History of the School

The School of Kinesiology celebrated its 75th anniversary in 2021. We are proud of our early roots starting in 1939 when the UBC Senate approved plans for a Department of Physical Education, to 1946 when the first degree in physical education was launched, and in 1952 when the School of Physical Education was officially established. The School continued to evolve and today the School of Kinesiology stands as #1 in Canada & North America and #3 in the World according to the 2024 QS World University Rankings and continues to grow and transform and we can’t wait to see what the next 75 years will bring!

See the evolution of School over the past 75 years in the Historical Timeline.

A Brief History of the School

The first courses at UBC that led to a degree in physical education began in 1946. The Department of Physical Education became a unit of the Faculty of Arts and Science and offered courses leading to the four-year degree of BPE It was the first such degree to be established in Western Canada, and the third in Canada. All first and second-year UBC students were required to take Physical Education courses in order to graduate with a bachelor’s degree from the university at that time. In 1952 the School of Physical Education was officially established by the UBC Board of Governors.

On February 10th, 1960, the name of the School was changed to the School of Physical Education and Recreation. The first Bachelor of Recreation degree was awarded in 1969. In the Fall of 1958, a graduate program at the Master’s level was introduced with the first M.P.E. degree being awarded in the Fall of 1960. In 1963, the School was removed from the Faculty of Arts and Science and was re-located within the Faculty of Education. In 1969, the undergraduate degree program branched into two options, with students interested in teaching physical education entering a separate option from those interested in studying the science relating to physical education. In 1985 the Bachelor of Recreation was discontinued, but the School name still contained the word “Recreation”.

A New Focus

Although the original mandate of the School included both intramural and extramural athletic programs, a special committee established in 1987 by the President of the university recommended that ties between the School and Intramural and Extramural Athletics be severed with the exception of selected areas of cooperation.

In 1978, the university reflected an increasing emphasis on research and scholarly productivity and the School also began to move in this direction. Associated with this emphasis on studying the science relating to physical activity, the existing laboratories began to develop and to grow. In 1979, a Sports Medicine Clinic opened in the School’s John Owen Pavilion on the south campus with specific faculty of this clinic also being associated with the School in both teaching and research.

In 1994, the name of the School became the School of Human Kinetics which faculty generally felt better reflected the breadth of programs and interests in the School. During the same year, the M.P.E. degree became the M.H.K. degree and two additional Masters degrees (Master of Arts and Master of Science) which offer opportunities for original investigation at the Masters level were initiated. The School’s doctoral program also began in 1994.

In 2011, the School changed its name to the School of Kinesiology and the degree BHK became Bachelor of Kinsiology (BKin) and the degree Master of Human Kinetics became Master of Kinesiology (MKin). Alumni are able to change their parchment retroactively. Go to this link for more information.

The Future

Today, our graduates are employed in many different fields, as the School of Kinesiology is a spring board of opportunities to many careers in a variety of disciplines ranging from sports administration and coaching to biomedical research and health sciences.

The School of Kinesiology is very pleased to announce that it is slated to move into its new home in the Gateway Building in 2025. The School will be co-located with the School of Nursing, Integrated Student Health and Wellbeing Services & Programs, Language Sciences Initiatives, and components of UBC Health.

The future is now, and together we can make it a reality.

Minds and Motion: Celebrating the People and History of the UBC School of Kinesiology

The School of Kinesiology’s new book, authored by Don Wells, celebrates the remarkable history of the School, the community that built it, and all that we have achieved over the years. The book covers the foundation of the School, the early years, and continues to chronicle the discoveries and advances within the walls of our world.

To purchase the book visit the UBC Bookstore website.