British Columbia's public postsecondary education system is one of the most comprehensive and diversified in the world. Postsecondary education in British Columbia is delivered by 25 publicly funded institutions. These include four research-intensive universities, seven teaching-intensive universities, eleven colleges, and three provincial institutes (including one Aboriginal institute). A detailed description of these institutions can be found on the Ministry of Advanced Education web site.
Currently, the postsecondary education sector also includes 17 private and out-of-province public academic degree-granting institutions, 16 theological institutions, and a wide range of career and language training institutions.
The Ministry of Advanced Education develops educational, professional and economic opportunities for British Columbia's learners by providing and supporting a wide range of postsecondary programs and encouraging relationships between educational institutions, business, and industry. The ministry provides provincial and national leadership and support for excellent and accessible postsecondary education that cultivates life-long learners throughout the province.
The Industry Training Authority Act was passed in 2003, establishing an authority to oversee British Columbia's industry training and apprenticeship system, to ensure that it is effective and efficient and that it meets the needs of employers and trainees. The Industry Training Authority (ITA) develops policy, performance standards, training programs, and assessment tools. It provides services for employers, training participants, and those who wish to pursue certification based on existing skills.
Private postsecondary institutions have a long history of offering educational programs in British Columbia. Under the Degree Authorization Act (DAA), private and out-of-province postsecondary institutions may apply for ministerial consent to offer and advertise degree programs, grant degrees, and use the word "university" in the province. Under the DAA, private postsecondary institutions and public postsecondary institutions from other jurisdictions are required to undergo a quality assessment process in order to obtain ministerial consent. As a matter of policy, British Columbia public institutions seeking approval to offer new degree programs must undergo the same quality assessment process. Information on institutions authorized under the DAA, is available on the Ministry website.
Private career training institutions in British Columbia are overseen by the Private Training Institutions Branch, under the Private Training Act. It oversees the mandatory registration and voluntary accreditation of private career training institutions in the province. Institutions providing career training of 40 hours or more instruction and requesting $1,000 or more tuition are required to register. Institutions not required to register may do so on a voluntary basis. It is also responsible for managing the Student Training Completion Fund, which provides tuition protection for students if their school closes before they have completed their program of study or if the institution has made representation to the student which was materially different from the actual services or instruction provided. Information on private career institutions registered and accredited with is available on their website.
There are approximately 320 registered private career training institutions in British Columbia, of which almost 160 are accredited. Registration ensures consumer protection and basic education standards to students enrolled in career training programs. In order to secure accreditation with the Private Training Institutions Branch, institutions undergo a rigorous quality assurance process. Institutions provide a range of education choices for students, offering a diverse range of career training options from information technology, business administration, and hospitality services to film production, flight training, and horticulture studies.
Presently there are sixteen institutions established in BC with statutory authority under a Private Act to grant theological degrees only. Theological degree programs provide education in theological studies or lead to religious occupations. These programs do not prepare students for the more general education that is recognized by the broader educational community and society as being equivalent to programs offered by institutions with programs that have a secular degree content and designation. Institutions offering only theological degree programs are exempt from the DAA and are not subject to government oversight. However, theological institutions wishing to provide academic degree programs are subject to the DAA and must apply for ministerial consent and undergo the quality assurance process and meet the established criteria. Currently, two institutions (Trinity Western University and Seminary of Christ the King) also have authority to grant certain academic degrees.
Private language (or ESL) schools that do not offer career training programs or grant degrees do not fall under any legislative or regulatory framework in British Columbia.