For regular readers of this column (all two of you), the 1960s and the Quiet Revolution brought along many changes in Quebec society. One of the big changes in this decade was education reform. When Premier Jean Lesage and his Liberal Party were elected in the 1960s, Lesage and his government set out to change the face of Quebec higher education.
Prior to the 1960s, there were only three French universities, that is, the ones we have covered in previous weeks: Laval, Sherbrooke, and Montreal. Finally, in December of 1968, Jean-Jacques Bertrand and the Parti Québécois passed a motion to create a state-run university composed of initially three universities around Quebec, each independent but grouped under the “Université du Québec” label. Its mission was to increase accessibility to higher education as well as provide a quality French education to these areas that was first and foremost secular (another key word in the Quiet Revolution). The first entering classes welcomed sixteen thousand students in their Montreal, Chicoutimi, Trois-Rivières, and Rimouski campuses, the first three being part of the original Université du Québec federation and Rimouski joining in 1973.
Times were tough in the Universities of Quebec throughout the 1970s: there were tensions between students and staff, staff and administrators, and of course, negotiations. Most notably, the Université du Québec à Montreal (UQÀM) did as all the universities did and continue to do, endured, and it tripled its undergraduate population in the four years after it initially opened its doors. Eventually, the Université de Québec system expanded its reach to ten schools, a number that remains the same today, from Abitibi-Témiscamingue (1983, the last of the schools to open) to Outaouais (1981) and everything in between.
The Université du Québec à Montréal alone teaches approximately thirty-two thousand students at the undergraduate level, and has over two hundred fifty thousand alumni. Notable graduates from the Québec system include politician Pierre-Karl Péladeau (Montréal campus) and sports broadcaster Dany Dubé (Trois-Rivières campus).