Transforming to a polytechnic university

Transforming Aurora College into an effective, efficient and sustainable polytechnic university will take place over the next few years and requires taking the right steps, in the right order, and the right time.

It is essential that polytechnic university students can pursue an education in a way that makes sense for them and that leads to meaningful outcomes.

We recognize that the majority of students at the polytechnic university will be Indigenous, as is the case now with Aurora College, and we are committed to creating a culturally meaningful environment where Indigenous students can grow and succeed.

As the institution emerges from transformation it will be stronger, more accessible and able to attract a greater number of students from within the NWT and beyond. Through a strengthened foundation, the institution will develop new and laddered programs over time within the areas of teaching and research specialization. This will provide direct economic benefits to Northern communities, particularly the three campus communities.

Here is more information about the transformation process: 


In October 2018, the Government of the Northwest Territories (GNWT) committed to transforming Aurora College into a polytechnic university with the release of the Government Response to the Findings and Recommendations of the Aurora College Foundational Review (Government Response).  The Government Response makes 80 commitments in the areas of governance, accountability, academic program management, operations, and recruitment and retention of students. 

The Government released an Implementation Plan in the fall of 2020 that provides an overall timeline of the work required to complete the transformation of Aurora College into a polytechnic university. You can follow the Timeline here.


Project Management

Though often presented as one project, transformation is in fact a collection of many projects, spread over three phases and a collaboration between Aurora College (AC) and the Government of the Northwest Territories (GNWT). It will be through the management of these projects that the transformation is tracked and ultimately completed.  The majority of the projects have Key Milestones that must be met in order to stay on track. It’s important that the right projects take place at the right time and in the right order.  It should be noted that the polytechnic university will be launched before some projects are completed. You can track our progress here




The Implementation Plan identifies and describes the major elements of transformation, including a clear timeline that shows how the overall success of transformation is connected and dependent on the right activity taking place in the right order and at the right time. At the core of the Implementation Plan are Critical Milestones – one of three types of transformation milestones.

Critical Milestones – Shape and affect the overall transformation process and timeline. Meeting Critical Milestone means that the overall timeline for the transformation stays on target and on time.

Key Milestones – Represent a significant achievement in the overall transformation of Aurora College, such as the completion of a Government commitment. The completion of Key Milestones will be reported publicly throughout the transformation on the Progress Tracker.

Project Milestones – Mark the completion of specific work that is required for an individual project to move forward. 

It is important to note that the Implementation Plan does not describe what the new polytechnic university will look like. Rather, it will help our partners, stakeholders and members of the public gain a clear understanding of how the transformation process will unfold, including further opportunities for them to provide input on specific aspects of the new polytechnic university.


The transformation process is being divided into three phases. This helps to ensure the work is being completed in the right order and at the right time. It also helps signal what the focus of transformation will be at any given time.

Phase 1: Strengthening the Foundation and Planning for Change

The transformation process is currently in this first phase, and work has been underway since the commitment to transform was made by the GNWT in October 2018.

The first phase includes strengthening the foundation by developing up-to-date policies and procedures to ensure quality service, including the development of a program review framework to guide future program decisions. All of this work has begun.  A program review framework was developed and is being used to review the Social Work Diploma and the Bachelor of Education programs.  Currently both programs are in the self-study phase of the review.  It is expected that both reviews will be completed and decisions made about these programs in Phase 1.

Planning for change will be done through the completion of facilities planning studies, jurisdictional scans and engagement with subject matter experts. An important feature of this phase will also be wide-ranging engagements with partners and stakeholders. Their input will help to shape many aspects of the transformation process, including most recently through feedback on the Aurora College and Polytechnic University Governance Discussion Paper in August 2020 and the Polytechnic University Areas of Teaching and Research Specialization Discussion Paper in September 2020.

Together with the Implementation Plan, important planning documents will be released during Phase 1, including the Aurora College 3-Year Strategic Plan, Polytechnic University Areas of Teaching and Research Specialization and the Aurora College Corporate Plan 2020-2021.

Phase 2: Transformational Change

During this phase the majority of changes to the College’s organizational structure will be completed to reflect a polytechnic university model. The College will also undergo a quality assurance review to show that it has created sustainable processes, demonstrated its financial and operational resources and shown that an atmosphere of academic freedom exists. Restoring the Board of Governors (Board) under a new governance system is also an important step in preparing for the quality assurance review and will be required during this phase.

At the end of this phase, Aurora College will have developed another Strategic Plan and Academic Plan and will take the final step under Phase 2, which is to complete the legislative process for a Polytechnic University Act that formally recognizes the new polytechnic university.

Phase 3: Polytechnic University Launched

Operating as a polytechnic university under a new governance structure, the institution will continue to develop and expand programming, human resources and infrastructure. This will include the launch of a new “made in the NWT” degree program offered by the polytechnic university.  Phase 3 will end when all commitments have been met and all major projects have concluded.




Becoming a polytechnic university

The GNWT has made several commitments to help ensure that the Polytechnic University is an effective, efficient and sustainable institution that operates arm’s length from government.

Legislative change is required before a truly arms-length governance model can be implemented. This will include amendments to the Aurora College Act and the eventual creation of a Polytechnic University Act.

In August 2020, the GNWT released the Aurora College and Polytechnic University Governance discussion paper that proposed a governance model for input from Indigenous Governments and key stakeholders. Public comments were also sought.

The discussion paper outlined a competency-based governance model to ensure that as a group the Board members have the breadth of knowledge, skills and abilities needed to properly oversee the institution. This aligns with how post-secondary institutions are governed across Canada and meets a commitment of the Government Response.  The specific list of competencies will be informed by the engagement with partners and stakeholders.


NWT Post-Secondary Education Strategic Framework

The NWT Post-Secondary Education Strategic Framework (Framework) includes the first vision established for the NWT post-secondary education system and supports a high quality post-secondary education system in the NWT. The goals of the Framework set priorities for the post-secondary education system and supports the strategic direction of ECE’s post-secondary education partners.

The transformation of Aurora College is guided by the vision and goals of the NWT Post-Secondary Education Strategic Framework:

"Every resident of the Northwest Territories has an equitable opportunity to reach their full potential by obtaining a post-secondary education from institutions that are student-centered, accessible, high quality, relevant and accountable."

With supporting goals to:

  • Prioritize student success
  • Increase access to post-secondary education opportunities
  • Remain responsive to labour demands in the NWT
  • Remain responsive to local and regional needs
  • Support growth of the knowledge economy


Monitoring and Reporting Progress

Monitoring progress and providing transparent and regular reporting to Members of the Legislative Assembly, partners, stakeholders and the public throughout the transformation process is critical..  

Actions will be taken to ensure all those interested:

  • Can gain a clear understanding about what it means to transform Aurora College and establish a polytechnic university;
  • Appreciate that this is an incremental and multi-year process;
  • Are aware of opportunities to provide input; and
  • Look forward to the benefits of a polytechnic university.

 Here is how you can track the progress of the transformation: 


This website will report progress of the transformation by providing updates tracking key and critical milestones on the Timeline and will track how many milestones are completed, in progress and not started on the Milestone Tracker.  The Timeline and Tracker will be updated monthly/quarterly, however, stories of how changes are affecting students, staff and faculty, facilities and operation will be highlighted on the homepage more frequently.


The Quarterly Report will be launched in January 2021 and will highlight progress in photos, stories, graphs and charts. The information will be presented in plain language.  The Report will be distributed to partners, stakeholders and will be available for the public to read or download from the website.


You can follow the Aurora College Facebook and Twitter account. Posts will profile activities, achievements and individuals that support the transformation. (Links to Facebook page and Twitter)


News releases will continue to announce Key and Critical Milestones. Their completion is how we will mark success.  News releases will be posted on the homepage of this website.