Canada's only women's university ends 104 year run to merge with Western University

After 104 years of being Canada's only women's university, Brescia University College will officially integrate into Western University by May 2024. 

Western will create $25 million Brescia Legacy Fund to support programs for international, domestic students

Brescia University College has announced it'll fully integrate into Western University starting May, 2024.
Brescia University College has announced it'll fully integrate into Western University starting May, 2024. (Brescia at Western University)

After 104 years as one of Canada's only women's universities, London, Ont.'s Brescia University College has announced that it will fully integrate into Western University starting in May.

The merger will shift the offers at the school toward preparatory programs to help international and domestic students build English-language skills and cultural supports ahead of future studies.

"Today's agreement is about meeting present needs of students, with an eye to the future," said Lauretta Frederking, president of Brescia in a statement. 

"We are now at a point where women make up the majority of post-secondary learners in Canada and there is an equally important need to adapt to new realities, including the underrepresentation of equity-deserving groups in our post-secondary institutions."

Brescia was founded in 1919 to bridge gaps in women's education at the time. Its founders were the Catholic Ursuline Sisters who expanded education and Catholic institutions across southwestern Ontario. 

"I'm extremely empathetic and nostalgic to think about how beautiful our community has been. Change is difficult, but we're going to embrace that change and be excited that the Ursuline mission is continuing in sustainable ways," Frederking said.

Brescia is currently an affiliated university college with Western, along with King's University College and Huron University College. It has 1,200 students and currently offers programs like Behavioural and Social Sciences, Food and Nutritional Sciences, and Humanities. Degrees are granted by Western. 

When asked if enrolment plays a factor in the joining of forces, Frederking said all universities are being called to offer more flexibility due to financial pressures on students along with looking at enrolment based on students' unique needs. 

"We're definitely responding to those challenges, but we're innovating in response. The opportunities emerge when you bring leadership teams together to think about ways you can transform."

Legacy fund for access to education

The agreement will better position the universities to enhance educational outcomes for students with the greatest needs, Frederking said. 

Brescia's had a preliminary year program in which students could take courses that prepare them for when they start university, which will still continue, but its functions will now evolve in conjunction with Western. 

The preparatory program will operate on Brescia's campus, once it winds down operations as an affiliate. Western will also create a $25 million Brescia Legacy Fund that'll support access to education through scholarships, bursaries and programs.

"The fund will look at academic disciplines at Western where women are under-represented and will step up in those places," said Frederking. 

"Western and Brescia have a deep historical connection, and now we have an opportunity to chart a new path that stays true to those roots," said Western's president Alan Shepard.

Shepard said it's too early to say what kinds of changes will be made to Brescia's existing program, but his faculty is working on designing its new wave. 

Current Brescia students will be able to stay in their programs and complete them for the duration of their degree. Western will also provide Brescia's staff with employment opportunities. 


Isha Bhargava is a multiplatform reporter for CBC News. She's worked for Ontario newsrooms in Toronto and London. She loves telling current affairs and human interest stories. You can reach her at