10/06/2014 10:56 EDT | Updated 12/06/2014 05:59 EST

University of Toronto Scarborough celebrates 50 years

The University of Toronto Scarborough is celebrating its golden jubilee, or semi-centennial, today.

Bruce Kidd, the interim vice-president and principal at UTSC, said the campus has transformed dramatically over the past 50 years.

“The little college has grown into a research-intensive, midsize university,” he told Metro Morning host Matt Galloway. “We now have approximately 12,000 students, almost 1,000 faculty and staff, and we’re growing to probably 15,000 students in the next five years.”

The school opened as a college in 1964, and expanded into a university in 1972.

Kidd said the campus was primarily built to accommodate the children coming out of the baby boom and post-war immigration.

“And secondly, it was to enable a much higher percentage of that age cohort to attend higher education than had previously been the case,” he said.

“So right across Ontario, and I would say North America, there was an effort to build new universities, add a community college system, and so on. And the University of Toronto Scarborough was one of the first expressions of that.”

The campus is located in a residential neighbourhood atop the Highland Creek wilderness valley.

“It’s an extraordinarily beautiful place … You can just drop down from the campus and walk through woods and pathways. You’ll see deer, foxes, all kinds of birds … a running path all the way to the lake.”

Kidd said the school’s unique relationship with the surrounding community is what sets it apart.

“We see the university as a hub — intellectually, economically, athletically, socially, culturally — for the community,” Kidd said.

“And we see ourselves learning from that community and giving back to it. We reflect the racial composition of eastern Toronto, we reflect all of the cultures that are there … we see one of our strengths as the remarkable east Toronto community.”

But the campus isn’t without its challenges — including poor public transit service.

“It’s a horrible problem,” Kidd said.

“We’re very poorly served by the TTC. I would say in the last few months … they’ve improved the express bus service from Kennedy subway station, but the rest … they really made it really difficult for people to use public transit to get out to our campus.”

The school also faces the same funding challenges faced by secondary institutions throughout the province, Kidd said,

“But in our particular campus we’re striving to create better labs, better teaching spaces, better facilities for our students as we’re growing, and to invest in the new facilities and upgrade the old facilities in time to accommodate the new faculty, staff and students.”