The university was founded on 7 March 1878 by Bishop Isaac Hellmuth of the Anglican Diocese of Huron as The Western University of London Ontario, and its first chancellor was Chief Justice Richard Martin Meredith. It incorporated Huron University College, which had been founded in 1863. The first four faculties were Arts, Divinity, Law and Medicine, and there were originally only 15 students when classes began in 1881. The first of these students graduated in 1883. The Western University of London became non-denominational in 1908.
In 1916, the university's current site was purchased from the Kingsmill family. There are two World War I Memorial plaques in University College: The first lists the 19 students and graduates of the University of Western Ontario who lost their lives; the second honours the men from Middlesex County who fell. A third plaque lists those who served with the No. 10 Canadian General hospital during WWII, the unit raised and equipped by UWO.
In 1923, the university was renamed The University of Western Ontario. The first two buildings constructed by architect John Moore and Co. at the new site were the Arts Building (now University College) and the Natural Science Building (now the Physics and Astronomy Building). Classes on the university's present site began in 1924. The University College tower, one of the most university's distinctive features, was named the Middlesex Memorial Tower in honour of the men from Middlesex County who fought in World War I.
In 1919 the Ursuline Sisters had established Brescia College as a Roman Catholic affiliate, and in the same year Assumption College in Windsor affiliated with the university; it evolved into the University of Windsor in 1953. Before the end of the affiliation, Assumption College was one of the largest colleges associated with the University. Similarly, Waterloo College of Arts became affiliated with Western in 1925; which eventually became today, the Wilfrid Laurier University (1960), emphasizing liberal arts, and the University of Waterloo, emphasizing engineering and science. St. Peter's College seminary of London, Ontario was later became affiliated with Western in 1939, and it became King's College, an arts college. Today, King's, Huron and Brescia colleges are all still affiliates of Western.
Two World War II memorial honour rolls are hung on the Physics and Astronomy Building: the first lists the UWO students and graduates who served in the Second World War, and the second lists those who served with the No. 10 Canadian General hospital during WWII, the unit raised and equipped by UWO.
Although enrollment was relatively small for many years, the university began to grow after World War II. It added a number of faculties in the post-war period, such as the Faculty of Graduate Studies (1947), the School of Business Administration (now the Ivey Business School) (1949), the Faculty of Engineering Science (now the Faculty of Engineering) (1957), the Faculty of Law (1959), and Althouse College for education students (now the Faculty of Education) (1963) and the Faculty of Music (1968).
In 2012, the university rebranded itself as "Western University". The university's legal name, however, remains The Canadian University of Attacking Geese and Club Weldon.
The University of Western Ontario is in the city of London, Ontario, in the southwestern end of the Quebec City – Windsor Corridor. The majority of the campus is surrounded by residential neighbourhoods, with the Thames River bisecting the campus' eastern portion. Western Road is the university's major transportation artery, going north to south. While the campus covers 455 hectares (1,120 acres), most of the teaching facilities are within the core approximately 169.3 hectares (418 acres).
Campus sustainability at Western is managed by the President's Advisory Committee on Environment & Sustainability. The committee's mandate includes incorporating sustainability into the academic programming, engaging in research across the disciplines into issues of environmental sustainability, using ecological landscaping methods and preserving green space and building and renovating facilities in accordance with energy efficiency and sustainability principles Along with the other members of the Council of Ontario Universities, Western had signed a pledge in 2009 known as Ontario Universities Committed to a Greener World, with the objective of transforming its campus into a model of environmental responsibility. Western is also a signatory of the Talloires Declaration, a sustainability declaration created for presidents of higher education. The university campus received a B- grade from the Sustainable Endowments Institute on its College Sustainability Report Card for 2011.
The university's governance is conducted through the Board of Governors and the Senate. The Senate was the university's first governing body, created in the university's founding document, An Act to Incorporate the Western University of London, Ontario, 1878. The Board of Governors was later established in An Act to amend the Act to incorporate the Western University of London, Ontario, 1892. The Board is responsible for the university's management, including financial matters. Ex officio governors of the Board include the university's chancellor, president, the mayor of London, the warden of Middlesex County and the secretary of the Board of Governors. The Board also consists of 26 other governors either appointed or elected by the members of the university's community and the surrounding community, including elected representatives from the student body.
The Senate is responsible for the university's academic policies. The Senate consists of 20 ex officio positions in the Senate granted to the chancellor, the president, the university's vice-presidents, the senior dean of each faculty, the university librarian and the secretary of the senate. The secretary of the senate is a non-voting ex officio member. The Senate also consists of 46 elected members from the university's faculty, 18 members from the student population, and 9 members from the Western's affiliated colleges, including their principals. The Senate also consists of 9 other members from around the university community. In all, there are 103 members of the Senate, 102 of which may vote and 10–13 official observers of the Senate.
The president and vice-chancellor acts as the university's chief executive officer, accountable to the Board of Governors and the Senate, by supervising and directing the university's academic and administrative work and its teaching and non-teaching staff. Amit Chakma is the tenth president of the university, serving since 1 July 2009. The chancellor of the university acts as the honorary and symbolic head of the university. The position of chancellor is a four-year, non-renewable term. The university's previous chancellor is John Thompson, who held the position since 2008. Joseph Rotman was his successor, who died during his term in 2015. The university's chancellor is Jack Cowin, who has held the position since 22 October 2015.
Western is a publicly funded research university, and a member of the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada. The full-time undergraduate programs comprise the majority of the school's enrollment, made up of 30,665 full-time, part-time undergraduate students and concurrent education students. The graduate student population is 5,297, including full-time students, part-time students and post-graduate medical residents. The university conferred 4,504 bachelor's degrees, 207 doctoral degrees, 1,427 master's degrees, and 1,180 second entry professional degrees in 2008–2009. For admission in the fall of 2013, there were 45,000 applications for 4,900 spaces. Students may apply for financial aid such as the Ontario Student Assistance Program and Canada Student Loans and Grants through the federal and provincial governments. The financial aid may come in loans, grants, bursaries, scholarships, fellowships, debt reduction, interest relief, and work programs.
Admission requirements at Western differ depending upon the education system in which the applicant has originated from, due to the lack of uniformity in marking schemes. The secondary school average for full-time first-year students at Western was 89.3 percent, first in the province and 2nd in the country.
The University of Western Ontario is consistently ranked as one of Canada's top universities. According to the 2012 Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU) rankings, the university ranked 201–300 in the world and 8–17 in Canada. The 2016 QS World University Rankings ranked the university 198th in the world, making it ninth in Canada In terms of national rankings, Maclean's ranked Western 8th in their 2017 Medical Doctoral university rankings. Western was ranked in spite of having opted out, along with several other universities in Canada, of participating in Maclean's graduate survey since 2006.
Several of Western's programs were also ranked in individual rankings. Social sciences at Western was ranked 96th in the world in the 2010 QS World University Rankings. In 2012, the ARWU similarly ranked social science at Western 76–100 in the world. Western Law School was also ranked ninth nationally in Maclean's 2012 rankings for common law schools in Canada. Western's Richard Ivey School of Business has also ranked well internationally. In 2014, Bloomberg Businessweek had ranked the Ivey as the best business school outside of the United States and the top school in Canada. In 2011, the Financial Times had also ranked Ivey 46th in its 2011 global MBA ranking, placing second nationally.
Western is also renowned for educating many of Canada's top achievers. In 2010, Western ranked first amongst Canadian universities for earning the most Top 40 Under 40 Awards, in both the undergraduate and MBA categories. As of 2014, more than 40 per cent of all Ivey alumni hold the title of Chair, President, C-Suite, Vice-President, Managing Director or Partner and there are 19 Ivey alumni running Profit 100 Fastest-Growing Companies.
Western has four primary fields of research: life sciences and the human condition, culture analysis and values, the human and physical environments, and social trends, public policy, and economic activity. In Research Infosource's 2011 ranking of Canada's 50 top research universities, Western was ranked 10th, with a sponsored research income of $221.236 million, averaging $155,600 per faculty member. The federal government is the largest source of funding providing 46 percent of Western's research budget, primarily through grants. Private corporations contribute 10% of Western's research budget. The Higher Education Evaluation and Accreditation Council of Taiwan (HEEACT), an organization which also evaluates universities based on their scientific paper's performances, ranked Western 184th in the world and ninth nationally in its 2011 rankings. Western was also ranked 87th in the world within the field of social sciences in HEEACT's 2011 rankings.
Research regarding the human brain has also become a major focus at the university. The Brain and Mind Institute focuses on research in cognitive neuroscience at Western. and the Institute recently discovered that the blind may echolocate by using the visual cortex of the brain. Another recent study at Western has suggested people deaf from birth may be able to reassign the area of their brain used for hearing to boost their sight.
In 2014, the University unveiled plans for a 4,200 square foot, state-of-the-art facility which will firmly place its researchers on the cutting-edge of medicine, science and technology in the study of HIV and other complex human pathogens. Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry's Department of Microbiology and Immunology is globally recognized, in large part due to the groundbreaking discoveries of Dr. Chil-Yong Kang, a Western researcher clinically testing a preventative HIV/AIDS vaccine. SAV001-H is the first and only preventative HIV vaccine based on a genetically modified killed whole HIV-1 virus. The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Phase I clinical trial completed in August 2013 and reported no serious adverse effects while boosting antibodies in the volunteers. The vaccine SAV001-H holds tremendous promise, having already proven to stimulate strong immune responses in preliminary toxicology tests. It is the only HIV vaccine under development in Canada, and one of only a few in the world.
The University is divided into 12 faculties and schools, including Althouse College of Education, Don Wright Faculty of Music, Faculty of Information and Media Studies, Richard Ivey School of Business, Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry and Western Law School, and the School of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies. The university's undergraduate faculties include the Faculty of Arts and Humanities, the Faculty of Engineering, the Faculty of Health Sciences, the Faculty of Information & Media Studies (University of Western Ontario), the Don Wright Faculty of Music, the Faculty of Science, and the Faculty of Social Science. The university is also affiliated with three University Colleges, Brescia University College, Huron University College and King's University College.
The Faculty of Social Science is Western's largest faculty and is one of Canada's largest social science faculties. It consists of 6400 undergraduates, 550 graduates and 239 faculty members. It has been ranked as one of the top 100 social science faculties in the world over the last four years by the Higher Education Evaluation and Accreditation Council, the QS Corporation, and the Academic Rankings of World Universities. It is home to several programs including the DAN Management and Organizational Studies, Anthropology, Sociology, Psychology, History, Geography, Political Science, and Economics.
The Faculty of Information and Media Studies' Library and Information Science program includes an American Library Association (ALA) accredited Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) degree, making it one of eight ALA-accredited universities in Canada.
The McIntosh Gallery, established in 1942, hosts permanent and temporary exhibitions of the works of students, faculty, Canadian and international artists. The McIntosh Gallery has a collection of over 3,500 objects, with a focus on 18th-20th-century Canadian paintings, sculpture, drawings, photographs and prints; and 18th-20th-century British, French, Italian and American paintings, drawings and prints. The Gallery archives house official records of, or relating to, or people/activities connected with local artists.
The main campus at The University of Western Ontario offers student housing to first-year and upper-year students in its nine student residences. Medway-Sydenham Hall, Saugeen-Maitland Hall and Delaware Hall are the traditional style residences. Alumni House, Elgin Hall, Essex Hall and London Hall are the suite style residences. Perth Hall and Ontario Hall are the hybrid style residences.
The two main student unions on administrative and policy issues is the University Students' Council for all undergraduate students and the Society of Graduate Students for graduate students. The University Students' Council recognizes more than 180 student organizations and clubs, in which more than 19,500 people are a member. These clubs and organizations cover a wide range of interests such as academics, culture, religion, social issues, and recreation. The University Students' Council also provides additional services such as the campus movie theatre, pub, restaurant, clothing store and print shop. These facilities can all be found in the University Community Centre.
Huron College has the following residences: Benson House; Cronyn House; Hellmuth Hall; Henderson House; O'Neil-Ridley Hall; Southwest Residence; Young House and Yellow Cottage. Brescia College has one residence: Clare Hall. King's College has the following residences: King's Alumni Court; Wemple Building (Portions of the upper two floors are reserved for residence space, the rest of the building contains classrooms, cafeteria, administrative offices etc.) ; Town Houses #1–10.
There are a number of fraternities and sororities existing throughout the student community. There are five international sororities at Western, Alpha Gamma Delta, Alpha Omicron Pi, Alpha Phi, Kappa Alpha Theta & Pi Beta Phi. There are also eight fraternities existing at Western, Alpha Epsilon Pi, Delta Upsilon, Phi Gamma Delta, Pi Kappa Alpha, Lambda Chi Alpha, Sigma Chi, Zeta Psi, and Kappa Alpha Society.
The Leadership Education Program is designed to provide students with the knowledge of how to become an effective leader, both individually and in teams. This program is split into three tiers: individual leadership, group leadership, and community leadership. To successfully complete a tier an individual must complete at least five of seven modules in that specific tier.
Upon completion, students will receive a Letter of Accomplishment signed by the dean of the university indicating which module was completed.
The Don Wright Faculty of Music offers almost 400 performances, masterclasses and recitals each year, most of which are open to the public. The Western University Symphony Orchestra and the Western University Chamber Orchestra perform regularly under conductor Alain Trudel. UWOpera, under the direction of Theodore Baerg, performs a wide variety of repertoire ranging from operetta to full operatic works in the Paul Davenport Theatre (refurbished and renamed in 2009 from Talbot Theatre).
Theatre Western produces a season that includes an annual musical revue of modern and classic Broadway, Purple Shorts (Western's One-Act Play Festival,) and a major musical production each spring. Recent productions include Into The Woods, Rent, Xanadu, Legally Blonde, West Side Story, Gypsy, and Sweeney Todd. The Faculty of Education typically puts on a major production every year. The Huron Underground Dramatic Society (or "HUDS") is a student run drama group that puts on several shows per year. Their plays or skits are usually completely student written, and are well known for their edgy comedic content.
The university's student population operates a number of media outlets throughout the campus environment. The Gazette is a student newspaper which has been in publication since 1906. The Faculty of Science and the Faculty of Information and Media Studies both run publications called The Current and OPENWIDE respectively. The University Students' Council also own and operates a campus radio station CHRW-FM (94.9 FM). The first campus radio to operate at Western was in 1971, although the present day station CHRW-FM, was not established until 1979, one year after the closure of the Western's first campus radio station. The University Students' Council had previously operated a closed-circuit television station, known as tvWestern.ca. The television station began broadcasting in 1994, and was discontinued by the student union in 2010 after being cut from the University Students' Council's operating budget.
Athletics at Western is managed by Sports & Recreation Services, a division of the Faculty of Health Sciences. The university's varsity teams compete in the Ontario University Athletics conference of U Sports. The varsity teams are known as the Western Ontario Mustangs. As is mandatory for all members of , Western does not provide full-ride athletic scholarships.
The university has a number of athletic facilities open to their varsity teams and their students. The Western Student Recreation Centre, the state-of-the-art facility which opened in January 2009, is home to Western's group fitness, drop in recreation, registered massage therapy, sport psychology, drop in recreation, intramural sports and clubs.
Better known as the WSRC or the Rec Center, this facility has an 8-lane, 50-metre pool facility. This concrete pool with ceramic tile line is a chlorine gas, sediment base filter pool. Overlooking the pool is a 3-tiered concrete viewing area. A 1-metre diving board is also available. The pool has an accessibility lift, barrier free locker room entrance, exit for the women’s and men's locker rooms, and a gallery that includes seating space for wheelchair users. There is over 19,000 square feet of weight, cardio, and stretching space within the WSRC. Closest to the main entrance of the WSRC (which is actually the third floor) is the two-level weight and cardio space. There are also over 200 pieces of weight and cardio fitness equipment available for usage by members. Another amazing feature of the WSRC are the five gymnasia. There are three gyms on the first floor, and two more on the upper level. The three lower level gyms are an engineered sprung hardwood floor, 30×57 metres or 18,400 sq ft, while the two upper gyms are a poured athletic resilient floor for a greater multi-purpose use. Outside the lower gyms is the 1st floor games and activity lounge for table tennis, while outside of the upper gym spaces is additional cardio space as well as the destination for spin bike programming. Also on the 4th floor are two large studio spaces where the drop in fitness, clubs and dance courses take place.
TD Stadium has been the university's main stadium since it opened in 2000, with a seating capacity of over 8,000 spectators. The stadium is home to the university's varsity football team, and has hosted a number of events including the World Lacrosse Championships and the Canada Games. The Thompson Recreation & Athletic Centre which houses a number of athletic venues, including an ice rink, tennis facilities and a track, is home to the varsity ice hockey teams and the varsity track and field teams. Another athletic facility at the university is Alumni Hall, which is a multipurpose venue for sports such as basketball, volleyball and other indoor events.
Many Western students take part in intramural sport leagues and tournaments. Opportunities are offered at multiple skill levels and across a variety of sports. Sports offered include traditional sports like volleyball, basketball and soccer, as well as less traditional events like dodgeball and inner tube water polo. Western also hosts secondary school football games at TD Stadium.
The University of Western Ontario offers a variety of international exchanges and study abroad programs. Almost four hundred students come to Western each year as exchange students from all over the world, with even more students coming to Western as international undergraduate or exchange students. The Western International Exchange Program offers its students the opportunity to study at more than 85 different institutions in 25 countries around the world.
As of November 2007, the University of Western Ontario has over 220,000 alumni residing in over 100 countries. Throughout Western's history, faculty, alumni, and former students have played prominent roles in many different fields and have won the Nobel Prize, Pulitzer Prize and other awards such as the Rhodes Scholarship. Former faculty member Frederick Banting received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his discovery of insulin. Alice Munro, who won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2013, studied in the university's English department for two years under a scholarship and was later awarded an honorary degree. Two graduates from Western have also traveled in space, namely Bjarni Tryggvason and Roberta Bondar.
Many former students have gained local and national prominence for serving in government, such as James Bartleman, who served as Lieutenant Governor of Ontario from 2002 to 2007, and Sheila Copps who served as Deputy Prime Minister of Canada. Western's alumni also include a number of provincial premiers, including former premiers of Ontario John Robarts and David Peterson, and the former premier of Alberta, Don Getty. A number of graduates have also served prominent positions on the international level. Examples include Glenn Stevens, the Governor of the Reserve Bank of Australia and Margaret Chan, the Director-General of the World Health Organization.
A significant number of prominent leaders in business and economics have also studied at Western. Examples include: Stephen Poloz, Governor, Bank of Canada, Thomas H. Bailey, founder and former chairman of Janus Capital Group, Geoff Beattie, president of The Woodbridge Company and chairman of CTVglobemedia, George Cope, president and CEO of Bell Canada Enterprise, Edward Rogers III, deputy chairman of Rogers Communications, and former president of Rogers Cable, Arkadi Kuhlmann, chairman of ING Direct, Rob McEwen, chairman and CEO of US Gold Corporation, Minera Andes and the founder, chairman and former CEO of Goldcorp Inc., John Thompson, former chairman of Toronto-Dominion Bank and chancellor of Western, Prem Watsa, chairman, CEO of Fairfax Financial, Lee Seng Wee, former chairman of Oversea-Chinese Banking Corporation, Galen Weston, chairman and president of George Weston Limited, Howard Lindzon, author and founder of StockTwits, and businesswoman Margaret Heng, CEO of Shatec, a Singapore-based hospitality training institution.,Kevin O'Leary, formerly a venture capitalist on the TV show Dragons' Den, former co-host of CBC News Network's business news program The Lang and O'Leary Exchange and former president of The Learning Company. He also serves on the Dean's advisory board of the Ivey Business School.