Mount Saint Vincent University is the leading and longest-standing university in Canada for the advancement of women. Founded in 1873 by the Sisters of Charity – Halifax, it was one of few institutions of higher education for women and girls in Canada, at a time when women could not vote.
For 150 years, Mount Saint Vincent University has worked to challenge the status quo. To improve access to higher education. To champion the underrepresented and underserved. We haven’t always been perfect. But we will always strive to move forward and to challenge ourselves. We will always work to unlearn old ideas to make way for a bold tomorrow.
From 1873 to 1914, the academy primarily trained novices and young sisters as teachers. But the Sisters recognized a need to educate more young women.
In 1925, the Nova Scotia Legislature awarded Mount Saint Vincent the right to grant its own degrees, making it the only independent women’s college in the British Commonwealth.
By 1951, the college offered degrees in Arts, Secretarial Science, Music, Home Economics, Library Science, Nursing and Education.
But tragedy struck in January 1951 when the main building on campus was destroyed by a devastating fire. Without hesitation, the people of Halifax opened their hearts and doors to support displaced students. And MSVU re-built. Soon after, the Sisters established Caritas Day – Caritas meaning “charity” in latin – as a day to give back to the community that came to the Mount’s rescue.
In 1966, the college became Mount Saint Vincent University, and a year later, began admitting male students.
In 1982, MSVU broke ground in distance learning by broadcasting courses on television, and having students’ phone in their questions and comments.
Then in 1988, university ownership and operations were transferred from the Sisters of Charity to an independent Board of Governors and Senate. Since then, MSVU has continued to expand its creative academic offerings, advance research in a range of areas, and add new academic, residence and research buildings, including the Margaret Norrie McCain Centre for Teaching, Learning and Research – the first building on a Canadian university campus dedicated to celebrating the accomplishments of women.
Today, MSVU continues to prioritize access to education for underserved groups, as well as meaningful efforts in truth and reconciliation.
On October 20, 2021, MSVU apologized to survivors, their families, communities, and all Indigenous Peoples, for its role in the tragedy of residential schools in Canada, noting that the Sisters of Charity – Halifax, had members who staffed the Shubenacadie Residential School in Nova Scotia and St. Eugene’s Residential School in British Columbia. The apology was accompanied by a list of commitments to Indigenous Peoples that are based on a commitment to listening, learning, and ensuring action.
Over 150 years, MSVU has evolved from an academy to a college, and finally a university. MSVU now has more than 37,000 alumni and each year welcomes 4,000 students both on-campus and online and from all over the world, studying in a wide range of undergraduate and graduate programs across Arts and Science, Professional Studies, and Education.
As Mount Saint Vincent University looks to the future, it continues to challenge the status quo, and build on its commitments to social justice and promoting equity, diversity, inclusion and accessibility for all.
In keeping with the objectives of the University to provide strong leadership role models, MSVU’s 14 presidents have all been women. From 1925, when Mount Saint Vincent became the only independent women’s college in the British Commonwealth (and when few women had achieved PhD status) to the present day, women administrators from both the lay and religious communities have continually renewed the University’s commitment to provide a positive learning environment where women’s contributions and perspectives are valued. Find a list of MSVU’s Presidents »
Over the years since 1971, the Mount has bestowed honorary Doctor of Humane Letters (DHumL) degrees on women and men who have contributed to the betterment of society and humanity in any field, and who exemplify the University’s mission. Find a list of MSVU honorary degree recipients »