The UTP story is about visionary leaders upon whose shoulders we stand.

University Transition Program


“Continuing to be unique in Canada, this program is the best kept secret in education” – Transition Parent, 2009

How might we promote:
  • thriving of students
  • new pathways of engagement
  • shared sense of limitless futures
  • respecting love as love made visible
  • confidence in the ability to learn anything
  • using talents to help others as the elixir of happiness

Psychologist E. Paul Torrance, known globally as the “father of creativity”, dedicated nearly 60 years of research to the study of creativity and its encouragement in children and adults. education for talented, encouraging individuals to develop their abilities to the fullest.

“Find something you like, fall in love with it, and pursue it relentlessly.”
E. Paul Torrence
University of Georgia, Athens, 1976

Our University Transition Program Story

The Dream of Sowing Seeds of Excellence

How did the dream to provide talented adolescents with appropriately challenging learning opportunities become a highly lauded educational environment where students thrive mentally, academically, socially, physically within a cohort of peers who invest in meaningful relationships and a caring community, taking responsibility for development of abilities of self and other, and ultimately propelling each other to achieve success in university studies, navigate exciting career pathways, build loving families while contributing their talents and gifts to society for the welfare of future generations?

Initiated in 1993 by the Vancouver School Board in partnership with the Office of the President of The University of British Columbia and subsequently funded as a BC Provincial Resource Program by the BC Ministry of Education in 1995, the University Transition Program designed a radical academic acceleration preparation for early entrance to university studies for BC adolescents in accordance with the BC Special Education Policy for students whose asynchronous educational and developmental needs exceed available services in regular classrooms. Program design was refined in consultation with local, national and international researchers and education specialists, most notably the internationally renowned Dr. Nancy Robinson, Founder and Dr. Kate Noble, Director of the Transition School at the University of Washington, Seattle. The Program evolved through outstanding leadership from VSB and UBC as well as from parents and the students. Courtesy of the Office of the UBC President, the Program relocated to several classrooms nestled on the second floor of the Auditorium Annex B on the UBC campus in 1998 therein promoting a pre-university identity, career and university course explorations and access to diverse UBC facilities with the privilege of a UBC student card for access to UBC libraries. Following recommendations from the May 2002 Review of the Transition Program presented to the VSB-UBC Steering Committee, the Vice-President Academic – UBC presented a proposal to the UBC Senate based on research of UTP graduates’ success at UBC. In December 2002 the UBC Senate adopted the recommendation to offer early acceptance to UBC without high school graduation to successful UTP graduates recommended by staff. Subsequent infrastructure support for UTP was negotiated with the Dean of the Faculty of Education. The Program continues to evolve building on a strong conceptual framework linked to an organic growth model that supports the advancement of best practices in accordance with unrelenting focus on optimal learning trajectories of academically and creatively talented young people who have chosen the intensive and challenging educational pathway of radical academic acceleration and preparation for early entrance to university studies. Program students and their parents together with Program graduates and alumni parents working collaboratively with Staff and the Program Coordinator to build the communiversity experience that promotes wellness, scholarship excellence, leadership and the flourishing of goodness in the lives of all people. 

Celebrating almost 27 years of successful graduates, the University Transition Program serves as a lighthouse for exemplary cohort education in BC, welcoming visitors from over the world as part of service to professionals, parents, and community such as 2021 World Conference for Best Educational Practices, international education partnerships, and various professional education associations.  The two year lived intensity of the conceptually advanced liberal arts curriculum and cohort culture attracts inquiries from all over the world. Annual applications from students typically age 13 involve comprehensive reviews of 250+ learner profiles with invitations to approximately twenty students each year to join the gender-balanced cohort of young scholars. All applicants benefit from the identification of strengths and potential through the review process that is rigorous, unbiased, and comprehensive using a variety of sources of data.  Diverse advanced learning experiences from orientation through to graduation support social-emotional awareness and wellness while engaging students in a strong work ethic and high standards of scholarship and research within a close-knit community of students, parents, teachers, and alumni.

Over the course of two years, Transition students meet requirements for the BC Dogwood certificate and explore UBC Faculties through a variety of senior secondary and university level coursework, competitions, field trips, camps and International Global Citizenship Tours. Students typically achieve early university entrance and commence full time studies at UBC at age 14 or 15.

The Dream of Sowing Seeds of Excellence

Coursework is related to program goals:

  • Personalized preparation for achievement of early entrance to university, successful university studies and exciting career pathways that encourage invention for positive futures.
  • Development of character, integrity, compassion, global citizenship, and environmental stewardship through collaborative problem solving and social responsibility.
  • Transformation of interests and passions to opportunities to engage with tantalizing and most challenging problems and fine elegant solutions help build meaningful and healthy lives for self, other, and all people.


Radical academic acceleration 

 Social-emotional and character development 

Career exploration & interdisciplinary learning pathways

UTP offers senior secondary courses extended and enriched in accordance with unique learner profiles, peer to peer learning, and communiversity experiences that build on student intellectual curiosity, passion for problem solving, speed of processing, prior knowledge, personal stamina, goals, and perseverance.  The learning contract negotiated as part of the offer of enrolment is based on reciprocal respect and honesty with regard to relationships and responsibilities, commitment to collaboration and support, reflection and mentoring, focus on encouragement of success for all. The steep two year learning trajectory begins with an orientation to accelerated learning strategies including time management, planning and organization skills and an introduction to interdisciplinary learning connecting disciplines of English, Mathematics, History, Biology Chemistry, Physics, Civics and Psychology.   The second year of the program focuses on intensification, creative and critical problem solving, knowledge applications, high standards of scholarship and research with commitments to community service and/or work experience.

Year One

Sciences: Science 10, Biology 12, Chemistry 11, Physics 11

Mathematics: Precalculus 11

Humanities: English 11, Psychology 11, Civics 11, Socials 10

Other: Planning 10, Physical Education 10, Philosophy

Year Two

Sciences: Biology 12, Chemistry 12, Physics 12

Mathematics: Precalculus 12, Calculus 12

Humanities: English 12, English Literature 12, BA Psychology 12, History 12

Other:   Physical Education (PE) 11 & 12, Philosophy

Teaching to talent is based on understandings of talent development and the reciprocal trust relationship at the core of the teaching-learning contract respected by each student and teacher and parent.  The trajectory of talent and personal development is documented through research that emphasizes how curriculum, pedagogy and the culture of encouragement and personalized education are differentiated to create appropriate learning experiences to support students who choose to achieve their dreams of early entrance to university studies.  Teachers offer the sensitive guidance, flexible pacing, diverse opportunities and feedback to inspire and energize students to engage with the challenges, struggles and efforts needed to expand and express their talents and abilities. The personalized education pathway begins with the student-led Individual Education Plan shared with teachers and parents who work collaboratively to address academic and social-emotional developmental needs and the exploration and pursuit of interests and passions.   Encouragement and support are priorities for the courageous learning journeys of challenge students are choosing to pursue. Interventions and tools include: gap-based instruction targeting the Vygotski zone of proximal development, flexible pacing, future-focused role image and pre-university identity, intensive peer collaboration, intellectual peer group, learning organized by conceptual frameworks, close monitoring, frequent formative assessment and feedback, modular instructional units, teaching to topic across grade levels, peer learning and graduate mentoring.

What makes radical acceleration possible?

Work habits and the joy of full engagement!

Although every Transition student has unique work habits and patterns for seeking knowledge and teaching themselves, they are all extremely self-driven in their pursuit of personal interests, talents and passions.  The University Transition Program supports excellence and the unrelenting appreciation of knowledge and wisdom to advance awareness, personal development and academic goals. The communiversity experience promoted within the program is designed to scaffold and spur on students to unleash, explore, and push their potential to the fullest. The UTP environment is co-created daily, energized by ardent learners, knowledgeable and talented teachers, and supportive parents.  Visitors can feel the aura of discovery and vibrancy of learning that Transition Program incubates.

In response to the dynamic learning environment where warm friendships flourish, students in this program choose to work hard and to be responsible for their actions towards their future and community. Most students entering the program are already respectful and intellectual individuals; through this intensively collaborative environment, they deepen and extend these qualities, building themselves up alongside their classmates, adhering to the principle encouraged by Nelson Mandela, each teach one, and going out in the world as lights igniting opportunities, encouragement, and hope for all and joining others to generate communities of light for future generations.

Talent is elusive, fragile, manifold, fast-moving, luminous, tantalizing, and incredibly beautiful, like aurora borealis on a cool September evening.
- John Hersey -