The University Act governs British Columbia's public research-intensive universities (Simon Fraser University, University of British Columbia, University of Northern British Columbia and University of Victoria) and most of its teaching-intensive universities (Capilano University, Emily Carr University of Art and Design, Kwantlen Polytechnic University, University of the Fraser Valley and Vancouver Island University). The Act gives the universities the authority to grant degrees, diplomas, and certificates and to call themselves "universities."
The Royal Roads University Act establishes Royal Roads University (RRU). Some of its responsibilities are the same as for the other universities, but, instead of a senate, RRU has an academic council and several of the powers conferred on the senate in a university are assigned to the president.
The Thompson Rivers University Act establishes Thompson Rivers University (TRU). Under the Act, TRU also assumes responsibility for the provincial open and distance learning mandate of the British Columbia Open University and the Open College. As with RRU, many of TRU's responsibilities are the same as for the other universities, but TRU operates with a senate and a Planning Council for Open Learning.
The authority of each university to govern itself through the operations of a board of governors and a senate is outlined in the legislation. The academic governance of the university is vested in the senate, including the authority to establish student admission requirements; determine the conduct and results of all examinations; recommend revision of courses, instruction, and education in all faculties; and set terms of affiliation with other universities, colleges, or other institutions. The senate may also require any faculty to establish advisory committees consisting of students of the faculty and members of the community at large (RRU and TRU have exceptions as noted above).
Under the legislation, the Minister is prohibited from interfering in the exercise of a university's power to set academic policies and standards, establish standards for admission and graduation, and select and appoint staff. However, the Minister is required to approve all new degree programs.
All public universities must report annually to the Minister. The Minister can require a university to provide reports and other information that the Minister considers necessary to carry out the Minister's responsibilities in relation to universities. Since 2004-05, public postsecondary institutions prepare their own annual service plan reports to outline activities undertaken during the previous fiscal year toward achieving goals and to describe any developments that may have emerged, providing information for decision makers within the ministry and for the public.
A few private theological postsecondary colleges are affiliated with a public university (University of British Columbia). In such instances, the granting of affiliation means that the private theological colleges meet the criteria for affiliation established by the senate of the university, but it does not imply any scrutiny or approval of the course offerings of the private theological colleges by the university senate.
External and internal review
Universities must have internal program review procedures based on institutional policies and procedures including mandatory review of all new programs by a university senate. New degree program proposals, as well as substantively revised programs, must be submitted to the Minister for approval. Approval of new degree programs may come about in one of two ways. If the institution has not been granted exempt status, it must submit its new degree program proposals to the Degree Quality Assessment Board for review. After performing its review, the Board determines whether the new degree meets established criteria and makes its recommendations to the Minister. If the institution has been granted exempt status by the Minister, all of its new degree program proposals go directly to the Minister for approval. The Minister may refer the proposal to the Degree Quality Assessment Board for review if the Minister has any concerns. Details about exempt status and the Degree Quality Assessment Board are available on the Ministry Web site.
Many of Canada's regulated professions have associations that conduct accreditation reviews of postsecondary programs pertaining to their professions. In these instances, accreditation teams from the professions review reports provided by the institutions and may conduct on-site visits in accordance with the policies and procedures established by the professions.
Other organizations related to quality assurance in universities
All public universities in British Columbia (except Capilano University) are members of the Universities Canada. The association does not perform formal quality assurance functions; however, it does maintain membership criteria that address the primary mission of institutions; the range of program offerings; the breadth and depth of programs; the nature of members' relationship with parent institutions; the size of enrolment; institutional focus on scholarship, academic inquiry, and research; and compliance with the principles of academic freedom and responsibility.