IIC Programs & Services

Designed specifically for Indigenous learners, Indigenous Institutes are well positioned to offer programs and services that connect to Indigenous learners and meet their unique needs in a culturally appropriate setting. Institutes are the natural choice for Indigenous learners but need to be resourced at the same level as colleges and universities to continue to meet the growing needs of Indigenous learners.

Indigenous Institutes are unique because their foundation is built on the language, culture, and traditions of the communities and learners they serve. Institutes put Indigenous learners and community first, and build on the strength of who they are. When you compare the three pillars of post-secondary education in Ontario; colleges, universities, and Indigenous Institutes, it is plain to see the differences in resourcing. Indigenous Institutes are unique in mandate and purpose as displayed in the following chart:

Purposes of Each Post-Secondary Pillar

Indigenous Institutes CollegesUniversities

  • Provide Indigenous-centred education, framed by Indigenous knowledge systems, to meet the educational ambitions of Indigenous communities and learners

  • Success means furthering Indigenous self-determination

  • System is rooted in the continuity and enhancement of Indigenous ways of knowing and living

  • Provide career-oriented education that results in employment

  • Success means students are prepared for the job market

  • System is rooted in labour market needs

  • System is rooted in labour market needs

  • Success means learners and faculty members can freely pursue the gaining and creation of knowledge

  • System is rooted in western epistemologies

Throughout the interviews for this report, Members described the learning experience at their Institutes. Their programs keep learners connected to the land and to First Nations communities, fostering a wholistic approach centred on Indigenous identity that help students thrive in an environment in which they are welcomed and comfortable. Most importantly, each Institute has developed its own educational delivery style that correspond to the realities of their learners. An example of this is land-based learning.

The success story of Indigenous Institutes shows through in this report in spite of limited resources. The data is evidence that their students are succeeding in post-secondary education and successfully going-on to employment and being contributing members in their communities.


This report identifies gaps. We believe the solutions to these gaps can come from collaborative dialogue based on the shared intention to support Indigenous communities and Indigenous learners through the ongoing growth and capacity development of the Member Institutes.

IIC Strategic Plan 2020 – 2023

After some 25 years of ongoing advocacy, the Indigenous Institutes received recognition through the 2017 Indigenous Institutes Act. This Act provides the legal structure for Indigenous Institutes to offer their own accredited post-secondary education. The IIC Secretariat works with its seven Member Institutes to advocate and collaborate on issues impacting post-secondary matters. The Indigenous education sector continues to build its viable and sustainable Third Pillar through its ongoing growth and capacity. The Member Institutes work collectively and collaboratively through the IIC.

Our new Strategic Plan identifies the IIC’s key goals, objectives, and outcomes over the next three years. The IIC’S shared vision, mission, and values are based on the Seven Grandfather teachings. The teachings keep us grounded in First Nations knowledge and align our work with the needs of our communities.

The Seven Grandfather Teachings provide a solid foundation for our core values:

We have identified four goals in our effort to enhance the capacity of Indigenous Institutes, including:

You will gain insight into the Indigenous post-secondary education sector and its focus, through our strategic plan. Our shared values make it clear what the path forward is for the next three years – making Indigenous Institutes the first choice for Indigenous learners.

IIC Partnership Guidelines: Setting the Foundations for Strong Partnerships

The Partnership Guidelines identify how potential partners can work with Indigenous Institutes. The guidelines focus on honesty, integrity, and mutual benefits, all of which are key to a successful partnership. We know and understand that partnerships have the ability to build and enhance resources and capacity for learners and further lead to the advancement of Indigenous self-determination.

Our Guidelines identify:

  • the core principles and characteristics that guide good partnerships;
  • policy recommendations;
  • templates to help develop beneficial partnerships; and
  • a discussion guide to facilitate partnership negotiations.

Our Partnership Principles

We heard strong consensus from Indigenous Institutes on the principles and characteristics that guide good partnerships. Those principals and characteristics can be broadly summarized as:

Self-determination of Indigenous Peoples over post-secondary education
Equality with our partners on needs and interests
Mutual benefit for all parties
Transparency in how we work together
Capital allocations that respect and maximize the use of our resources
Respect for the uniqueness of Indigenous cultures and the needs of Indigenous learners
Proactive management to foster a healthy relationship and manage issues together

Primary Partnership Drivers for Indigenous Institutes

Existing partnerships with Indigenous Institutes are largely driven by four elements: accreditation, funding, self-determination, and graduate success. Partnerships are intended to result in benefits for Indigenous Institutes and their partners. The chart below provides a snapshot of the types of benefits that partners can generally expect when working with us.

Driver for PartnershipPrimary Relationship PartnersPartnership Benefits
AccreditationColleges and UniversitiesIIs are able to offer accredited courses, certificates and degrees to Indigenous learners.

Colleges and Universities receive financial benefits as a result of the partnership.

Colleges and Universities receive diversity, equity and inclusion benefits as a result of the partnership.
FundingPublic GovernmentsIIs are able to access funding for core services and other needs.

Governments can fulfill their obligation to ensure accessible high-quality education to Indigenous learners.
Indigenous Self-Determination over EducationIndigenous CommunitiesIIs can credibly and authentically represent themselves as Indigenous-led institutions and contribute to the self-determination of Indigenous peoples and nations.

Indigenous communities have a trusted partner that can educate youth and train workers, and that has professional means to advance self-determination over education as envisioned by those communities.
Learner &
Graduate Success
Private Sector, Public
Sector, and Indigenous community employers
IIs can tailor programs to be relevant to learners and the job market, and increase the likelihood of success for
its learners and graduates.

Private, public, and Indigenous community employers can fill labour needs with trained Indigenous talent.

In our Partnership Guidelines, we further explore the dynamics of partnerships, characteristics of negative partnerships, as well as identify six policy recommendations that our Members recognize as must-haves in developing more sustained, meaningful and impactful relationships with external partners.

Additional Resources