Published College Program Standards

About College Program Standards

Program standards apply to all similar programs of instruction offered by publicly-funded colleges across the province. The development of program standards by the ministry first started in the 1990s to bring more consistency to college programming, broaden the skills of college graduates to include Essential Employability Skills (EES) and provide accountability for the quality and relevance of college programs.

Each program standard for a postsecondary program of instruction includes the following elements:

  • Vocational learning outcomes (the vocationally specific learning outcomes which apply to the program in question)
  • Essential Employability Skills ( EES learning outcomes apply to all programs of instruction and, in 2005, replaced the Generic Skills Standard (GSS) per the Framework for Programs of Instruction.)
  • General Education requirement (the requirement for general education in postsecondary programs of instruction)

The vocational and ESS components of program standards are expressed in terms of learning outcomes.

Collectively, these elements outline the essential skills, knowledge and attitudes that a student must reliably demonstrate in order to graduate from a program. Expressing standards as vocational learning outcomes ensures consistency in the outcomes for program graduates, while individual colleges offering the program of instruction determine the specific program structure, delivery methods and other curriculum matters to be used in assisting students to achieve the outcomes articulated in the standard. Individual colleges also determine whether additional learning outcomes will be required to reflect specific local needs and/or interests.

Vocational learning outcomes and elements of performance

The learning outcomes set out the culminating demonstration of learning and achievement that the student must reliably demonstrate before graduation. Learning outcomes are inter-related and when viewed as a whole, they identify what students will be able to do at the completion of a program.

The purpose of the elements of performance is to provide support for the learning outcomes so that there is clarity as to what level and quality of performance is required to meet the intended outcome. The elements of performance represent a means of tracking progress toward achievement of the intended outcome. Accordingly, graduates are expected to perform at the level of the vocational learning outcomes at program completion, not at the level of an individual element of performance. The elements of performance do not stand alone but collectively describe the vocational learning outcome.

How program standards are developed

The ministry develops and reviews selected program standards annually. A program standard is developed through a broad-based consultation process involving a range of stakeholders with a direct interest in the program area, including employers, professional associations and program graduates working in the field, in addition to college students, faculty and administrators. It represents a consensus of the participating stakeholders on the essential learning that all program graduates should have achieved. Program standards are updated depending on changing requirements of the sector. This ensures that standards continue to be appropriate and relevant to both the needs of students and employers.

How program standards are used

Where they exist, program standards provide the basis for curriculum development in the college system. They influence the kinds of learning activities that program faculty design for students and how students are evaluated. Students will have a clear indication of what they are expected to learn and demonstrate. Program standards promote accountability for program quality.

Contact Information

Ministry of Colleges and Universities
Postsecondary Education Quality Assessment Branch
Program Standards Unit