UBC says it's too soon to commit to a possible Squamish expansion

Local stakeholders are excited about the possibility of a new UBC campus in the District of Squamish — but the university says it’s far too early to tell whether this would become a reality.

In 2016, the UBC Clean Energy Research Centre and four Squamish-based organizations, including the District of Squamish, signed a Statement of Cooperation outlining the possibility of expanding the master of engineering leadership in clean energy to the district.

UBC already maintains medical program sites and smaller educational programs beyond its two campuses in Point Grey and the Okanagan. But stakeholders in Squamish are hoping that a clean energy program could lead to an expanded UBC presence in the region.

“It would be a great thing for Squamish” said Acting Mayor of Squamish Doug Race.

“We already have Quest University which the community has embraced — it’s been a real benefit and another campus from another institution would be perfect”.

He expects a new UBC campus would attract other high-tech businesses around the area, generating tax revenue and employment opportunities for the district.

“That’s the kind of commercial industrial relevance we would like to see,” he said.

A potential UBC campus would likely be located in Squamish’s Oceanfront lands, a large development project approved by the district two years ago.

Newport Beach Developments Limited Partnership, which own the rights to the project, are also parties part in the Statement of Cooperation with UBC’s Clean Energy Research Centre.

However, its early stages still give us no definite answer to a possible third UBC campus in the District of Squamish.

“UBC makes a final decision on that and they will then bring us their final development application to that area and we would then consider those and hopefully pass them”, said Doug Race, Acting Mayor of Squamish.

While feedback on the initiative has been positive thus far, Race acknowledged that it is difficult to make any promise without a firm commitment from UBC.

In an October 2017 letter to Minister of Advanced Education, Skills and Training Melanie Mark obtained by The Ubyssey, UBC President Santa Ono addressed the possible expansion to Squamish and acknowledged the interest of the municipality. But he stressed it was far too early for the university to commit to a project.

“[A]t this time it is premature to commit to a new campus or programmatic presence beyond UBC’s two campuses, the distributed medical program sites and our existing teaching, learning and research sites across the province,” reads the letter.

Ono also listed important considerations for the project including “the development of certainty around the financial stability of the program” and the need to liaise with Quest University, whose campus is also in the district.

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Advanced Education, Skills and Training confirmed that “the Ministry has received no further application from UBC.”

“[At] present, discussions of expanding UBC’s campuses, in Squamish or in other BC communities, remain preliminary and any proposals in this area would have to proceed through the appropriate approval processes within the university,” Kurt Heinrich, senior director of UBC’s media relations, wrote to The Ubyssey.