Adult Learning and Education (ALE)

The Adult Learning and Education (ALE) program is the oldest graduate adult education program in Canada with historical roots in traditions of social welfare, community development and extension education. ALE is concerned with the development of scholars and practitioners who will shape society in ways that promote lifelong learning for all. Our ALE program challenges students to understand the diverse contexts in which adult learning occurs and their role in these from a wide variety of theoretical, conceptual and philosophical perspectives.

Our ALE programs are oriented to lifelong education for all and to education and learning that supports social justice, community development and democratic engagement. Students learn about theories, philosophies, histories, practices, policies and current issues in the broad field of adult learning and education. We began in 1957 and were the first graduate program in Canada and one of the oldest in North America.


Undergraduate Diploma in Adult Education is offered in conjunction with Professional Development and Community Engagement.



  • Campus-based Graduate Certificate Program (12 credits)


  • Campus-based MEd program (30 credits)
  • Online MEd in Adult Learning and Global Change: 30 credits

MA & PhD:

  • In addition, in MA and PhD programs adult learning and education can be selected as the concentration.

If you have questions or want more information about Adult Learning and Education Program please contact the ALE Coordinator

We welcome students from a wide variety of backgrounds and diverse sites of practice including: community development, higher education, adult basic education, ESL, social movements, business, and international development. Students bring diverse interests in how adult learning and education contributes to many areas of concern including: health education, gender and women’s learning, social activism, online learning, workplace learning, intercultural and multicultural issues, anti-oppression, program planning, adult literacy, English as an Additional Language, environmentalism, and internationalization.

For more information about students’ research, you can download a list of alumni theses here.

What is Adult Education?

“Education is life — not a mere preparation for an unknown kind of future living. . . The whole of life is learning; therefore, education can have no ending. This new venture is called adult education — not because it is confined to adults but because adulthood, maturity defines its limits. – Lindeman, E. (1926). The Meaning of Adult Education. New York: New Republic

“My educational background includes certification as a Journeyman Electrician, a BGS and UBC M.Ed. degree completion. Many years of varied work experiences in the USA and Canada as a worker, leader, and instructor, have taught me the importance of learning and helping others to learn too.
If you are an adult educator or aspire to be one, the M.Ed. Adult Learning and Education offers the scope, mentorship and reflectivity in achieving that goal.
UBC’s M.Ed. in Adult Learning and Education offered me, a Metis, at 65 years of age, the opportunity to gain advanced education skills, and advanced learning processes. My future degree application is to teach vocational trades from the lessons learned and to move forward in building education with others.”
— Clayton Underwood

karen sheehan“The MEd helped me to acquire a systems view and to frame, problem solve and communicate. It expanded my understanding of international education and global migration of professionals. I was very pleased with content, process and instruction; faculty were approachable, knowledgeable, supportive and organized. I completed my degree as a part time student while working full time, one course per term.”
— Karen Sheehan

Dawn Smith“The MEd Adult Learning and Education program has been personally and professionally transformative. From the perspective shifts gained throughout this experience, I now have an inspired vision for my practice and a much greater appreciation for learning and education in a relational world.”
— Dawn Smith

“The MEd in Adult Education at UBC gave me a thorough grounding in the theories, principles and practices of adult education while providing ample opportunity for applied learning, specific to my own research and career interests. It was very flexible, practical, and extremely engaging, taught by excellent professors. Because of the program, I was able to make a career transition and also feel I became a more reflective and self-aware educator.”
— Fiona Stevenson, M.Ed.

The ALE Graduate Certificate Program (GCALE) is designed for those who want to study at the graduate level, but don’t have time to complete a full master’s program.

More info here:

Admissions Requirements for Undergraduate Study

All undergraduate program applicants in the Department of Educational Studies (EDST) must meet the minimum entry requirements established by PDCE, which oversees admissions to the ALE diploma program at UBC. Applicants who do not meet the minimum requirements will be considered for admission only in exceptional circumstances.

More Info:

Applicants should have two years of experience designing and delivering learning experiences for adults which could include adult learning that occurs in workplaces, community organizations, civil society groups, international development, and government services, to name a few. This experience can be paid or voluntary or a mix of the two. Because adult education occurs in diverse business, community and numerous other settings, applicants for this program do not need to be qualified teachers; however, teachers are also welcome. Persons with relevant experience will be considered even if they do not have an undergraduate degree.

While we accept applications on an ongoing basis, applicants should apply well before the start of the term in which students which to enroll.

Admissions to the Adult Education Diploma program can be found on the Professional Development & Community Engagement (PDCE) website, under “Admission & Registration Information”.

Admissions Requirements for Graduate Study

All graduate program applicants in the Department of Educational Studies (EDST) must meet the minimum entry requirements established by the Faculty of Graduate Studies, which oversees graduate work at UBC. Applicants who do not meet the minimum requirements will be considered for admission only in exceptional circumstances.

More Info:

For admission to the graduate ALE programs, it is not a requirement that an applicant's undergraduate degree be in education.

However some experience (1–2 years), be it paid or voluntary, with designing, organizing, administering programs for adult learners is required.

General Eligibility

To be eligible for admission to a master’s degree program at UBC, applicants must hold a four-year bachelor’s degree (apart from applicants from Quebec) with a minimum overall average in the B+ range (at UBC 76%) in third- and fourth-year courses prescribed by the Department concerned as prerequisite to the master’s program.

Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies - Minimum Academic Requirements: Canadian or U.S. Credentials

Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies - Minimum Academic Requirements: International Credentials

English Requirements

English Proficiency Test Score: Applicants whose degrees are from a university outside Canada in which English is not the primary language of instruction must present evidence of competency to pursue studies in the English language prior to being extended an offer of admission. Acceptable English language proficiency tests for applicants to graduate studies are:

  • TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language): Minimum score of 600 (paper version), 250 (computer version), 92 with a minimum of 22 in each component (iTB) is required for admission to all programs in Educational Studies. Visit TOEFL’s website
  • IELTS (International English Language Testing Service): Minimum overall band score of 6.5 with no other component score less than 6.0.
  • MELAB (Michigan English Language Assessment Battery): Minimum overall score of 81.

The applicants must have an official report of their score on one of these tests sent directly from the testing service to the Graduate Program Assistant, Department of Educational Studies at the address below by the application deadline. Score reports more than two years old will not be accepted.

More Information:

Questions and Answers

What’s the difference between an MA and an MEd program?

The MA is designed for students interested in learning more about conducting research and going on to a PhD. The core courses for MA students wanting to specialize in adult education are the same as the core courses for MEd ALE students. MA students must take other required MA courses, find a committee, prepare a research proposal and conduct their research and write up the results and defend their thesis, so the program tends to take longer than the MEd.

The MEd program is for those students whose primary interest is in developing or further developing their professional practice. MEd students complete their programs either by writing a graduating paper (EDST 590) which could be an extended essay on a particular topic that includes a review of relevant literature or perhaps the creation of a curriculum or policy that is directly relevant to their workplace. The other option is for students to take another elective course.

Can I transfer credits?

UBC policy allows a transfer of up to 12 credits to a graduate program under certain conditions:

  • these credits have not been applied to a diploma or certificate or other degree
  • the courses are at a senior undergraduate or graduate level (grad programs allow 6 credits of senior undergraduate courses)
  • the courses have been completed within five years of the student’s graduate program start
  • the courses have been completed at a recognized institution
  • the courses haven’t been used to improve the GPA of the applicant

Please check the Faculty of Graduate Studies policy on this

Are the courses available online?

Currently most of the graduate courses in EDST, including those in the Adult Learning and Education program, are delivered face to face on campus. EDST 518—Theory and Research on Adult Learning, is available online and other core courses will be offered in an online format in the near future. For your electives, you can take online courses such EDST 525—Program Evaluation, as well as Master of Educational Technology (MET) courses. Please note that permission is needed from the administration of theMET program via Mr. David Roy ( and you may be put on a wait list. The required courses in our Diploma in Education (ADHE 327, 329, 330 & 412) are all online; graduate students can take two of those courses. Graduate students can have a maximum of 6 credits of senior undergraduate courses as part of your master’s program. For more information go to

Please note that we have a master’s program in adult education called Adult Learning and Global Change (ALGC) that is entirely online. For more information about that program, go to Adult Learning and Global Change.

Can I take courses from another university?

Yes, you can take courses without having to register at the university, if the other university is part of UBC’s Western Dean’s agreement. You’ll need permission from your graduate advisor and the other institution. Permission takes time, so begin this approval process well in advance of the course start date. Please review this website for more information:

What jobs will I get with this degree?

Graduates with an MEd or MA in Adult Education are highly regarded in the field. There is no one institution of adult educations like the school or K–12 school system, where adult educators practice their craft. And there is no overarching regulatory body that requires adult educators to have certain credentials. The exception is if you are going to teach adult education courses, such as Adult Basic Education, in BC schools. For these jobs you must have teacher certification. Adult education positions can be found in a wide variety of contexts and institutions including: college teaching and program planning, continuing education, human resource development, government, health care, international development agencies, and community-based organizations. Most of our students are studying part time and continue to work in their respective jobs and institutions where the designing of programs and teaching of adults are often part of their duties. Once they complete their program, many part-time students, with an advanced degree, get a promotion. Some of our graduates change their areas of practice quite significantly and move into new environments. If you see a position that appeals to you as an adult educator, take note of the required qualifications. You can also engage in information interviews, meeting with staff of organizations where you would like to work, exploring with them what kinds of experience, skills, knowledge and credentials they are looking for in their hiring processes.

What if I move away from Vancouver, can I complete the program?

It is possible to complete your UBC degree after you move away from Vancouver. It’s important to discuss this with your pro tem adviser and/or the program coordinator. If you have not completed your course work, in particular your electives, you can take a directed reading (EDST 580), and take courses from other universities through the Western Dean’s Agreement (see above).
There is a form you must complete with various signatures at UBC and at the host institution. The EDST Graduate Program Assistant ( can help you with that paperwork.

There is also the option of taking online courses—quite a few are offered at the grad level at Athabasca U . We also offer the required courses of our Adult Education Diploma Program online (ADHE 330, 327, 328, 329 and 412). See above for the regulations for undergraduate credits in a masters program.

Can I take undergraduate courses as part of my master’s degree?

Yes, you can take up to 6 credits at a senior undergraduate level (e.g., third or fourth year) for your master’s degree. As with other issues noted above, please check with your pro tem adviser before registering for these courses.

Can I take a leave from my studies?

Yes, you can request a leave for four, eight or twelve months from your MEd program (the maximum leave is twelve months; exceptions are if your leave relates to matters of health or maternity). If you become ill or a member of your family is sick, or if you have a change in jobs, or you have a child, or another situation that prevents you from devoting your attention to your studies, please get in touch with your pro tem adviser or the graduate adviser of EDST. Paperwork can be submitted to the Faculty of Graduate & Postdoctoral Studies (G+PS) requesting a leave from your program. During this time you will pay a smaller continuing fee.

NB: You cannot use the resources of the university while on leave, so your library card will be inactive during this time. If you are receiving a student loan, or are the recipient of a scholarship, these funds will not be distributed during your leave.

Who are the faculty?

Shauna Butterwick, Jennifer Chan, André Mazawi, Tom Sork, Hongxia Shan, Pierre Walter, and Rob VanWynsberghe.

Program Requirements

There are several options for completing a degree in Adult Learning and Education:

  • ALE Diploma Program (Undergraduate)
  • ALE Graduate Certificate
  • MEd Program
  • MA Program

Information on graduation requirements for each option are listed below.

MA and MEd Program Worksheets are available here:

Diploma Program Requirements

All core courses are offered online; the entire program may be completed through distance education

Core Courses (12 credits)

  • ADHE 327 (3) Teaching Adults
  • ADHE 329 (3) Developing Short Courses, Workshops and Seminars
  • ADHE 330 (3) The Community Practice of Adult Education
  • ADHE 412 (3) An Overview of Adult Education

Elective Courses (18 credits)

In addition to the core courses students must take 18 credits of elective coursework. These courses could include those chosen from the online University Calendar which contains courses from CNPS (Counselling Psychology) and EPSE (Educational Psychology and Special Education). Some CNPS & EPSE courses we recommend are:

  • ADHE 328
  • CNPS 363, 364, 365, 433
  • EPSE 303

For more information about the diploma program please go to

Graduate Certificate Requirements

The certificate is designed to meet the continuing professional development needs of those involved in the broad field of adult learning and education. This program for those who want to study at the graduate level but do not have the time or resources to complete a full master program. For those who decide to continue into the master program then you can transfer your Certificate courses.

Students must complete 12 credits including the three MEd core courses listed below and one elective.

  • EDST 503 (3) Historical and Philosophical Foundations of Adult Learning and Education
  • EDST 514 (3) Adult Education Program Planning Theory
  • EDST 518 (3) Theory and Research on Adult Learning
  • Approved 3 credit elective

MEd Requirements

The MEd program is a professional degree for people who wish to enhance their knowledge and skills as practitioners in any adult education setting.

MEd students take three core courses, one research methods course and several electives which can include courses in other departments and faculties.

Students have the option of completing the program with 30 credits of coursework or completing 27 credits of course work plus a graduating paper/project focused on an issue or concern in their field of practice.

The core courses are:

  • EDST 503 (3) Historical and Philosophical Foundations of Adult Learning and Education
  • EDST 514 (3) Adult Education Program Planning Theory
  • EDST 518 (3) Theory and Research on Adult Learning

Research methods course: either EDUC 500 or another approved methodology course.


There is a fair amount of flexibility in choosing electives; students must consult with their advisor before pursuing electives. Elective courses could include other ALE courses as well as courses in other EDST programs, other Faculty of Education departments, and other UBC departments and faculties. Electives can also include a self-directed reading course (EDST 580) and a practicum course (EDST 561). Up to 6 credits can be taken in 300 or 400 level undergraduate courses.

Graduating Paper

Students who wish to complete a 3-credit Graduating Paper (EDST 590) should consult with their advisor. Graduating papers are an opportunity to undertake an in-depth exploration of an issue, one that might be related to the student’s area of practice. The paper can take many forms such as an extended essay that includes a thorough review of relevant literature, a policy framework, a program syllabus or curricula, or other materials developed by the student that are immediately useful for their area of practice or work. The length of written papers varies and depends on the topic but is often 40-50 pages.

For more information about requirements see ALGC

For more information about the MA program see the Master of Arts page.

ALE Course Descriptions

ADHE 327 Teaching Adults

Planning, conducting and evaluating instruction for adults. Consideration is given to different beliefs and ways of thinking about teaching

ADHE 329 Developing Short Courses, Workshops and Seminars

Organization and administration of adult education events such as short courses, seminars, workshops, conferences and institutes.

ADHE 330 The Community Practice of Adult Education

Community based adult education with particular emphasis on the application of knowledge of the social, economic, cultural and political environment in developing and conducting adult education programs with an for individuals and groups.

ADHE 412 An Overview of Adult Education

Survey of adult education theory and practice in Canada and the world. The focus is on the purpose and participation in, adult education, characteristics of learners, and the training of adult educators.

EDST 503 Foundations of Adult Learning and Education

This course explores the meanings and different philosophies of adult education, how it has functioned to serve diverse interests (e.g. state, civil society, economic or market forces), and examines some historical examples in Canada and elsewhere.

EDST 514 Adult Education Program Planning Theory

The purpose of this course is to provide an opportunity to study the process of program planning from theoretical, conceptual, and philosophical perspectives with the intent of promoting more informed, insightful and reflective practice.

EDST 516 Adult Education and Community

The purpose of this course is to examine adult learning activities and programs that are located in, generated by, and serve the interests of specific communities. Attention is given to adult learning activities that occur outside of formal educational institutions including learning in social movements.

EDST 518 Theory and Research on Adult Learning

The purpose of this course is to introduce students to social theories of learning including an understanding of how learning is a process of acquisition and participation and how competence and identity are learned within communities of practice.

EDST 520 Perspectives on Adult Education Practice

This course serves as a kind of special topics course and thus varies in its focus. Some of the topics explored have included social movement learning, community service learning, and workplace learning.

EDST 535 International and Comparative Adult Education

This course is designed for all those interested in understanding contemporary theories and research in comparative and international adult education. Participants in the course will gain a solid grounding in the traditions and methods of comparative education and have the chance to apply these to topics of both individual and shared interest.

EDST 575 Work and Learning

This course examines the impact of economics and globalization on workplaces and adult learning.

Apply Online (MA and MEd):

Apply Online (Graduate Certificate):

The number of graduate students who can be accommodated is limited and only the best qualified applicants can hope to secure places. To ensure that all applicants are treated equitably, your application will go through several stages before a decision is made on acceptance or rejection. Once your transcripts have been reviewed to determine if you are eligible for admission to graduate study at UBC, several faculty members in scholarly areas related to your area of interest will read your application and individually assess your suitability for admission.

As well as evaluating all components of your application, we must be convinced by the statement of intent that your academic interests are congruent with those of the department and the ALE program, that your background is adequate for graduate work in your area of interest, and that the department and university possess the necessary resources for you to complete the degree.

You will be informed of the department’s decision by March 31. The department must recommend other applicants to the Faculty of Graduate Studies for admission. If you are admitted conditionally, subject to completing a degree in progress or courses, these conditions will be included in the offer of admission. Successful applicants are asked to inform the department as soon as possible whether they are accepting a place in the Department of Educational Studies. If you decide to accept our offer, you should contact your assigned protem advisor who helps you put together plan a program of study.

More Info:

Applications should be submitted online at All of the following components of an application must be received by the department’s Graduate Program Assistant before the file can be reviewed by the appropriate admissions committee.

  1. Online UBC application form. When you submit an online application at, the completed form is automatically forwarded to the Graduate Program Assistant. Non-refundable processing fee payable to UBC. See the cover of the official UBC application form for the exact amount.
  2. Upload digital copies (.pdfs) of official transcripts. See Digital Copies of Official Transcripts tab for details.
  3. Three references – The purpose of the references is to give as complete an idea as possible of your relevant background and capacity to complete the degree. Two of the references should be from a course instructor or other person able to assess your academic ability. Other suitable referees include a supervisor, president, academic dean, or another person to whom you are, or have been, accountable in employment or as a volunteer. The reference letters must be in English. If the original letter is in another language, the letter must be accompanied by a certified English translation.
 There are three possible formats for references:
    • Electronic references: In the online application system, applicants are asked to provide an email address for each referee. Once the online application has been submitted, a unique link will be emailed to each referee, allowing her or him to log in to a secure site and submit an online reference or upload a reference document as an attachment.
    • Letters of reference (hard copy or email attachment): Your referee may wish to send a paper letter. Paper letters of reference should be on referee’s official letterhead and must be mailed directly by the referee to the Graduate Program Assistant (see address below) in a sealed and endorsed envelope, or as a .pdf email attachment.
    • Reference forms (hard copy or email attachment): UBC provides a general reference form. Your referee may fill out this form and mail it directly to the relevant program in a sealed and endorsed envelope, or send it as a .pdf email attachment.
    • All references must be sent by referees directly. Reference letters or forms submitted by the applicant will not be accepted.
    • The application system and department are unable to accept referee emails from Hotmail, Yahoo, Gmail, MSN or other free email accounts.
    • By “sealed, endorsed envelope” we mean that the envelope needs to be sealed and that the signature of the referee be placed over the seal (i.e., partially on the flap and partially on the rest of the envelope).
  4. Statement of intent. You need to describe in one to two pages your specific interests in pursuing a graduate degree and precisely why you are applying to the Department of Educational Studies and to the ALE program. This statement should highlight the following:

    Graduate Certificate & MEd Applicants:

    • your education and work background
    • your experiences related to organizing, designing, and/or providing adult learning experiences (paid or volunteer)
    • why the ALE program is a good match for your background and interests
    • a description of the skills and knowledge in the field of adult learning and education you wish to develop through the program

    MA (ALE Concentration) Applicants:

    • your education and work background
    • your experiences related to organizing, designing, and/or providing adult learning experiences (paid or volunteer)
    • why the ALE program is a good match for your background and interests
    • description of your research topic or area of enquiry
    • name(s) of faculty member(s) with whom the applicant has contact and/or may be suitable as research supervisor
  5. Writing Sample. You must provide a writing sample that will serve as evidence of your potential to write at the graduate level in EDST. Normally, the writing sample is 10 to 20 pages in length (e.g., course paper).

Please include a self-addressed, stamped envelope if you wish to have submissions returned.

After submitting your application, it is the applicant’s responsibility to ensure that all supporting materials are submitted by the application deadline. The Admissions Committee will only review completed applications. You can check the status of your application and supporting materials through the online application system

Applicants from outside Canada should be aware of additional requirements that may apply. Please read the following to determine which of these requirements may apply to you.

International Credentials Equivalency

Please see the Office of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies website:

Documents not in English

If any transcripts or diplomas/certificates or letters of reference submitted with an application are not in English, then official documents (not photocopies) must be submitted along with certified translations in English.

All documents are to be sent directly to the department you are applying to from the issuing institution.

Entering Canada

To enter Canada, a “Student Authorization” (Student Visa) is required. Apply as soon as possible to the nearest Canadian Consular or Immigration Office since it may take 8–10 weeks for processing. For applicants applying from the People’s Republic of China it may take 3–6 months. Applying for a Student Authorization requires a UBC letter of admission/acceptance; a valid passport; and evidence of adequate funds for tuition, maintenance of the student and, if married, the student’s spouse and children, plus travel funds to and from Canada. Please consult the Immigration Canada website:

If the application for a visa is approved, the UBC letter of admission/acceptance will be returned to the student and must be retained for presentation to the Immigration Officer at the Canadian point of entry.

Canadian Transcripts

UBC has changed its application document requirements.

If you are applying to begin study in 2016 or beyond, you will normally scan and upload digital copies (.pdfs) of official required documents in the application system. These are considered "unofficial documents". These uploaded copies of your official documents will be used for initial evaluation of the applicant.

Conditional admission offers may be made based on documents uploaded to the application system. However, admission offers will not be finalized and applicants will not be allowed to register in a graduate program until one set of all required official academic records are received and validated by the University.


Applicants with Canadian transcripts (other than UBC) must obtain an official paper transcript for every post-secondary institution they have attended.  UBC transcripts are not required.

Each transcript should be scanned as an individual .pdf file and then uploaded to the application system as indicated. They should be named: "Applicant Full Name-Document Description.extension"


Kelly Smith-University of Waterloo Transcript.pdf
Kelly Smith-CV.pdf
Kelly Smith-Journal of Neurosciences Paper.pdf

Transcripts must be scanned front and back. All pages of one transcript, front and back, should be uploaded as a single file (rather than a separate file for each page).


To be considered official, academic records must either be received in official university envelopes, sealed and endorsed by the issuing institution, or be sent via secure electronic delivery by the issuing institution.

If you have been offered admission conditional upon receipt of official documentation, you must provide UBC with one set of official transcripts for every postsecondary institution you have attended for the equivalent of one year or more of full-time study. UBC reserves the right to also require any individual applicant to provide official transcripts for study of less than one year duration. Do not send official transcripts before receiving an offer of admission unless you have received special instructions from the graduate program to which you have applied.

Documents being provided to meet conditions of admission should be sent directly to:

Graduate & Postdoctoral Studies
University of British Columbia
6371 Crescent Rd
Vancouver, BC CANADA  V6T 1Z2


You do not need to submit UBC transcripts as part of your graduate application, as this data is already available through the student database system. However, be aware that you are still responsible for submitting transcripts from all other post-secondary institutions that you have attended (e.g., exchange year, transfer year, etc.).

For any components of the application that cannot be uploaded, they can be submitted to the department’s graduate program assistant at the following address (Please note: faxed & emailed reference letters will not be accepted):

Graduate Program Assistant
Department of Educational Studies
6445 University Boulevard
Ponderosa Commons
The University of British Columbia
Vancouver BC V6T 1Z4

Note that fees are subject to change by the University.

Tuition for ALE Graduate Programs

Tuition fees for Diploma Programs (undergraduate) are found on the UBC Calendar website .

Tuition fees for Graduate Certificate Programs are found on the UBC Calendar website .

Tuition fees for MA and MEd Programs are found on the UBC Calendar website .

Deadlines for applications

Deadlines for the EDST ALE program can be found on the EDST website.

Contact Us

Quick links:

Deadlines Eligibility English requirements
Housing How to Apply FAQ - Prospective Students

For more information about this program, the department and admission procedures can be found at or by contacting:

EDST Graduate Program Assistant
Tel: 604.822.6647
Faculty of Education – Department of Educational Studies
Education Centre at Ponderosa Commons
6445 University Boulevard
Vancouver, British Columbia
V6T 1Z2


Dr. Tom Sork, Program Coordinator
Tel: 6048224406