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University of Toronto
U of T Great Past

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How many students called the University of Toronto home in 1910?

Answer By far the largest university in Canada, U of T had 4,000 students. Enrolment had more than doubled over the last decade.

On March 15, 1827, King's College - the precursor to the University of Toronto - was granted its royal charter by King George IV. Throughout 2002, U of T celebrated 175 years of Great Minds. As part of the celebration, the U of T website featured excerpts from The University of Toronto: A History, written by Martin Friedland, University Professor and Professor Emeritus of Law at U of T.

At his inauguration in September, 1907, new president Robert Falconer gave an impressive and important address. "The University of Toronto," he stated at the outset, "is a great university." The ideas expressed in his speech were those he strove to implement over the next 25 years. "A university," he reminded those advocating practical education, "is not a technical school." (...) "There must be," he said, "an increase in post-graduate courses and research." The University of Toronto, he went on, "should occupy more and more a national position... by attracting graduates from every part of Canada... The true university is a centre for both instruction and research for the impartation of knowledge already gained, and for the extension of the boundaries of knowledge."

Falconer faced challenges in the early years. There was the problem of rapidly increasing enrolment: the student body had grown from well under 2,000 in 1901 to over 4,000 by 1910. Toronto was by far the largest university in Canada: McGill had 2,500 students, Queen's 1,500, and Dalhousie fewer than 500.

Installation of President Robert Falconer
Prime Minister Sir Wilfrid Laurier (front left) at the installation of President Robert Falconer, 1907

Over the next four years, the province raised the requirement for junior matriculation (the equivalent of what would later be called grade 12) to an average mark of 60 per cent, whereupon enrolment levelled off. The question was raised by Falconer and others as to whether or not the first year of university should be transferred to the high schools, and senior matriculation (the equivalent of the later grade 13), which at the time allowed students to enter the second year of university, be required for entrance to the University of Toronto. An ordinary general degree would then take three years and an honours degree four. Such a change would also free up faculty members to devote more time to graduate work. Senior matriculation, however, would not become a requirement for all applicants to the University of Toronto until 1931.

Along with the problem of increased enrolment was growing financial concern at the University.

Along with the problem of increased enrolment was growing financial concern at the University. The 1905 bonanza did not last. Inflation started to become a serious problem in 1909, and succession duties yielded less than anticipated. By 1910, the University was experiencing a $40,000 deficit. Moreover, in 1914, as noted earlier, the University's succession duty income was limited to $500,000. The University once more would have to go cap in hand to ask for yearly grants from the government.

... it was all part of "Falconer's quest to build a national university.

One imaginative scheme to add funds to the University was Falconer's application to the federal government in 1913 for an endowment for a Canadian studies program to celebrate the centenary of Sir John A. Macdonald's birth. He asked Prime Minister Borden for $600,000 for new chairs in Canadian history, geography, and earth sciences and for a new department of sociology to study social problems such as immigration, town planning, and criminology. Unfortunately, the application was turned down, but, as James Greenlee states, it was all part of "Falconer's quest to build a national university."

Falconer retired as president in 1932, after 25 years at the helm of the University of Toronto. (Among his many accomplishments was the first offers of admission to students from China, in 1909.) The youngest university president since that title was re-established in 1889, he was also the longest-serving. Historian Michael Bliss called him "our institution's version of Sir Wilfrid Laurier;" former president Robert Prichard said he "created the modern university."

King's College Circle
King's College Circle, circa 1910

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