The Handbook is intended to provide a comprehensive description of the role the Campus Alberta Quality Council (CAQC) plays in quality assurance. It sets out a broad operating framework and consistent requirements for quality assessment of degree programs offered in the post secondary education system in Alberta. For institutions, the Handbook provides an overview of what to expect during a review and an outline of how to prepare for the review.
The Handbook is also intended to assist post secondary institutions in undertaking planning and preparation for their quality reviews by indicating the areas on which the review will focus and the kinds of data it may be helpful for the provider to assemble in the period before the review is scheduled.
Council regularly reviews its existing policies, standards and practices. An effort is also made to be anticipatory or proactive in the development of policies and practices suited to evolving needs and changing circumstances. Changes made to Council’s policies, standards and practices will be reflected in this Handbook and on Council’s website at caqc.alberta.ca.
NOTE: It is the applicant’s responsibility to use current policies, procedures, criteria, and forms.
Faced with a growing need and demand for post secondary education, the Alberta government decided to increase access to degree programs by allowing public colleges and technical institutes to apply to offer university-level degree programs. However, the government wanted a mechanism that would ensure a rigorous review of all new degree programs to assure their quality.
Consequently, it established the Campus Alberta Quality Council under the Post-secondary Learning Act (Appendix A) to conduct those reviews and make recommendations to the Minister of Advanced Education.
Other than degrees in divinity, all programs offered in Alberta, including degrees offered by non resident institutions, must be approved by the Minister. Therefore, Council is charged with the quality review of all degree programs proposed by:
resident public institutions
resident private institutions, both for profit and non profit
non resident (out of province) public institutions
non resident (out of province) private institutions, both for profit and non profit
In fulfillment of its mandate, the Council:
reviews all applications for new academic undergraduate and graduate programs referred to it by the Minister
determines the criteria and procedures for its reviews
strikes organizational, program and comprehensive peer review teams
monitors approved degree programs
conducts comprehensive evaluations
reviews approved programs delivered off site
undertakes research to assist in Council’s work
makes recommendations to the Minister based on an organizational review of the institution and/or a review of the degree program to ensure quality
The full process of approval for new degree programs being proposed is as follows:
1.2.2 - CAQC Principles
November 2005, with revisions to August 2018
To guide its decisions, Council has adopted some key operating principles. These will be considered in all of Council’s work. The principles were originally adopted in November 2005, and are reviewed annually.
Principle 1 - The best interests of learners are at the core of Council’s activities as it assesses proposed degree programs and monitors the quality of existing degree programs.
Principle 2 - Council’s standards are appropriate to the nature and degree level of programs and are comparable to national and international standards. Council encourages innovation and creativity in degree programming when there is a demonstrated benefit to learners.
Principle 3 - Council recognizes that the primary responsibility for academic and institutional quality assurance rests with degree granting institutions themselves.
Principle 4 - Council respects the foundational role of academic freedom in the provision of high quality degree programs.
Principle 5 - Peer review is an essential component of all of Council’s evaluation processes.
Principle 5 modified August 2018
Principle 6 - Consultation with stakeholders is an integral part of degree program development, appraisal, and monitoring.
Principle 7 - Council exhibits and promotes appreciation of institutional diversity and respect for institutional autonomy.
Principle 8 - Council exhibits and promotes equity, openness, transparency, and efficiency in all its practices and policies.
Principle 9 - Where appropriate, Council applies iterative processes in discussions with institutions to clarify and improve degree programs.
Principle 10 - Members and peer reviewers act in ways that build trust in Council’s processes and decisions.
Principle 11 - Members and peer reviewers act respectfully, autonomously, and in accordance with ethical standards, and abide by Council’s code of conduct, which includes provisions on conflict of interest.
Principle 11 modified August 2018
Principle 12 - Council is committed to the quality assurance review of its own activities and to sharing effective practices in degree program quality assessment.
1.2.3 - Membership of Council
The Council currently consists of 11 members appointed by the Minister of Advanced Education, including a chair and 10 members with expertise in the post secondary system. The normal term of office for members is three years, and members may be reappointed. Biographical information about the members is available on Council’s website at caqc.alberta.ca/council/caqc-members.
In keeping with its commitment to being expeditious, Council’s Proposal Review Standing Committee (PRSC) acts on behalf of the full Council according to the following terms of reference:
Terms of Reference
exists as a standing committee of the Campus Alberta Quality Council until such time as Council may decide by formal motion to dissolve it;
is comprised of Council’s Chair and, normally, three Council members;
reviews all requests for partially or fully expedited reviews, in accordance with Council’s policies and criteria;
conducts a desk review of all proposals granted a fully expedited review;
reviews any other issue that Council, or Council’s Chair and Secretariat, decide to refer to it for advice. Council members will be given the opportunity to comment before acting on PRSC’s advice/decision;
may make a positive recommendation to the Minister on behalf of the full Council. Negative recommendations to the Minister can only be made by the full Council;
reports in writing to the full Council at each meeting following any evaluative work it does or any recommendations it has made.
Section 8 of the Programs of Study Regulation (AR 91/2009) (Appendix A) gives Council the responsibility to ensure compliance with Council’s standards and conditions once a degree program has been approved. This is a responsibility complementary to Council’s role in assessing the quality of all new degree program applications referred to it by the Minister.
In performing its monitoring role, the Campus Alberta Quality Council subscribes to any principles that it may adopt to inform its oversight of degree programs offered by institutions in Campus Alberta. Monitoring is undertaken in order to ensure that the degree programs offered to learners and the providers of those degree programs continue to meet Council’s conditions and standards of organizational and program quality.
In addition to degree programs approved on the recommendation of CAQC, Council’s monitoring role extends to degree programs approved by the former Private Colleges Accreditation Board (PCAB) and to other approved degree programs referred to it by the Minister.
The Monitoring Standing Committee exists as a standing committee of the Campus Alberta Quality Council until such time as Council may decide by formal motion to dissolve it. Council has delegated to this Committee the following specific tasks:
to consider the adequacy of institutional responses to conditions and expectations set by Council regarding any degree program that has been approved upon its recommendation;
on behalf of Council to provide feedback to institutions on their annual reports;
to decide, on behalf of Council, the disposition of information provided by institutions about changes to their approved programs (such as regards to curriculum, faculty or delivery);
to report in writing to the full Council at each meeting following any evaluative work it does or any decision/recommendation it has made in its discharge of its monitoring role;
to recommend to Council that it make a negative ruling about a matter it has considered in the course of discharging its delegated responsibility.
The Monitoring Standing Committee is comprised of Council’s Chair or delegate and, normally, two Council members.
1.2.6 - CAQC Secretariat
The CAQC Secretariat assists the Chair and Council in their activities by providing advice on matters of policy and procedure, organizing meetings, helping to set meeting agendas, and preparing publications.
It also provides information and advice in response to inquiries from various agencies, current and prospective applicants, and members of the public about matters related to quality assurance of new degree programs. As well, it coordinates all activities of Council’s external evaluation teams; the Secretariat’s Director or designate serves as an advisory member on these teams.
The primary work of Council is to review and make recommendations to the Minister on applications from post‑secondary institutions seeking to offer new degree programs in Alberta. In addition, it conducts periodic evaluations of degree programs that have been approved on Council’s recommendation or by the Private Colleges Accreditation Board (PCAB), as well as any other approved degree program referred to it by the Minister. Certain other activities flowing from Council’s primary work include providing advice and consultation, monitoring related developments in the post‑secondary milieu, and reporting on its work.
1.3.1 - Organizational Evaluations
The Post‑secondary Learning Act (Appendix A) requires the Campus Alberta Quality Council, in making its recommendation to the Minister, to consider the ability and readiness of institutions to deliver and sustain high quality degree programs. To meet this goal, all degree programs recommended by the Council must offer an education of sufficient breadth, depth and rigour to meet national and international standards of programs at recognized post‑secondary institutions.
Council has established assessment standards and criteria to guide institutions through an organizational evaluation (Section 3). Typically, a peer‑review team commissioned by Council assists it to determine whether an institution has the capacity to offer the program(s) proposed.
For institutions wishing to offer a first degree program, or a first degree at a new level, a satisfactory outcome from an organizational review must be achieved before a program review can be conducted. This kind of review assesses whether an institution can in fact support the program(s) under review.
The institution’s self‑study provides evidence used by Council and its external evaluators to determine whether the institution is ready to implement and sustain degree programs. The institution is not necessarily required to be completely ready at the time of application to deliver the new program(s) proposed, but, if it is not ready at that time, it is expected to have the necessary plans in place.
A program evaluation focuses on a review of the specific curriculum and the intellectual and physical resources needed to deliver the program proposed. The program’s subject matter and the learning outcome standards must be appropriate to the level and type of degree proposed. Council also wants to ensure the institution has plans to continually improve the degree program and intends to review it systematically and periodically using external evaluators. Council has established assessment standards and criteria to guide institutions through a program evaluation (Section 4). Typically, Council commissions a team of peer adjudicators to assist it in determining whether a program proposed meets its program assessment standards.
The full review for institutions proposing to offer their first degree, or first degree at a new level, normally involves both organizational and program reviews using external evaluators. Expedited reviews are possible in other cases (see Section 2.1.1). The Secretariat manages the stages of review, including support for review teams and organization of and participation in site visits.
1.3.3 - Comprehensive Evaluations
Section 8 of the Programs of Study Regulation (AR 91/2009) (Appendix A) stipulates, among other things, that the Campus Alberta Quality Council may review and monitor any degree program to ensure compliance with the standards and conditions established under section 7 [duty to establish standards and conditions].
Council’s Comprehensive Evaluations provide it with an opportunity
to assess whether the institution has lived up to the promises made and has executed the plans developed when the programs were first approved,
to ensure that the institution and its degree programs remain in compliance with Council’s standards, including Council’s expectation that the institution has internal systems to ensure continuous improvement and periodic external evaluation, and
to review the institution’s future plans and directions for the strengthening of a program or programs.
In addition to degree programs approved on recommendation of the Council, Council’s monitoring role also applies to degree programs previously approved by the PCAB and to any other approved degree program referred to it by the Minister.
Section 9 of the Programs of Study Regulation (AR 91/2009) (Appendix A) indicates that, if Council determines that any of the standards or conditions established under section 7 are no longer being met with respect to an institution or an approved degree program offered by an institution, it may recommend that the Minister cancel the approval of one or more degree programs offered by the institution. In the case of a resident private institution, Council may also recommend that the Order in Council designating the institution as a private college that may grant approved degrees be rescinded.
1.3.4 - National and International Activities of Council
Council is committed to ensuring the national and international recognition of Alberta’s degrees, and works closely with other provinces in pan‑Canadian quality assurance initiatives. It is a member of the International Network for Quality Assurance Agencies in Higher Education (INQAAHE), a world‑wide association of over 200 organizations that are active in the theory and practice of quality assurance in higher education.
Council’s Secretariat was involved in an important national initiative – the Council of Ministers of Education, Canada (CMEC) Quality Assurance Subcommittee under the chairmanship of Marilyn Patton, Director of Council’s Secretariat. The Subcommittee’s work at the pan‑Canadian level was crucial in improving the understanding of Canadian degrees and how they are assessed while also facilitating interprovincial student mobility. In April 2007, CMEC announced that ministers in all provinces and territories had endorsed a Ministerial Statement on Quality Assurance of Degree Education in Canada. The Statement contains a Canadian Degree Qualifications Framework as well as standards and processes for assessment of new degree programs and new degree providers.
Council’s processes and assessment standards are consistent with those contained in the Statement and Council has adopted the Statement’s Canadian Degree Qualifications Framework (Appendix B) for use when assessing the level of proposed degree programs.
Stage 1 is a system coordination review of the proposed program by the Ministry to make a determination of the need for the program and how it fits with other programs currently offered in Alberta’s post‑secondary system.
Stage 2 is a quality review enacted if the Minister forwards the proposal to CAQC.