“The centre of the world at the edge of a continent” – Cape Breton University is a young institution built through the grassroots collaboration, advocacy, and spirit of Cape Bretoners over the last seventy years. CBU’s story is the story of Unama’ki/Cape Breton – an Island of immigrants, cultural exchange and expression, and unparalleled natural beauty – adapting to the challenges of the twentieth century.

Cape Breton Island has witnessed the creation of community economic development (CED), the Co-operative movement, innovation in telecommunications, and labour unions and rights in Canada. The role of our university by extension has been as a leader in the academic exploration, research, and application of CED, L’nu or Indigenous culture and knowledge, vocation and trades training, adult education, and cultural expression through music, dance, performance, language, and storytelling, to name but a few.

Our story begins as Xavier Junior College (XJC, later Xavier College), founded in 1951 under St. Francis Xavier University, as a satellite campus to handle the rapid population growth in Industrial Cape Breton. In 1968, the Nova Scotia Eastern Institute of Technology (NSEIT) opened on the Sydney-Glace Bay Highway, immediately east of Sydney. With a focus on technology and trades, the development of NSEIT was largely enabled by federal and provincial funding at a time when the coal and steel industries in Industrial Cape Breton were facing serious challenges.

The College of Cape Breton (CCB) was established on June 28, 1974, combining the Sydney Campus of St. F.X (Xavier College) and NSEIT into a single post-secondary institution under an autonomous Board of Governors. CCB became the University College of Cape Breton (UCCB) – the first university college of its kind in Canada – when it was granted university status in June 1982.

On February 25, 2005, the Board of Governors voted to change the institution’s name to Cape Breton University (CBU).