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 post-secondary 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 universities (CARUs)

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

Table 1. Comprehensive academic and research universities in Alberta

Academic programs

CARU programs generally lead to undergraduate and graduate credentials. These institutions:

  • provide approved undergraduate and graduate degree programs
  • may offer approved diploma and certificate programs

Research

CARUs lead the province’s research and innovation agenda and can undertake all forms of research, including discovery.

  • 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

Collaboration

  • CARUs may collaborate with other post-secondary institutions to support regional access to undergraduate degree programs

Learner focus

  • 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

Comprehensive community colleges (CCCs)

CCC programs prepare students for work or further learning.

Table 2. Comprehensive community college institutions in Alberta

Academic programs

These institutions provide:

  • academic upgrading and adult learning programs
  • diploma and certificate programs

These institutions may also provide:

  • undergraduate degree programs in collaboration with a university or autonomously
  • apprenticeship technical training programs
  • English as a Second Language

CCCs do not provide graduate level programs.

Research

CCCs can undertake research and scholarly activities that either:

  • align with the credential offered
  • are focused on industry or community needs that support economic and social development in their region

Collaboration

  • CCCs collaborate with other post-secondary institutions to support regional access to undergraduate programs

Learner focus

  • CCCs build the skills to get a job in a specific field, and/or to provide the education needed for admission into other learning programs

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.

IAI’s Boards are not appointed by the Minister and they are not required to have a government-approved mandate statement.

Institutions

Academic programs

These institutions offer a blend of publicly and privately approved programming, including:

  • academic upgrading and adult learning programs
  • diploma and certificate programs
  • degree programs

IAIs may also provide graduate level programs in niche areas under particular conditions.

Research

  • IAIs undertake research and scholarly activities that are aligned with the credentials offered

Collaboration

  • IAIs collaborate with other post-secondary institutions to support regional access to undergraduate degree programs

Learner focus

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

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

These institutions:

  • provide approved apprenticeship, diploma, and certificate programs
  • may provide approved undergraduate degree programs
  • may provide academic upgrading and adult learning programs
  • do not provide graduate level programs

Research

  • PIs may undertake research and scholarly activities that align with the credentials offered, or that are focused on strengthening economic development in the province

Collaboration

  • PIs may collaborate with other post-secondary institutions to support regional access to diploma, certificate, or undergraduate degree programs

Learner focus

  • PIs serve 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
Banff Centre Throughout and beyond Alberta Banff Centre mandate

Academic programs

  • SACIs provide non-credentialed and approved certificate or diploma programs

Research

  • SACIs may undertake research and scholarly activities that align with the programs offered by the institution

Collaboration

  • SACIs may collaborate with other post-secondary institutions to support regional access to specialized arts, culture, and non-credentialed and approved certificate and diploma programs

Learner focus

  • these institutions serve learners interested in the fine arts and creativity
  • Banff Centre serves the needs of learners with prior academic and professional experience

Undergraduate universities (UUs)

UUs focus on undergraduate level education and applied research.

Table 6.Undergraduate universities in Alberta

Academic programs

These institutions:

  • provide approved undergraduate degree programs
  • may provide approved diploma or certificate programs
  • may provide academic upgrading and adult learning programs
  • do not provide graduate level programs, unless already approved to do so (e.g. Alberta University of the Arts)

Research

  • UUs may undertake research and scholarly activities that enrich undergraduate education

Collaboration

  • UUs collaborate with other post-secondary institutions to support regional access to undergraduate degree programs

Learner focus

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