Post-secondary program standards and oversight

Find out how Alberta’s post-secondary programs are approved and monitored for quality.


Post-secondary programs in Alberta must meet specific criteria. This oversight helps ensure learning opportunities for post-secondary students are guided by Alberta’s adult learning system principles:

  • accessibility
  • affordability
  • quality
  • accountability
  • coordination

Students get a high quality education that can be transferable to programs in other jurisdictions.
Adult learning institutions in Alberta benefit from a system-wide perspective being applied to their proposed program offerings.

Post-secondary programs

A program of study is a set of courses offered by a post-secondary institution.
Post-secondary programs:

  • are institutionally recognized
  • contain learning outcomes and student evaluation components
  • result in a parchment or transcript

Programs of study must meet one of these criteria:

What’s reviewed

Government reviewed more than 950 different program proposals from publicly funded post-secondary institutions in Alberta during 2021-22.

Publicly funded post-secondary institutions

Post-secondary programs of study offered by publicly funded institutions in Alberta need government approval. This includes:

  • new certificate, diploma and degree programs
  • new specializations in already-approved programs
  • certain non-credential programs, such as academic upgrading
  • changes to existing approved programs, such as:
    • program suspensions or terminations
    • changes in program of study, program or specialization nomenclature, program loads and lengths

Other institutions

Government also reviews and approves degree programs for:

  • private institutions
  • institutions that are not based in Alberta

What’s not reviewed

Approved degree programs do not need an extra approval for:

  • honours degrees
  • after-degree programs
  • joint degree programs
  • adding other delivery modes

Reviews are also not needed for:

  • degrees in divinity (accredited by faith-based organizations)
  • continuing education programs
  • private career college programs, which follow a separate licensing and review process

Brokered programs

Institutions sometimes enter into agreements, called brokering agreements, with other institutions. These arrangements allow a post-secondary institution to offer another institution’s already ministry-approved program for a licensing fee. The brokering agreement must clearly detail the terms agreed upon by the participating institutions.

The institution that:

  • owns the ministry-approved program is called the credentialing institution and grants students the credential after they complete the program
  • offers the program is called the host institution and is usually responsible for counting all the student enrolments

Brokering a post-secondary program:

  • increases student access to programs that otherwise aren’t locally available to them
  • expands program accessibility, while preventing unnecessary duplication

Brokering agreements do not require ministry approval. The credentialing institution attaches a copy of the agreement to the program record on the Provider and Program Registry System (PAPRS).

Changes to brokered programs

If a credentialing institution wants to make changes to a brokered program, including when the agreement ends, they must:

  • Communicate the change to their host institution.
  • Submit a change template to Alberta Advanced Education’s Post-secondary Programs Branch through the Provider and Program Registry System (PAPRS).

The change is automatically reflected in the host institution’s program record.

If the current agreement is terminated, the two partners may renegotiate a new one.

When the approved end date is reached, the agreement ends on the system.

Review process

Getting a new program of study approved follows these steps:

Step 1. Initial consultation

The post-secondary institution may contact Advanced Education’s Post-secondary Programs Branch to:

  • confirm the program review process
  • receive initial guidance from branch staff about the proposal
  • ask any questions the institution may have

The institution submits the program proposal through PAPRS for review by the Post-secondary Programs branch.

Step 2. System coordination review

Government’s review of a program proposal considers many different factors, such as:

System alignment

  • the program’s fit with:
  • relationship to existing programs at the institution
  • similarity or relationship to other programs (in the region, province and country)
  • evidence of consultation with other Alberta institutions offering similar programs
  • why the proposed program is the best strategy for the system

Industry or market need

  • evidence of:
    • student demand
    • labour demand
    • support from industry, employers, professional organizations and other institutions
  • fit with regulatory requirements (if applicable)

Program development

  • program structure and course descriptions
  • curriculum loads and lengths
  • projected enrolment plan
  • financially viable budget plan, including anticipated impact on internal resources


  • evidence of transferability and portability of credits earned in a program (transfer agreements)
  • employment outcomes of graduates from similar programs
  • evaluation plan, including performance measures and targets

Regulated professions

Certain professions are regulated by a professional organization, such as:

  • nurses
  • social workers
  • engineers

Government works with these organizations to confirm proposed programs meet their regulatory requirements.

Step 3. Quality review

New degree programs of study (certificate and diploma programs do not go through this process), are reviewed by the Campus Alberta Quality Council (CAQC).
CAQC is an arms-length quality assurance agency that:

  • reviews and recommends all new degree programs to the Minister of Advanced Education for approval
  • determines quality review criteria and procedures
  • engages peer experts to review institutions and degree programs
  • monitors degree programs to ensure they continue to meet standards
  • works closely with other provinces in pan-Canadian quality initiatives

Step 4. Minister approval

Once reviews are complete, recommendations are sent to the Minister responsible for Advanced Education for approval.

See degree program recommendations and decisions for:



Connect with the Program Design and System Innovation branch:

Hours: 8:15 am to 4:30 pm (open Monday to Friday, closed statutory holidays)
Phone: 780-644-8138
Toll free: 310-0000 before the phone number (in Alberta)
Fax: 780-427-4185
Submit questions and comments online