Athabasca University

Founded 1970 | Athabasca, AB

Athabasca University is one of North America’s first online universities. More than 38,000 students are enrolled at the school, which offers more than 1,000 courses at the undergraduate, graduate, diploma and certificate levels. Disciplines include arts, business, health, education, science and more. AU offers an open and continuous enrolment model, which means anyone 16 years or older can register for most first-year courses, regardless of previous education, and most courses start on the first of every month.

Courses are offered online and students can study from anywhere around the world; 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, 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. Partnerships with Amazon Web Services has helped to modernize AU’s infrastructure and expanded the development of technology-based programs and research, including the launch of IDEA Lab, a cloud-based virtual research domain for faculty and students.

Campus Buzz

While students at Athabasca University don’t have the traditional campus common areas to hang out in, they can connect online on a number of digital platforms, including a student-run Discord channel. 

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.

• Arts: Students develop critical and creative thinking in a range of social, cultural and political studies. Majors include anthropology, psychology, political economy and labour studies.

• 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)

$8,410 ($10,163 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: 31,043

Graduates: Full-time and part-time: 4,549

Housing Facts

Residence: Not offered

Cool Courses

• 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.

Student Life on Campus

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