Although it traces its origins back to the Séminaire de Quebec, established during French control of Canada in 1663, Laval University – or Université Laval – did not acquire full university status until it was granted a royal charter by Queen Victoria in 1852. This made it the first Francophone university on the North American continent. Based in Quebec City, it set up a separate campus in Montreal in 1878, though this later separated off as the Université de Montréal in 1919.
Initially located in Old Quebec, the university soon outgrew its space moved to a separate campus in Sainte-Foy in 1925. Much of this consists of woods, sports facilities and botanical gardens, but it is also now home to 30 buildings linked by a 10-kilometre network of underground walkways very welcome in the punishing winters. The Quebec governmental archives can also be found onsite. In 1989, however, the School of Architecture returned to the striking original seminary building in the heart of the city.
While the initial focus with on traditional disciplines such as medicine, theology and law, Laval University soon expanded into sciences and applied social sciences and is now very much a ‘comprehensive’ university and one of the largest in Canada. A strong stress on diversity and an international outlook have led to hundreds of partnerships agreements with universities right across the globe.
A major player in the Canadian research scene, Laval’s recent development plan flagged up in particular the overarching areas of culture; innovative materials; healthcare; education; and the environment.