The fact that MUN is “the biggest campus in Atlantic Canada” today is kind of funny given its origin. Back in 1890, a “Council of Higher Education” was formed to, obviously, start planning an organization for higher education in Newfoundland. But what they came up with was not our own university. Nor did any sort of post-secondary institution open here until decades after this council was formed.
World War One was actually the impetus. Some higher-ranking folks at the time wanted to have an appropriate memorial to the many Newfoundlanders who died in WWI, and a small college called MUC not MUN — Memorial University College — opened in 1925 on Parade Street. It had a mere 57 students in its first year: that’s smaller than the size of a first year English or Psychology class at MUN today.
It offered only 2 years of university studies, and was meant to get students ready to study off-the-island by offering basic training in two disciplines still big at MUN today: The Arts and The Sciences. Most MUC grads went on to attend universities in the Maritime provinces, though many others went to the US, UK, or mainland Canada, and came back as doctors, engineers, lawyers, scientists, worldly art theorists, etc.
MUC shared a building with the Normal School, which offered a four-month intensive teacher-training program. MUN is known today for its Education program, and those origins may lay in the fact that, in 1933, MUC merged with “The Normal School” and assumed responsibility for teacher training. From the get go, MUC received notable support from the Carnegie Corporation of New York.
Carnegie Corporation of New York played a huge role in helping the campus bloom — they donated $239,000 for everything from construction to scholarships; its library to the art on its walls. As student enrollment went up, MUC became more self-sufficient. But also needed more space, which Carnegie helped fund.
In 1949, post-confederation, MUC became MUN — a full on university — whose first year enrollment was 307 students. Today’s enrollment is over 60 times higher. Various faculties were added over time, such as MUN’s School of Medicine, which admitted its first students in 1969, and the opening of its Corner Brook campus — Grenfell College — in 1975.