Types of Post-Secondary Institutions

BC has many different types of post-secondary institutions, including public and private colleges, universities, and institutions.  A good summary of all the post-secondary institutions in BC is provided on the British Columbia Council on Admissions & Transfer website.


Universities tend to be the larger colleges or institutes.  BC’s older universities have a greater focus on research, while BC’s newer universities focus more on teaching.  Both research and teaching universities offer undergraduate and graduate level degree programs. Some offer professional programs and continuing studies.


Colleges provide courses and programs in trades, vocational, career technical, and academic studies.  Colleges offer certificate, diploma, associate, or applied degree programs. Some programs enable you to transfer to university to complete an undergraduate degree.


Each of the three provincial institutes has a different focus: BC Institute of Technology focuses on trades and technology, the Justice Institute of BC focuses on public safety, and Nicola Valley Institute of Technology is BC’s Aboriginal public post-secondary institution.  Institutes offer a range of credentials, from certificates to degrees.

Aboriginal-controlled post-secondary institutes

Aboriginal-controlled post-secondary institutes play an important role in the BC post-secondary education system.  These institutes are community-based and Aboriginal-controlled, meaning they are better able to offer learners a strong cultural foundation with community-based supports.

Many Aboriginal institutes belong to the Indigenous Adult and Higher Learning Association (IAHLA). IAHLA institutes offer a broad range of courses and programs, from Adult Basic Education to college and university programs leading to certificates, diplomas, and degrees.

Public or Private Institutions?

Learn what the differences between public and private post-secondary institutions are.
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