New non-profit, private university welcomes first class
Student residence delays mean students will start school year in alternate venue
Macleans.ca staff | Aug 16, 2007 |
The much-anticipated new private university Quest University Canada will welcome its first class of students next week. The Squamish, B.C. institution—founded by former University of British Columbia president David Strangway—is unique in that it is Canada's only non-profit, private, secular university.
However, the students will not be able to move into residences and start classes in the Quest facilities as expected. Instead, they will be spending the first three-and-half weeks of study at the Red Mountain Resort in the Kootenay Valley. The change in plans was in part due to "a delay in securing occupancy to the student residences on the Squamish campus," according to the university.
Thomas Wood, vice-president academic, said that many options for lodging the students were reviewed, but that the Red Mountain Resort was consistent with the course material. The students will be studying "Human Beings and Nature: framing the question," as their first course. "This is an exciting opportunity to launch Quest's unique approach to education, surrounded by and infused with our subject of study," Wood said.
Students are from 14 different countries will form the inaugural class, half of whom are Canadian. CEO and founder Dr. Strangway says that they will take part in a wholly new type of post-secondary experience for Canada.
In an interview with Maclean's earlier this year he pledged to "turn the curriculum upside down." Strangway was highly critical of the current university model, which focuses heavily on research and less on undergraduate teaching.
"You're not coming here to do research," Strangway said of prospective Quest professors, who will be known as tutors. "You're coming here to teach and share your experience with students. We will not be building research facilities. But if you want to do research on your own time, more power to you."
Strangway's long-standing project to create a liberal arts college on the B.C. coast has drawn considerable interest and support. Quest's model is small, private U.S. liberal arts colleges, which focus exclusively on undergraduate education. According to Strangway, these liberal arts colleges also produce a disproportionate number of students who go on to do graduate degrees.
Strangway said that, despite the university's insistence on teaching over research, the school recently received 600 applications for four professorial openings. "We built this campus with classrooms for 20 students," said Strangway. "Instead of a 30:1 faculty ratio, we'll have 10:1."
Tuition at Quest will be $24,000 per year, plus $11,000 for room and board. Strangway admitted that "I don't think there is any doubt that cost is an issue" for prospective students. "But some Canadians have traditionally paid these costs to go to a prestigious U.S. university." He said the challenge would be convincing students to choose Quest over a more established international name. He said that Quest would be offering "substantial" financial aid, both merit- and need-based.
There has been considerable controversy over the introduction of private universities into Canada. Strangway said that, though some private universities have been accused of being basically fly-by-night operations, there is no reason that a private university could not offer an excellent education. "The greatest teaching and research universities in the world are private," said Strangway. "There is nothing intrinsically wrong with private universities."
-with Tony Keller and Erin Millar