The University of Victoria came into being on July 1, 1963, but it had enjoyed a prior tradition as Victoria College of sixty years distinguished teaching at the university level. This sixty years of history may be viewed conveniently in three distinct stages.
Between the years 1903 and 1915, Victoria College was affiliated with McGill University, offering first- and second-year McGill courses in Arts and Science. Administered locally by the Victoria School Board, the College was an adjunct to Victoria High School and shared its facilities. Both institutions were under the direction of a single Principal: E.B. Paul, 1903-1908; and S.J. Willis, 1908-1915. The opening in 1915 of the University of British Columbia, established by Act of Legislature in 1908, obliged the College to suspend operations in higher education in Victoria.
In 1920, as a result of local demands, Victoria College began the second stage of its development, reborn in affiliation with the University of British Columbia. Though still administered by the Victoria School Board, the College was now completely separated from Victoria High School, moving in 1921 into the magnificent Dunsmuir mansion known as Craigdarroch. Here, under Principals E.B. Paul and P.H. Elliott, Victoria College built a reputation over the next two decades for thorough and scholarly instruction in first- and second-year Arts and Science.
The final stage, between the years 1945 and 1963, saw the transition from two year college to university, under Principals J.M. Ewing and W.H. Hickman. During this period, the College was governed by the Victoria College Council, representative of the parent University of British Columbia, the Greater Victoria School Board, and the provincial department of Education. Physical changes were many. In 1946 the College was forced by postwar enrolment to move from Craigdarroch to the Lansdowne campus of the Provincial Normal School. The Normal School, itself an institution with a long and honourable history, joined Victoria College in 1956 as its Faculty of Education. Late in this transitional period (through the co-operation of the department of National Defence and the Hudsons Bay Company) the 284 (now 385) acre campus at Gordon Head was acquired. Academic expansion was rapid after 1956, until in 1961 the College, still in affiliation with UBC awarded its first bachelors degrees.
In granting autonomy to the University of Victoria, the University Act of 1963 vested administrative authority in a Chancellor elected by the Convocation of the University, a Board of Governors, and a President appointed by the Board; academic authority was given to a Senate which was representative both of the Faculties and of the Convocation.
The historical traditions of the University are reflected in the Arms of the University, its academic regalia and its house flag. The BA hood is of solid red, a colour that recalls the early affiliation with McGill. The BSc hood, of gold, and the BEd hood, of blue, show the colours of the University of British Columbia. Blue, gold, and red have been retained as the official colours of the University of Victoria. The motto at the top of the Arms of the University, in Hebrew characters, is "Let there be Light" ; the motto at the bottom, in Latin, is "A Multitude of the Wise is the Health of the World."