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As it prepares to swing open its doors, one of British Columbia's newest universities is moving quickly to make changes -- including to its name.

President David Strangway announced yesterday that the school will call itself Quest University Canada, and replace the interim name Sea to Sky University.

"Names of universities, as you can imagine, they're very passionate things," Dr. Strangway said in an interview. "We've been very anxious to have a name that we think would represent us, not only across Canada, but beyond Canada."

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The new university is starting up in Squamish. It is one of several new schools being built in B.C. at a time when demand for postsecondary education has increased. The university bills itself as Canada's first private, not-for-profit, secular university.

Dr. Strangway, former president at the University of British Columbia, said now that financing has been secured, Quest University Canada is set to welcome 160 students in September, 2007, a year later than originally planned. The university expects to grow to 640 students within four years.

A real-estate development firm will buy 2.39 acres of land adjacent to the campus to build two condominium units for student housing.

A handful of Canadian universities have come under increased criticism recently over the quality of student life on campus. The National Survey of Student Engagement, run by the Indiana University Center for Postsecondary Research, gave Canadian schools mostly poor marks last year.

Dr. Strangway said the university will pay particular attention to the undergraduate student experience. Quest University Canada will have an average ratio of 10 students to one professor, he said. Other Canadian universities have much higher student-professor ratios. He added that classrooms will be designed for 25 students at most.

"We want to create a suitable, first-rate undergraduate experience for students," he said. "We have not talked enough in Canada about different kinds of universities and different kinds of approaches. This is all about doing something differently."

Students will be charged about $32,000 a year for tuition and living expenses, receiving scholarships to offset the costs. They will be admitted to the university based not only on marks, but also on essays and their extracurricular activities.

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Dr. Strangway said he hopes roughly half the student body would be from outside Canada.

"In today's world, we think that it is important that people from Mexico and China and Europe and South America and the United States come together so that they can actually look at how the world around them is working," he said. "The international component is very important to us."

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