By: Cecile Favron and Henry Tran

SFU Surrey has been billed the “top priority” for the university as it marks 15 years since it first opened and the swelling number of students, faculty, and programs based at the campus has fast outpaced its capacity.

“It has been a top priority for a number of years,” said Steve Dooley, executive director of SFU Surrey. “I think part of that is because we’re just literally running out of space here at the Surrey campus.”

“We’re bursting at the seams with more and more programs wanting to come here.”

The campus was only built to house around 2,500 full-time students, but it has greatly exceeded that number, according to Dooley.

When the satellite campus first opened in 2002, approximately 500 students were enrolled. However, that number has jumped to 3,100 students who attend classes there full time and a total of 8,000 students who find themselves in Surrey for their classes.

The campus has become the site of ambitious expansion plans as the university looks to increase the amount of full-time enrolment to 5,000 students. The initiative includes three new buildings, two of which have yet to secure government funding.

Last year, the university announced the construction of a new Sustainable Energy Engineering Building, a five-storey expansion to the campus that is scheduled to open in 2018. The building will require a $126-million investment from the school in collaboration with the provincial and federal governments.

The project even brought Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and former BC premier Christy Clark to the campus to make the announcement.

“We’re bursting at the seams with more and more programs wanting to come here.” – Steve Dooley, executive director of SFU Surrey

Surrey is the fastest growing city in the region and is expected to be larger than Vancouver in the coming decades, yet the area is underrepresented when it comes to the number of seats available in post-secondary institutions. It also has its challenges which opens up opportunities for the university to partner with regional organizations to make its mark in the community.

“We like to roll up our sleeves and get involved with our community partners to help come up with solutions to [these] challenges,” said Dooley.

The Simon Fraser Student Society (SFSS) has also recognized that the satellite campus is an area that is experiencing major growth and the changes are having an affect on the burgeoning number of undergraduate students.

“Expanding our investment in the Surrey campus has come up so many times in the past,” said SFSS President Hangue Kim.

According to the latest data available from the university, over 20% of the undergraduate student population takes courses at the Surrey campus. This compares to just over 10% of students who are enrolled in courses at the Vancouver satellite campus.

Earlier this year the society began searching for more student space in Surrey, citing the areas for students to gather and study are not keeping keeping pace with the expansion of the campus.

The SFSS has said it is looking to secure more space on the campus as completion nears for the Sustainable Energy Engineering Building, which will primarily be for students and faculty of a new stream of interdisciplinary engineering.

“The lack of space on the Surrey campus has been a reoccurring issue.” – Hangue Kim, SFSS President

“For years, students have expressed their concern over the lack of study and multi-purposes spaces on the Surrey campus. We have hosted multiple consultations and surveys and the lack of space on the Surrey campus has been a reoccurring issue,” explained Kim.

“We have been in a number of conversations with the [university administration] in the previous years, but have yet to come to an agreement.”

Kim said that the society is still in discussions with the university and does not have a timeline as to when students can see more space on the campus.

“We’re hopeful that we are going to get some type of project underway, but projects like this take time,” he added. “I am hoping that this year is different. This year is the time to take some action.”

Going forward, the university is also hoping to make the Surrey campus more of a hub for students.

“We want to continue to grow our presence and to create more opportunities for students, and faculty and staff,” ended Dooley.  

CLARIFICATION: An earlier version of this article stated that the Simon Fraser Student Society (SFSS) “is looking to secure space in the Sustainable Energy Engineering Building.” The SFSS has clarified with The Peak that it is seeking increased space for students in any existing or upcoming buildings on the Surrey campus, including the Sustainable Energy Engineering Building.

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