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UC front enterance & tower

Principal's Message

Professor Donald Ainslie, 16th Principal of University College, University of Toronto

Donald Ainslie infront of wood and glass doors

I am very proud to serve as the sixteenth Principal of University College, the founding college of the University of Toronto. Since its establishment in 1853 as a non-sectarian institution of higher learning, UC has committed itself to challenging undergraduate students to excel intellectually and preparing them to engage in the wider world. 

The college includes more than 4400 undergraduate students registered in any of the academic programs in the Faculty of Arts & Science, and it also sponsors three interdisciplinary programs – in Canadian Studies, Cognitive Science, and Health Studies – and is affiliated with the Centre for Drama, Theatre, and Performance Studies, the Mark S. Bonham Centre for Sexual Diversity Studies, and the Art Museum.  The College also offers UC One: Engaging Toronto, a set of small seminar courses for first-year students. More than 60 faculty members from a wide variety of disciplines have chosen to become college members because they share a commitment to engaging with undergraduate students beyond the classroom.

University College is located at the very centre of the U of T campus. In addition to the main University College building, which was constructed in 1856-9, restored after a fire in 1890 and is now a national historic site, our campus includes three residences, both historic (Whitney and Sir Daniel Wilson Halls) and contemporary (Morrison Hall), and the UC Union building.

My own grandfather and namesake, Donald Stuart Ainslie, walked the UC hallways when he started studying here over a century ago. The lessons he learned at UC and later shared with me about the value of open inquiry are still at the centre of college life. Thinking hard about a subject, where that thought is informed by the insights of the best prior scholarship, can help us to change the world. University College welcomes students from all religions and cultures to join us in this collaborative endeavour.


Principal Donald Ainslie

Professor Donald Ainslie has served as Principal of University College since 2011; in January 2016, he was re-appointed as Principal through June 30, 2019. Prior to starting as UC Principal, he was Chair of the Department of Philosophy in the Faculty of Arts and Science and the tri-campus Graduate Department of Philosophy from 2003 to 2011.

As Principal of the College he has spearheaded a campaign to revitalize the historic University College building by, among other things, returning the College library to its original location at the front of the building.  In addition, he has helped to solidify the College’s foundation-year program, UC One; re-established the Cognitive Science program at the College; successfully raised funds for the establishment of an endowed chair in Chinese Canadian Studies; and created new alliances between the College and the Centre for Drama, Theatre, and Performance Studies and the Mark S. Bonham Centre for Sexual Diversity Studies.

During his tenure at University College, he has also served as the Provostial Advisor on Undergraduate Humanities Education (2014-2018); Co-Chair, Landmark Committee on the Historic Campus (2014-present); and Principal of Principals (2014-2016). 

A native of Toronto, he studied mathematics as an undergraduate at Queen’s University, and earned his PhD in Philosophy from the University of Pittsburgh. His research and teaching focus on the history of modern philosophy and bioethics.  His book, Hume’s True Scepticism, was published by Oxford University Press in fall 2015 and won the Journal of the History of Philosphy prize for the best book in this field in 2016.  In his free time, he competes as a masters swimmer, and is a regular at the opera and early-music performances.

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