The Canadian Information Centre for International Credentials
The postsecondary education system in Alberta is described in CICIC's Postsecondary Education in Alberta, Provinces and Territories of Canada. Publicly funded postsecondary institutions within the Campus Alberta system are divided into six sectors under the Roles and Mandates Policy Framework for Alberta's Publicly Funded Advanced Education System:
  • Comprehensive Academic and Research Institutions (CARIs)
  • Baccalaureate and Applied Studies Institutions (BASIs)
  • Polytechnical Institutions (PIs)
  • Comprehensive Community Institutions (CCIs)
  • Independent Academic Institutions (IAIs)
  • Specialized Arts and Culture Institutions (SACIs)
Quality assurance mechanisms in Alberta's postsecondary education system vary by type of institution and program. They include one or more of the following:

The Post-Secondary Learning Act sets out the government authority for public postsecondary education in Alberta. The Act establishes public universities, approving their mandates and restricting the use of the term "university." The Act also provides universities with the power to grant degrees for programs approved by the Minister. The authority of each university to govern itself through the operations of a board of governors appointed by the Minister responsible for advanced education, a senate, and a general faculties council is outlined in the Act. A university's general faculties council and its associated individual faculty councils are, subject to the authority of the board of governors, responsible for the academic affairs of the institution including the determination of all courses of study, the establishment of admission standards and policies, affiliations with other institutions, and academic planning. Four of Alberta's universities are in the Comprehensive Academic Research Institutions (CARI) sector.

The Post-Secondary Learning Act establishes public colleges and technical institutes, giving each college and technical institute the authority to govern itself through the operations of a board of governors in accordance with a ministerially-approved institutional mandate. With the exception of The Banff Centre, the governing boards are appointed by the Minister responsible for advanced education. The Act also requires that each public college and technical institute have an academic council. These councils make reports and recommendations to their boards on a variety of issues including academic policy on standards, programs, courses, and selection, admission and graduation of students. Colleges and technical institutes that meet certain regulation and policy criteria may establish an alternate academic council similar to a general faculties council at a university. Alternate academic councils allow for greater engagement from faculty in academic matters. Public colleges and technical institutes include institutions from four sectors of the Roles and Mandates Policy Framework: Baccalaureate and Applied Studies Institutions (BASI), Polytechnical Institutions (PI), Comprehensive Community Institutions (CCI), and Specialized Arts and Culture Institutions (SACI).

Alberta has five publicly funded private institutions in the Independent Academic Institutions (IAI) sector. They are authorized by the government to offer select degree programs and are not-for-profit, private universities. Some of the IAIs have religious denominational affiliations, students of all faiths are welcome.

The delivery of vocational training programs by private providers in Alberta is governed by the Private Vocational Training Act and Regulation. An occupation, calling, trade or pursuit is defined as a vocation if it requires the application of specialized skills and knowledge and is capable of providing the practitioner with a livelihood. Supporting the six-sector publicly funded postsecondary system, the approximately 150 private trainers offer over 800 licensed programs. Examples of licensed programs include emergency medical services, computer programming, massage, multi-media, hairstyling, acupuncture and early childhood services. The Act and Regulation, along with a link to the list of the private trainers and licensed programs, may be viewed on the Private Career Colleges Branch website.

The Apprenticeship and Industry Training Act and Regulations provide the legislative authority for the apprenticeship and industry training system. The government, through the ministry responsible for advanced education, administers the system and arranges with training establishments to provide the in-school technical training component of the apprenticeship program.

The Act requires that the government appoint an Alberta Apprenticeship and Industry Training Board. The board's primary responsibility is to establish the standards and requirements for training and certification in programs under the Act. The board also makes recommendations to the Minister responsible for advanced education about the needs of Alberta's postsecondary apprentices, the labour market, and the designation of trades and occupations.

The Programs of Study Regulation under the Post-secondary Learning Act stipulates that all publicly funded postsecondary institutions must receive approval from the Minister responsible for advanced education to establish, suspend or terminate degree, diploma or certificate programs.

New program proposals as well as proposed changes to approved degree programs are submitted to the Minister responsible for advanced education for approval. The program approval process is designed to promote system development and coordination. The ministry 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.

In the case of new degree program proposals, after a positive system coordination review, the degree program is referred to the Campus Alberta Quality Council (CAQC) for review to ensure that it is of high quality. Once the quality of the degree program has been assessed using standards and processes consistent with the Ministerial Statement on Quality Assurance of Degree Education in Canada, the Council makes a recommendation to the Minister on whether or not to approve the degree program. The degree program approval process is outlined on the CAQC Web site.

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 the ministry and, if positive, quality review by the Campus Alberta Quality Council (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.

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 board on training requirements, certification requirements, and standards for 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.

Staff in the ministry responsible for advanced education arrange the formal in-school instruction for all apprenticeship programs and work with PACs to develop the content of formal instruction and to develop examinations. Training establishments, mostly Polytechnical Institutions and Comprehensive Community Institutions, teach to the training standards set by the PACs. The ministry also administers apprenticeship examinations and maintains records of the apprentice's contract and training progress.

All institutions have internal new program proposal review procedures as well as processes to periodically review approved programs based on institutional policies and procedures, often using external reviewers. The Campus Alberta Quality Council (CAQC) also has a role in monitoring new approved degree programs.

Compliance reviews of licensed private vocational training programs are conducted by the Private Career Colleges branch of the ministry when non-compliance issues are identified. In addition, each institution is required to undergo an external review conducted by an accounting firm selected by the ministry.

The apprenticeship and industry training system in Alberta operates on a three-year business cycle that includes program evaluation of the in-school portion of apprenticeship training through performance indicators such as apprenticeship and graduate satisfaction surveys and graduate employment rates. Training institutions are required to teach to the training objectives defined by the provincial apprenticeship committee (PAC) in each respective trade.

Many of Canada's regulated professions have associations that conduct accreditation reviews of programs pertaining to their professions. In these instances, accreditation teams from the professions review reports provided by the institutions offering the programs and may conduct on-site visits in accordance with the policies and procedures established by the professions.

Many degree-granting institutions in Alberta are members of the Universities Canada. Although the association does not perform formal quality assurance functions, as a member of Universities Canada, the institutions have confirmed their commitment to the Universities Canada principles of institutional quality assurance in Canadian higher education.

The Association of Accrediting Agencies of Canada (AAAC) is a national organization composed of professional associations involved in promoting good practices by its members in accreditation of educational programs.

Many of Alberta's publicly funded institutions are members of the Colleges and Institutes Canada. The Colleges and Institutes Canada does not perform formal quality assurance functions with respect to its members, but it does promote quality programming and the use of high academic standards by conducting research and facilitating broad discussion on quality assurance issues.