Students say: “Classes are big, but as you progress, seminars are smaller. I have had the luck to have very engaging professors.”
– Graciela Hernandez Cruz, third-year international studies
Thompson Rivers University
Accessible education pioneer
Students: 24,000, including online
Pro: A beautiful campus close to holiday destination Shuswap Lake
Con: A smaller school's course offerings are more limited
TRU’s history (it was created when University College of the Cariboo and BC Open University were combined in 2005) explains much about its mix of online and distance courses, trade and vocational programs and traditional university programming. With 22,000 students, half of whom are enrolled in distance or online programs, TRU succeeds at making education accessible to many with flexible programs such as its bachelor in interdisciplinary studies that allows students to direct their final two years of study. Senior students rated TRU above average on NSSE, but students complain of few internship and co-op opportunities in some programs.
Hotshot prof: Naowarat (Ann) Cheeptham was awarded a prestigious residency in Washington by the National Science Foundation and American Society for Microbiology.
Notable alumnus: Dean Fortin, mayor of Victoria, used to work in a sawmill in Kamloops.
Students say: “In the faculty of arts especially, there are wide programming gaps and limited opportunities to investigate areas of interest outside of the mainstream.”
– Dylan Robinson, fourth-year philosophy
Vancouver Island University
Education for the outdoorsy
Pro: Diverse student body from strong international recruitment
Con: Lacking social scene
Formerly called Malaspina University-College, VIU is known for its flexible, part-time offerings and non-traditional programs. Want to be a park ranger? The unique bachelor of national resource protection may be for you. Although Nanaimo lacks character, VIU’s location boasts great access to beaches and recreational trails.
Hotshot prof: Grant Murray, Canada Research Chair in Coastal Research Management, leads the university’s interdisciplinary Institute for Coastal Research.
Notable alumnus: Rebekah Shoop founded Alianza, a non-profit that aims to provide medical assistance to Mayan communities in Guatemala.
University of Victoria
Pacific Ocean U
Students: 20,000 students
Pro: Chill island vibe
Con: Sleepy Victoria
Surrounded by dense forests and the Salish Sea, University of Victoria is heaven for the outdoorsy adventurer. The university boasts a noted mechanical engineering program and one of the largest co-op programs in Canada. The ambitious Ocean Networks Canada (ONC) initiative, with its cabled undersea observatories, established Victoria firmly on the world stage of ocean discovery and innovation. Undergrads benefit from research opportunities and topnotch interdisciplinary programs at ONC and the School of Earth and Ocean Sciences. Students are laid-back and environmentally conscious and they speak highly of the friendliness of their idyllic campus, but the city of Victoria (commonly described as a city for “the newly wed and nearly dead”) is a bit too cute to be cool.
Hotshot prof: Philip Dearden, geography professor and coauthor of a leading textbook on environmental change, recently led a field course to India.
Notable alumnus: Stewart Butterfield founded Flickr and was included in Time magazine’s 2006 list of the most influential people in the world.
Students say: “I feel that I am a person, not a number, and some profs even know me by my first name.”
– Erin Eidsvik, second-year biology
Editor's note: Senior students at Thomson Rivers University, rated it above-average in the National Survey of Student Engagement, not less favourably, as said in a previous version of the article. This is a corrected version of the article.