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.


[simple_tooltip content=’University: An educational institute designated as such under the University Act. Universities are able to confer all levels of degrees – bachelor, master, and doctoral.’]Universities[/simple_tooltip] 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 [simple_tooltip content=’Undergraduate Programs: Include all academic programs at a post-secondary institute up to and including bachelor degree programs.’]undergraduate[/simple_tooltip] and [simple_tooltip content=’Graduate Programs: Typically require a bachelor’s degree as a pre-requisite, and include programs at the masters and doctoral levels.’]graduate[/simple_tooltip] level degree programs. Some offer professional programs and continuing studies.


[simple_tooltip content=’Colleges:

[simple_tooltip content=’College:
An educational institute designated as such under the BC Colleges and Institutes Act. Under the Act, the purpose of a college is to provide comprehensive:

Courses of study at the first and second year levels of a bachelor’s degree program;

Courses of study for an applied bachelor degree program;

Post-secondary education;

Adult education;

Continuing education;

‘]Colleges[/simple_tooltip] provide courses and programs in trades, vocational, career technical, and academic studies.  Colleges offer [simple_tooltip content=’Certificate:
A Provincial credential typically offered at the undergraduate level. A relatively short program (usually one year or less). May not ladder into a degree program.’]certificate[/simple_tooltip], [simple_tooltip content=’Diploma:
A Provincial credential typically offered at the undergraduate level. Longer than a certificate, focused on training for employment, and typically taken full-time. May not ladder into a degree program.’]diploma[/simple_tooltip], [simple_tooltip content=’Associate Degree:
A Provincial credential offered by many institutions in the BC Transfer system. Comprises of two years of university-level study in a variety of areas. Typically will ladder into a degree program. For more information, refer to the BC Transfer Guide.’]associate[/simple_tooltip], or [simple_tooltip content=’Applied Degree:
Is typically vocational (training) vs. theoretical, although theoretical work may be part of the coursework. Typical programs combine an element of training with an element of creativity, for example, a bachelor of broadcasting.’]applied degree[/simple_tooltip] programs. Some programs enable you to transfer to university to complete an undergraduate degree.


Each of the three provincial [simple_tooltip content=’Institute:
An educational institute designated as such under the BC Colleges and Institutes Act. Under the Act, the purpose of:

Providing courses of instruction in technological and vocational matters and subjects;

Providing course of instruction at the bachelor and applied master degree level ;

Performing other functions designated by the Minister.

‘]institutes[/simple_tooltip] 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

[simple_tooltip content=’Aboriginal-Controlled Post-Secondary Institutes:
In BC, Aboriginal-controlled post-secondary institutes are not-for-profit, community-based schools which are governed by their communities and work to serve the educational needs of adult Aboriginal learners in their community (or communities). Aboriginal controlled post-secondary institutes offer a broad spectrum of courses and programs that include: college and university programs leading to certificates, diplomas, and degrees; Adult Basic Education leading to the Adult Dogwood Diploma for secondary school completion; language instruction; occupation specific training and upgrading; and a broad spectrum of lifespan learning programs that support Aboriginal people, communities, languages, and cultures. Many Aboriginal controlled post-secondary institutes in BC are members of the Indigenous Adult and Higher Learning Association (IAHLA).’]Aboriginal-controlled post-secondary institutes[/simple_tooltip] 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.