Alberta’s adult learning system

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

Services and information


Albertans know that investing in high-quality, affordable post-secondary education is key to building a diversified economy and a strong society.

Adult learning opportunities help every Albertan develop the skills and knowledge they need to succeed in a changing world and economy.

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 several different learning options. Students make choices that best suit their:

  • learning needs
  • goals
  • preferred learning environment

Publicly-funded post-secondary institutions

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

These institutions are grouped into 6 categories:

  1. Comprehensive academic and research institutions (CARIs)
    • offer programming that primarily leads to degree opportunities (bachelor's, master's and doctoral)
    • conduct research in a wide range of disciplines
  2. Baccalaureate and applied studies institutions (BASIs)
    • focus on undergraduate level education
    • don't offer master's or doctoral level programs
  3. Comprehensive community institutions (CCIs)
    • provide a range of programs including:
      • academic upgrading
      • English as a Second Language
      • apprenticeship, certificate and diploma programs
    • most offer university transfer programs
    • these institutions might:
      • offer applied degree programs
      • his degree completion programs on their campuses (in partnership with universities)
  4. Polytechnic institutions (PIs)
    • offer industry-driven programming, including:
      • apprenticeships
      • certificates
      • diplomas
      • bachelor's degrees in specified areas related to their mandate
      • academic upgrading and continuing education
  5. Independent academic institutions (IAIs)
    • primarily offer approved degree programming
    • receive public funding for these types programs:
      • liberal arts
      • science
      • education
      • business
  6. Specialized arts and cultural institutions (SACIs)
    • specialize in fine arts and cultural programs for 3 learning types:
      • undergraduate
      • post-graduate
      • professional development

Indigenous learning providers

  • offer learning opportunities with an Indigenous context
  • supplement learning with wrap-around services, such as cultural supports
  • fall into 2 categories:

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

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

Private career colleges

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

Community adult learning program (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
    • full participation in society

Other training opportunities and providers

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

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
  • post-graduate degrees build advanced knowledge onto undergraduate learning, such as:
    • master's degrees
    • doctoral degrees
    • other post-degree programs
  • 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

  • research program options for Alberta students
  • visit Study in Alberta to find programs for international students


To connect with the Public Awareness Branch:

Hours: 8:15 am to 4:30 pm (Monday to Friday, closed statutory holidays)
Phone: 780-643-6393 (in Alberta)
Toll free: 310-0000 before the phone number


Public Awareness Branch
11th floor, Commerce Place
10155 102 Street
Edmonton, Alberta  T5J 4L5