Happy Birthday to the University of Ottawa!

175th anniversary
Franco-Ontarian, University of Ottawa, Saint-Paul University and City of Ottawa flags raised outside of Ottawa City Hall.
The Franco-Ontarian flag and the flags of the University of Ottawa, Saint Paul University and the City of Ottawa raised outside Ottawa City Hall.
The City of Ottawa has officially declared September 26, 2023, as Bytown College Heritage Day in honour of the college that gave birth to the University of Ottawa and Saint Paul University. The flags of both universities were flown in front of City Hall to celebrate two institutions that are at the heart of the lives of citizens and their city.

A story of transformation

Here are a few words and dates that trace the evolution and transformation of a modest college into an institution of higher learning of international calibre.  

The University of Ottawa boasts some 47,000 students and 10,000 teaching, research and support staff, making it a veritable city of knowledge and innovation in the heart of Canada’s capital. As an incubator of ideas and innovation, our university contributes to the region’s development and its reputation as a world leader in health care and technology. 

Over 175 years, our University has adapted to events and changes in our society, in keeping with the vitality of a community that is increasingly diverse and that gives life to its values of equity, diversity and inclusion.  

Today, the quality of its teaching in both English and French, the relevance and impact of its research, and the innovative spirit of its community propel the University forward to a bright, sustainable future. 

From yesteryear to today, here is an overview of a few key moments that have shaped our history. 

From college to university (1848 to 1965) 

  • 1848: Creation of Bytown College, a bilingual (English and French) Catholic school housed in a modest wood building  

Bytown College, 1848
Bytown College, 1848
  • 1861: Change of name as Bytown College becomes Ottawa College and is raised to the level of university by royal charter. 

  • 1872: The university confers its first bachelor’s degree 

  • 1874: The university confers its first master’s degree 

  • 1885: First use of the Gee-Gees name; two sports teams existed at that time (football and athletics) 

  • 1888-1898: First student newspaper, The Owl 

  • 1889: Creation of the first faculty, namely the Faculty of Arts 

  • 1905: Inauguration of Tabaret Hall, a building that will come to symbolize the University  

Tabaret Hall
Tabaret Hall, present day
  • 1915-1926: La revue de l’Université d’Ottawa is launched to provide articles on research and explain the results in layperson’s terms. 

  • 1923: The École normale (today the Faculty of Education) is founded 

  • 1926-1928: Launch of a second student newspaper called Station VAR 

  • 1929: The first women graduate from the University of Ottawa 

  • 1933: The School of Nursing is created 

  • 1935: Student newspaper La Rotonde is founded 

  • 1936: The School of Political Sciences (today the Faculty of Social Sciences) is created 

Green wall in FSS building
Living green wall in Factulty of Social Sciences building, present day
  • 1936: University of Ottawa Press is launched 

  • 1936: The School of Advanced Political Studies is born; it is the first step in creating what will become the Faculty of Social Sciences (1962) 

  • 1945: School of Medicine is founded 

  • 1946: School of Applied Sciences (engineering and science) created 

  • 1946: Another student newspaper, The Fulcrum, is founded 

  • 1953: Faculty of Law (Civil Law Section) is born 

  • 1955: School of Political, Economic and Social Sciences becomes the Faculty of Political, Economic and Social Sciences 

  • 1957: The Common Law Section is added to the Faculty of Law 

  • 1966: Creation of the University’s newsletter, The Gazette 

  • 1967: Founding of the School of Graduate Studies and Research  

  • 1966: Pauline Vanier becomes the first woman and the first layperson to become chancellor of the University. 

  • 1969: The Faculty of Management Science is founded. It becomes the Faculty of Administration (1977), then the School of Management (2002) and finally the Telfer School of Management (2007). 

  • 1972: Inauguration of Morisset Library 

  • 1975: The University’s Senate approves the Regulation on Bilingualism that reaffirms the bilingual nature of the University 

  • 1978: The Faculty of Health Sciences is founded 

  • 1984: First broadcast of Radio CHUO-FM (89.1), the second-oldest campus radio station in Canada 

A growing campus that strengthens its bilingual identity and reflects its values of inclusion, equity and diversity (1985-2023) 

  • 1985: First Wellness Week is launched 

  • 1986: Faculty of Science and Faculty of Engineering are founded

Faculty of Science STEM Complex
Faculty of Science STEM Complex, present day
  • 1988: The University’s leadership in distance learning in Canada results in the creation of a network of distance learning in French at the post-secondary level, the Réseau francophone d'enseignement postsecondaire à distance 

  • 1997: Official opening of the School of Information Technology and Engineering at the Faculty of Engineering  

  • 1997: Opening of the Indigenous Resource Centre. In 2018, the Circle of Elders of Kitigan Zibi names it Mashkawazìwogamig. 

  • 2006: The Office of Campus Sustainability is created 

  • 2007: The Official Languages and Bilingualism Institute is founded 

  • 2008: The Teaching and Learning Support Service is born 

  • 2010: The position of ombudsperson is created 

  • 2011: The Carrefour des francophones is inaugurated 

  • 2017: The internationalization strategy is launched 

  • 2019: Kanata North satellite campus, a unique setting for research and innovation, is inaugurated 

  • 2019: The University commissions Mohawk and Oneida artist David General to create a sculpture symbolizing the relationship, based on truth and reconciliation, between the University of Ottawa and the Omamìwìnini Anishinàbeg peoples and to recognize the unceded Algonquin territory on which the campus is built. 

Indigenous monument on Tabaret lawn.
"She dances with the earth, water and sky" a sculpture by Mohawk and Oneida artist David General.
  • 2020: Adoption of the latest strategic plan, Transformation 2030, whose four pillars define the direction of this transformation: more agile, more connected, more impactful, more sustainable 

  • 2020: The Office of the Vice-President, International and Francophonie is created 

  • 2021: The Mental Health Centre opens 

  • 2022: Opening of a Windsor sattelite campus. The University plans to double the number of spaces available for Francophones to enrol in education programs. 

  • 2022: Modernization of the Regulation on Bilingualism, a regulation that involves and cuts across all sectors of activity at the University, including offer of service, available academic programs, research activities, human resources, communications and relations between the University and several stakeholders. 

  • 2023: Launch of a new strategic framework to promote mental health and well-being. This tool gives the University the means to help students, professors, and support staff work in a caring and compassionate campus environment. 

  • 2023: Creation of the Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion 

  • 2023: Claudette Commanda becomes the University’s first Indigenous chancellor 

  • 2023: New Health Sciences building is inaugurated 

Faculty of Health Sciences Lees Campus, 2023
Faculty of Health Sciences building, 2023

A collaborative, sustainable future in sight

Our 175th birthday is a perfect opportunity to salute all those who make the University of Ottawa one of the best places in the world for post-secondary education, research and innovation. Hats off to our wider University community, including our donors, alumni, research centres, affiliated hospital research institutes, centres of excellence and networks, and our partners here and across the world who contribute to the well-being, progress and development of society. Together, we are building a promising and sustainable future.