In 2007, through the Council of Ministers of Education, Canada (CMEC), ministers responsible for postsecondary education adopted the Ministerial Statement on Quality Assurance of Degree Education in Canada, which endorsed the Canadian Degree Qualifications Framework, Procedures and Standards for New Degree Program Quality Assessment, and the Procedures and Standards for Assessing New Degree-Granting Institutions.
The document established standards for the assessment of new programs and institutions, and provided clarity on expectations of graduate competences at three main degree levels (i.e., bachelor's, master's, and doctoral). The purpose of the Ministerial Statement was to support transparency in quality-assurance processes, support an international comparative understanding of programming in Canada, and enhance student mobility by establishing baseline policy for credit transfers and academic credential recognition. All provincial and territorial governments endorsed the Ministerial Statement and agreed to align their processes and policies to the Ministerial Statement.
Qualifications and quality frameworks
Qualifications frameworks are the global norm for denoting the academic credentials landscape and establishing quality parameters. They serve as an instrument for the development, classification, and recognition of skills, knowledge, and competencies along a continuum of agreed-upon levels. Qualifications frameworks are not intended to standardize educational opportunities, but to align provision, recognition, and understanding, so that students are appropriately recognized for their learning experience. They create a common understanding of the “value” of an educational experience. When the value is understood and agreed upon, it can then be verified, transferred, stacked, and transported to the labour market.
Quality frameworks are the specific documents that enact the policies and academic expectations, and are unique to the various quality-assurance bodies.
Canadian Degree Qualifications Framework
The Ministerial Statement on Quality Assurance of Degree Education in Canada established the Canadian Degree Qualifications Framework, and set out a guideline for common parameters of undergraduate and graduate degree-level education across the country. It also established the most salient general aspects of the three principal degree levels offered in Canada (i.e., bachelor's, master's, and doctoral), which are applicable to a broad spectrum of disciplines, program types, and program lengths.
The Canadian Degree Qualifications Framework was developed in collaboration with all provinces and territories, through CMEC, as a non-binding framework, and adopted by each province and territory. Some provinces have further adapted the framework, within their own specific context, in a manner similar to the European Qualifications Framework—which provides a reference point for participating countries to conduct and examine their own systems, but is not legally binding.
You may read more about the pan-Canadian qualifications frameworks.
Provincial and territorial qualifications frameworks
The Canadian Degree Qualifications Framework serves as an overarching framework to which all provinces and territories align.
For the provinces of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island, the Maritime Degree Level Framework provides details on the characteristics of certain types of undergraduate and graduate degrees.
Yet some provinces have also developed more detailed qualifications frameworks, some of which establish expectations at all levels of postsecondary academic credentials (from certificates to doctoral degrees). In Ontario, we find the Ontario Qualifications Framework (OQF), which predated the Canadian Degree Qualifications Framework. In Alberta, we find the Alberta Credential Framework (ACF).
Qualifications frameworks are policy documents, rather than acts and regulations of a Legislative Assembly. In turn, these qualifications frameworks can be updated and modified, as necessary. For example, the OQF was last modified in 2018 to reflect the legislated academic credential granting powers of Indigenous Institutes.
You may read more about the provincial and territorial qualifications frameworks.
Within each quality-assurance body, quality assurance is operationalized by a unique quality framework. In order to evaluate programs and institutions, quality-assurance bodies develop processes, standards, and benchmarks, that are sometimes called manuals or quality frameworks. These frameworks align with the Procedures and Standards for New Degree Program Quality Assessment, and the Procedures and Standards for Assessing New Degree-Granting Institutions, set out in CMEC's Ministerial Statement on Quality Assurance of Degree Education in Canada. They also align with the relevant qualifications frameworks. Quality-assurance agencies may also seek approval/recognition of their frameworks/policies and processes, through alignment with the International Network for Quality Assurance Agencies in Higher Education's (INQAAHE) Guidelines of Good Practice, which promote standards of professional practice in quality assurance.
Quality frameworks are the detailed manuals that support the practical application of quality-assurance processes for programs and institutions. For example, quality frameworks may include information on commonly submitted documentation, provide templates for use, or detail specific expectations or thresholds. The quality frameworks are developed and revised at the discretion of the quality-assurance organization.
Comprehensive review of this information: March 2022