Overview

Publicly-funded post-secondary institutions receive financial support from government and are accountable to Alberta taxpayers. Their programs and services are guided by legislation called the Post-secondary Learning Act.

This legislation requires publicly-funded institutions to develop a mandate that outlines their:

  • priorities
  • learning focus
  • vision
  • role in Alberta's adult learning system

Mandates are approved by government and shared online.

Alberta’s publicly-funded institutions are organized into different sectors, based on the:

  • range of learning program options they have for students
  • types of research they undertake
  • independence these institutions have from government

Comprehensive academic and research institutions (CARIs)

CARIs offer a range of academic and professional programs, and have a strong research focus.

Table 1. Comprehensive academic and research institutions in Alberta

Academic programs

CARI programs generally lead to undergraduate and graduate credentials. Programs include:

  • undergraduate program options:
    • certificate
    • post-baccalaureate certificate
    • diploma
    • bachelor's degree
  • graduate program options:
    • graduate certificate or diploma
    • master's degree
    • post-master's certificate or diploma
    • doctoral degree
    • post-doctoral certificate or diploma

Research activity

  • the University of Alberta, University of Calgary and University of Lethbridge have a strong research focus
  • most of Athabasca University’s research focuses on distance delivery education

Learner focus

  • these universities are focused on several different types of research, and are on the leading edge of scientific discoveries
  • most students at the University of Alberta, University of Calgary and University of Lethbridge learn on campus
  • Athabasca University is an open university focused on online learning and serves students interested in open, flexible learning opportunities

Baccalaureate and applied studies institutions (BASIs)

BASIs focus on undergraduate level education and applied research. They don’t offer master’s or doctoral programs.

Table 2. Baccalaureate and applied studies institutions in Alberta

Institution name Primary geographic service area Mandate
MacEwan University Northern Alberta MacEwan University mandate
Mount Royal University Southern Alberta Mount Royal University mandate

Academic programs

BASIs provide a range of programming, from certificates and diplomas to bachelor’s degrees. Programs include:

  • undergraduate program options:
    • certificate
    • diploma
    • bachelor's degree (in specific areas)
    • post-diploma certificate
    • post-baccalaureate certificate
    • university transfer

Research activity

  • these universities conduct applied research, which builds on existing scientific knowledge to make new discoveries or products
  • research activity can be used to enhance instruction within degree programs
  • learning opportunities are guided by the priorities these universities identify in their mandates

Learner focus

  • these universities serve learners that want an education that can either lead to a job or further study

Comprehensive community institutions (CCIs)

CCI programs prepare students for work or further learning.

Table 3. Comprehensive community institutions in Alberta

Academic programs

Options can include academic upgrading, English as a Second Language, apprenticeship, certificate and diploma programs. Most CCIs also offer university transfer courses and partner with universities on degree completion programs. Programs include:

  • academic upgrading
  • undergraduate program options:
    • bachelor's degree (mostly in collaboration with a degree-granting institution)
    • certificate
    • diploma
    • post-diploma certificate
    • post-baccalaureate certificate
  • apprenticeship options:
    • Journeyperson Certificate (using Apprenticeship and Industry Training certification standards)

Research activity

  • these colleges conduct applied research, which builds on existing scientific knowledge to make new discoveries or products
  • research activity can be used to enhance instruction within collaborative degree programs
  • learning and research opportunities are guided by the priorities these colleges identify in their mandates

Learner focus

  • these colleges conduct applied research, which builds on existing scientific knowledge to make new discoveries or products
    • building the skills or education needed for admission into other learning programs
    • developing a specialized skill set to get a job in a specific field
    • earning credits that can be applied to other academic programs
    • completing an undergraduate degree

Polytechnic institutions (PIs)

Polytechnics provide industry and career training, including apprenticeship and continuing education.

Table 4. Polytechnic institutions in Alberta

Institution name Primary geographic service area Mandate
Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT) Northern Alberta NAIT mandate
Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT Polytechnic) Southern Alberta SAIT mandate

Academic programs

Options include apprenticeship, certificate and diploma programs for technical careers. They also offer some applied and bachelor’s degrees. Programs include:

  • academic upgrading
  • undergraduate program options:
    • bachelor's degree (in specific areas)
    • certificate
    • diploma
    • post-diploma certificate
    • post-baccalaureate certificate
  • apprenticeship options:
    • Journeyman Certificate (using Apprenticeship and Industry training certificate standards)

Research activity

  • these institutions conduct applied research, which builds on existing scientific knowledge to make new discoveries or products
  • research activity can be used to enhance instruction within bachelor’s degree programs
  • learning and research opportunities are guided by the priorities these institutions identify in their mandates and through industry partnerships

Learner focus

  • learners interested in career and technical programming

Specialized arts and cultural institutions (SACIs)

These institutions focus on fine arts and culture.

Table 5. Specialized arts and cultural institutions in Alberta

Institution name Primary geographic service area Mandate
Alberta College of Art + Design Alberta-wide Alberta College of Art + Design mandate
Banff Centre Throughout and beyond Alberta Banff Centre mandate

Academic programs

Programs focus on career preparation or building on existing skills, and include:

  • undergraduate program options:
    • bachelor’s degree (in niche areas)
    • certificate
    • diploma
  • graduate program options:
    • master's degree (in niche areas)
    • graduate certificate
  • non-credit professional development and arts programming

Research activity

  • research activities are based on a fine arts or cultural lens

Learner focus

  • these institutions serve learners interested in the fine arts and creativity
  • Alberta College of Art + Design serves the needs of learners interested in career and academic programming
  • Banff Centre serves the needs of learners with prior academic and professional experience

Program options

Read about the types of programs and credentials.

Independent academic institutions (IAIs)

Although IAIs are partly governed by the Post-secondary Learning Act and work towards the province's 5 adult learning system principles, they primarily operate under their own legislation. This means that IAIs have different governance and accountability requirements than other publicly-funded post-secondary institutions.

IAIs primarily offer approved degree programming and receive some public funding for programming in:

  • liberal arts
  • science
  • education
  • business

As these institutions offer a blend of publicly-approved and privately-approved programming, they are not required to develop government-approved mandates.

Institutions

Academic programs

Some, but not all, of their undergraduate programs are approved by government and receive public funding, such as:

  • academic upgrading (in specific areas)
  • bachelor's degree (in niche areas)
  • master's degree (in niche areas)

Other programs offered by these institutions may be approved by the institution’s board and/or other regulatory bodies. These programs can include:

  • Divinity Degree
  • certificate
  • diploma

Research activity

  • these universities conduct applied research, which builds on existing scientific knowledge to make new discoveries or products
  • research activity can be used to enhance instruction within degree programs
  • learning and research opportunities are guided by the priorities these universities identify in their mandates

Learner focus

  • these universities serve learners that want an education that can either lead to a job or further study