Guidelines for

Board of Governors


A Note about Terminology

For the sake of simplicity these Guidelines use a single term in places where many terms may exist.

The following are examples:

  • Twenty of 21 public post-secondary institutions have a “board of governors,” so these Guidelines refer to the governing body as such. Athabasca University’s board, known as “The Governors of Athabasca University,” has a different composition (see Chapter 5) and some different powers and duties as outlined in the Athabasca University Regulation.
  • These Guidelines refer to “board members.” These are the members of the Board of Governors of each institution.
  • The term “public agency” as used in these Guidelines refers to any agency, board, or commission established by the Government of Alberta, and includes the boards of all public post-secondary institutions.
  • Unless otherwise noted, the term “Minister” refers to the Minister of Advanced Education.

The Uniqueness of Public Post-Secondary Institutions

There are 21 public post-secondary institutions in Alberta, as defined in the Post-secondary Learning Act (PSLA). Each institution is ultimately accountable to the people of Alberta through the Minister of Advanced Education (AE). There is an expectation of a high level of accountability and transparency for post-secondary institutions as they are responsible for stewarding public resources. As a public sector agency, the role of a post-secondary institution’s board is to work within the broader context of serving the public interest.

Individuals who have participated on the board of a private or not-for profit organization will recognize many similarities with the practices and responsibilities in their new role with a public agency. However, there are aspects that differentiate public post-secondary boards from other boards:

  • They are established by, and accountable to, the Government of Alberta.
  • A majority of board members are appointed by government.
  • The role of a public post-secondary institution board member is that of a governor or a trustee. Board members have a duty to steward the institution on behalf of the people of Alberta.

Legislative and Policy Framework for Boards of Governors

Governments are elected to make laws, set related policies, and establish programs in the public interest. This authority is given by the people of Alberta to the legislature which in turn, designates specific Cabinet ministers with responsibility for particular pieces of legislation.

In the case of public post-secondary institutions, the board of each institution is established by the Lieutenant Governor in Council (LGIC) through the PSLA and the Athabasca University Regulation. Subject to any limitations set out in the Act, each board has the capacity, rights, powers, and privileges of a natural person (e.g. authority to enter into contracts, ability to initiate and respond to lawsuits).

With the exception of certain provisions, the PSLA falls under the sole responsibility of the Minister of Advanced Education. 1 The PSLA and its regulations provide for the bulk of the powers of boards as well as limitations on those powers.

There is other legislation besides the PSLA that impacts boards. For example, the Financial Administration Act (FAA) provides the legislative authority which governs the financial management of Government of Alberta entities, including public post-secondary institutions. Additionally, the Alberta Public Agencies Governance Act (APAGA) establishes governance processes and requirements that all public agencies, including boards of post-secondary institutions, must meet.

The Need for Boards of Governors

The Minister is ultimately accountable to the legislature for the operation and performance of the post-secondary system. In particular, the Minister is responsible for ensuring that public post-secondary institutions are fulfilling their mandates and meeting the needs of Albertans in an efficient and effective manner.

The Minister has relationships with the board of each institution. So while authority flows from the legislature to the governing board of each institution, accountability flows from the board through the Minister.

Boards play an intermediary role between institutions and the Minister. Boards must steer their institutions in a way that addresses both the unique needs of their institution and the public it serves. Through their chairs, boards provide input into the development of provincial policies. This includes providing advice on issues and trends, reacting to proposals and statements put forward by the Minister and the department, recommending policy changes to the Minister, and keeping the Minister informed about the development of their institutions and their plans for the future.

Board members bring a variety of perspectives to board business through their interests, educational background, professional experiences, and relationships within and outside the institution. This diversity of perspective enables boards to address complex issues and make decisions in the best interest of the institution as a whole. The board’s relationships with the institution’s president and with the Government of Alberta (which occurs primarily through the Minister) also help the institution fulfill its mandate.


The makeup of boards differs across the types of institutions. Reasons for this may include the presence of a greater number of legislated internal bodies (CARIs), increased involvement of the federal government and professional community (The Banff Centre), and the need for industry representation (PIs). The exact composition is legislated in the PSLA and is intended to reflect a balanced range of perspectives to inform discussions and decision making. However, as indicated in the tables below, the Minister (through Cabinet) has some flexibility to appoint additional members to boards at BASIs, PIs, CCIs, Athabasca University, and the Alberta College of Art + Design (ACAD).

(exc. Athabasca University)
BASIs, CCIs, ACAD PIs The Banff Centre
Public Members Chair 1 1 1 1
Other 9 or fewer 6 9 5
President 1 1 1 1
Academic Staff 2 1 2
Students 2 1 2
Chancellor 1
Senate Member 1
Additional members as appointed by LGIC Yes Yes 9
Total Up to 21 11 or more 16 or more 16

The board at Athabasca University has a slightly different composition.

Athabasca University
Public Members Chair 1
Other 8 (or up to 10)
President 1
Academic Staff 2
Non-Academic Staff 1
Students 2
Graduate Students 1
Tutor 1
Alumni 0 – 1
Total Up to 20

Regardless of the board’s composition, the board is by definition a group of peers. While the administration may work in hierarchical relationships for accountability purposes, in the role of a board member no single member has authority over another. That said, the board chair often has additional responsibilities, described later in this chapter.

Appointment Process

Almost all members of the board have to be appointed. The only exceptions are those who are members by virtue of their position. This includes the president and, at the University of Alberta, University of Calgary, and University of Lethbridge, the chancellor.

Selecting capable and well-motivated individuals as members of the board is vital to the board’s strength and the success of the institution. As a public sector agency, responsibility for board appointments falls to the Minister but how this looks in practice depends on the type of member being appointed: a public member or a representative member.
On behalf of the Government of Alberta and the Minister, Advanced Education manages a recruitment process for public members that is open, transparent and competency based, and that strives to attract diverse, qualified applicants. Core competency requirements are in place for both public member and chair opportunities.

Public Members are appointed through an Order in Council by the Lieutenant Governor in Council. Opportunities for public members are posted on the Government of Alberta’s online recruitment board and may be advertised in other media as well. While the Minister makes the final recommendation to Cabinet and the Lieutenant Governor in Council, the board and the Minister work together during the recruitment process. In particular, the board is involved in two key activities:

  • Prior to the recruitment being posted, the board, in consultation with Advanced Education, determines the additional skills and competencies that should be considered in recruiting the new member. In support of this work, boards should be evaluating existing membership using a competency matrix to determine where there may be gaps and which competencies to recruit.
  • After the recruitment has closed, and Advanced Education has completed screening, the board reviews applications that met criteria (core competencies) and considers them based on the additional skill preferences the board identified for the recruitment. The board then forwards its recommendation and rationale to the Minister.
  • The board may also be involved in interviews with the Minister’s Office before the Minister makes a recommendation to Cabinet.

Representative Members are recommended for appointment by specific constituency groups within the institution and, subject to the Minister’s discretion, are appointed by the Minister. Unlike public members, these appointments do not require Lieutenant Governor in Council approval. The process for nomination varies across the groups; however, the appointee cannot be a voting member of the executive body or an officer of an academic or non-academic staff association, or have responsibility for negotiating with the board on behalf of the academic or non-academic staff association.

Orientation and Development

Board member training is an ongoing process. Orientation to the roles and responsibilities of board membership begins immediately following appointment and continues through meetings, committee work, planning sessions, participation in professional organizations, and self-directed learning. The ultimate goal is that all board members are able to exercise their fiduciary duty and steward resources to effectively manage the post-secondary institution. Members must be well enough informed to formulate sound policy and make responsible decisions on any matters brought before the board.

An Orientation to the Institution, including its specific governance practices, mandate, and environment, is primarily the responsibility of the board, although boards sometimes delegate this task to the institution’s administration. (Responsibility should be discussed in each board’s Mandate and Roles Document.)1 As part of this orientation, a new board member may be provided with a brief description of the institution’s history and summary of such key information as its academic and administrative organization, policies, programs, priorities, enrolments, faculty characteristics, budget, finances, fundraising programs, and infrastructure priorities. The comprehensive institutional plan (CIP) may also be shared. The member may also be offered facility tours, introduced to key senior members of the administration, and provided access to board policies, plans, and similar documents.

Self-Directed Learning, while less formal, should supplement structured orientation activities and may prove to be very meaningful to a new board member. For an intensive period following appointment, members should be prepared to devote time to learning their roles through reading, initiating discussions with the chair, president, and other board members and participating in campus events. In many cases, seeking mentorship from a veteran on the board may be a good way for a new member to learn the board’s governance norms and begin contributing sooner.

Members are expected to take personal responsibility to continue learning beyond the orientation stage. Strong board members take the initiative to keep abreast of provincial and national education issues, are empowered to ask questions and seek clarification, and understand developments within their institutions.

Ongoing Development Opportunities may also be facilitated by the board for its members throughout the terms of their appointment. As an example, some boards have chosen to do this by including an educational component as a standing item on the agenda for each meeting. In addition, some boards include educational components in annual retreat agendas or provide opportunities for members to participate in conferences and workshops.

Personal reflection is an important step in effective governance. Following each Board meeting, members should reflect on their personal contributions and their effectiveness of contributing to a strong board.

Roles and Responsibilities

In addition to the requirements of being informed on issues impacting the institution, membership on a board involves a considerable time commitment. Regular attendance at board meetings is essential and members may be expected to serve on standing or special committees of the board. Board members must carefully review materials in advance of meetings in order to prepare for discussions around important strategic issues (for example, financial planning, borrowing and investments, the maintenance of property, capital expenditures, major contracts, delegations of authority, human resources issues), and understand the consequences of any proposed decisions.

During board and committee meetings, and any other times an individual is acting in the capacity of a board member, they bear a Fiduciary Responsibility to act in the best interest of their institution.a Given the range of perspectives and stakeholders within an institution’s community, this is not always a simple task. Board membership is a high calling and requires members to act in a manner that promotes confidence in the fidelity and trust of members, both individually and collectively.

Post-secondary institutions have a public mandate, serving learners, employees, communities, and the people of Alberta. Their boards are distinct from private sector boards as they are accountable for the expenditure of tax dollars. Some key expectations of post-secondary boards around accountability and risk management include:

  • Ensuring effective stewardship of institutional resources
  • Setting strategic direction and monitoring implementation
  • Ensuring effective processes for identifying, monitoring, and managing risk
  • Ensuring an effective system of internal controls.

Regardless of challenges facing them, board members are equally responsible for the success and reputation of the board and the quality of its decisions. Once a decision is made, it is the responsibility of each board member to publicly support that decision. While members should not take these responsibilities lightly, they are not held personally liable for decisions made by the board or actions taken by them in good faith. To this end, Indemnification is provided for all board members through a provision in the Post-secondary Learning Act (PSLA).

The chair is granted additional authority within the context of the board. On top of his/her role as a board member, the chair ensures the board stays on task and conducts itself ethically, complying with applicable legislation and the board’s own bylaws. The chair is responsible for running effective meetings, facilitating constructive discussions, and fostering an open and transparent board culture. Since the board speaks with one voice, the chair is also an official signatory of the institution, the official spokesperson of the board, and serves as a link between the board, president, Minister, and community.

Members Nominated by Specific Constituency Groups within the institution are vital to the full and effective discussion of issues, as each offers the perspective and knowledge of an important stakeholder in the institution’s community. However, it is important to remember that these members bear the same fiduciary responsibility as public members, as noted above: to act in the best interest of the institution regardless of the circumstances that bring them to the table.

Conduct and Conflict of Interest

All members of post-secondary institution boards in Alberta must be committed to acting in the best interests of their institution. As representatives, they should behave in a manner that promotes confidence in the board and the institution, maintaining high ethical standards and integrity in decision-making.

Under the Alberta Public Agencies Governance Act, all post-secondary institution boards are required to have a Code of Conduct in place. Codes of Conduct include rules around conflicts of interest. They require board members to act impartially and prohibit them from acting in self- interest or furthering their private interests by virtue of their position on the board.

Manageable conflicts of interest can occur for any member appointed to a board, whether they are a shareholder or director in a business that provides contracted services to the institution, were nominated by a specific constituent group, or have an interest in another community organization that could affect their ability to impartially discuss the institution’s relationship with that organization. Board members are also required to disclose any real or apparent conflicts of interest, whether they are personal, professional or financial in nature. Most boards have mechanisms in place to manage conflicts: for example a member with an interest in a particular matter may have to excuse themselves from meetings when that topic is being discussed, and abstain from voting on that matter. Managing conflicts of interest preserves the public’s confidence in board and post-secondary institutions, demonstrating transparency and a proactive approach to any potential concerns.

Confidentiality is another crucial matter. Members are privy to confidential information of all types, both during and outside of meetings. This can include information on collective bargaining negotiations, individual personnel matters, and other matters discussed in closed sessions or provided in confidence. Members are expected to observe the strict confidentiality of these matters.

Breaches of a Board’s Code of Conduct can have serious consequences. Depending on the severity of the breach, this may necessitate disciplinary action, the involvement of an outside party, and notification of the Minister. In cases involving a nominated member, breaches can also sour relationships between the board, administration, and the constituents that nominated the member.

Access to Administration is a topic that boards must consider. Board members have a high level of access to the time and attention of key senior officials, including the president. This access is often required for board members to adequately fulfill their fiduciary responsibilities to the institution. It should not be used as a mechanism to communicate board direction or advance interests outside of the board’s agenda.


Public service is a core part of serving on a public agency board. While the PSLA allows the board to set remuneration rates for its members,a members should not expect rates to be comparable to those in the private sector for similar work. In fact, many institution boards have chosen to forego direct payment to members and others only offer a small honoraria for time spent on board work. The Public Sector Compensation Transparency Act requires institutions to disclose any board member remuneration.

Members may claim expenses related to the performance of their duties. Many boards also set aside funds to support members in attending conferences and workshops.

Term Lengths

Appointed board members may hold office for a maximum term of three years, with the possibility of reappointment for one additional term. APAGA limits cumulative terms to a maximum of ten years for post-secondary boards.

Term lengths vary by type of member. Public members are commonly appointed for full three-year terms, however terms can also be set at one or two years so that expiries are staggered and boards can arrange for better succession planning. Students are often nominated to serve for one year at a time. In some cases, academic and non-academic staff members serve for two years. Term lengths are fixed and are prescribed in the appointment.

A member continues to hold office after their term until one of the following occurs:

  • The member is reappointed for a second term,
  • a successor is appointed, or
  • a period of three months has elapsed after the expiration of their term.

In the case of Baccalaureate and Applied Studies Institutions, Polytechnic Institutions, Comprehensive Community Institutions and the Alberta College of Art + Design, if a public member is designated as chair during their second term, the member’s second term is amended so that the appointment is for a full three year term as chair. This ensures that a new chair will have at least three years in the role. In the case of Comprehensive Academic and Research Institutions and The Banff Centre, the chair is eligible for reappointment on the conclusion of their term in office. This is subject to the 10 year limit set out in APAGA.

Members intending to resign before their term has expired should inform the board chair. This notice is needed so that the process to fill the vacancy can begin and to ensure membership of the board is properly constituted at all times. In some cases another individual may be appointed to serve the balance of the exiting member’s term.

Board Activity

Considerable Variance in Practices

Provincial legislation does not specify exactly how a board should conduct its business. With the variety of communities, needs, and mandates represented across Campus Alberta, individual boards have used this flexibility to conduct their operations in the best interests of their institution.

Notwithstanding boards’ liberty to organize meetings and determine procedures that are most appropriate for their needs, they must adhere to core principles of good governance:

  • Strategic Vision and Leadership
  • Accountability
  • Ethics and Integrity
  • Effectiveness
  • Transparency

Strong boards steward resources efficiently and effectively on behalf of the people of Alberta. They abide by strong codes of conduct, undertake regular reviews in order to continually learn and serve, and use informed approaches to risk management, financial oversight, succession planning, leadership development, and policy and strategic planning.

This section provides an introduction to board activity and will lead into the specific in-depth orientation provided by each board to its members. Members should also refer to their board bylaws and Code of Conduct for direction.



Board meetings provide a venue for members to learn together, contemplate and deliberate together, and decide together. The procedural rules governing these meetings are determined by the board itself and are incorporated into the board’s bylaws or policies. While often different across the province, such processes allow the board to fulfill its mandate in a transparent and accountable way.

In general, board meetings occur in three formats: open, closed, and in-camera. For the sake of transparency most boards conduct as many open meetings as possible, allowing any community member to witness the proceedings. Closed sessions only involve the board and its support staff and at times, outside presenters. These are reserved for matters of greater confidentiality such as collective bargaining negotiations or individual personnel matters. In-camera sessions only involve
the board and are necessary when highly confidential information must be shared with board members and sensitive topics are discussed.

The term “quorum” represents the minimum number of members that must be present for the board to conduct its business. Having a sufficient number of board members present helps to ensure that decisions are made using the group’s collective wisdom, and having considered various perspectives. For the purposes of the PSLA, quorum is 50% +1 of the board’s existing membership, not the board’s potential membership. When quorum is present, the board is able to make decisions and all members (present or not) are bound to these decisions.

Board Committees

As discussed in previous sections, board members may be expected to serve on standing or special committees of the board. Standing committees are those that have a long-term responsibility to the board to thoroughly examine issues in one or more areas. Special committees are established to deal with specific problems or activities and are then disbanded after their tasks are complete. The committee structure of each board should be outlined in its Mandate and Roles Document.

In some cases, boards may delegate authority to specific committees to make decisions on administrative matters. This delegation may be made to enable the board to spend more time pursuing issues of policy or strategic importance; however, the board maintains full responsibility for the quality of all decisions made. In this context, committees exist to help the board do its job, not to remove difficult choices from the board table. Important decisions should be made by the board as a whole and some decisions, such as collective agreements developed by committee, must be approved by the board before they come into effect.

Board and Member Evaluation

The Public Agencies Governance Framework expects Alberta public agencies to have an evaluation process that assesses how well they and their individual members are fulfilling their roles and responsibilities. Board evaluation mechanisms may include member self-evaluation, one-on-one meetings between members and the chair, annual evaluations of board effectiveness, and formal reviews of the board by an external organization.

Regardless of how it is conducted, evaluation is an integral part of the governance process. It enables members to continually improve and increases the effectiveness of the board itself in advancing the institution’s mandate and ultimately the success of Campus Alberta.

More information on responsibilities for board and member evaluation should be included in the board’s Mandate and Roles Document. The Public Agency Secretariat website provides a number of governance resources, including tools and templates for boards to implementing an evaluation system that is appropriate for their work.

The Board Relating to Government

Government Overview

Members of the Legislative Assembly of Alberta (MLAs) are elected to make laws and set policies to benefit the people of Alberta. As the head of government, the Premier selects MLAs to serve as Cabinet ministers. Each minister is responsible for a department or ministry, and Cabinet as a group makes decisions on the government’s policy directions.

The Province of Alberta has 20 government ministries. These departments deliver the programs and services mandated by Alberta’s laws. Public agencies – including post-secondary institution boards – are boards, commissions, tribunals or other organizations established by government, but not part of a government department. They work alongside ministries to deliver programs and services.

Legislative changes, including new budgets, are considered by department staff and the Deputy Minister before being forwarded to Cabinet committees, and then Cabinet as a whole. The Treasury Board is specifically responsible for budget and financial issues. Once Cabinet and the Treasury Board are ready to introduce legislative changes and budgets, these are debated in the Legislature before they can be approved.

Boards and the Government

The relationship between an institution’s board of governors and the provincial government is an important one. Boards are accountable to the Minister of Advanced Education, who has primary responsibility for the Post-secondary Learning Act.

The Minister oversees strategic planning and direction setting for Alberta’s advanced learning system, policy development, funding for general operations and specific purposes, and the promotion of transparency and accountability. The Minister is responsible for providing clear mandate direction to boards, establishing clear expectations for oversight and accountability, and for participating in an ongoing dialogue with boards on important issues.

The board has a governance oversight role in relation to the institution it governs. Because the chair serves as the voice of the board, and is directly accountable to the Minister, the relationship between the Minister and the chair is critical.
Other officials, such as the Deputy Minister, who is effectively the chief executive officer overseeing operations in Advanced Education, will typically be in closer contact with institution presidents and vice-presidents. Similarly, department staff at a variety of levels may be in regular contact with staff of the institutions for a variety of reasons.

Institution Mandates

A Mandate Statement is a requirement of each public institution under the PSLA. It is prepared under the direction of the board and submitted to the Minister for approval It sets out the institution’s authority to operate and provides a scope for the types of activities it may engage in, including its types of programs of study, scope of research activity, learner groups, and primary geographic service region. As the priorities of an institution evolve in response to changes in society and demographic or economic pressures, institutions may propose changes to mandate statements. Any such proposals must take into consideration the institution’s role and relationships within Campus Alberta and the distinct charge given to it through the Roles and Mandates Policy Framework and the Six Sector Model. d Consultation between the institution and Advanced Education would follow any proposed change to an institution’s mandate statement, and the Minister’s approval is required for any changes to proceed.

Boards must also have a Mandate and Roles Document – not to be confused with the Roles and Mandates Policy Framework. These documents provide a high-level understanding of the board’s role within the government structure. It outlines the roles and responsibilities of key parties, such as the Minister, Deputy Minister, board chair, board members and institution president. Mandates and Roles Documents are a requirement under the Alberta Public Agencies Governance Act. They must be reviewed and renewed, amended or replaced every three years. As public documents, Mandate and Roles Documents offer the public an opportunity to understand the mandate and roles of each agency in a transparent manner.

Budget and Institutional Planning

Each spring the Government of Alberta releases a budget and a three-year business plan. In support of this, Advanced Education releases its own budget and business plan. Advanced Education’s budget is generally finalized in February or March and incorporated into the Government of Alberta’s Estimates of Expenditures which, in turn, is often tabled along with the annual Budget Address during the Spring Session of the Legislative Assembly.

Around this time, institutions prepare a Comprehensive Institutional Plan (CIP) which is submitted to Advanced Education.d CIPs include information on institutional goals, strategies and performance measures and targets, as well as enrolment plans and projections,e academic and research plans, and resource requirements (including a budget and capital requirements). Each CIP is developed with the guidance and formal approval of the board. The CIP is expected to support government’s core businesses and goals, especially the goals of Advanced Education.

In addition to the provincial and ministry business plan and budget, several other tools and processes facilitate dialogue within the post-secondary system and guide institutional planning:

The Campus Alberta Planning Resource (CAPR) is an annual profile of Campus Alberta. It provides context and broad direction to support planning within Alberta’s post-secondary system. It also outlines strategic directions to ensure learners can access post-secondary education across the province and highlights important demographic and economic drivers that impact post-secondary access and participation. This key source of information can be used by boards as a base for long- range planning and collaborative efforts and is also a reference on which strategic directions are set by Advanced Education to support the Campus Alberta vision.

The Post-secondary Capital Plan is an internal government planning process. It supports the Government of Alberta’s strategic capital plans to ensure post-secondary facilities are adequately maintained and there is sufficient capacity to meet projected enrolment demand. Institutions are responsible for identifying expansion and preservation priorities annually through their comprehensive institutional plans. Government reviews and prioritizes institution requests within the context of the CAPR. In addition, institutions are expected to develop long-range land use and development plans relating to land owned by or leased to them.

The 2016 Alberta Research and Innovation Framework (ARIF) conveys government’s strategic priorities for research and innovation for Alberta. ARIF was developed with the intention of aligning research and innovation efforts in the province with leveragint Alberta’s strengths, stimulating job creation, and better positioning the province for economic shifts. As such, Comprehensive Institutional Plans may note alignment of their research and innovation activities with the following high level outcomes: economic diversification and job creation, environmental stewardship, effective resource management, and engaged individuals and communities for a healthy Alberta. To advance these outcomes, Alberta is focusing on key strengths in the sectors of
energy, environment, food, fibre/bioindustrial and health.

Institutional Consultations build on the tools and processes above to assist each institution in developing its Comprehensive Institutional Plan. Given the scope of activities included in this plan, Advanced Education officials representing planning, programming, research, and accountability perspectives visit each institution to share information and discuss the institution’s plans, opportunities, and challenges for moving forward. These meetings are a key instrument in establishing the positive working relationships that are essential for institutions to fulfill their mandates.

Required Government Approvals

Documents like the Comprehensive Institutional Plan and Annual Report are developed under the direction of the board and are approved by the board. In some cases, further approval is required from government before a board can implement activities proposed in these documents. The source of approval differs depending on the action requested. The following are examples of actions requiring the Minister’s approval:

  • Revisions to an institution’s mandate statement.
  • Establishment, change, or discontinuation of programs of study, as discussed below.
  • Establishment of an Alternative Academic Council to replace the Academic Council (Baccalaureate and Applied Studies Institutions; Polytechnical Institutions; Comprehensive Community Institutions, and Alberta College of Art + Design only).
  • A deficit budget (i.e. where the consolidated operating expense exceeds the consolidated operating revenue).
  • Long-term borrowing for purposes that include capital expansion and renovation through the Alberta Capital Finance Authority.
  • Setting up, acquiring, or dissolving a subsidiary corporation.
  • Establishing a registered pension plan, LGIC or a supplementary pension plan

The Minister of Infrastructure must approve the following:

  • Expropriation of land for the purpose of the institution
  • Sale or exchange of an interested in land (other than donated land), or the lease of land for a term longer than five years.

Program Approvals

Boards and academic bodies play an internal approval role for programs of study at institutions, including ministry-approved programs, and institution-approved programs. Ministry approvals can involve new programs, program changes, program suspensions and program terminations. Individual institutions have internal policies that document the roles various officials and academic bodies play in program approval, and in what circumstances board approval is delegated.

With respect to ministry-approved programs, Advanced Education manages a rigorous review and approval process. This includes a system coordination review which assesses the alignment of the proposed program with the approved institutional mandate, as well as looking at the relationship with programs and initiatives in Campus Alberta, student and labour market demand, financial sustainability and risk issues, benefits and affordability for learners, institutional capacity, and fit with provincial strategic priorities, including those of partner ministries.

For degree programs, a quality review is conducted by the Campus Alberta Quality Council (CAQC). These reviews require institutions to demonstrate they can offer education of sufficient breadth and depth to meet national and international program standards related to faculty and staff, academic policies, resource capacity, program content, regulation and accreditation and research and graduate supervision plans.

Once a decision has been made regarding a program approval request, a letter will be sent to the institution, and the program’s approval, change, suspension or termination will be recorded in Advanced Education’s Provider and Program Registry System.


An important role that Advanced Education plays within Campus Alberta is the provision of funding support for post-secondary institutions. Institutions that receive support from other government and non-government sources must steward all funds responsibly, and for the benefit of the institution, regardless of the source of funds.

The Campus Alberta Grant supports the delivery of approved credit programming, apprenticeship seats, and research at Alberta’s publicly funded post-secondary institutions. Supported activities include access, instruction and program operating costs, academic support, student services, computing, network and communications services, institutional support, and facilities management, operations, and maintenance. The Minister’s annual grant letter to the board chair includes accountability requirements for this funding.

Capital Grants support the infrastructure needs of Alberta’s 21 public institutions related to instruction, research, and administration. This funding supports expansion projects needed to increase student access and research capacity, as well as preservation projects needed to maintain and improve existing buildings. Specific funding through the Infrastructure Maintenance Program provides additional funding support for the preservation and maintenance of facilities. Capital grants do not support facilities for revenue generation or ancillary services, such as parkades or student/staff residences.

Research Grants are available to public post-secondary institutions in accordance with their research mandate within the Six Sector Model. While a portion of each Comprehensive and Academic Research Institution’s Campus Alberta Grant implicitly supports pure and sponsored research activity, the province also invests in research through other programs, providing the tools and facilities required to conduct leading-edge research, build capacity and excellence, train highly qualified personnel, and recruit and retain full-time academic faculty members at Alberta institutions.

The Apprenticeship Technical Training Grant is a dynamic funding mechanism that allows apprenticeship technical training providers (e.g. Polytechnical Institutions and some Comprehensive Community Institutions) to plan for and respond adequately to learner demand. It supplements the apprenticeship seats funded through the Campus Alberta Grant. Advanced Education estimates the number of seats required at each institution according to criteria which include the number of registered apprentices eligible for training in each region, training facility availability, and current and historical class fill rates.

Apprenticeship technical training seats are conservatively estimated for initial registration. Since apprentices can begin their training at many points during the year, seats can be added accordingly when there is evidence they will be filled.

Accountability and Reporting Requirements

All public institutions are ultimately accountable to the people of Alberta (through the Minister), and must demonstrate that public funds are being used effectively and appropriately. With the exception of audits by the Auditor General, this accountability is primarily the responsibility of the board and the Minister. The Minister has the authority to request any reports and other information from the institution, which the institution is required to provide.

Each board’s annual report discusses the institution’s performance in relation to the plans set out in its comprehensive institutional plan and includes audited financial statements. The preparation of these documents is supported by regular reporting on student applications and enrolments, financials, costing for credit and non-credit programs of study, and other performance indicators. Advanced Education manages several databases in coordination with institutions to handle these types of reporting.

Details on each institution’s specific accountability and reporting requirements can be found in their annual Campus Alberta Grant letter, and are also outlined in the board’s Mandate and Roles document.

Relationships with other government Departments

Post-secondary institutions have varied relationships with provincial ministries other than Advanced Education. These relationships are based on the unique mandates of each ministry and each institution in question. Other ministries may offer funding opportunities (with associated accountability requirements); provide strategic planning and oversight of local, provincial, national, and international initiatives; and execute contracts for research and the provision of training. For example, institutions with a strong academic focus on agriculture may receive research funding from Agriculture and Forestry. Institutions training students in health related subjects may liaise closely with Alberta Health. Institutions seeking to build new facilities may partner with Alberta Infrastructure.

More information on interactions with other departments is included in each board’s Mandate and Roles Document.

The Board Relating to the Institution

Governance and Administration

The Board of Governors is a policy-making and governance oversight body with responsibility for senior oversight of the institution, and ensuring the activities of the institution are consistent with its mandate. Policies are made and approved by the board, in consultation with the administration and other stakeholders, to govern all major areas. This includes both strategic policy as well as more operational policy related to programming, finances, student services, personnel, infrastructure, and internal and external relations. The following are some of the specific tasks and responsibilities given to the board in the PSLA:

  • Appointing the President and monitoring his/her performance.
  • Collective agreements.
  • Formulating the institution’s mandate.
  • Government relations and accountability.
  • Developing investment policies.
  • Approving comprehensive institution plans and policies, long-range plans, and programs of study for submission to the Minister
  • Approving tuition levels (except for apprenticeship students).
  • Community relations.
  • General supervision of student affairs (at CARIs, this responsibility belongs to the General Faculties Council).
  • Serving as an appeal body.

Outside of these tasks, the board also exists as a reminder that the institution has a public mandate. This public mandate is best served not only by thinking more broadly than the wants and needs of one constituency group, but by considering what is best for Campus Alberta and the broader community.

While the PSLA imposes some specific requirements on boards, it also authorizes the board to delegate any of its powers, duties or functions (with the exception of the power to make bylaws) to any person in the institution’s administration as the board sees fit. For effective governance, it is critical that any delegation of authority is clearly articulated and that, once made, the delegation is respected so that board members have a clear understanding of their role versus the role of administration.

The Administration (which includes the president, vice-presidents, registrar, and other senior officials) is given responsibility for the day-to day operations of the institution and other tasks as determined by the board. Administration is accountable to the board for how well these tasks are accomplished. Whereas the board is primarily a policy-making and oversight body, the administration’s role is in the implementation of board policies and direction, although it has a role in proposing policies and at times developing them under the direction of the board. Since the board is accountable for the quality and performance of the institution, it is important that it evaluates the administration’s overall efficiency and effectiveness in using financial and human resources to meet institutional objectives.

Board’s Relationship with the President

As noted above, the board is responsible for appointing the president and monitoring his or her performance. The president’s role is to ensure staff fulfills the expectations of the board by supervising and directing the operation of the institution. However, in an organization with anywhere between 250 and 15,000 staff and faculty, this can be a significant undertaking. This is why the president may assign and delegate any of his or her powers, duties, or functions.

Since the board is ultimately responsible for the quality and performance of the institution’s administration, a crucial board responsibility is the recruitment of a president to lead the institution’s operations. Unlike other governance models, the president is a member of the board at post-secondary institutions because of their position and knowledge of the institution and Campus Alberta. While boards, usually through their chairs, have a relationship with the Minister of Advanced Education, the president ordinarily connects with the Deputy Minister.

Presidential Recruitment processes vary across institutions, but in all cases, the board has primary responsibility for recruitment, appointment, and prescribing the term of office and remuneration for a president. When approaching this process, boards should keep in mind that a successful president must possess certain personal attributes: an understanding of education, administrative skills, interpersonal skills, personal integrity, and leadership ability. Aside from these, the qualities desirable in a president depend largely upon the particular needs of the institution and how the board envisions its future direction.

In Regular Decision Making, it is important that the board respects the responsibilities and authority delegated to the president as such matters should not be decided by the board or its committees. This does not take away from the board’s ultimate accountability for decisions, but it points to the importance of setting clear expectations for the president and then holding him or her to account that those expectations are being met.

Regular Performance Reviews are the most effective way to develop and maintain objective relationships between the board and president, which in itself is essential to the institution’s success. It is important that the evaluation criteria used are clearly established when the president is appointed and revised or reinforced with each successive performance appraisal.

Relationships with Internal Bodies

The PSLA establishes several internal bodies within an institution and empowers them to engage in certain activities, either on behalf of constituent groups within the institution or the general public. In every case, the board is the senior body with overarching authority, normally drawing upon the advice of these groups to satisfy its responsibilities. The existence of some of these groups differs across types of institutions, with a higher number existing at CARIs than other types of institutions.

Campus Alberta

Campus Alberta

The concept of Campus Alberta involves post-secondary education and training providers working together to provide an accessible, affordable and quality advanced education system that meets the needs of learners, taxpayers, and society, advancing Alberta’s social, economic and cultural prosperity. The ultimate goals of Campus Alberta are to increase access to quality programming and better serve learners, achieve efficiencies, leverage expertise, foster collaboration, contribute to economic diversification and maximize available resources.

Learners are the core beneficiaries of an integrated advanced learning system. Campus Alberta partners deliver accessible and affordable high quality learning opportunities, building pathways within their institutions and with other institutions and community partners for learners to pursue the education or training they need.

Taxpayers are well served through a quality advanced learning system that provides a high return on their investments. Taxpayers should have confidence that programs supporting provincial strategic priorities are sustainable.

Society benefits whenever human potential is realized. From basic literacy training to job readiness, and apprenticeship training to graduate and post-graduate studies, Campus Alberta is at the centre of developing the province’s social, economic and cultural prosperity, enhancing Alberta’s communities and competitiveness and ultimately, contributing to a bright future for all Albertans.

Collaboration is demonstrated through established projects and entities such as ApplyAlberta, the Lois Hole Campus Alberta Digital Library, and eCampusAlberta, as well as in board discussions and day-to-day decisions made by institution staff.

Publicly funded post-secondary institutions are the cornerstones of Campus Alberta. They support the same set of principles and work together to create a learner-centered system that is accessible, affordable, high-quality, sustainable, responsive and relevant. Private providers, community-based organizations, and industry also support diverse learning opportunities within and in support of Campus Alberta. No matter the provider, each has a role in making Alberta a great place to learn and grow.

Roles of Institutions within Campus Alberta

The Roles and Mandates Policy Framework for Alberta’s Publicly Funded Advanced Education System, released in 2007, is the foundation of Campus Alberta. Among other things, the framework
introduced the Six Sector Model which defines distinct and differentiated roles for each publicly funded institution in terms of programs offered, type of research conducted, and geographic area served. The sectors are as follows:

Comprehensive Academic and Research Institutions (CARIs)

  • Athabasca University
  • University of Alberta
  • University of Calgary
  • University of Lethbridge

Polytechnical Institutions (PIs)

  • Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT)
  • Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT Polytechnic)

Independent Academic Institutions (IAIs)

  • Ambrose University
  • Burman University
  • Concordia University of Edmonton
  • St. Mary’s University
  • The King’s University

Baccalaureate and Applied Studies Institutions (BASIs)

  • Grant MacEwan University
  • Mount Royal University

Comprehensive Community Institutions

  • Bow Valley College
  • Grande Prairie Regional College
  • Keyano College
  • Lakeland College
  • Lethbridge College
  • Medicine Hat College
  • NorQuest College
  • Northern Lakes College
  • Olds College
  • Portage College
  • Red Deer College

Specialized Arts and Culture Institutions (SACIs)

  • Alberta College of Art + Design
  • The Banff Centre


The Board’s Role within Campus Alberta

Each public post-secondary institution board is uniquely positioned to contribute to the success of Campus Alberta. As a public agency, the board’s role in guiding its institution with wisdom and foresight takes place within a public mandate to pursue the advancement of communities and the province as a whole. Reflecting on the diversity of learners and societal demands however, it is clear that acting alone, an institution cannot meet every need for training and education in its region.

Boards continue to work with partner institutions to maximize learner pathways and credential recognition. When institutions work together, their reach and capacity increases and they contribute to the long-term sustainability of the system. Together, institutions are better equipped to contribute to the growth of the innovative, educated, and highly skilled population that will drive Alberta’s prosperity for generations to come.

Alberta Innovates

On November 1, 2016, the Alberta government consolidated the four previous Alberta Innovates corporations into one agency, Alberta Innovates. Alberta Innovates works with key innovation support agencies, publicly funded post-secondary institutions, industry, and government to advance research and innovation in the province and make Alberta more competitive in the global economy.

The Ministry of Economic Development and Trade provides long-term strategic direction and collaborates with Alberta Innovates to ensure Alberta’s innovation system effectively delivers innovation services that promote economic growth and diversification, along with advancing our environmental performance and social well-being. Post-secondary institutions are key players in advancing Alberta’s innovative future, both by producing highly qualified and skilled people and facilitating ground-breaking research.