The Canadian Information Centre for International Credentials
The postsecondary education system in British Columbia is described in CICIC's Postsecondary Education Systems in Canada, Provinces and Territories of Canada. The system can be divided into five categories of postsecondary program delivery:
  • research-intensive and teaching-intensive universities
  • colleges and institutes
  • private degree-granting institutions
  • private theological institutions
  • private career-training institutions
Quality assurance mechanisms in British Columbia's postsecondary education system vary by type of institution and program. They include:
  • the Degree Quality Assessment Board (DQAB)
  • the Private Career Training Institutions Agency (PCTIA)
  • legislation (statutes and regulations)
  • affiliation
  • external and internal review
  • provincial registration
  • professional accreditation
  • other organizations related to quality assurance

The Education Quality Assurance (EQA) designation is British Columbia's brand for quality post-secondary education. EQA is a voluntary designation that recognizes public and private postsecondary institutions which have met quality assurance standards that are recognized by the Government of British Columbia.


Legislation


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.


Affiliation


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.


Professional accreditation


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.


Legislation


British Columbia's eleven public colleges and three public institutes are established under the College and Institute Act. The Act provides the colleges and institutes with authority to grant associate degrees, diplomas, and certificates; colleges to grant baccalaureate degrees with an applied focus, and institutes to grant baccalaureate and master's degrees with an applied focus. The Minister may also require an institution to establish a method for accrediting postsecondary courses.

All institutions have boards of governors, and all but one have an education council. These bodies have joint and independent powers. The board is responsible for managing and directing the affairs of the institution. The education council's independent powers include the power to set examination policies and to set curriculum content for courses leading to certificates, diplomas, and degrees. Powers that are exercised jointly by the board and the education council include curriculum evaluation.


Affiliation


A few of British Columbia's public and private colleges have affiliations with universities in a limited number of programs. Inquiries should be made directly to the institutions.


External and internal review


As with public universities, the Minister must approve all new degree program proposals, including applied degrees, by public colleges and institutes. New degree program proposals are submitted to the Degree Quality Assessment Board for review if the institution does not have exempt status. The Degree Quality Assessment Board is responsible for reviewing the proposals and making recommendations to the Minister. Details about the Degree Quality Assessment Board are available on the Ministry Web site.

All colleges and institutes but one have internal education councils, comprising faculty, administrators, students, and support staff. The councils approve both degree and non-degree programs supported by provincial funding. Under the College and Institute Act, the Justice Institute of British Columbia is not required to have an educational council. The board of the Justice Institute of British Columbia has the powers and duties of an educational council.


Professional accreditation


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.


Legislation


Private and out-of-province public postsecondary institutions seeking the Minister's consent to offer new degree programs or use the word "university" may do so through the Degree Authorization Act (DAA). Under the DAA, private and out-of-province public institutions must obtain consent from the Minister if they wish to do any of the following:
  • grant or confer a degree in British Columbia;
  • provide a program in British Columbia that leads to a degree that is conferred inside or outside British Columbia;
  • advertise a program offered in British Columbia leading to a degree that is conferred inside or outside British Columbia;
  • sell or offer for sale a diploma, certificate, or other document that implies the granting or conferring of a degree;
  • use the word "university" to indicate that an educational program is available.

Under the DAA, consent is granted if the Minister is satisfied that the applicant has undergone a quality assessment process and met the criteria established by the Minister; has provided adequate financial security to protect the interests of students; and has made arrangements to protect student access to transcripts.


External and internal review


The Degree Quality Assessment Board oversees the quality assessment process and ongoing monitoring of institutional quality mandated by the DAA for authorization of degree programs and use of the word "university" from private and out-of-province public institutions. The board is composed of 11 voting members and three ex-officio members appointed by the Minister. The board is responsible for reviewing applications for new degree programs and for making recommendations to the Minister regarding consent to perform the activities sanctioned under the DAA. Furthermore, the board performs organizational reviews to ensure that private and out-of-province public institutions meet criteria for operating in British Columbia.

The board reviews institutional applications against criteria and standards established by the Minister. These criteria include requirements for internal program and institutional review processes.

All institutions under the DAA are required to have formal, sustainable policies and procedures requiring the periodic review the effectiveness of its educational programs and services, units and/or operations to occur on a cyclical basis for continuous growth and improvement.

Institutions with consent under the DAA are required to submit to the ministry an annual report outlining the progress of the institution to ensure that the quality of postsecondary education in the province is continually improving and meeting the needs of students. Annual Performance Meetings may also be undertaken by representatives of the ministry and Degree Quality Assessment Board. Any issues that arise as a result of the annual performance report are followed up on throughout the year and these institutions are required to report in the following year on the steps they have taken to address these issues or areas of concern.

The Degree Quality Assessment Board reserves the right to adjust the timing and depth of ongoing monitoring of institutions operating under consent based on an institution's track record of maintaining quality assurance standards.


Professional accreditation


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.


Theological Institutions


The 16 theological institutions are authorized by private Act to offer degrees in theology in British Columbia. There are currently no legislative or regulatory requirements for quality assurance as long as they do not grant academic (non-theological) degrees or career training programs other than for religious occupations.


Legislation


The Private Training Institutions Branch, under the Private Training Act, oversees the regulation of private career training institutions offering a wide range of career, vocational, trades and non-degree (e.g., diploma or certificate) programs.

All British Columbia private institutions offering career programs that require at least $1,000 in tuition, and are at least 40 hours in duration, must register.

Registration ensures consumer protection for students enrolled in career training programs. It also offers a voluntary accreditation process to registered private career training institutions. In order to secure accreditation, institutions undergo a more rigorous quality assurance process, including demonstrating they meet certain institutional and educational standards.

Students attending accredited private career training institutions may apply for Designation of their Post-Secondary Institution in BC through the Ministry of Advanced Education.


Legislation


The Industry Training Authority (ITA) was established in 2004 under the Industry Training Authority Act to manage, improve and expand the industry training and apprenticeship system in BC. The training system is industry-driven and designed to be responsive to labour market needs. It is governed by a nine-member board of directors, appointed by the Minister responsible. Directors act in a fiduciary rather than representative capacity, guided by the best interests of the industry training system.


External and internal review


The Industry Training Authority is responsible for leading and overseeing the industry training and apprenticeship system in BC. Key goals for the ITA include:
  • Individuals are recognized for their skills and knowledge and have opportunities to develop to their full potential;
  • Employers and industry have the skilled workers they need to be successful; and
  • The industry training system makes a vital contribution to BC's prosperity.

The Interprovincial Standards "Red Seal" Program (Red Seal Program) was established more than 50 years ago to provide greater mobility across Canada for skilled workers. Today it represents a standard of excellence for industry. Through the program, tradespersons are able to obtain a Red Seal endorsement on their provincial/territorial certificates by successfully completing an interprovincial Red Seal examination. It acknowledges competence and ensures recognition of certification throughout Canada without further examination


Other organizations related to quality assurance in colleges, institutes, and apprenticeship


British Columbia's public colleges are members of the Colleges and Institutes Canada. 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.