The Smallwood Era

Premier Smallwood standing in front of microphones

Premier Joey Smallwood

Once Newfoundland became a province of Canada, it quickly changed Memorial College into Memorial University giving it degree granting status. It was in 1950 that the Smallwood government signed onto the Dominion-Provincial student aid program.

The Dominion-Provincial student aid program was the first financial aid program to help university students financially in Newfoundland. Through this program, the federal government matched provincial investment to students who expressed a financial need.[1]

On March 26, 1959 Memorial University students marched to the Colonial Building to support the provincial government’s objection to the federal government’s refusal to give the province more funding under Term 29 of Newfoundland and Labrador’s terms of union with Canada.

In 1964, the Dominion-Provincial student aid program was replaced by the Canadian Student Loan Program. This new system provided a loan to full time students that had to be repaid, including interest, once finished university.

In 1964, the provincial government’s Royal Commission on Education and Youth identified the need for advanced studies in the province in order to prepare for a changing work force. The province would increase university enrolment by changing the K-12 system from solely church controlled to a more universal system across the province in order to increase the quality of education while decreasing the cost.[2]

Portrait of Rex Murphy, student activist

Rex Murphy

On March 8, 1965, the Smallwood government announced that they would provide free tuition for first year students beginning in September 1966. Student activist Rex Murphy challenged Premier Smallwood on the announcement describing it as a sham and suggested that one year of free tuition in a five year program did not constitute free education.[3] Student protest sparked in the province resulting in the Smallwood government providing free tuition for all students in 1966, as well as a small living allowance.


[1] D. M. Cameron, “Postsecondary education and Canadian federalism: or how to predict the future,” The Canadian Journal of Higher Education 31, no. 3 (2001): 143-156.

[2] Jenny Higgins, “1968 Royal Commission on Education and Youth,” Newfoundland and Labrador Heritage Website, last modified 2011,

[3] Mariam Mesbah, “Rex Appeal,” Ryerson Review of Journalism, March 1, 1996,

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