Our history

The year 2020 marks the English Language Centre's (ELC) 50th anniversary!

Way back in 1970, the ELC got its start as part of University of Victoria's Linguistics department, offering English as an Additional Language (EAL) courses to small groups of 30 to 75 students each summer. The biggest group attending ELC programs in those days was sent by the government-funded 'Explore' program, from French Canada.

Today, over 3200 student enrolments each year necessitate an instructional staff of 32 full-time instructors, 34 part-time instructors and 80 Cultural Assistants (CA) in peak seasons. Steady growth in our student numbers over the years has allowed the ELC to expand its programs, services and facilities exponentially. We now have programs beginning every month and offer an increasingly diverse range of activities which allow students to learn more about Canadian culture while practicing their English skills.

As host to over 30 nationalities per year—and over 80 in our long history—we have become a global community, and embrace the opportunity and challenge that this entails. We've come a long way: from small summer programs in tiny campus buildings to year-round programming in one of UVic's most beautiful facilities. Overhead projectors have been replaced by smart screens and our students now use Moodle and blogs, work on laptops and submit assignments online; still, the fundamental work we do has not changed. We welcome people from all over the world, help them to meet their language and life goals, and facilitate the formation of lifelong friendships and intercultural understanding.

We know that we will continue this pursuit far beyond our 50th year and we look forward to continuing to learn and grow alongside our students so that they will always enjoy the most rewarding experience possible at the University of Victoria.


ELC over the years:

  • Explore logo

    ELC gets its start

    First summer language programs offered to students from French-speaking Canada as part of the "Explore" government scholarship program.

  • ELC begins offering long-term English program: "ELPI" (12-weeks).

  • Photo of Continuing Studies Building

    Newly constructed building

    When the Division of Continuing Studies (of which the ELC is a proud part) opened the doors to its own building in 2003, previously separate services and program areas were finally united. Having a centrally located building on campus has made a tremendous impact on the ELC student experience.

  • Photo of Paula Ceroni, Homestay Coordinator


    ELC's Homestay department receives Canadian Language Council’s (CLC) Lynn Howes award for excellence.

  • ELC launches Monthly English program. We now offer English programs 12 months of the year.

  • Photo of students holding up an ELC 40 years thanks sign.

    40th anniversary

    ELC celebrates its 40th anniversary.

  • Welcome to the UVIc Pathways Program on red background.

    UVic Pathway Program

    ELC launches the University Pathway Program, one of the first programs of its kind in Canada. This specialized first year program allows you to meet UVic’s English language requirement while completing first year degree courses.

  • Photo of the new atrium in the Continuing Studies building.

    Building expansion

    The $11-million Continuing Studies building expansion and renovation project is completed. ELC students now enjoy more space and modern facilities than ever. The central atrium is a favourite study space for our students seven days a week and has given us the capacity to offer more creative and ambitious social activities than ever before. The building expansion also facilitated a community-oriented re-imagining of what was previously known as the Study Centre and Pronunciation Clinic.

    • ELC received Japan Best School Award

  • Photo of ELC's iStudies award.

    Cultural Excellence Award

    "What really impressed our judges was the Cultural Assistant team that are on hand throughout the programmes to ensure that students get the most out of their study experience. Combining study with fun, the friendly team of UVic students organize activities that range from trips to Vancouver to going to a hockey game. These fun opportunities give students the chance to embrace Canadian life whilst still improving their English."

    • ELC receives international award for "Excellence in Cultural Support" (iStudy).

  • Photo of students and volunteers in the new ELC Learning Centre

    ELC Learning Centre

    In 2018, we launched the ELC Learning Centre, a flexible, welcoming drop-in facility where our students can practice their conversation skills with Canadian volunteers, attend workshops or get extra help with homework from ELC instructors. The Learning Centre offers an excellent example of student-centred innovation that comes from so many years of experience.

    • ELC named "Language School of the Year" (iStudy).
    • ELC received Japan Best School Award
  • Graphic of the iStudy 2019 award.

    ELC named "Language School of the Year" (iStudy) … for the second year in a row.

    The ELC is more than a university based English school, it is a unique community that is committed to excellence. Students come from all over the world and it is wonderful to learn about their cultures and help them to reach their academic and personal goals.

    • ELC Named "Language School of the Year" for the second year in a row (iStudy)
  • ELC50 emblem.

    ELC celebrates 50 years of English programs at UVic!

    Throughout 2020, we will be hosting celebrations to highlight our community, alumni, students, staff, teachers, homestay families, and Cultural Assistants —all of whom have shaped the last 50 years of the ELC.