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Social work, education degrees to launch at Aurora College in 2024

Aurora College's Fort Smith campus. Sarah Pruys/Cabin Radio

Aurora College plans to launch its first year of bachelor of social work and bachelor of education degrees in September 2024.

Last spring, the college had announced the return of the two programs but did not specify a timeline. Education and social work programs used to be offered at the college but were suspended in 2017.

The reintroduction of the programs as bachelor degrees is part of the college’s transformation into a polytechnic university. General arts and science programs are also scheduled to launch in the fall of 2024. 

The GNWT has not announced at which of the three campuses – Inuvik, Fort Smith, or Yellowknife – the programs will be offered.



 “These renewed degree programs will allow students to stay connected with their culture and lands, as well as fill a critical gap in the labour force,” said the territorial government in a news release on Thursday.

“The introduction of university-level general studies and the return of social work and education programs are an important step in Aurora College’s plans to increase access to post-secondary educational opportunities for NWT residents,” Glenda Vardy Dell, the college’s president, was quoted as saying.

“The programs will open doors to educational and career opportunities for graduates who will, in turn, provide care, mentorship and support to generations of northerners.”

At the same time as it announced the program start dates, the GNWT shared an assessment of the polytechnic transformation process to date – including which critical milestones are completed, delayed, or new.



Critical milestones are the points that the territorial government believes are most important along the road from Aurora College to a polytechnic university.

Various target dates have been pushed back, but the territory says the university will still launch as previously planned in 2025.

The new list published this week adds some milestones that weren’t previously documented, like dates for implementation of a funding formula for the university and the establishment of an Indigenous Knowledge Holders Council. The council will act as one of three bodies that governs the college, alongside the board of governors and an academic council.

The GNWT said milestone completion dates may have shifted but all remain on track to be completed by October 2026. 

Many of the critical milestones that have been pushed back related to plans and documents about restructuring and evaluation. The territory says dates have changed to better align with when the university will launch and give the college more time to get things done.

However, the re-establishment of Aurora College’s board of governors has been delayed due to a “low number of nominations,” which has subsequently delayed board-related milestones like sending a request to the minister of education to create the polytechnic university and establishing the academic council.

The board, which was removed in June 2017 in what was deemed a temporary removal at the time, is now expected to be up and running by March 2023. The transformation process originally called for the new board to be in place by September 2022.

The university’s 2025 launch does not include new infrastructure for the three campuses, which is separate from the transformation of the college into a university and instead falls under the polytechnic’s facilities master plan. Much of the new infrastructure in that plan, such as a Tin Can Hill campus in Yellowknife, relies on finding federal or other funding worth hundreds of millions of dollars.