President Paul Dangerfield is Getting Ready to Leave

After eight years at CapU, Dangerfield reiterates commitment to ensure the continuity of long-term solutions to pressing student issues

Laura Morales Padilla (she/her) // Communications Manager
Angelica Blanch (she/her) // Illustrator

On March 4, Capilano University president, Paul Dangerfield, announced that the 2024-2025 academic year will be his last at CapU.

Paul Dangerfield went from being a faculty member at Capilano College in the early 2000s, to president of Capilano University in 2016. Considering that presidents are appointed on a five-year term, it is unusual for Dangerfield to be leaving in the fourth year of his second term. To find out more, the Courier sat down with him to find out about the timing of his decision, his academic journey and what he’s most proud of accomplishing during his time at CapU. Dangerfield also discussed the expected results for the long-term projects he put in place to address pressing issues for students such as housing, course registration and international tuition fees.

“I went into science simply because it was the only thing I really felt that I could get into,” explained Dangerfield, looking back to his first degree in chemistry. He then explained how he struggled a lot with written communication, which led to his initial choice for a science degree, and it wasn’t until computers came along and helped with spell check that he realized, “it was a learning disability—I’m dyslexic.” He then decided to switch programs, and spent the remainder of his post-secondary education in business and HR.

Dangerfield later started facing serious financial trouble, around his third year of undergrad. “I ended up joining the military just so that I could get through university… and it took me 20 years of being in the military to figure out that I could go do something else,” he remembered. 

During his time at CapU, Dangerfield played an important role in the transition from a college to an accredited university that has added at least two new degree programs since 2018. 

Undeniably there was a lot of growth, which led to a new challenge—how to ensure that this development is sustainable. To answer this question, a strategic plan called Envisioning 2030 came from conversations with Indigenous Elders in 2019, trying to imagine what they wanted CapU to look like in 10 years. Dangerfield explained that part of the reason he is stepping out on the fourth year of his second five-year term is to allow the next president to have a full term before reaching 2030. “If I was an incoming president, I’d like to be able to have some say in the plan,” Dangerfield said.

With still over a year before he leaves his role as president, Dangerfield shared the planning behind long-term solutions for some of the most pressing issues for students. He addressed the results of a recent CSU survey that interviewed 120 students, which revealed that 45 per cent of students live in Surrey, and 37 per cent spend between two and two-and-a-half hours on public transit to get to CapU—the underlying issue being the lack of affordable housing in the North Shore. 

“Housing has been a top concern since the fall of 2016, when the CSU had done a survey and ended up with a petition with over 1000 names of students who at the time would like to be in student housing,” he said, adding that soon after, CapU secured the three buildings on Dollarton Highway, where the current residences reside.

In 2017, the university started the process to build their own 360-bed on-campus housing, which was approved in 2021. That was step one, and Dangerfield indicated that two more phases are needed to ensure that all first-year students (about 2,000) are able to go into housing.

“I’m working on another project with a developer who’s going to build an additional 3- to 400 beds just adjacent to the main campus, and we’re working on putting a proposal together to the provincial government for phase two, so that would get us up to over 1000,” Dangerfield said. Additionally, Dangerfield mentioned advocating efforts with the three municipalities in the North Shore to support densification and sustainable housing development, which includes rentals.

Another pressing issue for students is course registration. CapU has been receiving more students than they can accommodate, and many international students have had to register in courses at TRU to then transfer them back to CapU as a temporary solution to meeting the minimum credit requirements to maintain their full-time student status. 

Dangerfield explained that there is still work to be done to ensure accurate forecasting of what programming and courses are needed for students, as well as an improved hiring strategy, since “there aren’t enough Faculty and PhDs in the Lower Mainland.” Dangerfield acknowledged that unlike the housing, this issue is within their control, and he is confident that they will have this sorted out in the next 12 months. “My hope would be ‘better’ for September, ‘good’ by January, and ‘really good’ by next summer,” he said.

While the province doesn’t regulate international student tuition fee increases, Dangerfield has managed to keep a two per cent cap on international tuition fee increases—in line with the two per cent cap on domestic tuition.

Dangerfield responded to the concern of not having an official policy on this to guarantee future presidents keep the cap by explaining that the budget for the next three years has already been built based on only a two per cent increase. He also explained that increasing tuition at a high rate is not part of their values and commitment to make the experience for students as positive as they possibly can. He called it, “the best way to differentiate ourselves as a university that’s actually managing its money really well and not burdening the students.” However, Dangerfield doesn’t see a policy being created around the two per cent cap, “because once it’s a policy, it’s set forever. However, he added, “what I can say is, more importantly, it’s actually set in our values.”

Dangerfield plans to stay at CapU until the end of the 2024-2025 academic year, by which time a replacement will be in place. He shared with the Courier that he does not know who is being considered for the role, but that the ideal candidate will have a real passion for education, learning, community, and will embrace the six values of Envisioning 2030. 

When asked about his plans after CapU, he said, “I might simply wait until I finish to figure out what I want to do.” However, he is certain that he’s not going to retire.

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