Many members of the UBC community use names other than their legal given names. A preferred (or chosen) name is a given name that someone commonly uses that is different from their legal given name.
Although UBC uses the phrase “preferred name”, for many people this name is not simply a preference: it is the only name they use and it is central to their identity. For this reason, this page also uses the phrase “chosen name.”
Names are an important part of who we are. When someone’s name is mispronounced or misused, it can make them feel disrespected, invisible and/or dismissed. Research shows that when the chosen name of young trans people is used consistently, it both affirms their gender identity and reduces mental health risks known to be high in this group.
Inclusivity is an essential component of wellbeing and having a sense of belonging. Using someone’s chosen name validates their identity, helps make them feel like they belong to the space, and signals to them that you can be a supportive contact on campus. It also sends a message of inclusivity to all students, staff, and faculty at the university (including when attending classes, eating at residence dining halls, or borrowing library books).
At UBC, students are primarily known to staff and professors by their preferred/chosen name. A preferred name is about what students want to be called, not what other people prefer to call them.
Students should indicate a preferred name only if they want staff and faculty to refer to them by a name that is different from their legal name. In order to help build a culture of inclusion at UBC, staff and faculty are strongly encouraged to respect and properly pronounce the name that students use, whether it is their legal name or not.
Students can provide a preferred name when they apply to UBC.
UBC students can update their preferred name by logging onto the Student Services Centre (SSC) and choosing the “Personal Info” tab.
The earlier a student can provide a preferred name, the better. Updating a preferred name well ahead of a new term makes it more likely that the student’s name will be used consistently in their classes.
Staff or faculty at UBC can add or change a preferred name online through the Human Resources Management System. Click on the section "Personal Information" then on the box "Add/Edit Preferred Name." Your legal name must still appear on all legal documentation.
View the list of possible characters that can be included in a preferred name.
Once a staff member, faculty member or student has obtained a legal document that documents their name change, they can have their legal first or last name updated at UBC.
- Vancouver students can find details on the Student Services website.
- Okanagan students can contact the Student Services front desk.
- Faculty and staff can contact Human Resources to update their information with their legal documents documenting the name change.
- Students, staff and faculty who have a given name they are commonly known by (e.g., Bill for William; DJ for Donna Jo).
- Students, staff and faculty who have a given name that is commonly mispronounced (e.g., Andrzej, Siobhan).*
- Students, staff and faculty who use an anglicized or westernized given name (e.g., Emily instead of Xinlan; Freddie instead of Farrokh).
- Trans, Two-Spirit, and gender-nonconforming students, staff and faculty who choose a name that reflects their gender identity or expression (e.g., Yasmin instead of Ashkan; Jo instead of Josephine).
If a student has entered a preferred name in the Student Services Centre, they can expect to see this name used in the following places:
- Class lists;
- The following university-related systems:
- Student Housing Online Service Centre;
- Student Information System - including the banner of the Student Information Services Centre;
- Faculty Service Centre;
- Informal communication between students and staff (emails, voicemails, etc.);
- UBC Recreation;
- Student Housing;
- Counselling Services;
- Student Health Services (the name that appears on a student’s health card must appear on their chart for billing purposes, but their chosen name should be used consistently in interactions with staff)
A legal name must be used for the following documents:
- Official letters (including but not limited to: admission, enrollment, and award letters, student loans)
- Tax forms
- Diplomas and graduation book
- Residence Contracts
Inappropriate Use of Preferred Name
There are a few cases where using a preferred name would be considered inappropriate:
- Using a preferred name to avoid a legal obligation via misrepresentation
- Using inappropriate language in a preferred name
These situations will result in the denial and/or reversal of the request and can be disciplined through either Academic or Non-Academic Misconduct.
In conversation, always use the name with which someone introduces themselves. For example, if someone introduces themselves as “Alex,” do not presume to call them Alexander.
If you are faculty: Class lists only displays one name column (see below screenshot). This column will display a student’s preferred name if they have provided one, or their legal name if they do not.
If you are staff: Someone’s preferred name appears on their student or staff card if they have requested it. On the SISC banner (see below screenshot), a student’s preferred name appears first, with their legal name in parentheses.
Make sure to be familiar with instances where preferred names can and cannot be used at UBC.
Students might still see their legal name, rather than preferred name, in some online systems and communications. This is due to the complexity of UBC’s information systems and the inability of some systems to share information. UBC is working to create a more unified experience that would only display legal given name when legally required.
Students can discuss instances when their preferred/chosen name is not being used with their Enrolment Services Advisors (UBC Vancouver), the Student Services front desk (UBC Okanagan), or with the Equity & Inclusion Office.
Students on either campus who want to make a formal complaint regarding their name use can contact the Human Rights Advisor at the Equity & Inclusion Office.
While UBC allows students to indicate a preferred name without changing their legal name(s), it is important to think about possible impacts after graduation:
Official documents are often used to verify one’s identity when applying for work, or additional education. Some employers, licensing bodies, or other educational institutions may question the use of a preferred name in daily or informal correspondence. This discrepancy happens when institutions rely on legal names to be used consistently.
If someone is using a preferred name consistently, this may cause some confusion in situations where official documents have to be provided. For example, employers might be confused about a UBC student portfolio that uses a preferred name while the transcripts use a legal name.
Having a name legally changed is the best way to avoid confusion and ensure that someone is consistently addressed using the name that best reflects how they want to be known on campus and beyond. For more information on how to change your name legally in B.C., please refer to the Government of British Columbia.