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.
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."
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
Minister Sir Wilfrid Laurier (front left) at the installation
of President Robert Falconer, 1907
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.
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.
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
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."
College Circle, circa 1910