UBC Okanagan campus in Kelowna to double in size over 20 years

Jan 10 2020, 6:48 pm

The University of British Columbia (UBC) has created a new long-term vision that will double the size of its Okanagan campus (UBCO) in Kelowna.

Currently, the campus near the city’s airport entails about one million sq. ft. of total floor area, and there are plans to add an additional one million sq. ft. by 2040, bringing the total size of the academic campus to approximately two million sq. ft.

A medium-term target by 2027 calls for 420,000 sq. ft. of additional academic space and 1,000 more student beds.

These new buildings will feature green design features — such as solar panels and geoexchange — to align with UBCO’s capital infrastructure projects’ strategy of net-zero energy buildings based on annual energy consumption and the renewable energy created on site.

ubc okanagan

Aerial of the existing UBCO campus (top) and an artistic rendering of the future campus expansion by 2040 (bottom). (UBC)

Much of this physical growth will be from the creation of a new innovation precinct on a largely undeveloped 60-acre area at the northern end of the campus. Such a precinct will provide new experiential learning opportunities, research and development spaces, and zones for non-profit entities allowing UBC to interact with external partners in new ways.

This innovation district has been deemed crucial to fulfilling UBCO’s mandate of becoming a research-centric university.

The construction cost for the new spaces for academic and research activities, and community and social engagement, such as outdoor public spaces, is estimated to total $452 million.

To further support the core mandate, UBCO is aiming to increase its annual research funding from $21.9 million over the 2017 fiscal year to over $100 million by 2040.

Investments made by the university and a capital campaign will increase the funding per student and student financial support at UBCO to be close to the level of the Vancouver campus.

Artistic rendering of the UBC Okanagan campus in Kelowna by 2040. (UBC)

With this physical and operational growth, UBCO’s student body will reach approximately 18,000 students by 2040, including 12,000 undergraduate students, 3,000 graduate students, and 3,000 students in full cost recovery, post baccalaureate and graduate professional degree programs, and non-degree and flexible programs.

This is up from the current student population of 10,000 undergraduates and 1,000 postgraduates, as well as 500 academic staff and 600 administrative staff.

The campus size of UBCO by 2041 — both academic space and student population — will approach the existing size of Simon Fraser University’s Burnaby Mountain campus.

Artistic rendering of the UBC Okanagan campus in Kelowna by 2040. (UBC)

UBCO believes there is sufficient demand, including latent demand, for its additional programs and spaces.

Based on the provincial government’s data, the average percentage of BC’s population with post-secondary credential and graduate degrees falls below the Canadian average, as does the provincial ratio of higher education research and development to GDP.

It is also anticipated that 77% of BC’s new jobs over the next decade will require some level of post-secondary education or training, with only 3% of these positions available for those with only a high school education.

Demand will, of course, also come from population growth; the Kelowna region’s population is expected to grow from 195,000 today to 277,000 by 2040, while BC’s population will grow from 5.1 million today to up to 6.6 million by 2038.

Additionally, global demand for higher education is expected to continue to soar over the coming decades, with a 51% increase in international student enrolment globally by 2030.

UBCO is aiming to have international students account for 25% of its undergraduates in 2040.

Artistic rendering of the UBC Okanagan campus in Kelowna by 2040. (UBC)

Through all of this growth, the university is looking to increase its annual economic impact in the Okanagan from $1.5 billion today to $4.8 billion in 20 years.

“UBCO has helped transform Kelowna from what it was 20 years ago,” said Deborah Buszard, deputy vice-chancellor and principal of UBCO, referring to the Okanagan’s prior reputation of only being driven by agriculture and tourism.

“We are one of the largest employers in the region. We provide healthcare professionals, from physicians and psychologists, to nurses and social workers. We just launched a new advanced manufacturing program, and our next engineering program will be aerospace.”

UBCO’s growth since its formation has been exponential; when UBCO was established in 2005 from the former campus of Okanagan University College, it only had 3,500 students.

In contrast, the Vancouver campus currently has approximately 54,000 undergraduates, including 44,000 undergraduates and 10,000 postgraduates, as well as 5,000 academic staff and 10,000 administrative staff.

UBC Okanagan

Aerial of the existing UBC Okanagan campus in Kelowna. (UBC)