BC Post-Secondary System

BC has many different types of post-secondary institutions. These are described below.

(For access to a list of common acronyms used by post-secondary partners, click here.)

Public Institutions in BC

Colleges exist in every region of BC. They offer programs in trades/apprenticeship, vocational, career, technical, and academic studies (often called university transfer). They also offer developmental programs that prepare adult learners for post-secondary studies. Colleges offer a range of credentials, including certificates, diplomas, associate degrees, and applied undergraduate degrees (called Bachelor degrees). The 11 public colleges are:

Universities offer a wide array of undergraduate and graduate degrees.  Some universities offer programs in developmental education, trades-vocational, career-technical, and academic studies for transfer in addition to degree programs from the associate through the master's level. Some focus more on  baccalaureate and graduate degree programs to the doctoral level.  Emily Carr University of Art and Design offers specialized programs in keeping with its provincial mandate.  Also in keeping with their specific individual mandates, universities may undertake original research, applied research, and/or scholarly activity in a range of program and content areas.  The public universities are:

Institutes offer specialized programs and have a provincial mandate. Each of the three provincial institutes is unique in terms of the programs it offers, with one focusing on trades and technology, one on public safety, and the other on Aboriginal education. Institutes offer a range of credentials, including certificates, diplomas, associate degrees, and applied bachelor degrees. Some offer applied Masters degrees. The three provincial institutes are:

More information about the public post-secondary institutions in BC is available from the institutions or through the appropriate institutional associations to which they belong: BC Colleges, BC Association of Institutes and Universities, and the Research Universities Council of BC.

Private Institutions in the BC Transfer System

BC has a well-developed transfer system which involves all public post-secondary institutions and some private ones (see This system allows students to move from one institution to another and to get credit for previous coursework. All the public institutions listed above are part of the BC Transfer System as well as Yukon College. Private institutions that have been through a provincial degree quality assessment process can also be part of the BC Transfer System. These institutions are:

Out-of-Province Institutions in the BC Transfer System

The BC Transfer System also includes the following out-of-province members which offer transferable courses to and from BC institutions:

Other Private Institutions

There are hundreds of private institutions across BC. These institutions range from small operations with a small number of programs to larger institutions with a variety of programs. Types of private institutions include degree granting, career training, theological, academic non-degree granting, and language schools.

  • Not all private degree-granting institutions with authority to grant degrees in BC are part of the BC Transfer System. A full list of private and public institutions with authority from the Minister can be found here.

  • Private career training and language training institutions meeting prescribed minimum requirements are certified with the Private Training Institutions Branch (PTIB) of the BC Ministry of Advanced Education. 

Indigenous Adult and Higher Learning Association (IAHLA) Institutes

The Indigenous Adult and Higher Learning Association (IAHLA) was created in 2003 in order to represent and work on behalf of Aboriginal controlled adult and post-secondary education institutes in BC.

IAHLA's community-based 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 lifelong learning programs that support Aboriginal people, communities, languages, and cultures. IAHLA is registered as a non-profit society that is governed by a Board of Directors that is elected at each Annual General Meeting.