University of King's College

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University of King's College
Kings Coat of Arms.png
Motto Deo Legi Regi Gregi
Motto in English
For God, Law, King, People
Established 1789
Type Liberal arts university
Endowment $51.4 million
Chancellor The Honourable Kevin Lynch
President Dr George Cooper [1]
Visitor The Bishop of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island ex officio
Academic staff
Students 1,190[2]
Undergraduates 1,180
Postgraduates 10
Location Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada
44°38′15″N 63°35′43″W / 44.63750°N 63.59528°W / 44.63750; -63.59528Coordinates: 44°38′15″N 63°35′43″W / 44.63750°N 63.59528°W / 44.63750; -63.59528
Campus Urban, 5-acre (2.02 ha) site on the campus of Dalhousie University
Colours Blue      and White     
Affiliations AUCC, Dalhousie University, CUP.
University of Kings College logo.png
A view of the A&A, North Pole Bay, and Cochran Bay from across the Quad in a spring fog.

The University of King's College is a liberal arts university in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, offering mainly undergraduate programs.[3] The university is one of the oldest in Canada. It is located on the northwest corner of the Dalhousie University campus and although it has a formal relationship with Dalhousie for some programs it is not considered a constituent college and operates independently under its own charter.[4] King's is best known for its Great Books style Foundation Year Programme for first-year undergraduates, its upper-year interdisciplinary programmes, and its School of Journalism.


Early years at Windsor[edit]

King's College Arts and Administration.

The University of King's College traces its history to the establishment of King's College in 1788 in Windsor, Nova Scotia. In 1789, an Act passed for "the permanent establishment and effectual support of a college at Windsor," and £400 per annum granted towards its maintenance. [5] King's College opened in 1790 under this act. As such, King's College became the first College to be granted University powers in British North America[6]

King's College was founded by a group of United Empire Loyalists fleeing the American Revolution, led by Bishop Charles Inglis, the first Anglican bishop of Nova Scotia; King's Collegiate School pre-dated the establishment of King's College by a year. Loyalists were forced to abandon their King's College in New York, which was seized by the rebels and renamed Columbia University; whether the newer is meant to be the successor of the older is a matter of debate. King's College was founded with a strong religious affiliation and was generally modeled on older English universities which were residential, tutorial and Anglican.[7]

The University of King's College was Canada's first university to receive a Royal Charter, which was conferred by King George III in 1802. The University of New Brunswick traces its history to King's College (Fredericton) which was established in 1785, four years before King's College (Windsor), however, it did not initially receive university powers and did not receive a Royal Charter until 1827. Similarly, McGill University traces its origins to 1801 but did not receive a Royal Charter until 1821.

The University of King's College celebrates the birthday of King George III with a holiday closing the school each year.

It is asserted by Windsor residents that students at King's College invented ice hockey c. 1800 on Long Pond adjacent to the campus. A similar game developed, perhaps independently, in Kingston, Ontario several years later which has led to occasional confusion about the sport's origins.

During the 19th century, all students at King's College were required to take oaths affirming their assent to the 39 Articles of the Anglican Church.

The noted Canadian poet Sir Charles G.D. Roberts taught at King's College from 1885 to 1895.[8]

On February 3, 1920, a fire was set on the campus. Though the cause of the blaze is still unknown, tradition states it was caused by students 'playing with matches' in a dormitory. Because the fire hydrants were frozen, the blaze could not be put out and the buildings burned to the ground.

Move to Halifax[edit]

In 1922, the Carnegie Foundation offered funding to rebuild King's College 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 of Nova Scotia's universities would merge into a single body, much like the University of Toronto.

King's College accepted the funding for the move to its present campus adjacent to Dalhousie University's Studley Campus at the corner of Oxford street and Coburg road. However, the institution opted to not merge completely into Dalhousie University, instead renaming itself University of King's College and entered into a cooperative partnership with the much larger Dalhousie University. The partnership shares operating costs for heating, maintenance, and library facilities, as well as establishing a course interchange agreement with Dalhousie.

It should be noted that other universities in Halifax similarly did not follow through with the Carnegie Foundation's merger plan. Seven decades later, a directive from the provincial government saw the Technical University of Nova Scotia (TUNS) merge with Dalhousie in 1997.

The contract with Dalhousie stipulated that degrees in Arts and Sciences would be jointly conferred by Dalhousie and King's; King's would continue to grant its own degrees in Divinity, while the granting of the types of degrees set out in the 1802 charter were to be 'temporarily' stopped.

In the formative years of King's College, many more types of degrees were offered than the institution offers today; for example, the University of New Brunswick Faculty of Law traces its history to the King's College Law School that was established in 1892 in Saint John, New Brunswick by King's College (Windsor). While the University of King's College has never lost nor relinquished interest in these granting powers, they are held in abeyance due to agreements with the University of King's College's partner, Dalhousie University, as part of the agreement to allow the portion of Dalhousie's campus to be used by the University of King's College.

Consolidation was a way to strengthen this small and financially insecure institution. In the early part of this century, professional education expanded beyond the traditional fields of theology, law and medicine. Graduate training based on the German-inspired American model of specialized course work and the completion of a research thesis was introduced.[7]

In 1923, the former site of King's College in Windsor was designated a National Historic Site of Canada.[9]

When World War II broke out, King's was requisitioned by the military for the training of naval officers. King's functioned as a "stone frigate", providing a facility for navigation training before officers were sent to their ships. This role is highlighted in the 1943 Hollywood feature film, Corvette K-225, a part of which was filmed on the University campus. 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 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 misinformation; when the Germans broadcast that they had sunk HMCS King's, their ruse was exposed.

After the war, the campus was returned to the University. The policy of university education initiated in the 1960s responded to population pressure and the belief that higher education was a key to social justice and economic productivity for individuals and for society.[3]

The University granted graduate theological degrees as well as undergraduate degrees until the spring of 1971. The Faculty of Divinity was moved to Pine Hill where, in 1971, it was formally amalgamated into the Atlantic School of Theology, an ecumenical venture with the United Church of Canada and the Roman Catholic Church. While this new institution now grants its own degrees, King's holds in abeyance its rights to grant divinity credentials and still continues to grant annual honorary degrees.

King's reformed[edit]

University of King's College in Autumn with Castine Way along the foreground.

In 1972, King's faculty and alumni created the Foundation Year Programme (FYP), a first-year Great Books course that would count for four of a student's five first-year 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 almost 300 a year, most of whom live in residence on campus. Many of those who taught in the programme in its early days were colleagues and students of the philosopher James Doull, who exercised a not inconsiderable degree of influence on the programme in its formative stages. In 1989, Doull was awarded an honorary doctorate by the College.

In 1977, King's introduced two Bachelor of Journalism programs: a four-year Honours degree and a one-year compressed degree for students who already hold a Bachelor's degree.

A library building was built in 1990, replacing a smaller one in the Arts and Administration building. The library has won numerous architectural awards. The same architect designed the school's New Academic Building in 2000. Additional residence rooms were added in the basement of Alexandra Hall in 2001, to accommodate some of the new students. Residence can currently accommodate 274 students, and nearly all on-campus living spaces are reserved for FYP students, though some spaces are reserved for upper-year students. All buildings on the present campus are celebrated reconstructions and derivations of the buildings of the original 1789 campus in Windsor, Nova Scotia. A system of tunnels connects the residences to the other buildings of the campus: a feature common to North American universities, and particularly common to many institutional buildings in Halifax.

The King's Library houses an impressive collection not only of rare Anglican church documents, but also a vast collection of original artwork, Renaissance and medieval books, and extensive archival material of relevance both to the history of Nova Scotia and the university. It also has some ancient artifacts, along with the Weldon Collection of fine imported china. Many of the rare books stem from the original, private collection of university founder, Charles Inglis. Recently, the blueprints for the buildings of the current campus were consulted in the library to restore the famed cupola crowning the A&A Building to its original, 1920s condition.

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

In 2000 and 2001, King's launched the Early Modern Studies Programme and the History of Science and Technology Programme, that like the Contemporary Studies Programme would constitute one component of a jointly conferred combined honours degree with Dalhousie. The Upper Year Programmes, like the Foundation Year Programme, place a strong emphasis on historical contextualized, interdisciplinary study as opposed to traditional university departmentalization.

1984 517
1994 691
2004 1105
2005 1141
2006 1114

Today, there are just over 1,100 students at King's, which, although a small number for a university, represents significant growth over enrolment in the 1960s and 1970s. Its first year class is made up mainly of Foundation Year Programme students. In 2001, the FYP class was 274 students, with slightly over a hundred of these students coming from Ontario. The growing number of students from out of province reflects King's growing academic reputation and its transformation from a small, local college to a nationally acclaimed university. However, King's maintains strong ties to its host city and province and the number of Nova Scotians attending King's rose 23% between 1994 and 2004.

The largest ever FYP class was in 2004, with 309 students. However, the administration has resolved to cap future classes at just under 300. With improved retention rates, the school's population looks to stabilize at around 1,200 in future years. The number of students leaving after first year has dropped significantly since the introduction of the upper year inter-disciplinary programs.

King's' transformation from a small college catering mainly to local Anglican students into a more intellectually cosmopolitan university with a strong national profile has been a resounding success. In terms of teaching quality, King's has been placed in the same academic league as top Canadian research universities like McGill and Toronto. One recent academic commentator summed up King's growing renown for its quality of teaching and eccentric student culture by remarking "If there is a Harvard of the North, it’s more likely King’s than McGill — although a better analogy would be a cross between Harry Potter’s Hogwarts and Camp Wanapitei in Temagami." The new programs, combined with a rigorous set of academic expectations and a cooperative academic culture, have proven a hit with high achieving high school students. Conservative estimates put the entrance average of first year King's students at 87%, or a strong A in Canadian high school marks.[10]

One problem for King's, as for all of Nova Scotia's 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 its 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, more than 50% of costs were covered by student fees.

In 2005, the Nova Scotia government reached a Memorandum of Understanding with the province's universities. It limited tuition increases to 3.9% for 3 years. In exchange, the government guaranteed a 5.8% increase in funding the first year, and slightly smaller increases for the remaining 2 years. Since King's relies more heavily on tuition than government funding, the University's financial situation will suffer as a result.

Dr. William Barker was installed in October 2003 as President and Vice-Chancellor, replacing Dr. Colin Starnes. Dr. Barker and the rest of the University administration have declared that King's has grown as much as it can and should. They describe the coming years as "a time of consolidation", with a focus on retention and development of new programs.

The University's 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. They now take place on the first Wednesday of every month.

In July 2006, the King's Student Union founded the King's Co-op Bookstore; it stocks every title on the FYP Reading List, as well as all necessary books for King's other courses and a number of Dalhousie courses and general interest fiction and non-fiction. The Bookstore is student-owned co-operative which functions separately from both the student union and the college.

King's College administration has not avoided controversy. After the Sodexo cleaning staff unionized in 2004, the housekeeping contract was awarded to a different company during the summer. The King's Student Union had been involved in encouraging the workers to unionize in order to improve their working conditions, and there were strenuous objections with the awarding of the new contract.

University of King’s College's Arms were registered with the Canadian Heraldic Authority on August 15, 2007.[11]


King's best known program is its Foundation Year Programme (FYP) for first year students, an intensive survey course of history, philosophy, and literature in the western tradition. The Contemporary Studies Programme (CSP), the Early Modern Studies Programme (EMSP), and the History of Science and Technology Programme (HOST) are offered jointly with Dalhousie University as combined honours degrees requiring a second honours discipline. A Bachelor of Journalism program is offered as either a four-year honours degree or an intensive one-year program to students already holding a bachelor's degree. King's College and Dalhousie University also jointly offer a 10-month master of journalism program.[12]

King's students generally take FYP in their first year and choose a specific degree program to pursue in their final three years. Most students at King's take at least some classes through programs at Dalhousie University. With the exception of the Journalism program, King's students graduate with joint degrees from King's and Dalhousie. King's students are eligible to complete these degrees in any subject from Dalhousie's Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences or Faculty of Science.

Foundation Year Programme[edit]

The Foundation Year Programme is a core-text programme[13] for first-year students; it surveys the history of western thought and culture from ancient times to the present day.[14] It has been offered since 1972. The course has traditionally been divided into six sections.[15]

The Foundation Year Programme (FYP) has been described by the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada as having "a national reputation for excellence as an alternative first-year of undergraduate studies",[16] and is regarded as a prototype for similar programs elsewhere; the principal Canadian news magazine Maclean's, which is well known for its university ranking guide, expresses the view in a discussion of small, specialized undergraduate programs in Canada that "it's unlikely that any of the other programs would exist if not for the Foundation Year at King's".[17]


The King's College Blue Devils are members of the Atlantic Colleges Athletic Association (ACAA). Varsity sport programs include men's and women's volleyball, basketball, soccer, badminton and rugby.[18]

The Blue Devils supporter group is a student society known as the King's Army.[19]

Residence Life[edit]

Built in the Georgian style typical of the original campus, the residences retain the name of 'Bays', as the original residences were termed in Windsor. Each Bay—modelled on the system of 'staircases' at England's Oxford University—has been named with a seemingly ironic moniker, which the exception of Middle Bay, which was named for its location as it is between Chapel and Radical; Chapel Bay is named after the campus chapel, but is located the furthest distance from it; Radical Bay originally housed the refined, quiet divinity students; North Pole Bay sits atop the university's boiler rooms, and is arguably, the warmest location on campus; Cochran Bay is named after the first president of the College, William Cochran and is the closest to the campus chapel.

Traditional residence parties, known as 'bay parties,' were cancelled for the first time in 2003, ostensively because of the increased number of minors now living in residence. The University administration felt that the potential to expose so many young people to the excesses of alcohol was too great. However, Bay Parties saw a revival during the 2005-2006 school year, with both Radical Bay and Cochran Bay hosting several highly successful events.

Another consequence of increased enrolment 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, thus making way for more first years. In 2006, Alexandra Hall, traditionally the all-girls residence, was made co-ed for the first time with rooms in the basement alternating between male and female occupants as well as one wing of the first floor becoming all-male. In addition, two of the five bays were re-converted to co-ed living spaces in 2006.


List of presidents[edit]

  • The Rev. Dr. William Cochran (1789–1804)
  • The Rev. Thomas Cox (1804–1805)
  • The Rev. Dr. Charles Porter (1805–1836)
  • The Rev. Dr. George McCawley (1836–1875)
  • The Rev. Dr. John Dart (1875–1885)
  • The Rev. Dr. Isaac Brock (1885–1889)
  • The Rev. Dr. Charles E. Willets (1889–1904)
  • Dr. Ian Hannah (1904–1906)
  • The Rev. Dr. C.J. Boulden (1906–1909)
  • The Rev. Dr. T.W. Powell (1909–1914)
  • The Rev. Dr. Charles E. Willets (Acting President, 1914–1916)
  • The Rev. Dr. T.S. Boyle (1916–1924)
  • The Rev. Dr. A.H. Moore (1924–1937)
  • The Rev. Dr. A. Stanley Walker (1937–1953)
  • The Rev. Dr. H.L. Puxley (1954–1963)
  • Dr. H.D. Smith (1963–1969)
  • Dr. F. Hilton Page (Acting President, 1969–1970)
  • Dr. J. Graham Morgan (1970–1977)
  • Dr. John Godfrey (1977–1987)
  • Dr. Marion G. Fry (1987–1993)
  • Dr. Colin Starnes (1993–2003)
  • Dr. William Barker (2003–2011)
  • Dr. Anne Leavitt (2011–2012)
  • Dr. George Cooper (2012–present) [1]

Notable current and former faculty[edit]

  • Dr. Michael Bishop - Author of The Endless Theory of Days and Scholar of French Contemporary. Director of Editions VVV Editions
  • Dr. Wayne J. Hankey - Carnegie Professor and Chair of the Classics department at Dalhousie
  • Prof. Henry How - Chemist and mineralogist, described two minerals new to science: howlite and mordenite
  • Prof. Dean Jobb - Associate Professor of Journalism, former reporter and editor for The Chronicle Herald
  • Prof. Kim Kierans - Vice president (2010–present), former director of the King's School of Journalism, and writer/editor for CBC Radio One
  • Prof. Stephen Kimber - Rogers Communications Chair in Journalism, prominent journalist and columnist for The Daily News
  • Dr. Gordon McOuat - former Director of the History of Science and Technology Programme
  • Prof. Susan Newhook - Assistant Professor of Journalism and researcher, reporter and editor for CBC from 1980 to 1998
  • Rev. Dr. Samuel Henry Prince - Founder of the Dalhousie School of Social Work, and author of Catastrophe and Social Change.
  • Dr. Stephen Snobelen - Director of the History of Science and Technology Programme; Featured in BBC documentary Newton: The Dark Heretic
  • Prof. Kelly Toughill - Director of the King's School of Journalism and former Deputy Executive Editor of the Toronto Star
  • Fred Vallance-Jones - Associate Professor of Journalism and former Investigative reporter at The Hamilton Spectator and CBC Radio

Notable alumni[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Dr George Cooper selected as interim president". 
  2. ^ "Full-time plus Part-time Enrolment" (PDF). Association of Atlantic Universities. 2012-10-15. Retrieved 2012-10-15. 
  3. ^ a b Roper, Henry. "Aspects of the History of a Loyalist College: King's College, Windsor, and Nova Scotian Higher Education in the Nineteenth Century." Anglican and Episcopal History 61 (1991).
  4. ^ "University of King's College". 
  5. ^ The Project Gutenberg EBook of The Makers of Canada: Index and Dictionary of Canadian History, by Various 2010
  6. ^ The Project Gutenberg EBook #6466 of 'The Intellectual Development of the Canadian People, A historical review' by John George Bourinot, House of Commons, Ottawa, February 17th, 1881
  7. ^ a b University
  8. ^ John Coldwell Adams, "Sir Charles G.D. Roberts," Confederation Voices, Canadian Poetry, UWO, Web, March 2, 2011.
  9. ^ King's College. Canadian Register of Historic Places. Retrieved 10 March 2013.
  10. ^ The Walrus Magazine » Education » Student Failure » Failure to Fail
  11. ^ Arms and Badge
  12. ^
  13. ^ Association for Core Texts and Courses & The ACTC Liberal Arts Institute
  14. ^ Foundation Year Programme | University of King's College
  15. ^ The Programme | University of King's College
  16. ^ The Directory of Canadian University - University of King's College
  17. ^
  18. ^
  19. ^
  20. ^ Eaton, Arthur Wentworth (1891). "Chapter XI. King's College". The Church of England in Nova Scotia and the Tory Clergy of the Revolution. New York: Thomas Whittaker. Retrieved 1 June 2011. 
  • The Canadian Encyclopedia [1]

Further reading[edit]

  • Roper, Henry. "Aspects of the History of a Loyalist College: King's College, Windsor, and Nova Scotian Higher Education in the Nineteenth Century". Anglican and Episcopal History 61 (1991).
  • Vroom, Fenwick Williams. King's College: A Chronicle, 1789-1939.
  • DeWolf, Mark. All the King's Men: The Story of a Colonial University (1972)
  • Kinghorn, Alexander Manson. University of King’s College Halifax, Nova Scotia : The Overseas Commonwealth’s Oldest University (1965)

External links[edit]