Athabasca University

Athabasca University | Athabasca, Alta. | Founded 1970

Athabasca student working in the field

Students working in the field. (Courtesy of Athabasca University)

Athabasca University is one of North America’s first online universities and one of the world’s fastest-growing digital-education institutions, teaching more than 40,000 students worldwide and offering more than 900 courses at the undergraduate, graduate, diploma and certificate levels. Disciplines include arts, business, health, education and science.

AU offers an open and continuous enrolment model. Anyone 16 years or older can register for most first-year courses, regardless of previous education, and most courses start the first of every month. “We believe everyone should have equal, open access to education and life-long learning,” says outgoing president Neil Fassina. “We have made it our mission to remove the barriers that restrict access to and success in university-level study for learners around the world.” (A new president comes in later this year.)

With its online model, students can study from anywhere; 12 per cent of students live in rural or remote areas. The university’s experience in distance learning was an asset during the COVID-19 pandemic, and AU worked with other institutions to support the massive transition to online learning. Although most students never set foot in tiny Athabasca, Alta., some science courses require students to complete labs in Athabasca, Edmonton or Calgary.

A $30-million Academic and Research Centre opened in 2011, doubling the size of the campus, where many staff do research. AU is also home to Canada’s only UNESCO Chair in Open Educational Resources, as well as four Canada Research Chairs. A partnership with Amazon Web Services promises to modernize AU’s infrastructure and help with development of technology-based programs.

READ: An insider’s guide to life on a virtual campus

Standout Programs
• Commerce: This bachelor program offers a range of specialties, including finance, marketing and Indigenous business. Artificial intelligence tools help students build skills through simulated projects.
• Post-LPN Bachelor of Nursing: The program gives licensed practical nurses the flexibility to continue their education and gain hands-on clinical experience, as well as the opportunity to develop a clinical focus.
• Architecture: This bachelor of science program, offered in partnership with the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada, features six areas of study and a focus on environmental and community sustainability.

Cool Courses
• Organic Chemistry: No need for traditional textbooks. Students use an open, online textbook that encourages student input.
• Application and Integration of Contemporary Business Topics: This course gives students a realistic AI-powered co-op learning experience.

Tuition (includes compulsory ancillary fees)
$6,693 ($8,643 out-of-province students)
Minimum Entering Grades
No grade specification; undergraduate students are not required to have a high school diploma
Student Body
Undergraduates: Full-time and part-time: 38,297
Graduates: Full-time and part-time: 4,556
Male-Female Ratio: 35 to 65
Housing Facts
Residence: Not offered

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