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Athabasca University

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What career opportunities are available to graduates and what is the job market like in the legislative drafting area?

If you have a law degree (LL.B., J.D.) as well as the GDLD:

In Canada you are eligible for positions in provincial and federal legislative drafting offices and as legal drafting counsel for parliamentary offices. Opportunities also arise in larger urban municipalities where the city solicitor's offices require drafters for bylaws and city policies. As well, there are a number of lawyers across Canada who are in private practice and do contract drafting work both in Canada and abroad. Further, international jurisdictions with small populations and limited access to qualified legislative drafters (e.g. jurisdictions like Bermuda and the Cayman Islands) often hire legislative drafters on 1-3 year contracts. Some of our legislative drafting instructors have taken contracts in other jurisdictions that are developing new legislation (e.g. Nigeria, Pakistan, Russia, etc.) and require additional drafters to produce a large volume of new legislation in connection with legislative reform. Of course, many of these opportunities will depend upon the drafter's additional experience in the practice of law and/or legislative drafting and the experience of the competing applicant pool.

When the University of Ottawa previously had a master's degree in legislative drafting it was becoming one of the requested qualifications for applicants for legislative drafting positions. After the program closed, the demand for this qualification was obviously no longer possible. The Athabasca University GDLD will soon have diploma graduates and it is our hope that as the program grows it will become one of the requested qualifications for applicants for these kinds of positions. In the current climate of restraint in public spending, governments will continue to hire but they will be more selective. Training in legislative drafting is clearly an asset that should help candidates distinguish themselves in an increasingly competitive staffing environment.

Athabasca University is currently (2012) finalizing arrangements with an international organization to provide scholarships to enrol a number of students each year in the Athabasca University GDLD so that these international students will receive the recognized credential upon completion of their training. So, beyond the training itself, the possession of the recognized credential is moving towards international recognition as a desired qualification.

This program was introduced to Athabasca University by the Clerk of the Legislative Assembly of Alberta who was concerned that there are a number of senior legislative drafters across Canada who will soon be retiring and the mentorship pool for learning on the job will be shrinking. Based on current trends, and demographics, it is expected that there will be some positions opening up across Canadian legislative drafting offices in the next several years.

In addition to the above, you would be also qualified for all of the positions below that do not necessarily require an initial law degree.

If you do not have an initial law degree but have related experience as well as the GDLD:

In connection with governmental employment opportunities, drafting training is helpful in a wide range of government legal positions, not just in those with dedicated drafting units. Several other offices often benefit from the services of people with legislative drafting background such as: legislative planning offices, various civil service departments, various city and rural municipality departments, unions, larger corporation offices involved in policy drafting and implementation, Indigenous self-government initiatives, and generally any other occupation that requires drafting policies, collective agreements, regulations, bylaws and other documentation where precise and consistent drafting is advantageous.

2. Has the program been of value to students?

Although the results are anecdotal to date, the majority of our students find that the courses do provide additional knowledge and experience for their day-to-day tasks in legislative drafting and legislative planning offices. The Commonwealth of Learning (from whom Athabasca University licensed the materials) previously had Canadian drafting experts review and comment upon the program. It was their belief that taking the program was roughly equivalent to 2 years of on the job experience in a drafting office. All of the experts who have reviewed the program materials, both Canadian and international experts, are very favourably impressed with the quality of the materials. In addition, Athabasca University, in collaboration with the Commonwealth of Learning, is now in the process of updating and further upgrading the materials with the help of Canadian drafting experts and a panel of international expert advisors. When this project is completed it will not be a stretch to claim that the materials set an international drafting standard of training for Commonwealth countries.

3. Are there any strengths/drawbacks to the distance learning aspects of the course?

There are many strengths, and very few drawbacks, to distance learning for legislative drafting experience. These have been summarized in an article, currently in press, by Dewhurst, Levert and Zariski. Some strengths are:

  • May shorten the period of in service training required
  • Students may study at their own pace
  • Some theory may be considered
  • Students may be more motivated than in residential courses

4. How many courses are in the GDLD program?

There are 5 courses required for completion of the Program. Each course is designed to take approximately 6 months to complete. However, because the courses are designed on an individual study basis, students may complete courses sooner if their time permits. In instances where employment/other demands take priority, it is also possible for students to purchase up to three 2-month extensions per course.

5. How long does it take to complete the GDLD program?

The Program could be completed in 1.5 years with full-time study or as long a time as 5 years with part-time study, these timelines primarily dependent upon students' progress through the courses.

6. Are students assigned instructors?

In every course there will be a specific instructor assigned to work with the student. The exception is the final project, LGST 559, where there is a possibility of having two instructors assigned (one as Supervisor, one as Co-Supervisor). However, over the course of the Program we try to avoid having the students work with the same instructor for every course. It is our opinion that the diversity in instructors leads to a better overall learning outcome for the students. For a list of our instructors see:

7. How are course and program fees paid? Are students required to pay a yearly registration fee?

There are some initial application and admission fees, which must be paid up front. Then, for the courses themselves, fees are due as students register for each course. For more information on GDLD fees, please see:

8. What are the admission deadlines for the program?

Students are admitted on a monthly basis. Application files are reviewed once all application documents have been received. Students are then notified by the GDLD Office as to the admission decision.

9. Is there a penalty for finishing outside the time allocated to finish each course?

Each 3 credit course has a 6 month contract period, but students may purchase up to three 2-month extensions. Students have until their course end date to extend their course. order to process your extension, these fees must be submitted with your extension request. See:

10. Is there an absolute outside limit for finishing each course?

Ordinarily a student would be expected to finish each 3 credit course within a maximum of 1 year (ie after 3 extensions), but in exceptional circumstances some further time may be granted.

11. What is the minimum amount of time to complete the course?

There is no official minimum time set to complete each course since students set their own pace. However, students should allow at least two weeks between submitting a project for assessment and receiving the mark, comments and feedback from the instructor. Since there are between 5 and 6 projects per course we recommend that students plan to spend at least three months per course. This assumes that the student has sufficient time available to study the course materials and complete the projects.

Therefore, in order to complete the entire diploma program successfully we would recommend a minimum duration of study of 15 to 18 months for planning purposes.

12. Is the diploma equivalent to a Graduate Degree?

We consider the Diploma as equivalent to approximately one half of a Masters/Graduate degree program. We are exploring the possibility of articulating the Diploma with a Masters program.

13. How many courses may a student take at the same time?

With permission from the Program Director a student may take two courses simultaneously.

Updated September 01 2021 by Student & Academic Services

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