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The History of Aurora College

The history of the community-based college system in the Northwest Territories began with the growth and development of community adult education centres. By 1958, approximately 49 communities in the NWT had some form of adult education, usually delivered through the federal day schools. In 1969, educational responsibilities, including community adult education centres, were transferred from Ottawa to the territorial government's new Department of Education.

In the late 1960s, the Department of Education and Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development contracted Frontier College to initiate and implement a system of community-based adult education. This system was formally legislated by the territorial government in 1974.

The history of the College, as a campus-based institution, finds its roots in 1968 when a Heavy Equipment Operator course was offered at Fox Holes, just west of Fort Smith. In 1969, the training being done at Fox Holes was moved to Fort Smith and the Adult Vocational Training Centre (AVTC) was established. In 1971, Canada Manpower/CEIC, now Human Resources and Social Development Canada) began to sponsor programs, and throughout the 1970s, programs at AVTC expanded.

In 1981, AVTC was declared a college and renamed Thebacha College. The following year, the Legislative Assembly's special committee report on Education, Learning: Tradition and Change in the Northwest Territories, proposed a return to a model of program delivery at the community level. The creation of Arctic College in 1984 recognized this commitment. Initially with campuses in Fort Smith and Iqaluit, the College grew quickly to include campuses in each region of the Northwest Territories. In 1986, the Arctic College Act established the College as a corporate entity at arm's length from the government, and gave it the mandate to deliver adult and post-secondary education. By 1987, it was agreed that community learning centres across the North would join the College system, a process which was completed in 1990.

In June 1992, the Government Leader announced that, as part of the government's decentralization strategy, the Yellowknife head office of Arctic College would be transferred to the communities of Fort Smith and Iqaluit in preparation for the creation of two colleges from Arctic College. On January 1, 1995, two colleges were created - Nunavut Arctic College in the Eastern Arctic, and Aurora College in the Western Arctic.

In 1994 Aurora College continued to evolve as the needs of the NWT labour market changed. In response to a need for more nurses, the College established the Northern Nursing Diploma Program in 1994, which quickly established a national reputation for excellence. In recognition of the success of the diploma program and the quality of its students, the College developed a partnership with the University of Victoria to begin delivery of a Bachelor in the Science of Nursing Degree in 2000. The College built upon its partnership with the University of Saskatchewan, expanding the two-year diploma in teacher education to a three-year diploma, and, in 2007, replacing that program with a Bachelor of Education Degree.

In 1995,in anticipation of the division of the NWT into two territories, the government of the NWT created two college systems to serve the unique needs of each new territory. In the east, Nunavut Arctic College would help the people of Nunavut build a skilled public sector. In the west, Arctic College became Aurora College, which would serve the people of the new Northwest Territories, where training needs were increasingly driven by major industrial developments. At the same time, the GNWT integrated the Science Institute into the colleges, providing each with a research institute to serve its specific needs. .

Aurora Research Institute of the former Science Institute of the Northwest Territories were amalgamated with the new colleges in January, 1995. The portion which now functions as a division of Aurora College is called the Aurora Research Institute, and offers licensing and research assistance in the western NWT. Aurora College has a mandate to deliver community-centred post-secondary programs that accurately reflect Northern culture and the needs of the Northern labour market.

Today Aurora College is a modern and comprehensive post-secondary institution connected through transfer agreements and partnerships to a wide network of technical schools, colleges and universities throughout Canada and the circumpolar world. In addition to a broad range of trades and apprenticeship training and certificate, diploma and degree programs, the College offers adult literacy and basic education as well as a variety of continuing education courses. Building on over 40 years of experience, Aurora College is well-positioned to work with Northerners to prepare them to build a strong and vibrant society in the NWT. .

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