Why The City is Advocating For a Yellowknife-Based University


What are the social and economic benefits a Northern university would bring to our city? How can we ensure that those benefits reach everyone — not just Yellowknifers, but all NWT residents?

These are the kinds of questions currently being examined by the  City’s University/ Post-Secondary Advisory Committee, formed earlier this year, and a feasibility study commissioned by the City, due to be released shortly. We’re  working with other levels of government, educational institutions and local partners to ensure that a successful post-secondary institution based in Yellowknife becomes a reality.

Ensuring that all NWT students have access to an educational experience that will prepare them for the future labour market is the priority, but thriving universities can bring much more to their host communities. Aside from the many cultural and social benefits of having a flourishing academic institution integrated into the city, universities generate immense economic benefits for their hosts.

Economic Powerhouses

As Yellowknife and the NWT seek to develop a secure economic future, it’s key to remember that every dollar invested in universities generates an estimated $1.36 in economic activities. Aside from their obvious social and cultural benefits, thriving post-secondary institutions are major drivers for local economies, generating massive positive effects on their host cities and regions. And those effects are usually multiplied in smaller centres like Yellowknife:

  • Most obviously, they create jobs — and not just academic jobs. Universities are staffed by a wide range of workers, with a wide range of skills. And that’s just the direct employment — the presence of a sizable student population also creates indirect employment among the businesses that spring up to service them.
  • They create a student population that boosts the local economy directly.
  • They can attract millions of dollars in research funding. As the amount of federal and international funding for northern-related research on topics from marine biology to climate studies to indigenous cultures grows by leaps and bounds, there’s a lot of money looking for a home and it’s clear that the NWT has been missing out on major funding opportunities, as well as the ability to develop a local knowledge economy.
  • They drive innovation and entrepreneurship, providing students with the skills needed to compete in national and global markets.
  • They attract major investment in civic infrastructure: successful universities constantly grow and build, and that can have a huge positive effect on the wider communities.
  • They improve lives: Aside from the many tangible and measurable impacts a post-secondary institution can have, a successful university in Yellowknife would have benefits for everyone in the NWT, increasing social mobility and economic opportunities for all.

Northern Universities

Around the North, there are many successful institutions that stand as examples of how universities can power their hosts:

Tromsø University

Starting small in 1968, in a town roughly the same size as Yellowknife, it has since become a globally respected institution and research centre, attracting millions of dollars in research funding.

16,476 Students
3,487 Employees

University of Northern BC

Prince George’s UNBC opened in 1994 and also has regional campuses in Prince Rupert, Terrace, Quesnel, and Fort St. John. It has estimated regional economic impact of over $700 million annually.

3,592 Students
1,200 Employees

Yukon College

A 2016 socioeconomic report found that the college had generated a total of $46 million in annual revenues. $43.8 million of this was spent on personnel and the purchase of goods and services, generating a further estimated $18.4 million in indirect and induced economic activity, for a total estimated economic output of $62.2 million.

1,190 Students
542 equivalent full time jobs

If you’d like to know more, visit the city page on this topic at www.yellowknife.ca/university

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