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By Becky Somerville & Dave Yasvinski
Students may now have another option to weigh when considering a Canadian university a private institution in the mountainous town of Squamish, British Columbia.
David Strangway, former president of the University of British Columbia, current president of the Canadian Foundation for Innovation and founder of the proposed new university, has set his sights on a small, non-religious, non-traditional, post secondary institution.
At roughly $25,000 per year, tuition would directly relate to Strangway's perception of higher learning. "It won't be cheap to attend," he said.
According to Strangway, the university would house 800 to 1,000 students from Canada and around the world and would have a liberal arts and science curriculum a degree which could be obtained in as little as two calendar years.
"We're looking at a pretty wide breadth of interest which looks at a very international world," Strangway said.
Strangway explained the university would be a residential community with faculty members recruited from around the world. Students would take one course at a time over a three week period, working straight through the calendar year, he added.
"From a municipal perspective it is a done deal," said Squamish Mayor Corinne Lonsdale. She explained about 26 municipalities submitted proposals to attract the university but in the end they were chosen.
"We are very dependent on the forest industry we need to diversify in a big way," Lonsdale said. "It's not healthy to be dependent on one industry and no one can think of anything better than education."
At this point, Strangway and his co-founders are working to prepare a formal proposal for the provincial government. He plans to finance the project through a donation of over 100 acres of land in Squamish, with revenue generated through market housing built on the land.
"We really want to get the approval of the B.C. government," Strangway said. He added he hopes to see the university open by autumn, 2002.
Flint Bondurant, issues manager for the Ministry of Advanced Education and Training in B.C., said approval of the university would be a lengthy process and Strangway would have to submit a proposal before the government will consider what could be a variety of options.
"Whether we support it or not can't be answered because there has not been a formal proposal," Bondurant said.
The university, which is yet unnamed, will not be merely for the elite and will offer scholarships for financially needy students interested in an international curriculum, Strangway said.
"I don't think it has a lot to do with the accessibility question," Strangway said. He added a private university would not pose a threat to other Canadian institutions of higher learning. "When you look at how governments have been withdrawing their funding, [you see] that basically Canada is having a tough time keeping its standards up."
Western's VP-external Ted Garrard said a privately owned university is not likely something we will see in Ontario anytime soon. "Our primary focus is to see well funded publicly run institutions."