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The Canadian Information Centre for International Credentials

The advanced education system in Alberta is guided by a set of Campus Alberta principles and objectives. Campus Alberta aims to ensure that key stakeholders in the advanced education system collaborate to deliver seamless opportunities for all Albertans to participate in lifelong learning.

Integral to the Campus Alberta vision is the Roles and Mandates Policy Framework for Alberta's Publicly Funded Advanced Education System. Released in 2007, the Framework categorizes publicly funded institutions into a six-sector model and sets out a range of academic programming, research activity and learner focus for each sector. By defining six broad types of publicly funded institutions, the Framework serves as a foundation for building an integrated adult learning system that is resilient, effective and collaborative.

The six sectors defined by the Roles and Mandates Policy Framework are:
  • Comprehensive Academic and Research Institutions
  • Baccalaureate and Applied Studies Institutions
  • Polytechnical Institutions
  • Comprehensive Community Institutions
  • Independent Academic Institutions
  • Specialized Arts and Culture Institutions

Outside of the publicly funded system, ministerially-approved or licensed adult learning is also offered in Alberta by private vocational training providers and non-resident institutions.

The program approval process of the Alberta Advanced Education is designed to promote system development and coordination. The department reviews program proposals in light of a number of key considerations including fit with the institutional mandate and strategic plan, fit with provincial planning frameworks, relationship of the proposed program to existing programs within the institution and across the province, student and economic demand, and the institution's resource capacity. The Campus Alberta Quality Council (CAQC) makes recommendations to the Minister on the quality of new degree proposals and monitors the quality of approved degree programs.

The Alberta Council on Admissions and Transfer (ACAT) contributes to Campus Alberta as an advisory agency responsible for advice and oversight regarding learner pathways and mobility in the advanced education system with a focus on post-secondary admissions and transfer. ACAT advises Alberta Advanced Education and Alberta Transfer System members and collaborates with provincial partners. ACAT's role includes providing leadership for best practices, guidelines, procedures and a system for access that supports all learners. It supports postsecondary collaboration, monitoring and mediation, and research to facilitate student mobility and transfer agreements within Campus Alberta and the transfer system. ACAT also supports increased student access and admissions into, within, and from the Advanced Learning System and the workforce, including support for learner pathways, such as prior learning assessment and recognition (PLAR) and dual credit, and interprovincial mobility.

The Campus Alberta model is strengthened through a commitment to online learning and the application of technology to support high-quality learning outcomes.

The Alberta Advanced Education is committed to accessible postsecondary education through increased system capacity and access for students. Alberta's 11 Comprehensive Community Institutions lead collaboration with community adult learning providers and other stakeholders for the purposes of regional coordination and to facilitate community access points across the province. As well, the ministry continues to explore new learning opportunities for Albertans in rural and remote areas. The ministry is dedicated to raising awareness about planning for postsecondary studies as it encourages parents to prepare financially and motivates students and educators to get involved in the planning process. Assistance with planning is readily available to support all Albertans in their learning pursuits.

The formal postsecondary system in Alberta began when the first government adopted the creation of a provincial university as a high priority. The University of Alberta began operation in 1908 under government policy that reflected a centralized university model. Over time, the centralized model was challenged and branch campuses in Calgary and Lethbridge were established. Eventually, increasing demand for university education led to the establishment of the University of Calgary in 1966, and then later the establishment of the University of Lethbridge. Athabasca University, modeled on the British "open university," was set up in the 1970s to provide distance education programs, primarily to part-time adult learners. In 2009, two baccalaureate and applied studies institutions were renamed to Grant MacEwan University and Mount Royal University in recognition of their role in providing bachelor's degrees.

In 1916, the province began funding vocational training and opened the Provincial Institute of Technology and Art with a mandate to provide technical training to returning soldiers, industrial arts teachers and the "maturing youth" of the province. The provincial and federal support of technical vocational training and the rapid economic growth of the province through the oil boom in the 1950s and, to a greater extent, recent growth in the province, have helped shape Alberta's focus on technical and vocational training and the evolution of Alberta's Apprenticeship and Industry Training system.

Private colleges emerged in Alberta in 1903 and formed the basis for college-level education in the province. In 1957, Alberta's first public junior college opened in Lethbridge. The early versions of the University Act also contained provisions that formed the basis for establishment of junior colleges through affiliation agreements and with university delegated authority over these colleges. By the late 1960s, a network of colleges and polytechnical institutions had been established in centres throughout the province.

In 2004, the ministry responsible for advanced education combined its Universities Act, Banff Centre Act, Colleges Act, and Technical Institutes Act into one comprehensive Post-secondary Learning Act to support the Campus Alberta vision and to further educational opportunities in the province. The Act also opened opportunities for more institutions to offer degree programs and established the Campus Alberta Quality Council as a key player in the degree program approval process. Prior to the proclamation of the Post-secondary Learning Act, the ministry introduced a new Private Vocational Training Regulation that updated, reorganized, and clarified the requirements of the former regulation. Alberta's postsecondary system will continue to enhance and improve upon the Campus Alberta model to suit the learning needs of all Albertans.

In 2007, the ministry responsible for advanced education released the Roles and Mandates Policy Framework for Alberta's Publicly Funded Advanced Education System. The Framework categorizes the province's public postsecondary institutions into a six-sector model that indicates the types of programs an institution offers, as well as its research activity.

Alberta's Post-secondary Learning Act and the Roles and Mandates Policy Framework are intended to advance the concept of Campus Alberta by further developing a postsecondary system that is accessible, flexible, and responsive to the needs of all Albertans. The Framework describes sector and individual institutions in the areas of academic programming, research activity and geographic focus. By defining six broad types of publicly-funded institutions, the Framework serves as a foundation for presenting a differentiated adult learning system.

In Alberta, with the exception of the boards of Independent Academic Institutions and the board of The Banff Centre, the governing boards of publicly funded postsecondary institutions are appointed by the Minister responsible for advanced education.


Comprehensive Academic and Research Institutions (CARIs)


Alberta has four universities categorized as Comprehensive Academic and Research Institutions (CARIs) under the Roles and Mandates Policy Framework: the University of Alberta, the University of Calgary, the University of Lethbridge, and Athabasca University. The Universities of Alberta, Calgary, and Lethbridge are campus-based, while Athabasca University is a distance-learning university. Credentials awarded by the universities include bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees.

The University of Alberta and the University of Calgary offer a broad range of graduate and undergraduate degree programs and account for much of the province's university research capabilities. The University of Lethbridge offers undergraduate degree programs and some graduate degree programs, and also provides the first two years of study in fields such as medicine, dentistry, and engineering for transfer to other institutions. Athabasca University, specializing in part-time and distance education, offers undergraduate degree programs in fields such as business, integrated studies, distance education, science, and nursing, as well as some graduate degree programs.


Baccalaureate and Applied Studies Institutions (BASIs)


Alberta has two Baccalaureate and Applied Studies Institutions (BASIs): Grant MacEwan University in Edmonton and Mount Royal University in Calgary. These institutions are publicly funded and provide a range of programming from academic upgrading to baccalaureate degrees, including applied degrees. Their research activity is largely focused on applied research and scholarly activity to enhance their instructional mandate.

Polytechnical Institutions (PIs)


Alberta has two Polytechnical Institutions (PIs): the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology in Edmonton (NAIT) and the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT) in Calgary. These institutions may offer apprenticeship, certificates, diplomas, applied degrees, and in limited cases, other baccalaureate degrees. They also offer continuing education programs and are increasingly involved in applied research initiatives. PIs respond to market needs and offer programs tailored to workplace requirements.

 


Comprehensive Community Institutions (CCIs)


Alberta has eleven public colleges in the Comprehensive Community Institutions (CCIs) sector of the Roles and Mandates Policy Framework. These colleges provide a range of programming from academic upgrading to applied degrees. They may also offer apprenticeship technical training, the first two years of certain baccalaureate degree programs, and baccalaureate degrees in collaboration with degree-granting institutions. Research activity at CCIs is largely focused on applied research and scholarly activity to enhance their instructional mandate.

The colleges within the CCI sector are also responsible for providing stewardship of adult learning opportunities for defined geographic regions within the province. This includes more closely aligning with the province's community adult learning programs that provide learning opportunities to support literacy and foundational learning, including numeracy, basic computer and foundational life skills, and English language learning.


Independent Academic Institutions (IAIs)


Alberta has five Independent Academic Institutions (IAIs). Called universities, they are considered private institutions, although they receive public funding for approved degree programs. In addition to baccalaureate degrees, they may also offer master's degrees in specified areas, as well as independent programming through which they may issue their own certification or accreditation through other national or international bodies. Some of Alberta's IAIs have religious denominational affiliations; however, students of all faiths are welcome. They may also offer divinity degrees and other programs that do not need approval of the minister responsible for advanced education.


Specialized Arts and Culture Institutions (SACIs)


Alberta has two Specialized Arts and Culture Institutions (SACIs), each of which serves a unique set of learners. The Alberta College of Art and Design offers bachelor's and master's degree programming focused on visual culture and design. The Banff Centre specializes in non-credit professional development opportunities in fine arts, management studies, language training, and environmental training. Banff Centre students usually have academic credentials and/or professional experience in their area of study prior to admission.


Apprenticeship and Industry Training


The Alberta apprenticeship and industry training system is an industry-driven system. Industry (employers and employees) establishes training and certification standards in more than 50 designated trades and occupations and provides direction to the system through an industry committee network and the Alberta Apprenticeship and Industry Training Board. The government provides the legislative framework and administrative support. In addition to sitting on the committees, individual employers support the apprenticeship and industry training system by employing and training apprentices, thereby providing them with the opportunity to develop their skills on the job.

Eleven public postsecondary institutions (Polytechnical Institutions and Comprehensive Community Institutions) provide most of the technical training portion of the apprenticeship program, based on course outcomes. Post-secondary trade and occupation certificates are granted by the Minister responsible for advanced education, and are held in high regard across Canada. Alberta consistently trains approximately 20 per cent of the nation's apprentices.


Private Vocational Trainers offering licensed programs


There are approximately 150 private trainers that offer licensed vocational training in Alberta. The programs they provide respond to current labour market demand. Licensed vocational training programs prepare students for employment in a wide variety of occupations. Although private vocational trainers do not receive operating funding from the government, student financial assistance may be available to students enrolled in licensed vocational training programs. Private vocational trainers offer their own credentials for licensed programs.


Differences between certificate, diploma, and degree programs at universities, colleges, and technical institutes


Alberta Apprenticeship programs are available in approximately 49 designated trades in Alberta. Such programs start with an individual choosing a trade and finding an employer. Apprenticeship programs in most of the trades take between three and four years to complete. Apprentices spend about 80 per cent of their time gaining on-the-job training and experience and 20 per cent attending classes at a Polytechnical Institution or Comprehensive Community Institution. Individuals who complete these apprenticeship programs may be eligible to write an Interprovincial Standards (Red Seal) Program examination. If successful on the examination, the Red Seal endorsement, which is widely recognized across Canada, is affixed to their provincial certification.

Certificate programs prepare students for entry into specific occupations. They normally involve one year or less of full-time study at a Baccalaureate and Applied Studies Institution, Polytechnical Institution, Comprehensive Community Institution, or, in some instances, at a Comprehensive Academic and Research Institution. Certificate programs normally require the completion of some high school studies for admission. In addition to the certificates described, a variety of other certificate programs are offered as pathways into employment or further study, and require higher admission standards (e.g., post-diploma, post-bachelor's and post-master's certificates).

Diploma programs generally prepare students for employment in a particular field or group of occupations. They normally involve two years of full-time study at a Baccalaureate and Applied Studies Institution, Polytechnical Institution, Comprehensive Community Institution, or, in some instances at a Comprehensive Academic and Research Institution. In addition to the diploma as described, a variety of other diplomas are offered as pathways into employment or further study, and requiring higher admission standards (e.g., post-bachelor's and post-master's diplomas).

Applied degree programs provide enhanced career preparation at the bachelor's level that applies to a broader range of career and employment opportunities beyond entry level in an industry. Applied degree programs may be offered only by institutions that have received approval from the Minister responsible for advanced education. Some Baccalaureate and Applied Studies Institutions, Polytechnical Institutions, and Comprehensive Community Institutions offer these programs, which normally consist of about three years of academic studies and about one year of related, supervised work experience in industry. Applied degree programs may have admission requirements similar to those of diploma programs. Completion of a related diploma program may be a prerequisite for admission into year three of an applied degree program. Since 2004, in order to receive approval for new applied degree programs, institutions must meet specific quality requirements consistent with the Ministerial Statement on Quality Assurance of Degree Education in Canada.

Bachelor's degree programs usually require four years to complete but program length may vary by discipline and institution. Programs longer than four years often incorporate a co-op or work study component. For information on admission, please consult the "Admission Requirements" section below. Bachelor's degree programs may be offered only by institutions that have received approval from the Minister responsible for advanced education (except for degrees in divinity). In order to receive approval, institutions must meet specific quality requirements consistent with the Ministerial Statement on Quality Assurance of Degree Education in Canada. In Alberta, bachelor's degree programs are currently offered at four Comprehensive Academic and Research Institutions, two Baccalaureate and Applied Studies Institutions, two Polytechnical Institutions, five Independent Academic Institutions, and one Specialized Arts and Culture Institution.

Master's degree programs normally involve two years of full-time university study beyond the bachelor's degree level. These programs require a bachelor's degree for admission. Applicants who have a three-year bachelor's degree are usually required to complete an additional qualifying year. Master's programs may be thesis- or course-based. These programs may be offered only by institutions that have received approval from the Minister responsible for advanced education (except for degrees in divinity). In order to receive approval, institutions must meet specific quality requirements consistent with the Ministerial Statement on Quality Assurance of Degree Education in Canada. Currently, master's programs are offered by each of the four Comprehensive Academic and Research Institutions as well as at one Independent Academic Institution and a number of non-resident institutions.

Doctoral degree programs normally require two or three years of full-time university study and research beyond the master's degree level. Doctoral programs involve planning and carrying out high-quality research leading to advanced knowledge in the student's field of study. These programs normally include the preparation of a dissertation on an approved topic. Doctoral degree programs may be offered only by institutions that have received approval from the Minister responsible for advanced education (except for degrees in divinity). In order to receive approval, institutions must meet specific quality requirements consistent with the Ministerial Statement on Quality Assurance of Degree Education in Canada. In Alberta, doctoral degrees are offered by each of the four Comprehensive Academic and Research Institutions.


Community Adult Learning Organizations


This network of 130 funded organizations is a key mechanism for the delivery of literacy and foundational learning along the adult learning continuum in Alberta. Organizations facilitate part-time, primarily non-formal adult learning opportunities in local communities to support literacy and foundational learning, including numeracy, basic computer and foundational life skills, and English language learning. They strive to build safe and welcoming local access points to meet the unique needs of the learners that walk through their doors. Organizations also work closely with other learning providers in their communities, including their local Comprehensive Community Institutions, to identify learning needs and work together to address those needs.


First Nations College Grant


The Government of Alberta provides the five First Nations Colleges in Alberta with stable, annual funding under the First Nations College Grant to support initiatives and activities that enhance basic skills, increase access, and improve both retention and learning outcomes for students. The grant supports activities that are relevant in culture and language, respectful of diversity, and support the development of Indigenous knowledge. This grant may complement other sources of funding and ‘in kind' resources that enhance the provision of a range of learning opportunities, including literacy and essential skills, academic preparation for postsecondary studies, certificate and diploma programs, and degree programs in partnership with public institutions.

Alberta has three years of senior high school, grades 10 through 12, leading to an Alberta high school diploma.

Publicly funded institutions normally require a high school diploma for admission to certificate and diploma programs, but academic requirements vary by program. Prospective students should consult the institution(s) of their choice for details. Institutions typically require, at a minimum, a specified number of high school courses or a high school diploma for admission, along with demonstrated English language proficiency and program specific requirements.

Each degree-granting institution in Alberta sets its own admission requirements as well as criteria for recognizing academic qualifications obtained in Canadian jurisdictions and abroad. Typically, five grade 12-level courses (or equivalents) are required. Admission averages required to enter an undergraduate program, either directly from high school or through transfer from another postsecondary institution, vary by institution, faculty, and program. Admission to programs that have enrolment limits may require competitive marks higher than the minimum admission requirements set out in the academic calendar. Mature applicants who do not meet normal admission requirements may be considered with differing qualifications. Competency in English is required of international students. Prospective students should consult the institution(s) of their choice for further details on admission.

Alberta Advanced Education aims to provide accessible, affordable, high-quality learning opportunities in Alberta. The Province of Alberta provides a comprehensive student financial assistance program for Albertans to ensure that financial need is not a barrier to learners' success in their postsecondary pursuits.

Students who apply for funding for full-time study are considered for financial assistance that may consist of a combination of federal and provincial loans and grants. Student Aid Alberta also provides funding for part-time study and processes applications for various scholarships and awards.

The Tuition Fees Regulation limits tuition fee increases at public postsecondary institutions to a composite Alberta Consumer Price Index (CPI) for Canadian citizens and permanent residents. For the 2015/16 and 2016/17 academic years specifically, tuition fees are frozen at levels which were in effect for the 2014/15 academic year. Public postsecondary institutions in Alberta have the flexibility to set differential fees for students who are not Canadian citizens or permanent residents of Canada. Fees charged to international students vary by institution but are generally competitive with those of postsecondary institutions in other Canadian provinces.

To view the most current tuition and fees for Canadian citizens, permanent residents and international students, please consult institutions' websites or contact the institution(s) directly. International students may consult the following web page for tuition and fee estimates.

The Government of Alberta offers a range of student awards and student financial assistance programs. Information about these programs is at Student Aid Alberta. Many of Alberta's postsecondary institutions also offer a considerable number of awards and scholarships to Canadian citizens, permanent residents and international students. Information is available on institutional websites.




Comprehensive review of this information: June 2016