Whistler university would be first of its kind in Canada By Andy Stonehouse One way or the other, David Strangway believes his plans for Canada's most unique private university will come to fruition — and if Whistler doesn't want to be home to the new school, more than a dozen other B.C. communities are interested. Strangway, former president of UBC and now head of an Ottawa-based think-tank for business innovation, has been spearheading what is officially known as the University of Whistler project for more than two years. Since his departure from UBC, Strangway said he has travelled extensively in the U.S. and across the world and believes that the time has come for Canada to establish its first private liberal arts university. He'd also like to see that happen in Whistler, but said interest is equally strong from 16 to 18 other communities in the Lower Mainland, Vancouver Island and across B.C. "Whistler is obviously a very attractive setting for the school, as it already has a very international community — and it seems to be a community that values this sort of project," he said. "There's also been very great interest in many other communities, who see the school as an anchor to their development. "There are very few small, private universities in Canada, except for a few religion-based ones, and the U.S. model doesn't exist in Canada. This is the right idea at the right time, in the right place." Working with a variety of partners, including UBC external affairs vice-president Peter Ufford, Strangway has established the framework for the new school, with a high-tech emphasis on environmental and global issues. Strangway said the new university would work on the "block program" model, with students taking intensive, single subject, three week-long courses throughout the year. The fast schedule could allow a student to graduate in just over two years, and would also mean the school could attract a large and prestigious visiting faculty to teach the short courses. Strangway said the school would be completely wired using new and emerging technologies in the classroom, and that students would be required to master one European language and one Asian language as part of their studies. University of Whistler graduates would likely be prime candidates for graduate study, he adds. The school's short courses could allow Whistler residents to take part, while school library and athletic facilities would also be available to the community or as use for a base for Capilano College courses. "We're very determined to have the school close to the community. My sense is that people really like this idea for Whistler." Strangway said that despite the fears many in Canada have about the gradual erosion of the public education system, a private university — serving about 400 international students and an equal number of Canadians — does have a place and would have no trouble attracting enrolment. "This is explicitly a private institution and it won't be cheap. Our plan would be to raise funds for future scholarships, so the student body could represent a wide number of people — and not just be a place for rich students." Working on its current schedule, Strangway said hopes are to have the school developed by 2001. He said discussions with Whistler officials have been very positive so far and that he and his supporters hope to get a final plan for the facility in place in the near future. Construction costs for the university are projected to include $40 million for campus development and $60 million for residences, hence the request for 100 acres of land and 2,000 bed units. Strangway said about half of the capital costs for the project need to come from some more expeditious source, like development of bed units, with the rest of the costs to be covered by student tuitions.