Passion for Autonomy
University of Calgary Archives
Student demonstration, November 8, 1963
University of Calgary Archives
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The establishment of a university in Calgary was a recurrent educational aim since the founding of the Province of Alberta in 1905. When Edmonton became the capital of the province, the citizens of Calgary expected their city to be chosen as the seat of the provincial university. However, the honour fell to Strathcona, now incorporated in the City of Edmonton. Efforts to have an independent university established in Calgary continued intermittently through the Twenties and Thirties against strong resistance from those who believed that the province could sustain only one such institution. Lobbying in earnest began after the Second World War.

A significant advance in the development of an autonomous university in Calgary occurred in 1945 when the University of Alberta took over all teacher training from the provincial Normal Schools. A Calgary branch of the Faculty of Education of the University of Alberta opened in the Calgary Normal School quarters on the campus of the Southern Institute of Technology and Art, now know as SAIT. After the "University of Alberta at Calgary" (UAC) moved to its current site in 1960 the rapid expansion of campus facilities fuelled demands for more independence for the institution.

In 1963 a newspaper editorial called for full local autonomy to allow the university to reflect the local character and win local support. Several student demonstrations demanding autonomy followed. On April 6, placard-carrying students paraded before windows of the Arts and Education building at UAC where the UofA Board of Governors was meeting. On November 8, student demonstrators picketed a meeting of the Senate of the University of Alberta on the Calgary campus chanting "Autonomy!" The decapitated dummy was used to symbolize UAC. The students used a loud speaker to push their demand through the wall of the Arts Building where the Senate meeting was held.


Student demonstration, April 6, 1963
University of Calgary Archives
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The following year (1964) was marked by the installation of Dr. H.S. Armstrong as the first president of the University of Alberta at Calgary and the formation of its first General Faculties Council. Autonomy was finally achieved in 1966 with The Universities Act of the Province of Alberta which established a separate Provincial University with the name "The University of Calgary". Dr. Armstrong was duly installed as first president of the new university which boasted 5,500 full and part-time students enrolled in five faculties: Arts and Science, Engineering, Education, Graduate Studies and Physical Education.