Postsecondary education in the Northwest Territories

The majority of postsecondary education in the Northwest Territories (NWT) is delivered through Aurora College, a publicly funded college headquartered at Fort Smith.

Aurora College has three campuses -- Thebacha (Fort Smith), Yellowknife, North Slave and Aurora (Inuvik) -- as well as a network of 23 community learning centres throughout the territory. In addition to providing university-level transfer, certificate, and diploma programs, Aurora College provides adult education and literacy programs, skills development programs, trades training, educational assessment, and counselling.

The territorial Department of Education, Culture and Employment has responsibility for postsecondary education. To a lesser extent, private vocational training institutions offer some postsecondary education. Programs are designated through the Private Vocational Training Designation (PVTD) process.

This designation provides a measure of consumer protection for students and identifies programs as eligible for Student Financial Assistance (SFA). Currently, the following institutions have designated programs: Sub-Arctic Leadership Training (SALT) College, and Stanton Eye Clinic. Programs include theology counselling diploma, and an Ophthalmology Technologist Diploma.

Adult and vocational education had formal but limited beginnings in the early 1960s. In 1964, the Apprentice Training and Occupational Certification Program was established. Impetus was given to the adult education program in 1966 with the start-up of an adult housing education project. The first program designed to train Aboriginal teachers in the NWT began in 1968.

In 1969, responsibility for education was transferred from the federal government to the territories' new Department of Education. That same year, the Adult Vocational Training Centre was established at Fort Smith. This centre provided a range of academic upgrading and trades programs. Over the years, offerings expanded to include certificate and diploma-level programs. The centre was renamed Thebacha College in 1981. Following extensive public consultation, the approach to territorial postsecondary education changed in the mid-1980s. A decentralized system of six regional campuses was established as the Arctic College under the Arctic College Act. By 1990, Community Learning Centres (CLCs) across the NWT had joined the college system.

In January 1995, Arctic College was divided into two colleges -- Aurora College serving the western part of the territories and Nunavut Arctic College serving the east; in 1999 the eastern Arctic became Nunavut.

Aurora College offers a variety of certificate, diploma, trades, and university transfer programs in areas such as office administration, business administration, health and human services, nursing, social work, teacher education, environment and natural resources technology, apprenticeship trades, and underground miner training. The right to deliver university-level programs and grant prescribed university degrees and applied bachelor's degrees has been accorded to public colleges in Northwest Territories through legislation. However, all degree programs delivered in Northwest Territories are currently offered through partnerships with educational institutions in other Canadian jurisdictions.

Programs vary in length from eight weeks (apprenticeship programs) to four years, but, generally speaking, certificate and university transfer programs involve one year of full-time studies, and most diploma programs, two years. The college delivers a four-year University of Saskatchewan B. Ed at Thebacha campus. The college also delivers a four-year undergraduate nursing degree through the University of Victoria and other partner institutions offering the bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) program. In addition, the college provides adult basic education, skills development courses, pre-trades training, and contract training on behalf of local employers. As well, the college has established assessment and recognition processes to allow students to apply for course credits for previous learning and work experience.

Aurora College has transfer agreements with a number of institutions in southern Canada, including the University of Alberta, Athabasca University, the University of Regina, the University of Calgary, the University of Lethbridge, Lakehead University, the University of Northern British Columbia, and the University of Saskatchewan. Aurora College is also a founding member of the University of the Arctic.

Senior high school in the Northwest Territories includes grades 10 through 12 and is modelled on the system in Alberta. High school graduation is normally required for most university-level programs at the college, but, since admission requirements vary from program to program, it is best to consult the college calendar for details. Special consideration is given to mature applicants who are at least 17 years old and who have been out of school for a least a year. The college has an open admissions policy for students pursuing adult basic education and skills development courses.

In 2016-2017, full-time tuition fees for certificate and diploma programs at the college were $1,200 per semester ($245 per course for up to two courses). Tuition fees for short career development and personal development courses reflect the actual costs of the course.

Tuition for International Students (as of July 21, 2014) is $3,600 plus student fees per semester for most degree, diploma and certificate programs. One exception is the first semester of Environment and Natural Resources Technology Diploma, which is $5,775 plus student fees.

The government of the NWT administers a student financial assistance program for territorial residents.

Comprehensive review of this information: January 2019