If you have visited any of our campuses recently you have undoubtedly noticed a change: The cranes are back!
The University of Toronto is undergoing a construction boom. In three years, I have been privileged to hold more shovels and turn more sod than any University of Toronto president since the revered Claude Bissell in the 1960s.
However, we are not building for building’s sake. Each of our capital projects reflects a compelling academic or student need, and each has its own funding plan. There are three factors driving our building program:
- Enrolment expansion: Demand continues to rise for post-secondary education, and this is on top of the arrival in September of two high school graduating years (the famous “double cohort”). This year, U of T will raise our entering undergraduate enrolment by 25 per cent compared with two years ago.
- Teaching needs: More students mean more classrooms, teaching labs, offices and study space. At the University of Toronto at Mississauga (UTM), we are about to inaugurate the new CCIT building for our exciting new undergraduate program in Communication, Culture and Information Technology, offered with Sheridan College. At the University of Toronto at Scarborough, our new Academic Resource Centre will unite the library, technology services and student learning programs in a central space.
- Research expansion: To answer important questions in science, medicine, engineering and technology, and to strengthen our graduate education, the university needs more laboratory-based research.We are proud of the new residences we are building. At UTM, the new Phase VII residence has already won an award from Canadian Architect magazine for sensitivity to the environment. The new New College residence on Spadina Avenue is another award winner. Our new residence at Scarborough will welcome 230 students this fall to modern four-bedroom suites. Next year we will open Woodsworth College’s first residence, on Bloor Street, and we are in the final stages of planning for a new residence for University College. These residences will all serve to enhance campus community life.
Our other building projects reflect key strategic directions for our university. Construction of the new Leslie L. Dan Pharmacy Building will double enrolment to almost 1,000 pharmacy students and consolidate the faculty’s position as a North American leader in pharmaceutical research and education. Just next door, the new Centre for Cellular and Biomolecular Research will bring together the faculties of medicine, pharmacy and applied science and engineering in state-of-the-art research facilities that will allow for bold advances in cellular and biomolecular research.
Where does the money come from for these projects? Residences must pay for themselves primarily through student fees, although in some cases we have had important support from private donors. For academic and research infrastructure, we rely on private benefactors as well as targeted government programs such as SuperBuild, the Ontario Innovation Trust and the Canada Foundation for Innovation. While the financing of new projects is often a significant challenge (and we continue to seek private support for the pharmacy and CCBR projects), our approach ensures that all capital projects are driven by our academic plan and meet the public need.
Responsible development also respects our environment. Our ongoing revitalization of King’s College Circle will restore dignity to the university’s historic gateway, proving that we can honour our past even as we build for the future.
A U of T lab is working with actors, writers and directors on how they could harness AI and other emerging technologies to generate new ideas and – just maybe – reinvent theatre