The University of King's College is a post-secondary institution in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. King's is a small liberal arts university offering only undergraduate programs. King's is dependent on Dalhousie University for some programs and its campus is located at the northwest corner of Dalhousie's Studley Campus. Enrollment is 1,100. Its current President is Dr. William Barker who has been renewed for a second term ending in 2013.
Besides the programs offered through King's, most students at King's take at least some classes through programs at Dalhousie University. Furthermore, most King's students graduate with jointly coffered degrees from King's and Dalhousie. King's students are eligible to complete degrees in cooperation with Dalhousie in any subject from the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, the Faculty of Science or the Faculty of Music.
The first College with University powers in British North America was University of King's College, established in 1789 in Windsor, Nova Scotia The University of King's College is Canada's oldest chartered university. It was founded with a strong religious affiliation and was generally modeled on older English universities which were residential, tutorial and Anglican. The University of 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 a university by a year. 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. The University of New Brunswick claims to be the oldest university in Canada, but did not receive its Royal Charter until 1827. King's is now the oldest English-speaking university in the British Commonwealth outside Britain and continues to celebrate King George III's birthday with a holiday from classes every year.
It is asserted by locals that students at King's invented hockey circa 1800, reinforced, apparently, by the notion held by the town of Windsor, Nova Scotia that it is the area in which hockey was invented, and as such, King's was originally located in that same region; a similar game developed, perhaps independently, in Kingston, Ontario a few years later, leading 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.
In the University's formative years, many more types of degrees were offered than the present institution offers today. While King's has never lost nor relinquished interest in these granting powers, they are held in abeyance due to agreements with King's College's neighbour, Dalhousie University, as part of the agreement to allow King's space to be used as a campus. There is debate as to whether or not these degrees will someday be restored to King's, as they are not presently offered by Dalhousie either.
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.
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.
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 of Nova Scotia's 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 (neither did Nova Scotia's other universities, with the sole exception of Technical University of NS, which became Dalhousie Architecture and Dalhousie Engineering in 1997-98). King's built a new campus on the northwest corner of Dalhousie University's land at Studley Campus in southern Halifax. 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, while the granting of the types of degrees set out in the 1802 charter were to be 'temporarily' stopped.
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. 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 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.
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.
In the early 1970s, 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 first five credits. The program 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 program initially had 30 students; it now draws almost 300 a year, most of whom live in residence on campus.
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. This spawned an unavoidable and consistent joke about how "You can get a one-year BJ at King's College."
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 modeled after Contemporary Studies, but with different subject matters. Each are modeled on the Foundation Year Programme and focus on individual intellectual development and interdisciplinary study as opposed to traditional university departmentalization.
Today, there are just over 1,100 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 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 many 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 wants to cap future classes at just under 300. With improved retention rates, the school's population should then 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.
Overall, King's the transformation of King's 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 Muskoka." 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.
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 universities of the province. 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.
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 the female residence (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-years who often provide valuable advice on what can be a daunting program. All buildings on the present campus are celebrated reconstructions and derivations of the buildings of the original 1789 campus in Windsor, Nova Scotia. 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—modeled on the system of 'staircases' at England's Oxford University—has been named with a seemingly ironic moniker (except Middle Bay); one Bay, Chapel Bay, is named for the campus chapel, but located the furthest distance from it, while Radical Bay originally housed the refined, quiet divinity students, and North Pole Bay sits atop the university's boiler rooms, arguably, the warmest location on campus. 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.
The current President and Vice-Chancellor, Dr. William Barker, was installed in October 2003, 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. Traditional residence parties, known as 'bay parties' were canceled for the first time in 2003, theoretically because of the increased number of minors now living in residence. The University administration felt that it would be inappropriate to expose so many young people to the excesses of alcohol that usually mark those events. However, Bay Parties saw a revival during the 2005-06 school year, with both Radical Bay and Cochran Bay hosting several highly successful 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, 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. North Pole Bay, and Cochran Bay had periodically been co-ed for years before this, which one usually designated as a 'smoking residence'.
The University of King's College Bookstore opened in July 2006; it stocks every title on the FYP Reading List, as well as all necessary books for King's other courses and general interest fiction and non-fiction. Presently, its prices are close to the suggested retail price, but plans have been explored to provide discounts for students.
King's College administration has not avoided controversy. After the Sodexho 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.