Designation process for post-secondary institutions

Find out how post-secondary institutions operating in Alberta become designated to accept international students.


Designation confirms that a post-secondary program of study:

  • meets Alberta's high standards of program quality
  • meets Government of Canada criteria for study permits
  • is eligible to enrol international students

The ministry responsible for advanced education has 2 separate designation processes:

  1. Alberta institutions are designated so they can accept and enrol students from other countries
  2. Institutions inside and outside Alberta are designated so Alberta citizens attending them can access student aid

Read about the designation process for student aid.

Why designate a program?

Under the Government of Canada’s International Student Program, post-secondary institutions or programs must be designated to accept and enrol international students. Students that enrol in programs that are not designated are not eligible for a study permit.

International students need a study permit to attend programs that are either:

  • longer than 6 months
  • shorter than 6 months if the program has an integrated and mandatory work component (such as a required internship or work placement)

International students taking programs that are less than 6 months must still meet Canadian immigration requirements.

Designation process

Alberta designates publicly funded post-secondary institutions by institution and private learning institutions by specific programs.

Institutions follow a rigorous application process to become designated. The process is guided by:

The designation process follows 5 steps:

Step 1. Orientation

Introductory Alberta Designation Requirements (ADR) virtual sessions occur at 10:00 am on the first Thursday of every month for post-secondary institutions. To attend, RSVP by email to [email protected].

Before you can apply for designation, you must:

  • be a learning institution approved to operate in Alberta
  • read the Alberta Designation Requirements (ADR) guide with your institution and programs in mind
  • attend a mandatory introductory ADR virtual session to receive an overview of the program and details on designation application.

Institutions that are not approved to operate in Alberta will not be invited to attend the introductory ADR virtual session.

  • Applications received from institutions that have not attended the introductory ADR virtual session will not be reviewed.

Step 2. Apply

PDF form issues

Fillable PDF forms do not open properly on some mobile devices and web browsers. To fill in and save the form:

  1. Save the PDF form to your computer – click or right-click the link and download the form.
  2. Open the PDF form with Adobe Reader. Fill it in and save it.

If you are still having problems opening the form, contact PDF form technical support.

Complete the application checklist

Meet application requirements

As part of the application process, institutions are expected to provide evidence that publicly available policies are in place and are communicated to students:

  • tuition and tuition refund policy
  • clear academic requirements for admission
  • appropriate English language requirements for admission
  • appropriate academic policies

The institution should also either provide these services or direct students to similar supports in their community:

  • academic and career counselling
  • medical services
  • mental health services
  • housing

Applications are only accepted through email to [email protected].

Joint programs with partner institutions

Please contact Advanced Education’s International and Industry Collaboration Unit if you are interested in creating a joint program for international students with another institution. Typically, both institutions must be designated to receive international students.

Choose appropriate representation

When you apply, you will be asked to name a Designated Institutional Representative (DIR) for your institution. This person must have the authority and support to:

  • ensure the institution
    • complies with its designated agreement and checklist
    • follows International Student Program (ISP) legislation and regulations
  • act as the primary user of the federal Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) reporting portal by:
    • coordinating answers with their institutional colleagues to federal government questions about international students
    • assigning one or more backups so compliance reporting continues when they are away from the office
    • creating and implementing a succession plan for when their DIR responsibilities are assigned to another person at their institution (this change requires Advanced Education approval)

Learn more about DIR responsibilities.

Choose an authorized representative

At most institutions, the authorized representative is a senior business or academic officer, such as the:

  • provost
  • vice-president
  • owner

The authorized representative must be able to legally sign the designation agreement on behalf of the institution.

Step 3. Review

Staff with the ministry of Advanced Education will work with the institution’s DIR to review and provide feedback on the application checklist submitted to the department.

It is important to ensure:

  • recommended changes are addressed, as the revised checklist is used to create Schedule A of the designation agreement
  • the institution is able to meet designation requirements before finalizing an agreement

If the application is declined

Advanced Education reserves the right to decline applications from institutions that do not demonstrate their ability to ensure compliance with the regulations.

If an application is declined, the institution must wait at least six months before re-applying.

Step 4. Enrol

If the application checklist is approved:

  • the institution's authorized representative signs the designation agreement (see a sample agreement)
  • designation staff at Advanced Education forwards the institution's information to Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC)
  • IRCC provides enrolment information to the institution's DIR so they can access the designated learning institution (DLI) portal
  • the institution's DIR enrols in the DLI portal, where they are given a DLI number

When the institution enrols in the portal and receives a DLI number, it is able to accept and enrol international students into designated programs.

Institutions use the portal to record international student registrations twice per year.

Step 5. Comply

Every designation agreement outlines responsibilities for the:

  • designated institution
  • Minister of Advanced Education

The institution is responsible for meeting the requirements outlined in their agreement, and for reporting student registrations on the DLI portal.

Designated institutions comply with the ISP by:

  • only accepting international students who have study permits issued by the Government of Canada
  • only enrolling international students in designated programs
  • ensuring the elements of the designation agreement remain in place at their institution
  • responding, in a timely fashion, to requests from IRCC

Designation agreements need to be renewed every five years.

Accrediting organizations

Designated institutions must be accredited or licensed by one of these quality oversight and accreditation bodies:

OrganizationResponsible for
Alberta Advanced Education

Adult learning in Alberta, including:

  • publicly-funded post-secondary institutions
  • licensed career and vocation programs
  • learning credentials
  • quality standards and oversight of post-secondary programs of study
Alberta EducationPrimary and secondary education in Alberta
Asia Theological AssociationAsian Theological education programs and institutions
Association for Biblical Higher Education (ABHE)Undergraduate degree programs at private, faith-based institutions
Association of Theological schools (ATS)Graduate programs at private, faith-based institutions
Cecchetti Society of CanadaBallet programs and institutions
Chartered Professional Accountants CanadaAccounting programs
Languages CanadaEnglish language programs at public and private institutions
Transport Canada (Canadian Aviation Regulations)Flight programs and institutions

Find designated institutions

Find designated institutions:


Connect with the International and Industry Collaboration Unit:

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

To learn more about licensed programs and how to apply for career training licenses, visit the Private Career Colleges branch.

To learn more about ministry approved programs, visit the Campus Alberta Quality Council.