UBC envisions growing to 10,000 students at new Surrey campus

Dec 16 2021, 1:30 am

The University of British Columbia (UBC) has some very big ideas for its future presence in Surrey.

Santa Ono, the president and vice-chancellor of UBC, told Surrey business leaders on Tuesday that the long-term vision of the university is to grow the Surrey campus to deliver a wide range of programs, and serve 10,000 students or more.

He painted a picture that UBC’s announcement in early November 2021 of acquiring a three-acre property in Surrey City Centre is just the starting point — potentially far more than just a satellite campus.

The enrolment of the Surrey campus could be comparable or even greater than the UBC Okanagan campus, which currently has 10,000 undergraduate and post-graduate students.

In comparison, Simon Fraser University’s (SFU) Surrey campus currently has 8,000 full-time and part-time students within about 600,000 sq ft of floor area, including 350,000 sq ft within the Central City complex and 220,000 sq ft within a 2019-built adjacent expansion building.

The main UBC Vancouver campus on 1,000 acres at the tip of Point Grey, in contrast, has a total of about 55,000 students and 5,500 academic staff.

Surrey City Centre skyline

Surrey City Centre. (Shutterstock)

UBC

UBC Vancouver campus in Point Grey. (Shutterstock)

During the Surrey Board of Trade event, Ono explained the leading rationale for UBC’s expansion into Metro Vancouver’s South of Fraser sub-region is simple: the area is leading the entire region’s population growth, with Surrey expected to overtake Vancouver’s population, eventually.

Not only is Surrey growing at a rapid rate, but 25% of the city’s population is under the age of 20, which he deems is “our sweet spot as a post-secondary institution.”

“There is a considerable amount of enthusiasm and energy already building,” he said, calling this expansion amounting to “a new relationship between UBC and Surrey.”

Ono says the UBC Faculty of Medicine already has a presence at Surrey Memorial Hospital and the adjacent Lark Group’s office buildings. About one-third of all UBC medical students come from high schools in the South of Fraser, and 60% of UBC Department of Family Practice faculty and post-graduate residents train in Fraser Health.

More broadly, 3,500 students and 750 faculty members currently at UBC Vancouver live in Surrey.

“We want to bring UBC to what they call home. It makes a lot of sense. It doesn’t make sense to spend four hours back and forth between Surrey and Point Grey, whether you are a student, staff member, or faculty member,” said Ono.

Last month, UBC announced it acquired 9770 King George Boulevard, which is currently occupied by Grace Hanin Community Church. This large site at the prominent southeast corner of the intersection of King George Boulevard and Fraser Highway is just south of PCI Developments’ King George Hub, and within very close proximity to SkyTrain King George Station and Surrey Memorial Hospital.

The planned 16-km-long extension of the Expo Line east of King George Station, through Surrey to reach Langley Centre, opening in 2028, makes this a particularly advantageous location for expansion in terms of its access and connectivity across the South of Fraser.

ubc 9770 King George Boulevard surrey city centre

Site of the University of British Columbia’s (UBC) future redevelopment at 9770 King George Boulevard in Surrey City Centre. (City of Surrey)

ubc 9770 King George Boulevard surrey city centre

Site of the University of British Columbia’s (UBC) future redevelopment at 9770 King George Boulevard in Surrey City Centre. (Google Maps)

To achieve UBC’s broader vision for its long-term expansion into Surrey, Ono said the university is considering the acquisition of adjacent properties to potentially further grow its future planned presence. There could be an announcement in the near future on additional property acquisitions.

He says UBC’s expansion to Surrey has been well received by the provincial and federal governments, and of course the municipal government. The establishment of UBC Surrey is now a major priority for the university, and has seen “immense interest” since it was first announced.

As for what the initial UBC Surrey campus buildings could contain, Ono notes that this has not been defined. There will be a meeting between university administration and leadership in January to kick off the planning process. He adds that the Surrey community will be closely involved by “co-creating” the vision for the campus.

“We haven’t determined the exact composition of our research and teaching activities at the site yet. That is going to happen in close consultation with you and with the deans, heads, and directors of the institution,” he told the Surrey audience.

But Ono says there are already some high-level ideas, based on the strengths of Surrey, and the emerging needs and priorities of the community and the broader region.

Given the close proximity to Surrey Memorial Hospital, the site is a strategic location for expanding medical research and training activities, such as dentistry, occupational therapy, and physical therapy.

He stated other potential good fits for the location could include the Faculty of Forestry, Faculty of Land and Food Systems, Faculty of Education, and Extended Learning (previously known as Continuing Studies).

On the potential for opening an Extended Learning presence, Ono says the campus could offer classes in coding, health administration, and economics. Extended Learning provides professionals with the opportunity to “upskill or reskill” themselves, but the long travel times to the Point Grey campus are currently a barrier for many working people.

Another idea, he describes, is to provide the opportunity for certain lower-year undergraduate classes to be delivered at UBC Surrey through physical in-person classes, if not lecture capture (video streaming).

UBC’s incubator system supporting ventures borne from the university’s students and faculty staff could also be brought to Surrey.

9770 King George Boulevard Surrey UBC campus

Artistic rendering of the potential redevelopment concept for the University of British Columbia campus at 9770 King George Boulevard, Surrey. (UBC)

9770 King George Boulevard Surrey UBC campus

Artistic rendering of the potential redevelopment concept for the University of British Columbia campus at 9770 King George Boulevard, Surrey. (UBC)

9770 King George Boulevard Surrey UBC campus

Artistic rendering of the potential redevelopment concept for the University of British Columbia campus at 9770 King George Boulevard, Surrey. (UBC)

The university previously announced that its redevelopment on the acquired site will also see a combination of revenue-generating market residential and commercial spaces to help fund the construction of the academic and research facilities.

Highly preliminary conceptual artistic renderings of the church site redevelopment suggest at least two buildings, with academic and research facilities on multiple podium levels in the base of towers.

The establishment of UBC Surrey does not preclude the continued expansion of the Point Grey campus, especially in a region that is set to see one million additional people over the next 30 years, and the economies of scale of doing so.

UBC has a satellite campus at Robson Square in downtown Vancouver that is primarily used by the Sauder School of Business and Extended Learning.

UBC also has a strategy over the next 20 years to double the footprint of its UBC Okanagan campus, growing the student population to about 18,000. This does not include the university’s plans to redevelop a 1.6-acre site at 550 Doyle Avenue in downtown Kelowna into a satellite campus with three towers, containing 100,000 sq ft of academic space, plus office space, and residential uses including rental housing.

ubc okanagan

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

10275 City Parkway Centre Block Surrey

Site plan for the Centre Block redevelopment at 10275 City Parkway, next to SkyTrain Surrey Central Station. The highlighted Phase 3 (light grey) building site is anticipated to be acquired by Simon Fraser University for its Surrey campus expansion. (Hariri Pontarini Architects/Adamson Architects/City of Surrey)

UBC’s future presence in Surrey City Centre will also complement SFU’s significant Surrey campus, which also carries expansion plans.

In addition to its existing academic facilities in Central City and the Sustainable Engineering Building, SFU is anticipated to acquire the parking lot south of SkyTrain Surrey Central Station for the development of a campus expansion with at least 750,000 sq ft, in addition to potential uses in the City of Surrey-led office redevelopment immediately to the north.

The new Quantum Algorithms Institute at the SFU Surrey campus is anticipated to open in Spring 2022.

During the Fall 2020 provincial election, the BC NDP promised to build a medical school at SFU Surrey, which would be the second medical school in the province after the UBC campus in Point Grey.

Kenneth ChanKenneth Chan

+ News
+ Real Estate
+ Development
+ Urbanized
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT