The battle to grant university degrees in Regina

By Dale Johnson Posted: February 5, 2016 6:00 a.m.

Until the 1950s, students at Regina College could not earn degrees in Regina – but that would soon change.
Until the 1950s, students at Regina College could not earn degrees in Regina – but that would soon change. Photo: U of R Archives

There was a turning point in the academic impact of Regina College 60 years ago this month.

That’s when there was a new drive to allow degrees to be offered, after decades of only classes being taught in Regina.

Regina College opened its doors in 1911, and for most of its first half-century it offered a range of first- and second-year university classes. But to earn degrees in Saskatchewan, students had to complete their courses at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon, which had been named the only degree-granting institution in the province back in 1907.

There had been calls as far back as the 1920s for degrees to also be offered in Regina.   

By the 1950s, some civic-minded Regina residents began pushing for degrees, arguing that some young people in the city did not have the financial resources to move to Saskatoon to study. As well, changing demographics indicated there would soon be greatly increased demand for university degrees. And new universities were being built in other provinces.

The tide began to turn significantly in Regina’s favour 60 years ago this month; that’s when Regina City Council submitted a brief to the provincial cabinet arguing for degrees to be granted at Regina College. The brief was published on the editorial page of the Regina Leader-Post on February 9, 1956.

“We respectfully urge you, as our responsible elected representatives in the government of this province, to enact legislation at the forthcoming session of our legislature to provide for a course leading to a Bachelor of Arts degree at Regina College,” the brief asked.

It also said “Ours is the only province in the whole Dominion of Canada in which the largest city cannot give its young people a degree course. Regina is the only city in Canada of comparable size without degree granting facilities.”

The advocacy continued for a few years. As more people began going to university, the U of S was soon looking at restricting enrolment; a logical solution to meet this increased demand was to also offer degree programs in Regina. In the summer of 1959, the Board of Governors and Senate at the U of S agreed to allow full degree programs in Regina.

More than 66,000 people have earned degrees in Regina since the first significant push for degree-granting status in Regina came in February 1956 – 60 years ago this month.