There are five primary types of degrees offered in Canada:
- 2-year associate degree (only offered in British Columbia)
- 3-year bachelor's degree
- 4-year applied/bachelor's/honours bachelor's degree
- Master's degree
- Doctoral degree
Most degrees are aligned with the Canadian Degree Qualifications Framework, which forms part of the Council of Ministers of Education, Canada (CMEC) Ministerial Statement on Quality Assurance of Degree Education in Canada.
You can also consult CICIC's diagram of academic credentials in Canada.
Public university degrees
In most provinces and territories, an act of provincial or territorial legislation provides an institution with the ability to grant degrees, to use the term “universities” in their legal name, and to govern themselves through a board of governors and, most often, a senate. Most public universities are able to provide any academic credential; however, accountability arrangements may be confined to certain subject areas (e.g., not all universities provide doctoral, medical, or legal programming).
Most publicly legislated universities are autonomous in academic matters, including the determination of their own quality-assurance policies and procedures. Universities have the power to set academic, admission, and graduation policies and standards; appoint faculty and staff; and undertake academic planning. Councils, member-based organizations, or government-appointed bodies have been established in most provinces and territories, with responsibility for planning and coordinating the development of the postsecondary system, in consultation with the institutions.
Thus, the approval of new and significantly revised programming is typically undertaken by either the ministry responsible for postsecondary education, or the council/agency responsible for quality assurance. Some provinces allow universities to self-regulate through member-based organizations (e.g., Council of Ontario Universities [COU]), or through voluntary agreements with government agencies (e.g., British Columbia). Other provinces, such as Alberta, allow each institution to be responsible for its own quality assurance (through governing councils and internal mechanisms), which is then relayed to the government.
Most public universities undergo an external institutional review process, as designed by their provincial or territorial oversight body (e.g., ministry, agency, council), and, through this process, are responsible for internal program quality reviews.
Public college and institute degrees
Public colleges and institutes in Canada typically offer diplomas and technical education. In some provinces and territories, these institutions may also be permitted to provide some degree-level programming (e.g., associate degree; 3- and 4-year bachelor's degrees). Some institutes may also provide applied master's programming.
The legislative oversight of government differs by province and territory, where some colleges are required to receive ministerial consent for each degree program (e.g., Ontario), while some institutes are granted autonomy, much like universities (e.g., British Columbia).
Private and out-of-province provider degrees
For many provinces with governmental approval, which sometimes takes the form of ministerial consent or statute, private and out-of-jurisdiction institutions (i.e., institutions from another province in Canada, or institutions from another country outside Canada) are permitted to provide all degree-level programming. Institutions themselves are not granted statutes; they must apply for an authorization to provide each degree for a set amount of time (typically 5 to 7 years). Private institutions may also seek permission to use the term “university,” but are not required to have the title in order to provide degrees.
Private and out-of-jurisdiction institutions undergo a quality-assessment process that is undertaken by provincial government authorities, and approved degrees are cyclically reviewed for academic rigour and institutional soundness.
Indigenous and theological degrees
Indigenous postsecondary education institutions (IPSIs) or theological schools that offer degree-level programming do so with differing oversight.
In most provinces and territories, IPSIs (which typically provide diploma-level programming) seek government authorization to provide degree programming. For example, in Ontario in 2017, the Indigenous Institutes Act delegated academic planning, approval, and quality-assurance powers to the Indigenous Advanced Education and Skills Council (IAESC).
In most provinces, theological schools have a private act that was introduced in a provincial Legislative Assembly, which allows them to provide bachelor's and master's theological degrees. However, theological schools are required to seek authorization to provide degree programming outside of the field.