVD, and Blu-ray collection to UBC. The collection totals over 28,000 films and includes hard-to-find cult classics, musicals, documentaries and foreign films from over 75 different countries.