Alberta's adult learning system

Alberta post-secondary students choose what, where and how they learn.

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Alberta's adult learning system


Adult learning opportunities help every Albertan develop the skills and knowledge they need to succeed.

Guiding principles

Alberta’s adult learning system is guided by 5 core principles:

  1. Accessibility: every Albertan has the same opportunity to get a post-secondary education.
  2. Affordability: every Albertan can get a post-secondary education, regardless of their financial circumstance.
  3. Quality: Albertans get the best education here at home.
  4. Accountability: post-secondary education providers are accountable to students, government and Albertans.
  5. Coordination: Albertans get full advantage from a diverse adult learning system.

Read more about Alberta's adult learning system principles.

Adult learning providers

Alberta’s adult learning system provides students with a wide variety of learning options. Students make choices that best suit their:

  • learning needs
  • goals
  • preferred learning environment

Publicly funded post-secondary institutions

There are several different types of post-secondary institutions in Alberta. Most programming is offered by 26 publicly funded institutions.

These institutions are grouped into 6 sectors:

  1. Comprehensive academic and research universities
    • offer programming that primarily leads to degree opportunities (bachelor's, master's and doctoral)
    • may offer approved diploma and certificate programs
    • have a strong research focus in a wide range of disciplines
  2. Comprehensive community colleges
    • offer a range of programs including:
      • academic upgrading and adult foundational learning
      • English as a Second Language
      • apprenticeship, diploma and certificate programs
    • most offer university transfer programs
    • might offer:
      • degree programs in certain circumstances, such as degree completion programs on their campuses (in partnership with universities) or baccalaureate degrees with an applied focus
  3. Independent academic institutions
    • offer a blend of publicly and privately approved programming, including:
      • academic upgrading and adult learning
      • diploma and certificate programs
      • degree programs
    • may also offer graduate level programs in niche areas under particular conditions
  4. Polytechnic institutions
    • offer industry-driven programming, including:
      • apprenticeships, diploma and certificate programs
    • may offer bachelor's degrees in specified areas related to their mandate
    • may offer academic upgrading and adult learning programs
    • don’t offer graduate level programs
  5. Specialized arts and cultural institutions
    • specialize in fine arts and cultural programs
    • offer non-credentialed and approved diploma and certificate programs
  6. Undergraduate universities
    • focus on undergraduate level education and applied research
    • may provide approved diploma or certificate programs
    • may provide academic upgrading and adult foundational learning programs
    • don't offer graduate level programs, unless already approved to do so (for example, Alberta University of the Arts)

Read more about the different types of publicly funded post-secondary institutions.

Indigenous learning providers

These providers offer learning opportunities with an Indigenous context and supplement learning with wrap-around services, such as cultural supports.

These providers fall into 2 categories:

  1. First Nations colleges
    • these colleges receive some government funding and deliver:
      • foundational learning
      • preparatory, training and credentialed programs, including Indigenous language and cultural knowledge
      • some programs in partnership with publicly funded post-secondary institutions
      • some course and program transfer agreements with other Alberta adult learning providers
  2. Other Indigenous learning providers
    • these providers are either:
      • non-profit community organizations serving local foundational learning and employment readiness needs, or
      • training institutes with accredited programs and that are part of Alberta’s transfer and pathways system

Read more about the different types of Indigenous learning providers.

Private career colleges

Private career colleges are Alberta businesses that offer:

  • career training programs that are licensed by the Government of Alberta
  • specialized skills and knowledge to prepare students for employment

Read more about private career colleges.

Community adult learning program (CALP) providers

CALP providers receive government funding to:

  • provide part-time, non-formal adult literacy and foundational learning opportunities
  • support transitions to further learning, the labour market and full participation in society

Read more about CALP.

Other training opportunities and providers

There are also other training opportunities and providers in the adult learning system. Among these are:

  • interprovincial training agreements that help Albertans access programs in other jurisdictions
  • non-resident degree granting institutions that offer degree programs that meet specific quality criteria
  • religious training institutions that offer religious training and instruction

Read more about approved post-secondary programs from other providers.

Program options

More than 2,000 post-secondary programs are offered by institutions throughout Alberta. The credential a student works towards depends on the career they want to pursue.

  • apprenticeships provide technical and on-the-job training for designated trades and occupations
  • certificates and diplomas can be:
    • government approved and offered by institutions and First Nations colleges
    • licensed, and offered by private career colleges
    • offered by universities to students who have completed a degree
    • non-credit offered through continuing education and corporate training
  • undergraduate degrees provide theoretical or academic learning, and can lead to post-graduate program opportunities
  • graduate degrees build advanced knowledge onto undergraduate learning, such as:
    • master's degrees
    • doctoral degrees
    • other graduate programs
  • post-graduate programs build upon graduate level study, and include:
    • post-master’s certificates and diplomas
    • post-doctoral certificates and diplomas
  • university transfer programs allow students to start a degree program at a college and transfer to a university to finish it
  • academic upgrading helps students meet post-secondary admission requirements or build employment skills
  • literacy and foundational learning provides part-time, non-credit adult learning opportunities in local communities

Alberta’s adult learning system is also designed to help students move between programs and institutions. For example, the Transfer Alberta search tool helps students see how credits they’ve already earned can help them:

  • meet admission requirements for another adult learning program
  • transfer to a new program (at either their current or a different institution), if earned credits meet the new program's criteria

Explore post-secondary programs


Connect with the Public Awareness Branch:

Hours: 8:15 am to 4:30 pm (open Monday to Friday, closed statutory holidays)
Email: [email protected]