The Programs of Study Regulation under the Post-secondary Learning Act stipulates that all publicly funded post-secondary institutions in Alberta must receive approval from the Minister responsible for Advanced Education to establish, extend, expand, reduce, suspend terminate or transfer a certificate, diploma or degree program.
In addition, a resident private institution or non-resident institution seeking to establish, extend, expand, reduce, suspend, terminate, or transfer a degree program offered or to be offered in Alberta must also seek approval from the Minister of Advanced Education.
The purpose of the ministry's program approval process is to:
- ensure learner access to education and training to meet economic and social needs across the province;
- demonstrate provincial commitment to high-quality programs and jurisdictional excellence; and
- encourage collaboration of educational providers and guides the development and coordination of the adult learning system.
Advanced Education's program approval process for all programs is outlined on the ministry website: https://www.alberta.ca/ministry-advanced-education.aspx. – Postsecondary Program Standards and Oversight.
Program proposals are initially reviewed by the ministry's Post-Secondary Programs (PSP) Branch in light of a number of key considerations. These considerations include:
- fit with the institution's comprehensive institutional plan;
- student and labour market demand;
- program distinctiveness and value components
- benefits and affordability for learners
- evidence of community, industry and provincial regulatory body support (as applicable);
- relationship of the proposed program to existing programs within the institution and across the province;
- alignment with provincial strategic priorities; and
- the institution's financial resource capacity to successfully implement and sustain program delivery.
PSP makes recommendations on certificate, diploma and degree program proposals to senior ministry officials for review and approval. Proposals for new degree programs or specializations that meet all the considerations outlined above are referred by Advanced Education's Deputy Minister to the Campus Alberta Quality Council
(CAQC) for a quality review.
A quality review through the CAQC requires institutions to demonstrate they can offer education of sufficient breadth and depth to meet standards and processes consistent with the Ministerial Statement on Quality Assurance of Degree Education in Canada
. These standards are related to:
- faculty and staff;
- academic policies;
- resource capacity;
- program content, structure and learning outcomes;
- program evaluation;
- regulation and accreditation; and
- research and graduate supervision plans (graduate programs only)
CAQC is an arms-length quality assurance agency that:
- determines quality review criteria and procedures
- engages peer experts to review institutions and degree programs
- determines whether the degree proposal has met Council's standards of quality and makes recommendations to the Minister of Advanced Education for approval
- monitors approved degree programs to ensure they continue to meet standards
- works closely with other provinces in pan-Canadian quality initiatives
All degree programs (except for degrees in divinity), including those from all institutions in the six sectors, resident for-profit institutions and non-resident institutions wishing to offer degrees in Alberta, are subject to the two-stage approval process noted above: system coordination review by PSP and, if positive, quality review by CAQC. The Minister approves degree programs at private institutions in Alberta once the institution has been designated to offer degrees by the lieutenant governor in council on recommendation of the Minister. Approved degree programs are subject to monitoring by CAQC. Degrees in divinity are not subject to approval by the Minister, nor are they reviewed or monitored by CAQC.
For private vocational training, the ministry's licensing requirements include demonstration that there is labour market demand for graduates, the curriculum is considered by industry to be relevant, the admission requirements for students are appropriate, and instructor qualifications are viewed by industry as being suitable. Each licensee is required to post and maintain security to protect the tuition paid on behalf of students or by students enrolled in licensed vocational training programs. Licensees are also required to submit annual reports providing graduation and job placement information with respect to each student enrolled in licensed training.
The Apprenticeship and Industry Training Act provides for the designation of trades and occupations in Alberta. The Apprenticeship and Industry Training Administration Regulation sets out the criteria for the designations and provides for the administration of the apprenticeship and industry training system. Trades are designated by the Lieutenant Governor in Council and occupations are designated by the Minister. For each designated trade, the Act requires the Lieutenant Governor in Council to provide for an apprenticeship program. An apprenticeship program is a program of training in a designated trade that is approved by the Alberta Apprenticeship and Industry Training Board under which an apprentice receives formal instruction (technical training) and on-the-job training and that is governed by a contract of apprenticeship registered under the Act. The Apprenticeship Program Regulation, and the respective trade regulations and board orders stipulate standards and requirements of an apprenticeship program and the training and certification of apprentices.
Alberta's apprenticeship and industry training system relies on a network of industry committees. These include local and provincial apprenticeship committees in the designated trades and occupational committees in the designated occupations.
- Each trade has a provincial apprenticeship committee (PAC), which provides recommendations to the Alberta Apprenticeship and Industry Training Board on training requirements, certification requirements, and standards for the trade. The PACs are also responsible for recognizing training as equivalent to training provided in an apprenticeship program in their trade.
- Local apprenticeship committees (LACs) are established by the board where there is enough activity in an area of the province to warrant a committee. LAC responsibilities include making recommendations about apprenticeship and certification to the PAC for their trade.
- Each occupation has an occupational committee which makes recommendations to the board on any matter concerning training and certification in their occupation.
Appointed under the Act, the Executive Director is required to arrange for the provision of technical training in apprenticeship programs. Staff in the ministry responsible for advanced education provide support to the PACs and the board in the development and maintenance of apprenticeship programs, including the development of the required apprenticeship examinations. Training establishments, mostly Polytechnic Institutions and Comprehensive Community Colleges, deliver apprenticeship technical training. Polytechnic Institutions are key participants in Alberta's apprenticeship and industry training system, as they are required, under the Post-secondary Learning Act, to provide technical training with respect to designated trades. They work with the ministry, the board and industry committees to enhance access and responsiveness to industry needs through the delivery of technical training. The ministry also administers apprenticeship examinations and maintains records of the apprentice's contract of apprenticeship and training progress. The Act authorizes the Minister to grant a trade certificate to a person who has successfully completed an apprenticeship program or successfully met any other requirements established, approved or otherwise recognized by the board.