Nobbs designed the Arts Building (1914–15), laboratories and Power House (1914). Burgess, Nobbs designed the Provincial College of Medicine (1920–21). But along with these early milestones came the First World War and the global influenza pandemic of 1918, whose toll on the university resulted in a two-month suspension of classes in the fall of 1918.

Despite these setbacks, the university continued to grow.

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By 1920, it had six faculties (Arts and Sciences, Applied Science, Agriculture, Medicine, Dentistry, and Law) and two schools (Pharmacy and Accountancy).

It awarded a range of degrees: Bachelor of Arts (BA), Bachelor of Science (BSc), Bachelor of Science in Agriculture (BSA), Bachelor of Laws (LLB), Bachelor of Pharmacy (Phm B), Bachelor of Divinity (BD), Master of Arts (MA), Master of Science (MSc), and Doctor of Laws (LLD).

The policy of university education initiated in the 1960s responded to population pressure and the belief that higher education was a key to social justice and economic productivity for individuals and for society.

In addition, the single-university policy in the West was changed as existing colleges of the provincial universities gained autonomy as universities.

When the two cities were amalgamated in 1912, Edmonton became both the political and academic capital.

With Henry Marshall Tory as its first president, the University of Alberta started operation in 1908.

The university has been recognized by the Academic Ranking of World Universities, the QS World University Rankings and the Times Higher Education World University Rankings as one of the top five universities in Canada and one of the top 100 universities worldwide.

According to the 2014 QS World University Rankings the top Faculty Area at the University of Alberta is Arts and Humanities (ranked 89th in the world), and the top-ranked Subject is English Language and Literature (22nd in the world).

The president, appointed by the board, was to provide a link between the two bodies and perform institutional leadership.