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Aurora College plans return of education, social work programs

Aurora College pictured on the morning of February 17, 2020
Aurora College pictured on the morning of February 17, 2020. Emelie Peacock/Cabin Radio

Aurora College says it hopes to once again welcome new education and social work students, and offer more study options, after both programs were suspended in 2017. 

The college – which is transforming into a polytechnic university – says it is “investigating” offering both a two-year diploma and four-year bachelor’s degree in social work, as well as a four-year bachelor and two-year postgraduate program in education.

When those programs will start depends on funding and an external quality assurance review, the college said in a Wednesday news release, adding it plans “national environmental scans” of social work and education programs before relaunching its own.

“There is a current, critical labour market need for qualified, northern-educated and Indigenous social workers and teachers for both entry-level and supervisory-level positions in the NWT and across the North,” Aurora College’s president, Dr Glenda Vardy Dell, said in a statement.



“The re-imagining of these two program areas will ensure that graduates are better prepared to meet the needs of northern residents and the northern labour market.”

Admission into Aurora College’s education and social work programs was paused in 2017 due to declining enrollment and graduation rates, and an increasing number of students leaving the NWT to continue their education, according to the college. The education minister at the time agreed to review the programs. 

Previously, Aurora College’s social work program only offered the two-year diploma. Graduates of the program could then apply their credits toward a bachelor’s degree in social work at the University of Regina or Yukon College (now Yukon University). 

The college’s bachelor of education program previously offered only a generalist program covering kindergarten to Grade 9, and there was no postgraduate program.



Reviews’ findings

Both internal and external reviews of the social work program recommended the addition of a bachelor’s degree option, among other changes. Those reviews noted many students in the program had young families and were reluctant to move outside the territory, away from their local support networks, to pursue further education. 

The reviews highlighted the need for northern and Indigenous social work graduates in the territory and recommended consideration of a master’s degree in social work program at Aurora College.

Reviews of the bachelor of education program recommended the creation of a generalist program for kindergarten to Grade 6 alongside more specialized knowledge for older grades. They also recommended a post-baccalaureate program to help graduates move into the teaching profession. 

Aurora College accepted many of the recommendations for both programs. 

The college said it intends to develop two streams for the bachelor of education program, work with accredited bodies to ensure the curriculum meets national standards, redevelop the college’s governance structure to include an Indigenous knowledge-holders’ council, and establish curriculum committees and a quality assurance program.

The college said it would review whether to offer a master’s of social work program in the future. 

Recommendations for the education and social work programs have not been implemented until now, the college said, as the territorial government deferred program-specific decisions until a full foundational review of Aurora College was complete.

That review, completed in 2018, recommended the creation of a polytechnic university, to which the NWT government subsequently agreed.