Victoria University (Toronto, Ont.). Bursar's Office

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Victoria University (Toronto, Ont.). Bursar's Office

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The Bursar of Victoria University was the chief financial officer of the University and head of its business administration. From the mid 1940's the Bursar also served as Secretary to the Board of Regents and its standing and special committees. Between 1932 and 1985, the responsibilities and duties of the Bursar were considerably increased.

Prior to 1932, the financial and business administration of the University was given little attention. It appears from the minutes of the Board of Regents that between 1907 and 1918 financial matters were in the care of a member of the Board of Regents. The terms "Bursar" and "Treasurer of the Board of Regents" were used interchangeably, and the only record of the Bursar's work is found in references in the minutes to the financial reports presented annually to the Board. In 1918, however, the two positions were separated and both the Bursar and the Treasurer presented reports to the Board. Thereafter, the position of Treasurer was an honourary post held by a member of the Board, who had to present the annual financial reports, while the position of Bursar became a salaried post on the staff of Victoria University.

The next major development was the appointment of an accountant, which the Board agreed to in 1920[1]. From 1921 to 1932, the position of Bursar was held by the University Librarian, F.L. Barber, and so increasingly the work of the Bursar's Office fell to the Accountant, W.J. Little. During this period, Little was appointed secretary of various financial appeals and building funds; and it was Little who appeared at meetings of the Board of Regents to answer the questions of members of the Board when the Treasurer presented the financial reports. Victoria University faced a financial crisis in the early 1920s, and carried a serious deficit into the 1930s which revealed the need for a full-time Bursar. In 1932, the Board recognised this when it moved:

That we accept Dr. Barber's suggestion that he relinquish the office of bursar, and that the Rev. W.J. Little be appointed bursar of Victoria University [2].

Little described his work in his first annual report to the Board of Regents in 1934. At this point, in addition to his financial and accounting responsibilities, the Bursar was Secretary to the Finance Committee and Property Committee, and business manager of Burwash Hall and the Men's Residences. In his routine duties, Little included the collection of fees; payment of accounts; bookkeeping and record keeping; the preparation of financial statements; printing and supplies; and publicity and advertising. He also prepared payroll reports for the Workmen's Compensation Board of Ontario. As Secretary to the Property committee, his main task was described as the supervision of insurance on all buildings and their contents. Finance committee work involved co-operation with the staff of the National Trust Company which acted as the financial agents of the University.

The two areas of Property and Burwash Hall and Men's Residences (later Residences and Services) formed what came to be known as the auxiliary enterprises of the University. These auxiliary enterprises, which were secondary to Victoria's main educational function, became a useful source of income for the University as well as providing accommodation for staff and students. The Bursar's active management and involvement in these areas consequently increased.

The Bursar's responsibilities with regard to property were initially the insurance of buildings and their contents. However, as the need for regular income became more urgent and evident, and as the University expanded and required more buildings, the Bursar's work likewise increased. The Bursar became responsible for the legal negotiations and accounting over purchases, sales and leases; and the supervision and funding of alterations and renovations and the construction of new buildings. Along with this the Bursar dealt with property tax as the University was only exempt from this in respect to its property used for academic purposes.

As business manager of Burwash Hall and the Men's Residences, the Bursar was responsible for residence accounts and budgets throughout the year. The senior residence staff reported to the Bursar, and all major items and expenditures or policy decisions had to be passed by him. In addition during the summer vacation he was responsible for the general management and administration, as the dietitian was on a ten month renewable contract. The summer vacation management included the allocation of rooms to conference groups and individuals who used the residences. The Bursar also had a supervisory role in regard to the management of the Women's Residences and Wymilwood Students' Union.

Staffing structures with Residences and Food Services were ill-defined. Food Services staff were directly responsible to the Bursar. The appointment of a Director of Residences and Food Services, which caused some friction, did not create a proper departmental structure: both the dietitian of Burwash Hall and the Director reported to the Bursar. Commercial food management was introduced in 1982-83, with the retention of Victoria staff: the resolution of staff problems following this remained the responsibility of the Bursar.

Student discipline and government were the responsibility of the Senior Tutor/Dean of Men in the Men's Residences and of the Dean of Women in the Women's Residences. However, any discipline which resulted in fines or any damages to property were reported to the Bursar. Also, residence fees and applications for student loans or loan extensions, as well as summer residence applications, were handled by the Bursar. There was also some overlap in responsibilities, particularly as W.J. Little (Bursar, 1932-51) was Senior Tutor from 1924 to 1935 and Acting Senior Tutor from 1942 to 1946.

In the mid-1940s three extra areas of responsibility were added to the Bursar's work. In 1944, the Bursar became the Superintendent of Buildings and Grounds. W.J. Little comments in his 1945 annual report that he was convinced: that the most efficient and economical plan of operation is a centralised control with definite departmental organisation for the carrying out of the work [3].

The addition of Buildings and Grounds gave the Bursar control over all the non-academic departments of Victoria University. As Superintendent, the Bursar was responsible for the maintenance and repair of university buildings and had charge of the janitorial staff.

Also in the mid-1940s the Bursar became Secretary to the Board of Regents. It is not clear at what point this occurred. It was in 1935 that W.J. Little was first listed as present at a regular meeting of the Board of Regents [4]: previously he had attended only to answer questions in the financial report. In March 1936 Little was again listed, and described as Assessor [5]. Then in September 1936 Little was "re-appointed" as Minute Secretary to the Board [6]: there is no record of his original appointment as Minute Secretary. The Chancellor, E.W. Wallace, was Secretary to the Board, a position of some importance, whereas Little, as Minute Secretary, performed only minor administrative tasks. However, Little's appointment was significant, as before this the Minute Secretary had been appointed at each meeting of the Board from amongst their number. The transition from Minute Secretary to Secretary appears to have taken place around 1944-45, with the passing of the 1944 Victoria University Act. In practical terms, it may have occurred earlier, most likely after Principal Brown of Victoria College was appointed Acting Chancellor during Wallace's leave of absence, at which time there was a need to reduce Principal Brown's administrative workload [7].

The third additional responsibility in this period was the result of World War II and the Canadian Government's attempts to rehabilitate war veterans. The Department of Veterans Affairs instituted a scheme to provide money for the tuition fees of veterans who chose to take up university or other training courses. The net result was an influx of students and complicated reports and claims to the Department of Veterans Affairs on behalf of students at Victoria. This was the precursor of the general schemes of Government grants to assist students in the payment of fees and living expenses.

The next series of changes in the Bursar's work occurred in the period 1950-52. W.J. Little mentioned in his annual report for 1950 that there were plans for a major re-organisation of the business department. He stated that:

This will involve the termination of the arrangement by which the bookkeeping of Victoria University was done by the National Trust Company; the organisation of a complete accounting division; and the segregation of the work relating to buildings and grounds [8].

The restructuring did indeed take place, but Little died before he was able to report on its workings. In the ensuing disruption, W.C. James, the Chairman of the Board of Regents, was persuaded to give up his public relations career and assume the post of Bursar. In doing so, W.C. James had written into his job description an extra responsibility for the publicity and public relations of Victoria University.

The immediate result of the public relations role was the production of a published booklet, Victoria Reports on a biannual basis, edited by the Bursar. It was included primarily for the members of the Board of Regents as a means of keeping them informed on current affairs in Victoria. However, it became widely read, particularly by the alumni who began to treat it as though produced for their benefit. The Bursar remained editor for some twenty years, but eventually, in 1972, the Bursar relinquished the publication to the alumni, and it was renamed Vic Reports.

The restructuring of the business administration saw the promotion of F.C. Stokes from Assistant Superintendent to Superintendent, and the separation of the posts of Bursar and Superintendent of Buildings and Grounds. The Superintendent continued to use the Bursar's Office for secretarial and administrative support, but his files were held separately from the Bursar's. These files were accessioned in the Archives as 1987.173V. Concurrent with these changes, was the appointment of an Accountant, K.M. Dinsmore in 1950, and the establishment of an Accounting Department; the first since Little became Bursar in 1932 and gave up his post as Accountant. In 1951 the National Trust Company ceased to act as financial agent for Victoria University and the finance and accounting business was transferred to the new Accounting Department.

In 1961 the Management Consultants, Woods, Gordon & Co. were commissioned to draw up a detailed study of Victoria University's organisation and administration. They drew up a position description of the Bursar's post, and amongst the major responsibilities they listed were included the supervision of the Accounting Department, Buildings and Grounds and the "auxiliary enterprises" which referred principally to Residences and Food Services. The Bursar also made all banking arrangements for the University, edited Victoria Reports and dealt with loans to students and to academic staff. The position description identified new supervisory and personnel responsibilities. The Bursar directly supervised five members of staff whose work was only loosely connected with finance: the Living Endowment Clerk, the Graduate Records Clerk, the Book Bureau Manager, the Switchboard Operator and the Clerk Typist to the academic staff. The Bursar was also responsible for staff appointments and dismissals.

The last major development in the period covered by these records which affected the work and responsibilities of the Bursar occurred in 1974 with the Memorandum of Agreement between the University of Toronto and the federated institutions. This provided for new financial arrangements whereby the University of Toronto received the annual government grant which it then distributed among the federated institutions instead of their receiving the grant direct. At the same time the basis for grants to Victoria University was altered. Previously, as a church-related university, Victoria had received only a half-grant per student, but from 1974, under new Provincial rules, Victoria received a full grant for students in Victoria College while continuing to receive a half-grant for students in Emmanuel College. These two changes in funding structure made the fees work of the Bursar more complex. In particular the Bursar became heavily involved in negotiations with the other federated institutions and with the administration of the University of Toronto. As a result, more of the financial and accounting work was delegated to the Accountant, leaving the Bursar free to concentrate on policy issues and negotiations. A further consequence of the Memorandum of Agreement was the closer integration of the staff of Victoria with the staff of the University of Toronto, and this led to greater involvement in unions which in turn involved the Bursar more in personnel matters and labour relations.

Currently the Bursar is responsible for the management and overseeing of properties and buildings, maintenance and repair as well as auxiliary services such as food and catering, conference services and housekeeping.


  1. Board of Regents Minutes, Sept. 30, 1920.

  2. Ibid., Nov. 25, 1932.

  3. Report of the Bursar and Superintendent, year ended June 30, 1945.

  4. Board of Regents Minutes, June 13, 1935.

  5. Ibid., March 12, 1936.

  6. Ibid., Sept. 18, 1936.

  7. Ibid., Nov. 2, 1939.

  8. Report of the Bursar to the Board of Regents, year ended June 30, 1950.


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