Client

Université de l'Ontario français

Location

Toronto, ON

Ontario’s first francophone university

Located in the heart of Toronto, the Université de l'Ontario français (UOF) is the city’s newest higher education institution. Building a brand new university doesn’t happen very often, and UOF’s founding story is one of determination, risk and resilience. Without an established brand, faculty, program plan or student body, the university took a leap of faith back in 2017 to turn its vision into a tangible reality. In September 2021, UOF opened its doors as the province's first university to offer studies solely in French.

The university offers an array of multidisciplinary programs in the fields of human plurality, economics, social innovation, urban environment, education and digital cultures. Plans to expand its programs to include studies in management, communication, social work, law and psychology are also in the works for the upcoming school year. Additionally, UOF offers micro-certificates in French as a second language, giving those interested in studying the language an immersive opportunity to develop their skills.

This university represents an important milestone for Ontario’s francophone community. UOF provides a modern, bright and collaborative environment for more than 300 students to connect, learn and live in French. When envisioning its new facility, it was important to UOF that the site selected provided students with a campus in the heart of the city that they could call their own. UOF succeeded in securing a location along Toronto’s prestigious waterfront and has since enrolled more than 150 students, 75% of whom live out of province or internationally.

When I’m working on campus, I find I don’t even spend that much time in my office. I have so much fun because the campus design allows us to meet and connect in so many different areas. It’s a very inclusive space and I have so much fun connecting with new people and exploring the campus.”

Carole Nkoa

Strategic Communications and Brand, UOF

Succeeding against all odds

UOF learned of Colliers Project Leaders’ success with other university projects through word of mouth within the higher education community and sought out our project management services to help bring its new campus to life.

Inspired by UOF’s vision and determination, our team partnered with the university to see the project through from inception to opening day. We understood the challenges of this unique project and prepared to work collectively to ensure UOF not only received a beautiful, functional space but could also manage the development of its programs in time for the 2021 fall term.

With the site already secured, our project leaders began planning right away. We worked closely with UOF to set a schedule, procure the project team, develop a functional program and see the team through the design process in order to begin construction in October 2020 – leaving just 10 months to fast track the project.

Developing the functional program was particularly challenging because there were no existing students or seasoned staff to inform the operational needs or functional design of the new facility. Drawing on our internal expertise and experience on other campus projects, we established a baseline to build UOF’s functional program from scratch.

Like many projects set to begin construction during the pandemic, the team faced supply and labour shortages. Anticipating these challenges, we took preventative measures such as ordering materials and equipment well in advance. The project team also implemented on-site health and safety processes including temperature checks, social distancing and cleaning procedures to limit exposure to the coronavirus and avoid unexpected site closures.

Turning a dream into a landmark

Creating a university campus from the ground up – especially when you’ve never taken on a similar capital project before – takes a dedicated level of courage, determination and collaboration from the entire project team to be successful. Each party, including the university, designers, contractors and trades, made key contributions to bring this project to life. Rather than simply concentrating on their specific project components, all the stakeholders came together and went the extra mile to be more transparent, to constantly communicate and be available to ensure the project was completed on time and on budget, and also exceeded the expectations of UOF staff and students.

With a strong start to enrollment in its inaugural term, UOF is already establishing itself as a distinguished landmark in the francophone community and Toronto’s higher education landscape.