Nursing Education Program Approval

Nursing Education Program Approval (program approval) is the College of Nurses of Ontario’s (CNO’s) new evaluation and monitoring process for approving all entry-level nursing education programs (Practical Nursing, Baccalaureate Nursing and Nurse Practitioner) in Ontario. This process is one way CNO meets its mandate of protecting the public. 

Program approval ensures graduates are prepared to practise nursing safely, competently and ethically for the nursing category and/or class for which they want to register. 

CNO’s registration regulation requires that all applicants have graduated from a program approved by CNO’s Council. Making sure this regulatory accountability is consistently and effectively applied to all nursing education programs is fundamental to protecting the public.

You can learn more in the Nursing Education Program Approval Policy.

The objectives of program approval are to:

  • fulfill CNO’s legislative duty to approve entry level-nursing education programs

  • promote the safe practice of nursing through a standardized nursing education approval process for all categories and classes of nursing education

  • grant jurisdictional recognition to nursing education programs

  • provide stakeholders with a transparent account of program approval

  • support continuous evaluation and improvement of nursing education programs

The same approval standards and process are applied to Baccalaureate Nursing (RN) programs, Practical Nursing (PN) programs and Nurse Practitioner (NP) programs. The five principles guiding the process are that it is regulatory-focused, transparent, evidence-informed, objective and sustainable.

The approval process involves a comprehensive review of nursing education programs every seven years (this term may vary depending on results from the annual monitoring review). Additionally, programs are monitored each year based on a subset of outcome measures, for example, nursing registration exam results. Programs must meet or exceed the approval requirements to be approved by Council. 

Learn more  about how programs are approved. 

We list the approval status of all Ontario nursing education programs on our website. This information is updated annually.

We use the Program Approval Framework to evaluate all nursing education programs in Ontario. Learn more about the Program Approval Framework.

Each nursing education program is evaluated using three approval standards:

  • Structure
  • Curriculum
  • Outcomes 

Each of the three standards has indicators and evidence requirements used to evaluate a program’s performance of that standard.

We use the following three processes to approve programs:

  • Comprehensive review process
  • Annual monitoring process
  • Preliminary review process for new education programs

At the centre of the framework is the program’s effectiveness in preparing graduates to practice in a safe, competent and ethical manner.


Program Approval Processes

Who is responsible for administering the Program Approval process?

CNO is responsible for administering all aspects of the Program Approval process. CNO assessors assess each program based on the standardized indicators and criteria. They prepare the program assessment scorecards and reports, which are reviewed by the CNO Program Approval staff. Staff make approval recommendations to Council; Council is accountable for the final program approval.

What is the difference between the comprehensive review process and the monitoring review process?

The comprehensive review is a rigorous evaluation of a program based on all three standards in the framework and the associated nine indicators. The comprehensive review is conducted every seven years. The annual monitoring review involves an evaluation of the outcome indicators. Council uses the two processes to determine a program’s approval status.

If a school offers both NP and BScN credentials, do they need to complete the approval process for each program?

Yes, a school that offers more than one entry-level nursing education program is required to undergo an approval evaluation for each category and/or class of nursing.

If a school offers different program streams to prepare students for registration, do they need to complete a separate review for each program, for example, a 4-year direct-entry program and a 2-year compressed program?

Yes, a school that offers more than one entry-level nursing education program stream is required to undergo an approval evaluation for each program.

How are the new standalone College of Applied Arts and Technology Baccalaureate Nursing programs approved?

These programs are assessed using the rigorous Program Approval process and approved by Council. New programs that meet the Program Approval criteria will first receive a preliminary approval status, with a comprehensive assessment to be completed in subsequent years. Graduates from a preliminary approved program are eligible to register with CNO.

How are programs approved for university-college collaborative programs?

For Baccalaureate Nursing programs offered through a collaboration between a university and college(s), the approval is given to the university that confers the nursing credential. The university and college(s) work collaboratively to prepare the approval submission for the program.

How are programs that are offered at multiple campuses approved?

Programs with multiple campuses offering the same program receive one approval decision. The outcome indicators for each campus are monitored and contribute to the overall score.

Are bridging programs approved by the process?

Yes, bridging programs are approved by this process. A bridging program provides the education needed for Registered Practical Nurses (RPNs) to graduate with a BScN and become eligible to write the RN registration exam.

Will bridging programs be approved by the program approval process?

Yes, bridging programs are approved by this process. A bridging program provides the education needed for Registered Practical Nurses (RPNs) to graduate with a BScN and become eligible to write the RN registration exam.

Are post-graduate programs approved by the process?

No, CNO does not approve post-graduate programs. Only entry-level nursing programs are required to be approved. While Nurse Practitioner programs are considered post-graduate programs, they are entry-level programs required to be eligible to register in CNO’s Extended Class.

Registration exams

How are the registration exam results used in program approval?

First-time pass rates for the entry-level registration exams is one of three outcome indicators used to approve nursing programs. This indicator has a score, calculated based on a three-year cumulative total of first-time pass rates, which contributes to the overall score for the program


Is the evaluation available in French and English?

Yes, materials required by the schools to complete the Program Approval process are available in both French and English.


Do nursing schools have to pay for the evaluation?

Yes, nursing programs have to pay for the evaluation. CNO is administering the process to ensure it remains sustainable.





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Page last reviewed May 19, 2023