Dalhousie College was founded in 1818 by George Ramsay, who as the Ninth Earl of Dalhousie, and Lieutenant Governor of Nova Scotia, established Dalhousie as a college open to all people regardless of class or creed, and at the laying of the cornerstone on May 22, 1820, Lord Dalhousie said that this University was "founded on the principles of religious tolerance." The College did not, however, have a student population until about 1860.
Dalhousie was distinctive as an urban institution. This status was seen not only, in the early days at least, in the use of much of the college's lowest floor as vault space for Oland's Brewery, but also in the consistent drawing of about one-third of the student body from the Halifax-Dartmouth urban area and in the college's ability to draw upon local professional populations in the establishment of faculties of medicine and law. Finances remained difficult into the 1880s, but by the end of that decade the accumulated donations of the wealthy alumnus George Munro had provided the stimulus that led to growth in student numbers and the emergence of Dalhousie as a centre of scholarship acknowledged throughout the dominion.
In 1920 the University of King's College in Windsor, Nova Scotia, Canada's oldest degree granting institution, burned down. Through a grant from the Carnegie foundation, King's College was able to relocate to Halifax and entered into a partnersip with Dalhousie University. It shares Dalhousie's Arts and Sciences Faculty, and offers several interdisciplinary uhmanities degree programmes.
The Technical University of Nova Scotia was merged with Dalhousie University as the engineering faculty and renamed DalTech in 1997; since 2000 it has been known as the Sexton Campus.
The current campus was designed by Andrew R. Cobb.
In 2003 there are 8900 undergraduate students and 2900 graduate students enrolled at the university. The university is facing serious financial problems in the early 21st century, forcing it to rapidly raise to tuition fees. Even with the increased tuition fees Dalhousie is facing some financial problems such as being able to pay for more than 100 million dollars (canadian) in deferred maintenance. In 2002 There was a month long strike by the professors at the university demanding among other things that retiring professors be replace by an equivalent new professor in hopes of maintaining the level of full professors at the university; the number of full time professors had been declining for some years. The professors' demands on this issue were met. As a result of the strike the 2001-02 academic year was extended.
The school's athletic teams are called the Tigers.