Canadian University College, the Adventist Church’s sole institute of higher education in Canada, will change its name to Burman University at the end of the current academic year in an effort to better reflect its status and roots.
The school, which gained permission from Canadian authorities to change from “university college” to “university” last July, said the new name would eliminate widespread confusion about the meaning of “university college.”
"Referring to ourselves simply as a university will more clearly reflect our degree-granting status and enable our students to pursue graduate school and employment without having to repeatedly explaining what a ‘university college’ is,” said Mark Haynal, who has served as school president since 2010.
"Because ‘university college’ means markedly different things in different regions, potential students and administrators of post-secondary institutions across Canada and around the world have always been uncertain and often confused by our name,” Haynal said in a statement.
The new name also conveys the school’s mission and values by honoring its founders, Charles and Leona Burman, career church workers who opened the school in 1907, he said.
“It was because of their selfless dedication and sacrifice that the first school on this hilltop was established,” he said.“In every season of their ministry both of these individuals exemplified the mission of our school.”
The lives of the married couple were highlighted in an appeal that Haynal sent to the school’s board of trustees ahead of a final vote on the name change Monday. Charles A. Burman was the first president of the church’s Alberta Conference, a position that he held when he opened the school, Alberta Industrial Academy, and became its first principal. His wife taught a number of classes there and acted as school nurse.
The academy evolved into a junior college in 1919, and it adopted the name Canadian Union College when it started its first four-year program, in theology, in 1947. The change to Canadian University College occurred in 1997.
Canadian University College said it invested considerable effort into selecting the new name. It conducted focus groups in three regions of Canada and sought input from a number of other people, including faculty, staff, students, alumni, friends and citizens of the town of Lacombe, where it is located. More than 100 names were considered before Burman University emerged as the favorite.
The school intends to keep its current name for the rest of the 2014-15 academic year and adopt the new name on May 1, 2015.
The change is not without critics. Haynal reposted an official school statement about the development on his personal blog, and the single commentator who had weighed in by Tuesday afternoon said she was confused.
“My thoughts are that as the name stands it sounds like an institution from the Indo-China region rather than Canada,” the commentator wrote. “I believe that the name would represent the founders better and [would] sound more distinctive if it included their initials in the name.”
But students said the new name would ease their lives.
“In my experience as a student, I have often been asked whether I am pursuing a college diploma/certificate or a university degree,” Jyssica Delpeche, a third-year biology major, said in the appeal sent to the board of trustees. “The designation ‘university college’ lowers the university-degree status.”
Canadian University College has an enrollment of 479 undergraduate students, of whom 11 percent are non-Adventist, according to school figures.
Nisha Johny, a second-year English major and president of the student association, said the new name should attract more students.
“Since we are looking to target an increase in enrollment, I strongly believe that we must choose a name that caters to potential students, Adventist or not,” she said. “It avoids being a barrier that prevents students from wanting to be at our institution, and having ‘university’ as our designation would be vital for that.”