Institutional Governance: Practical Guide

This chapter describes approaches to developing a set of policies and procedures to govern how micro-credentials are proposed, approved, administered, and retired.

Chapter Audience:

  • administrator icon Administrators

Why Is Institutional Governance Important for Micro-credentials?

Micro-credentials may represent a new form of credential at an institution. They may be distinct from other credentials in terms of their target audience, duration and format, and their credit/non-credit status. A set of institutional policies and procedures can ensure that all stakeholders understand what they are and how they fit into the existing credential ecosystem. These documents also provide clarity on how to create, approve, and deliver micro-credentials, as well as how to integrate them into your institution’s existing systems.

Developing a set of policy and procedure to govern micro-credentials is an opportunity to engage the community in a conversation about what micro-credentials are and their purpose at your institution. It’s also a vehicle to come to a shared understanding about who is responsible for them and how they will be implemented.

What Are Elements of Policy and Procedures Governing Micro-credentials?

Typically, policy and procedures capture the agreed-upon vision and process for offering micro-credentials at an institution. The policy document outline the underlying principles and rationale for offering such credentials, aligning them with the institution’s mission, values, and strategic priorities.

The procedures provide the details of “who, what, where, when, and how” to do it. They clarify roles and responsibilities, as well as the processes governing micro-credentials. Each institution will develop its own procedures based on its context and existing systems.

Items usually covered in the micro-credential policy and procedures documents include:


  • Rationale and positioning
  • Definitions
  • Standing of the micro-credential in relation to the institution’s credential framework


  • Roles and responsibilities
  • Processes for program approval, changes, and retirement
  • Processes for quality assurance

Rationale and Positioning

Your institution may wish to begin its exploration of micro-credentials by engaging in a conversation with its internal and external community about how these credentials fit within your institution’s mission, priorities, strategic plan, values, and vision. Why should your institution offer micro-credentials? What specific needs would micro-credentials address for your learners that cannot be met with the current suite of credential offerings?

For example, a doctoral-medical institution may view micro-credentials as a tool to serve its alumni and help them meet their professional development training needs. In this context, micro-credentials are pitched at the post-graduate level and serve to maintain or update the specialized expertise of alumni. Alternatively, at a college or teaching university, micro-credentials may serve to make post-secondary education accessible for those who need flexible options for returning to education. Here, it would make sense to consider how micro-credentials can ladder into other academic programs since they serve as an on-ramp for post-secondary education.

As you engage in this conversation, consider:

  • How can you use micro-credentials to achieve your mission, vision, and goals?
  • Why is your institution offering micro-credentials? What do you want to do that you currently cannot with your existing suite of credentials? What is the value of adding micro-credentials to your credential framework? What are you trying to achieve?
  • Who are you hoping to serve in offering micro-credentials? What do these learners need from this training?

Definitions and Credential Framework

Some jurisdictions, like Ontario (Government of Ontario, 2023) and Alberta (Government of Alberta, 2018), have a provincial qualifications framework. This framework defines each credential (e.g., diplomas, certificates, degrees) by describing each one’s typical duration, purpose, admission requirements, and the types of institution authorized to offer it. These province-wide frameworks ensure uniformity across all institutions. A certificate at the University of Calgary is defined in the same manner as a certificate at the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT).

Other Canadian jurisdictions, like Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Quebec, and British Columbia, do not have a provincial qualifications framework[1] (CICIC, 2022). What this means is that each institution must create its own.

There are restrictions on this. For example, institutions must abide by the provincial act guiding their work and the type of programs they can offer (e.g., the University Act (1996), the College and Institute Act (1996), the Royal Roads University Act (1996) and the Thompson Rivers University Act (2005)). Institutions also tend to follow the sector consensus on the scale and scope of each credential (EducationPlannerBC, 2023), so that their credentials will be understood provincially, nationally, and internationally.

Beyond this, each institution develops its own credential framework. This means defining each credential and articulating how they fit with one another. Here are examples:

Micro-credentials are a new type of credential. Thus, institutions need to engage their community to determine how and where they fit within their existing credential framework.

Although B.C. does not have a province-wide credential framework, it has a Micro-credential Framework that defines the credential, including the number of hours typically allocated to this form of training.


Individual micro-credentials should be sufficient in length for learners to acquire the competency being sought and be shorter in duration than other formal post-secondary credentials (under 288 hours).

Institutions are not mandated to adopt the Micro-credential Framework for B.C. Public Post-secondary Education System (2021) into their own definition, but drawing from this document can facilitate a common understanding of micro-credentials among learners, employers, and post-secondary institutions in B.C.

It is possible that your institution will define not one micro-credential, but rather a suite of credentials corresponding to the Micro-credential Framework for B.C. Public Post-secondary Education System (2021). Some of the characteristics of these programs that can be used to define separate categories of micro-credentials include:

  • Credit-bearing and non-credit micro-credentials. These two types of credentials may, for example, be subject to different governance and quality assurance oversight as per your institution’s existing systems. (See KPU’s Development of a New Micro-credential Policy in the companion chapter Institution Governance: Stories from the B.C. Post-secondary Sector).
  • Scale and scope of the training. While the Micro-credential Framework for B.C. Public Post-secondary Education System (2021) defines a micro-credential as training that is less than 288 hours in length, your institution may distinguish between different types of micro-credentials that vary in length or number of competencies. For example, your institution may have a credential for training that is less than 50 hours long, another for training that is between 51 and 150 hours in length, and one for training that is 151 to 288 hours long. (See UBCO’s Development of a New Micro-credential Policy in the companion chapter Institution Governance: Stories from the B.C. Post-secondary sector)
  • Rigours of assessment. Adult learners come to micro-credentials with different needs. Some may simply want to acquire a practical skill without any formal assessment (in fact, assessment could be a deterrent to enrolling in the program). For others, it will be important to formally verify their abilities so that they can be showcased to employers. Micro-credential types could thus differ in terms of the type of assessment they validate, ranging from verifying attendance to assessing learners’ proficiency against specific standards. (See UBCO’s Development of a New Micro-credential Policy in the companion chapter Institution Governance: Stories from the B.C. Post-secondary Sector)
  • Differences in academic level. Is the micro-credential offered as vocational training? As preparation for post-secondary education? At the undergraduate level to give learners work-ready competencies upon graduation? Or, does it target working professionals as part of their continuing professional development training (i.e., is the training offered at the post-graduate level)? Your institution might want to distinguish between these different credentials based on the academic level they target.
  • Nimble versus established programs. Some micro-credentials are designed to quickly meet employer needs and may have a short shelf life requiring fast approval processes to meet external timeline constraints. Others are more academic in focus. They are envisioned to be more durable and aim to meet the needs of a group of learners. For those programs, speed of approval is not as much of a factor. Institutions may want to consider developing two separate approval processes: one that streamlines the process for rapidly developed micro-credentials and another that follows a more typical timeline for more durable academic programs. It’s important to note that the two types of program so approved may have different constraints imposed on them (e.g., the one approved by expedited processes may not ladder into the institution’s other programs since the expedited process may shortcut consultation with other departments). (See CapU’s Use of Existing Policies to Approve Micro-credentials in the companion chapter Institution Governance: Stories from the B.C. Post-secondary Sector and also BCIT’s Expedited Process to Review Micro-credentials in the chapter Quality Assurance)

If your institution chooses to define several categories of micro-credentials, it is helpful to describe how these are related to one another and to other credentials at your institution (e.g., What distinguishes one from the other? Can one type of micro-credential ladder into another?).

The name of the credential at your institution may not include the word “micro-credential.” In these instances, it is important to clarify which of your institution’s credentials align with micro-credentials as defined in the Micro-credential Framework for B.C. Public Post-secondary Education System (2021). This will guide members of your community in activities such as engaging in conversation with external stakeholders (i.e., because stakeholders, like employers, may be more familiar with the term “micro-credential” rather than your institution-specific term) and in applying for funding.

Roles and Responsibilities

When developing a process to govern micro-credentials, the people or units involved and their roles and responsibilities should be clearly identified. This will provide clarity and prevent conflicts.

Some of the roles and responsibility to consider include:

  • Who may propose a new micro-credential program? Presumably, academic groups or people will be able to do so, but something to consider is whether non-academic units (e.g., the career services at your institution) may also propose a program. Related to this question is who may apply for micro-credential funding?
  • Who can authorize the submission of a proposal? Advancing a proposal indicates that the institution has assessed the financial impact of the proposed program and concluded that it can be adequately funded. Typically, a senior leader should sign-off on a proposal before it moves ahead with a broader institutional review.
  • Who will be given the responsibility to review and approve proposals? This will likely be aligned with your institution’s existing governance processes to review new programs, i.e., often this is a subgroup of the senate or faculty council. Some institutions have proposed a bifurcated approach to reviewing micro-credential proposals, depending on the type of micro-credential. For example, Kwantlen Polytechnic University (academic policy AC15 and academic procedure AC15) defines two types of micro-credential and each is approved by a different body. Non-credit programs are approved by a committee composed of senior leaders, while credit-bearing programs must be approved by the senate curriculum committee (followed by senate approval).
  • Who are the stakeholders that should be consulted as a new proposal is considered? For example, should the departments offering programs in related fields be consulted to ensure that the new micro-credential does not duplicate or compete with existing offerings? Should employer groups be consulted to verify the need for or the authenticity of the training proposed? Should the Indigenous engagement centre have an opportunity to review the proposal to ensure that respectful engagement practices are in place?
  • Who “owns” the micro-credential once it is approved? Who is responsible for mobilizing and coordinating resources to offer it and for project managing it to completion? Who has the authority to make decisions for it, including cancelling it? In some institutions, this may be the group making the proposal. Once the program is approved, this group enlists the institution’s support services (e.g., registrar’s office, technology office, etc.) to implement the program. In other institutions, micro-credentials fall outside of the institution’s regular support structures, and additional help must be sought (e.g., if the registrar services cannot accept registration or tuition for non-credit courses). Often this means enlisting the help of the institution’s school of continuing education, since this unit has the expertise and access to tools to manage such programs to help with registration, marketing, learner support, technology, instructional design, etc. If such an association between units is envisioned at your institution, there should be clearly defined roles and responsibilities for each unit (e.g., Which unit can make decisions to offer or cancel a program based on the number of registrations? Which unit is responsible for evaluating the program?)
  • What sort of business model applies to micro-credentials at your institution? For example, should all micro-credential programs be revenue-generating? Or, should they only be offered on a cost-recovery basis? Can an institution’s base funding be used to support the delivery of the program?
  • Who can facilitate the micro-credential training? In some institutions, subject matter experts may be recruited from industry as contract instructors to teach a micro-credential. In others, the collective agreement may stipulate that only faculty may teach in micro-credential programs. In such cases, it is helpful to clarify whether the micro-credential teaching will be considered part of the faculty’s regular workload or will be regarded as supplementary to their contractual obligations. If so, there should be clear guidelines as to what constitutes overload for a faculty (e.g., is a full-time workload plus one micro-credential considered a conflict of interest?).
  • Who is responsible for monitoring the quality of each micro-credential and for maintaining the documentation of their quality assurance processes? Who should be involved in the review? What is the frequency of review?

Process for Program Approval, Changes, and Retirement

Procedures provide instructions about how to carry out each of the three stages in a program’s life cycle: program proposal, changes, and retirement.

Although Selkirk College’s Policy 8100 Instructional Programs was developed for academic courses (rather than micro-credentials), it can serve as an example of what to include in a procedures document to define roles, responsibilities, and actions for:

  • Creating new programs (Section 2: Creating New Programs, and Section 7.1: New Course Development)
  • Modifying a course or program (Section 4: Changes to Existing Programs, and Section 7.4: Changes to Existing Courses)
  • Retiring a program (Section 6: Program Suspension or Deletion, and Section 7.6: Suspension or Deletion of Courses)


When a program is first proposed, it is likely to come under greater scrutiny than at later stages. Several questions need to be answered at this time, such as whether there is a need for it (and perhaps more importantly, whether there is a demand for it), whether there is a viable business plan in place to sustainably offer the program, whether the institution is appropriately positioned to offer it, how the program fits into the institution’s existing suite of offerings, whether the institution has the resources to support it, whether partners have been consulted, and other benchmarks of quality (see Process for Quality Assurance below).

The procedures should describe how someone who is interested in proposing a new micro-credential would go about doing so. It should also outline how the proposed program will be evaluated and who has the authority to approve it. The procedures also may contain the criteria that will be used to determine whether to greenlight a new proposal.


Whenever a program is modified, there is the possibility that the program will lose its integrity and that its quality will not be as high as the original one. In its commitment to quality assurance, an institution should clarify when and how to handle such program changes. The need to review program changes should be balanced with the need to give instructors the ability to improve the program based on feedback from past offerings and evolving external partner needs. The procedures document should address some of the following questions:

  • What extent of change triggers the review of a program?
  • How is the extent of change measured? Are there specific aspects of a program that, when changed, automatically trigger a review? For example, do any changes to a program’s learning outcomes (or targeted competencies) trigger a review? Or, is the extent of change measured in quantitative terms, e.g., when more than 10 per cent of the course content is modified?
  • Once the threshold for review has been met, what is the process to review the program? Who should submit the program for review, and to whom? What information should be submitted? What criteria will be used for the review? How will the outcomes of the review be communicated and when? How is this information documented?


Micro-credentials are meant to respond to employer or community needs and are therefore ephemeral. Once a program is no longer needed, there should be a clear process for retiring it. This could include information such as:

  • Who may propose to retire a micro-credential?
  • What information should be presented?
  • Who should be informed of a program’s retirement? Consider internal as well as external stakeholders.
  • Is there a prescribed timeline for informing all stakeholders? Consider how much notice learners need to ensure that they can complete their ongoing program before it is retired.
  • Does a program retirement require the approval of a person or group?
  • How will the information about this program – its syllabus and list of learners who completed the program – be archived?

Process for Quality Assurance

Quality assurance is the set of practices that an institution puts in place to ensure that any program it offers meets certain standards. Having transparent standards and processes gives external stakeholders, like learners, employers or community or Indigenous partners, and other institutions, confidence in an institution and its programs.

One aspect of micro-credential quality assurance that may be different to quality assurance for other programs is a focus on outcomes (Liu, 2020; Moodie & Wheelahan, 2022; Taylor & Soares, 2020). The standards for traditional academic programs tend to focus on inputs, like the design of the program, including the learning outcomes, the assessment activities, the qualifications of the instructors, and student ratings of instruction. Since micro-credentials tend to have more pragmatic aims, often aligned with the workforce, there is an argument to be made that what happens during the program doesn’t matter so much as what happens after the program. Markers of quality might then provide evidence in answer to questions such as:

  • Are employers (or community or Indigenous partners) willing to publicly endorse the program?
  • Do employers require the credential for hiring purposes?
  • Are graduates of the micro-credential sought after by employers? How long does it typically take for a graduate to be hired on the basis of this credential? What percentage of graduates find employment in the field shortly after completing the training?
  • Are the employers who hire graduates satisfied with their abilities?
  • Do employers consider the verification of assessment that occurs during the training an accurate reflection of how well a prospective employee is likely to perform in the workplace?
  • Can learners apply what they have learned in new situations?
  • How does completion of the training translate into an employee’s increased income potential?

Programs are typically reviewed for quality assurance prior to approval and then periodically thereafter to ensure that they continue to meet the institutional standards for quality.

Quality assurance is covered in more detail in the chapter Quality Assurance.

Three Approaches to Developing Micro-credential Policies

Each institution should begin the process of formulating a micro-credential policy by examining their existing policies and procedures. Based on existing documents, three approaches have been adopted by B.C. post-secondary institutions:

  1. Use existing policies.
    • Some institutions may already have existing policies and procedures in place that can govern micro-credentials. The analysis at these institutions typically begins by mapping the definition of a micro-credential program as described in the Micro-credential Framework for B.C. Public Post-secondary Education System (2021) to the institution’s existing credentials and the policies that govern them. If the resulting analysis maps micro-credentials to existing credentials and policies, it would be beneficial to communicate this information to the community. This would help those involved in developing and offering micro-credentials to understand which of their institution’s credentials correspond to the B.C. definition of a micro-credential, especially since an institution’s credentials may have different names.
    • As examples, see CapU’s Use of Existing Policies to Approve Micro-credentials and VCC’s Use of Existing Policies to Approve Micro-credentials in the companion chapter Institution Governance: Stories from the B.C. Post-secondary Sector)
  2. Modify existing policies.
    • Although existing policies may cover such aspects as how a micro-credential is defined, how it fits into an institution’s credential framework, or how it is governed, these policies may require small tweaks. For example, some institutions may intend to introduce micro-credentials as a new type of credential but opt to use existing policies and procedures developed for other credentials to govern them. In such instances, policy development would involve defining the credential and clarifying which existing processes apply to the program.
    • As an example, see Langara College’s F1001 Regular Studies Credentials and Micro-credentials, modified to include micro-credentials.
  3. Create new policies.

The section What Are Elements of Policy and Procedures Governing Micro-credentials provided a range of topics to consider when developing a micro-credential policy. Here are questions to ask about the process of policy development and broader questions to consider about its contents.

Policy development process

  • Who should be assigned responsibility for developing the policy? What expertise might be helpful? (e.g., policy knowledge, teaching and learning innovation, strategic focus for the institution, etc.)
  • How will the perspectives of diverse stakeholders be solicited and incorporated? For example, how will you ensure that the office of the registrar, the school of continuing education, and learners are consulted? How will key elements of the policy be communicated to stakeholders as it is being developed to prevent any surprises when it is presented to the wider community?
  • How might you incorporate the advice of external stakeholders into the process? External input is not typically sought in post-secondary institution policies but may be particularly important for micro-credentials which have an external audience. For example, employers, community, or Indigenous partners could provide insights on the quality assurance process and its impact on the credibility of the program from their perspective.
  • How will the policy be embedded within existing governance processes? How can you ensure that the policy is respected and accepted at your institution? Who has the authority to do this? (Note: Usually this is the senate, faculty council, or a deans’ council).

Policy content

  • How will proposed processes fit within existing policies and procedures? Is it possible to draw from existing procedures? When creating new ones, what are the implications? How will modifying one part of the institution’s systems modify other aspects of the institution’s systems?
  • How can the institution balance the need to respond quickly to employer needs and funding opportunities when creating micro-credentials with the need to apply rigorous oversight and quality assurance processes, which can be time-consuming?
  • Should authority for the creation of micro-credentials be centralized at your institution, or should several different groups have the ability to create them? Who might want to create new programs? Who has the resources and knowledge to successfully manage and offer them?

Examples of Micro-credential Policies

Below are some examples or micro-credential-specific policies that may inspire the development of your institution’s own:

B.C. institutions

Other institutions

The State University of New York (SUNY), a leader in micro-credentials, has developed an overarching framework to guide its many campuses in developing their own micro-credential policies and procedures. The Suggested Resources section provides information about the SUNY framework and links to the policies of individual campuses.

Suggested Resources

Example of a Multi-Campus Micro-credential Policy Framework

The State University of New York (SUNY) has created a website that provides a detailed account of its policy’s inception, along with various reports generated during its development. It may be helpful to note that SUNY is a multi-campus institution (a fact that is taken into consideration when developing approval processes for micro-credentials).

State University of New York (2018). SUNY Launches Micro-credential Policy. Academic Affairs.

The following document provides a quick overview of the SUNY policy.

State University of New York (2018). Highlights: The State University of New York (SUNY) Micro-credential Policy.

Since SUNY is composed of many campuses, each one may develop its own policies and procedures. The following website links to several campuses’ policies and procedures governing micro-credentials and shows a range of implementation approaches.

State University of New York (2023). Local Policies and Practices. Academic Affairs.

The following article provides an overview of the policy and process at SUNY.

Proctor, C. (2021). Defining a role for high-quality microcredentials in higher education. The Evolllution.

Guidelines for Developing a Micro-credential Policy

The following white paper was written by a group of academics on how institutions can develop a framework for short-term, work-aligned training and include these programs in their existing credential framework and policies.

Flintoff, K. S., Casilli, C., Gibson, D., Derryberry, A., Pempedijan, G., Bixler, B., & Harvey, F. (2014). A collaboratively drafted campus policy framework for open badges. Badge Alliance.

State of Micro-credentials Across the United States

This interactive website allows you to view the status of micro-credentials across the United States. By choosing filters such as “district-level incentives” and “State-level Policy,” you can see how each state has pursued and supported micro-credentials.

Digital Promise (n.d.). Micro-credential Policy Map.

Works Cited

Canadian Information Centre for International Credentials (CICIC). (2022). Qualifications frameworks in Canada.

College and Institute Act, RSBC 1996, c 52.

Council of Ministers of Education, Canada. (2007). Ministerial statement on quality assurance of degree education in Canada.

EducationPlannerBC. (2023). Credentials.

Government of Alberta. (2018). Alberta credential framework (ACF).

Government of Ontario. (2023). Ontario qualifications framework. Ministry of Colleges and Universities.

Liu, Q. (2020). The impact of quality assurance policies on curriculum development in Ontario postsecondary education. Canadian Journal of Higher Education, 50(1), 53–67.

Moodie, G., & Wheelahan, L. (2022). Credentialing micro credentials. Journal of Teaching and Learning for Graduate Employability, 12(1), 58–71.

Royal Roads University Act, RSBC 1996, c 409.

Taylor, S. C., & Soares, L. (2020). Quality assurance for the new credentialing market. New Directions for Community Colleges, 2020(189), 67–82.

Thompson Rivers University Act, SBC 2005, c 17.

University Act, RSBC 1996, c 468.

  1. While these provinces do not have a provincial qualifications framework, ministers of education across Canada have agreed to a Canadian Degree Qualifications Framework (Council of Ministers of Education, Canada, 2007), so a degree is defined uniformly across the country.


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