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 38,000 students worldwide and offering more than 1,000 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. Using the 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. “Flexibility and openness make Athabasca University unique among Canadian universities,” says president Alex Clark. “Our learners can work, fulfill family commitments and advance their careers, all while studying at AU.” The university is home to Canada’s only UNESCO Chair in Open Educational Resources as well as four Canada Research Chairs. A partnership with Amazon Web Services has helped to modernize AU’s infrastructure and expanded the development of technology-based 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.
• Science: Fully online, this program allows students to complete science labs in their own homes through home lab kits and virtual labs; students can combine unique major and minor programs.
• Architecture: Offered in partnership with the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada, this program features six areas of study and a focus on environmental and community sustainability.
Tuition (includes compulsory ancillary fees)
$7,983 ($10,163 out-of-province students)
Minimum Entering Grades
No grade specification; undergraduate students are not required to have a high school diploma
Undergraduates: Full-time and part-time: 33,272
Graduates: Full-time and part-time: 4,830
Male-Female Ratio: 33 to 67
Residence: Not offered
• Interpersonal Communications: Students develop techniques, listening skills and social and cultural awareness to better communicate in professional settings.
• Innovation Finance: Study with a former investment banker to learn about finance and innovation as an entrepreneur.