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Over its long history, the University of Alberta has had various administrative units or divisions that enable it to accomplish its core functions of teaching or research. The principal such unit is the faculty, which can embrace a series of disciplines represented in departments.  The term faculty also refers to the academic staff of a university. The term school in common usage refers to teaching institutions outside of the university system.  However, in Canada, there is a tradition of schools within universities, and these are generally attached to faculties and the disciplines are more applied than theoretical.  Some schools may evolve into faculties. Such changes may be in response to societal needs and changing views of what are appropriate university disciplines, or they may be the result of restructuring for financial reasons.

Interestingly, the Faculty of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences began as a department within the Faculty of Medicine in 1913, and, after 1917, it became a school. It was not until 1955 that the school was granted faculty status. In 1923, the Board of Governors approved a School of Nursing. Following passage of the Universities Act in 1966, the School of Nursing became an autonomous academic unit within the administrative framework of the university, and in 1976, the School of Nursing received faculty status.

A School of Library Science was created in 1968 and it became an independent faculty from 1975 to 1991. As a result of economically-driven restructuring, at this time it became the School of Library and Information Studies, a unit within the Faculty of Education. A School of Native Studies was established in 1984 and subsequently became the Faculty of Native Studies.

The School of Business is the most recent creation. The teaching of business at the University began in 1916, when a School of Accountancy was created. The first Bachelor of Commerce degrees were granted in 1924, and in 1928 a School of Commerce was formally established. In 1960, the School became a full-fledged Faculty and in 1968 became the Faculty of Business Administration and Commerce. In 1984, the Faculty was renamed the Faculty of Business, later becoming the School of Business.

In March 2006, the Board of Governors approved the School of Public Health.

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