Most people when they think of Canada, don’t think of it as a place that offers one of the best education systems in the world and is more affordable than you might think. Canada is recognized around the globe for its high-quality standards. Many Universities around the world will accept Canadian University degrees and transcripts as equally as some of their own international counterparts. Study in Canada with our guide to studying abroad in Canada requirements so you can get accepted!
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A Guide to Studying in Canada
We’ve all heard the old adage about “the American dream”, but modern opportunities, volatile political climates and the friendly reputation of Canada has more and more people revising this statement to encompass “the Canadian dream”, and part of that means international students looking to study in Canada. Just last year, ICEF Monitor reported that Canada saw an eight percent increase in international students, a trend that started a few years ago, and then experienced a spike since the 2016 U.S. presidential election with many schools seeing a 20 percent increase in applications.
University of Toronto is the top draw among prospective international students, who made up 20 percent of the school’s student population of 17,452 students of undergraduate and graduate students last year alone.
Interested in studying abroad in “The True North strong and free”, it’s time to get cramming. Here’s the CliffNotes version for International Students on everything you need to know if you wish to study in Canada.
STUDY IN CANADA
More and more Americans are finding studying in Canada to be a relatively low risk way to spread their wings, and explore another country, that in many cases is only a lengthy drive or train ride away from their home down south of the boarder. Ben Elling says he decided to study in Canada because it was close and familiar:
Growing up my family spent much of our vacation time hiking and canoeing in Ontario, and it always felt like a second home to me. When my girlfriend (now wife) decided to go to University of Western Ontario it seemed like a good opportunity to spend some more time in Ontario.
Other people, like Amber Goodness, decide that they are able to get more bang for their educational buck by moving to study in Canada in relation to comparable schools in the U.S.:
I decided to go to Queen’s University because it was much cheaper than going to school in the US (I went as a dual citizen) and it was a high-caliber school compared to many I was applying to in the US. It was technically my ‘reach’ school and therefore when I got in, I knew I needed to go there. I also loved the area and loved how I was going back to Canada for part of my adult life.
Where to study in Canada?
At the moment, the most popular provinces among international students are Ontario, British Columbia and Quebec. A total of 26 Canadian Universities are featured in QS World University Rankings for 2018, and the most popular of them are:
- the University of Toronto
- McGill University
- the University of British Columbia
- the University of Alberta
- Université de Montréal
- McMaster University
- the University of Waterloo
- Western University
- the University of Calgary
Student Visa & Application Process
Each school has its own standards and timelines for those wishing to study there, so take a good look at those deadlines and what’s required for the specific institutions where you’d like to study, with the general recommendation being that all international students apply to their colleges and universities of choice around a year before they want to begin their study.
Amber Goodness says it’s not that different from application process in the States:
The application process was very similar to applying to schools in the states, just a different application. Although there is no SAT in Canada, as a dual citizen, I needed to provide my SAT score and it needed to meet the minimum requirements to be accepted.
The schools should easily be able to provide information on:
- the cost of the application, tuition fees,
- rent/dormitory fees,
- required health insurance,
- and whether or not language tests will be necessary.
All students will need their high school transcripts, like any post-secondary application, may be required to pass a medical exam to prove they are in good health, and will need a valid passport.
In comparison to the USA application program, Canadian students are asseed primarily based on high-school grades and an application essay. Sometimes SAT scores are required as well. However, Canada doesn’t have a Common application, unlike the U.S., so students have to submit a separate application to each of their desired universities.
UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO – ST. GEORGE CAMPUS, TORONTO, CANADA
International Study Cheat Sheet:
Students need a letter of acceptance from at least one Canadian school that is classified as a designated learning institution in order to be able to apply for their Canadian Study Permit. You apply for a permit of study at the Canada Visa Office in your country. The Canadian study permit is accepted as a visa for the duration of your stay in the country. If your program lasts six months or less, you don’t need a Canadian study permit. The application costs are 150 CAD. You must have at least 10,000 CAD (or 11,000 CAD if studying in Quebec) on top of your tuition fees, to get a Canadian Study Permit. Find our more on how to apply for a study permit here.
The Cost Of Study in Canada
Canadian students pay around 5,000 CAD/year of tuition. In comparison, the average tuition for private universities in the United States is $32,100/year. International students in Canada pay a higher rate to study than Canadian students, with some paying nearly 30K per year to study, which is still lower than what an international student would pay in the U.S., which is around $24,930.
Undergraduate fees in Canada
- According to Statistics Canada, the average tuition fees for international students (2017/2018) are around 25,180 CAD per year.
- Medicine and engineering are among the most expensive, with an average of 28,625 CAD
- Business and management course fees are lower than average at 24,683 CAD
- The average tuition fee in 2017/2018 is 16,252 CAD/year
This rate is not much different than American education fees, but many Americans feel it’s worth the investment.
Ben Elling says:
The international tuition rate seemed reasonable to me, especially when compared to some of the private universities in the US, and not far off some of the state universities.
For Amber Goodness, the savings on tuition were very significant:
Financially, going to school in Canada was MUCH cheaper than going to the same level school in the United States. If I compared it to a similar school down here, the difference would be around $20,000 per year.
If you’re looking for ways to finance your studies in Canada, there are scholarship options available to international students. Most Canadian universities have their own scholarship programs you can apply for. Make sure to apply as early as possible even before you apply to a school. If you’re coming from other Commonwealth countries, make sure to check out the Canadian Commonwealth Scholarship Program. The portal TopUniversities.com compiled a guide to scholarships in Canada that’s worthwhile checking out too.
The Cost of Living in Canada as an International Student:
According to University of Toronto, below are estimated costs of living in Toronto, Mississauga and Scarborough in 2018-19.
Estimated living and studying costs for the academic year (8 months):
- Food: 1604 CAD – 3700 CAD
- Clothing: 900 CAD – 1100 CAD
- Local Transportation: 934 CAD (116.75 CAD per month)
- Books, supplies and instruments: 1000 CAD – 2000 CAD+
- Miscellaneous: 1000 CAD – 2000 CAD
Source: CMHC Rental Market Report – Fall 2017
*Room avg. source: U of T Off-Campus Housing Service – Fall 2017
CMA (Census Metro Area)
- Room: N/A
- Bachelor: 1,013 CAD
- 1-bedroom apartment: 1,194 CAD
- 2-bedroom apartment: 1,404 CAD
- 3+-bedroom apartment: 1,569 CAD
Near St. George
- Room: 900 CAD
- Bachelor: 1,096 CAD
- 1-bedroom apartment: 1,198 CAD
- 2-bedroom apartment: 1,983 CAD
- 3+-bedroom apartment: 2,451 CAD
- Room: 702 CAD
- Bachelor: 900 CAD
- 1-bedroom apartment: 1,210 CAD
- 2-bedroom apartment: 1,327 CAD
- 3+-bedroom apartment: 1,780 CAD
- Room: 800 CAD
- Bachelor: 927 CAD
- 1-bedroom apartment: 1,100 CAD
- 2-bedroom apartment: 1,353 CAD
- 3+-bedroom apartment: 1,762 CAD
The Université de Montréal’s research shows students need 15,050 CAD per year including housing, food, accommodation, books and school supplies, phone costs and other expenses. The University of British Columbia in Vancouver estimates the living costs for students to be at 15,500 CAD/year, excluding mandatory health insurance (864 CAD/year).
International Study Cheat Sheet:
The Canadian Government does not cover the medical costs for International Students, with health coverage differing from province to province:
- no public health insurance
- private insurance policy arranged through school is around 480 CAD/year.
- students are obliged to sign up for provincial health insurance for 500 CAD/year, unless they have health care policy with international/overseas coverage.
- health insurace provided by the school for 275 CAD/year, excluding dental and prescribed medication (additional 200 CAD)
PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND
- if the student doesn’t have internationally valid health insurance, they have to buy private health insurance for 500 CAD/year.
- health care plan designed by the university with a limited coverage, including round medical checks and some hospitalization occasions, for 500 CAD/year.
- students have to buy mandatory private University Health Insurance plan for only 450 CAD, which covers only the most basic services.
- if a student plans on staying for more than 6 months, they will be entitled to public health insurance for 450 CAD
- the student is entitled to public health insurance if Saskatchewan is their first place to live for more than 3 months after coming to Canada.
- specially designed package for international students, covering basic health services in the public domain for 68 CAD/month
- if you decide to study in B.C., you must apply for Medical Service Plan (MSP). There is a 3 month waiting period before the coverage starts. There is a three-month waiting period before MSP coverage begins. It costs 37.50 CAD/month. During the waiting period, international students are covered by iMED, which is a temporary basic health care plan designed for international students – 180 CAD/3 months.
Comparing with US study programs
Ben Elling said a major difference he found between his study in Canada vs. U.S was a greater emphasis on streaming towards a particular degree early on:
Generally in the US first year is composed of a range of classes (e.g., I took astronomy and fencing as my electives while tracking towards an English major). I found in Canada there didn’t seem to be that same flexibility in first year.
After visiting a U.S. university during her studies in Canada, Amber knew she made the right choice:
When I was in my first year, I went to visit my friends at the local state school that I almost went to in Connecticut and I was shocked how it reminded me of a high school classroom versus a college classroom.
Working While In School
There are some loopholes that can be taken advantage of, for American and International students who wish to work in Canada while studying, where they won’t be required to get a work permit.
Anyone with a valid permit of study who is a full-time student can work on campus at the school, however anyone who wants to work off campus will need to obtain a work permit which can be applied for through Citizenship and Immigration Canada.
International Study Cheat Sheet:
International students do not qualify for bank or government affiliated student loans in Canada, although some schools will offer one time only emergency loans for international students on a case by case basis as determined by the school’s financial aid department.
How Do I Stay If I want to?
Ben Elling decided to stay in Canada because he didn’t like the situation in the U.S. back then:
While the degrees I obtained in university would likely translate to some US jobs, by the time I finished school I was certain I did not want to go back to the US. George W. Bush had been elected not long after I left the US and it sure seemed like things weren’t trending particularly progressively down south.
Amber Goodness on the other hand, returned home:
I found it very expensive to live in Canada compared to the U.S., particularly groceries and all the other living costs, which influenced my decision. I also returned back to the US because my family was in the States and I was in a serious relationship with someone living in the U.S. in my second and third year of study. I think if I was not in a relationship, I would have considered staying in Canada for a couple of years. I ultimately would have wanted to get my Masters of Education where I planned on settling long term, so I think I would have returned to the US at some point anyway.
International students who study in Canada may be eligible for a special work permit that will allow them to stay in the country for employment for up to three years after graduation, provided they are granted a Post-graduate work permit from Citizenship and Immigration Canada.
Those who want to stay permanently in Canada can apply through the Provincial Nominee status to the federal government. To be eligible for this, applicants must be a recent graduate or graduating soon from a publically funded Canadian College or University (in Canada) and have a qualifying permanent full-time job offer from an employer located in their chosen province. People who have their Masters or PhD’s can apply without a job offer in hand.
Former student turned Canadian citizen Ben Elling says,
From my experience, I found that if you didn’t have a partner or sponsor of some sort, staying on when you finish school as an international student took a lot of work. I think it could certainly be made a bit easier to transition from being here as a student to applying as a permanent resident. I think there should also be a greater emphasis on attracting international students to trades schools and technical colleges.
Before Doing Anything, Research Your Future Stomping Grounds
A road trip or visit to Canada before applying to a school could be a smart choice to ensure your selection meets the needs and expectations of your university/college experience. Former Western student Ben says,
Take the time to research the area where you think you’ll want to go to school. While University of Western Ontario was a great choice and I don’t regret it, London turned out to be a fair bit smaller than I expected.
TOP 10 CANADIAN UNIVERSITIES FOR INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS FOR 2020
Canada needs you. Don’t let the increasingly expensive tuitions fees for international students dismay you. Canadian authorities and academic institutions realized a decade or two ago that declining birth rates in Canada meant that future cohorts of Canadian students – a graduating class at any secondary or post-secondary school/college/university – would start to shrink. Less babies in the ‘80s and ‘90s meant less university students some 18 to 20 years later. The demographic problem that has been affecting Japan for at least a generation was just over the horizon in Canada’s case.
So, along with increased immigration rates, Canadian authorities realized that they would also need to drastically increase the number of foreign students studying at Canadian colleges and universities.
And charge around 3 to 4 times more for tuition.
Yes. Ouch. But the cost is similar to the equivalent fees charged in Australia and the UK, as well as being cheaper than costs at public universities in the USA, never mind the private top-ranking schools like Harvard or Stanford. Consider the following charts:
|Country||University||Tuition fees (annual)|
|Australia||Queensland University of Technology||AUD $38,000|
|Macquarie University||AUD $37,500|
|University of Sydney||AUD $46,500|
|Australian National University||AUD $45,600|
|UK||London School of Economics||US $25,640|
|UK||University of Manchester||US $27,300|
|USA||Public out-of-state on-campus average||US $42,970|
Below, we’ll detail tuition costs for international students in Canada. Remember to refer back up to this table to get an idea of what the competition is charging. As well, these are tuition fees only. You always have to add cost of living (room and board essentially) as well as books and any other incidental fees when budgeting for a year’s worth of study at the university level.
However, even more importantly, look what happens when you put both pieces of the Canadian demographic puzzle together:
- A need in Canada to find qualified, skilled workers to compensate for all those retiring baby boomers, AND
- A need in Canada to find smart, qualified university students from around the world to keep Canada’s top-rate post-secondary institutions filled with bright young minds;
And you quickly realize that you can be part of the solution to both problems that Canada is desperately seeking to solve:
- An international university/college student studying courses that cover dynamic and growing area of Canada’s increasingly knowledge-based economy, AND
- A skilled foreign worker with:
- Canadian cultural experience – you will have lived and studied in Canada for a number of years,
- Canadian work experience – as an international student you may qualify for a temporary work permit, and
- Improved English and/or French language abilities – nothing like sitting in lecture halls, doing lab work, or having to study for those mid-terms as a way of improving your official language skills.
Please note that this perspective is valid whether you plan to apply for PR status in Canada once you have finished your studies and have a Canadian job offer, or if you plan to use your educational and other skills acquired in Canada in order to further your career back home.
So, you really should view the opportunity to study in Canada as a gold-star investment opportunity where you’re investing in your own future career(s). And, as is the case with any investment, you have to be clear about the costs. It’s time to dive in and see what you should budget as an international student in Canada.
As we did last time, and as we will continue to do in order to give a full and clear picture of the costs you can expect as an international student in Canada, we list tuition costs for both Canadian (and PR-status-holding foreign nationals) as well as international students in the following table. As you’ll see, there’s a big difference.
|Region||Average Undergraduate Tuition – Canadian Students 2019 – 2020||Average Undergraduate Tuition – International Students 2019 – 2020|
|Canada||CAD $6,423||CAD $29,714|
|Alberta||CAD $5,714||CAD $21,925|
|B.C.||CAD $5,924||CAD $27,705|
|Manitoba||CAD $4,698||CAD $16,295|
|New Brunswick||CAD $7,628||CAD $16,059|
|Newfoundland & Labrador||CAD $3,038||CAD $12,042|
|Nova Scotia||CAD $8,368||CAD $18,504|
|Ontario||CAD $7,922||CAD $23,770|
|Prince Edward Island||CAD $6,762||CAD $21,628|
|Quebec||CAD $3,065||CAD $23,711|
|Saskatchewan||CAD $7,756||CAD $20,756|
If you’re observant, you’ll note a statistical anomaly in the above chart. The average tuition for international students for Canada as a whole is above any of those of the individual provinces, including B.C. which has the highest average international tuition fees at $27,705. There are a number of reasons this might happen (the information is taken directly from Statistics Canada’s survey of tuition fees) so it’s best to focus on the provinces’ average tuitions fees.
In fact, there’s an even better way. Find a top-quality university and/or college offering the degree you’re looking for and then see how their tuition costs compare to the above averages.
How to do that?
A great start is to keep reading below as we outline our 2020 Top Ten Canadian Universities for International Students update!
10. YORK UNIVERSITY- TORONTO, ONTARIO
While York University can pride itself as one the leading academic institutions in Canada that pushed for and achieved diversity not just on its campus but in the country’s broader society as well, it is a relatively expensive school to attend, so we’ve placed it this year at number 10.
As an international student you will feel not just welcome but a central part of campus life and faced with the choice of a wide range of courses on offer.
However, be prepared to spend around CAD $30,000 just on tuition if you’re thinking of studying engineering or computer science (or any other STEM course). Add another CAD $10,000 for living and other costs and you’re looking at CAD $40,000 or more. Sharing living expenses with other students is always a good idea, especially in the GTA where rents are high.
9. UNIVERSITY OF MANITOBA – WINNIPEG, MANITOBA
One of the best universities in the prairie provinces of Canada and located in beautiful but cold-in-winter Winnipeg, the school offers much better value in terms of its tuition fees. For example, its renowned school of architecture costs CAD $19,500 for international students while its engineering school comes in at CAD $22,100.
While the city of Winnipeg has a number of cultural offerings, the immigrant community is smaller and the city is smack in the middle of Canada, so a visit to Toronto or Vancouver almost always involves a flight unless you have a couple of weeks of free time to do some long-distance driving.
8. DALHOUSIE UNIVERSITY – HALIFAX, NOVA SCOTIA
In case you think this is a cozy little seaside college tucked into a cove on the Nova Scotia coastline, Dalhousie has almost 20,000 students and about 190 different undergrad programs across 13 faculties with an emphasis on research as well as innovation.
The Maritimes most storied post-secondary institution has a term-based tuition fee system. Assuming your course only involves the classic (and increasingly outdated) Canadian academic year of only two terms – fall and winter with exams held in April – then your tuition as an international undergraduate comes to CAD $5,634 per term multiplied by 2 terms which equals CAD $11,268. If, however, your course involves 3 terms per year with the additional spring or summer term (usually starting in May/June and running through early August) then your tuition would come to $CAD 16,902. Given the quality of education at Dalhousie, this is great value for your tuition dollar.
And unlike Toronto, summer in Nova Scotia is mild with the ocean breezes keeping everything at a very civilized degree Celsius. Bring on that summer term!
7. SIMON FRASER UNIVERSITY – BURNABY, BRITISH COLUMBIA
While not as well-known nor quite as financially well-endowed as its neighbour UBC, it nonetheless benefits greatly from being in one of North America’s major gateways to the Pacific and Asia. Essentially a liberal arts university that has been increasing its STEM course load (or “units” to use SFU’s terminology) it has a wide-ranging curriculum with areas like its Global Asia program. Consider taking a Global Asia minor program where you study courses like Mandarin Chinese (I and II) as well as Japanese, and offerings like Beyond the Nation-State – Identity and Belonging in a Globalized World. Or how about: Nationalism, Democracy, and Development in India? Of if you’d rather do applied science, how about Mechatronic Systems Engineering?
Tuition for international students comes to around CAD $14,000 a term working out to CAD $21,112 per year on average. Add in living and other expenses and you should budget over CAD $40,000 a year.
Is the cost worth it? It’s QS world ranking puts Simon Fraser at #314, behind Dalhousie which comes in at #280 in the world ranking and has tuition that’s about half as much. But SFU is rapidly becoming a go-to Pacific Rim school, one with a high research output according to QS.
6. WATERLOO UNIVERSITY – WATERLOO, ONTARIO
West of the Greater Toronto Area, Waterloo has been a pioneer in the co-op (or work-study) approach to education. Very much a STEM university with an emphasis on engineering, computer science, and hard sciences, it has developed a good international reputation as a place where creative ideas can be the spark for innovative tech companies like Blackberry.
We’ve boosted its spot in our Top Ten up to 6th because in a globalized, connected, and competitive world, STEM-focused schools add lots of value to both their students and faculty and to the community at large. And by the way, their psychology department apparently is tops in Canada based on research citations. Keep in mind that this was a founding member of the U15 group of Canadian research-focused universities, and its QS world ranking is a reasonably respectable 152nd.
Fees are high. For example, software engineering runs at CAD $25,632 per term which means you’re looking at over CAD $50,000 per year just for tuition. Yes, a degree in software engineering from Waterloo just about guarantees you a well-paying job after you graduate. But be ready for some steep tuition costs.
5. MCMASTER UNIVERSITY – HAMILTON, ONTARIO
by Saforrest / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0
McMaster, the pride of Hamilton, Ontario, has often had to scrap in the corners – that’s an ice hockey metaphor for gritty play folks – to gain the respect that its fellow Ontario universities like Waterloo, York, U of Toronto, or even Queens have been the beneficiaries of. That’s changing, and in a noticeable way.
Just look at the world rankings. QS world rankings places McMaster at 140 worldwide and 6th in Canada. Meanwhile, U of Calgary came in at 233 and 9th, respectively. So, we’ve replaced U of Calgary with McMaster in our top ten list. And not only that, the Times Higher Education survey placed McMaster at 78th worldwide and 5th in Canada, in its employability ranking. This ranking is a good measure of what a graduate’s job prospects from any given university are like. With its engineering and healthcare programs as well as its Global Hub gateway, McMaster has worked hard to climb the rankings.
It’s not cheap as far as tuition goes. For example, the tuition for a full-time automotive engineering degree comes to CAD $35,634 per year for an international student. But with an employability ranking as impressively high – based on surveys with 6,000 businesses around the world – this might be the sweet spot in terms of affordability and return on investment. It’s never at the top of most lists, but increasingly McMaster deserves to be (as good as U of Calgary is).
4. UNIVERSITY OF ALBERTA – EDMONTON, ALBERTA
People sometimes think the province of Alberta starts in the eastern suburbs of Calgary and ends somewhere just west of Banff.
Wrong. As dynamic and successful as Calgary and the surrounding area in southern Alberta is, there’s a lot more to the province and the University of Alberta, located several hundred kilometres to the north in Edmonton the provincial capital, is clear proof of that fact. It ranks 113 in the QS world survey and comes in at 4th in its Canadian rankings. Petroleum engineering, paleontology and forestry are among its top-ranked programs.
Fees for international students are per course and come in at an average of around CAD $2,200 per course so based on 10 courses per year in a 2-term (fall and winter) academic year that works out to around CAD $22,000. Fees are higher for professional programs like Law, for example.
This is a very solid academic institution with a wide range of courses – it’s one of the pioneers in computer science in Canada having established its computing school well before many other universities – and a very reasonable fee structure. All in all, a winner.
Plus, Calgary might have Banff National Park, but Edmonton has Jasper National Park and the drive from Edmonton through Hinton and up into the Rockies is just about as beautiful as the one from Calgary to Banff.
Make sure you keep U of A on any short list you have of Canadian universities. It’s more than worth it.
3. UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA – VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA
UBC is almost always near the top of any list of Canadian universities, especially one geared towards international students as this survey is. But for this latest edition, it’s slipped 2 notches down to 3rd place.
No one’s questioning its research institutions – we’ve highlighted those here – or the quality of the overall educational experience at UBC. It’s more a case of deciding where an average international student who wishes to study in Canada can best invest their time and money. In other words, despite its undeniable attractions, is UBC the absolute best investment an international student can make regarding their future careers?
The answer to that question really depends on your budget because Vancouver itself if a very expensive city and UBC is arguably one of the most expensive schools in Canada. For example, international engineering students at UBC pay CAD $46,241 in tuition annually. At the Sauder school of business tuition fees, a year of a commerce degree are a lesson in luxury-good pricing at CAD $49,237 while annual tuition for computer science come in at CAD $39,197. That’s not including other fees or living expenses. So, count on budgeting over CAD $50,000 per year if you’re solvent enough (and smart enough) to attend UBC. And if you have to rent off-campus, add a few thousand to that figure.
Yes, UBC is a very good university and Vancouver is absolutely beautiful. Vancouver Island is lovely. Whistler is world class. But remember, you need world-class savings to be an international student at UBC. Very nice if you, or your family, can afford it.
2. UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO – TORONTO, ONTARIO
by Nat / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0
Why isn’t U of T at number 1 if UBC isn’t? Aren’t they the duopoly fighting it out for top spot at the summit of Canadian post-secondary institutional achievement?
That’s a good question but remember again that we’re focusing on value for money. Both U of T and UBC have large endowments – money donated by corporations, organizations, or wealthy individuals – and top-notch research facilities. Vancouver and Toronto are arguably Canada’s principal business centres, as important and vital as Calgary may be. Many companies are headquartered in the Greater Toronto Area or Metro Vancouver. In fact, the diversity of companies in the GTA and the Golden Horseshoe area – the area bordering Lake Ontario from Toronto through Hamilton – is undeniable. But again, U of T knows all of this and boy do they make you, the international student, pay up for the benefits of a degree from University of Toronto.
Consider the following: if you wish to study computer science at U of T the fees for international students are CAD $53,290 in first year and rise to CAD $58,970 by your upper years. If you prefer management studies (business or commerce, in other words) you’re looking at a similar fee for first year but then CAD $64,810 for your upper years. For all other programs, internationals pay CAD $53,290 for their first year and then CAD $55,950 for their upper years. While this is clearly even more expensive than UBC, the fact is that Toronto remains Canada’s principal city economically and unless you plan to study for a degree in environmental forestry, Toronto is more likely the city where you will find a job. And as we explain below, it has far and away the best ranking of any university in Canada.
1. MCGILL UNIVERSITY – MONTREAL, CANADA
A 5-hour drive from Toronto up the 401 heading east, you will find Montreal. (Which means Mount Royal in French.) And nestled on the lower slopes of that hill which we call Mount Royal in the middle of an island in the middle of the St. Lawrence River, you will find the campus of McGill University, our top choice this year. To be clear, that island in the middle of the river is Montreal, a city bounded by water on all sides with an old quartier that was French before it was Canadian and a city where you do have to speak French to truly enjoy its delights. But one where a little French is good enough to get by at McGill, especially as an international student.
While McGill might not have quite the rankings of U of T – U of T came in at 17th worldwide among public universities in the QS survey – McGill actually ranked ahead of UBC in the same survey coming in at 35th compared to UBC’s 51st. McGill has made tremendous efforts at improving its research facilities and investing in its staff and performance as a major post-secondary institution and it shows.
Plus, the costs are more than reasonable given the quality you get with a degree at McGill. The range is quite wide from CAD $18,110 up to CAD $48,747 for some professional degrees. All are noticeably less than those at either UBC of U of T. And Montreal is a much cheaper city to live in compared to either Toronto or Vancouver.
So, if your budget is not quite as ample as that needed to pay for fees at U of T or UBC but you still want a top-rate world-recognized school to attend, McGill has to rank as the top choice for international students looking to study in Canada.
What’s it like to study in Toronto?
If you have students who are thinking about studying in Canada, suggest they consider Toronto, the country’s largest city. Situated in the English-speaking province of Ontario, Toronto is a multi-cultural city with a global outlook, and lots to offer overseas students.
The student population of Toronto reflects the diversity of the city itself, with students coming from around 160 different countries. And its swathes of international applicants are generally pleased with their choice: Toronto is ranked 13 in the QS Top Student Cities. Toronto offers a good choice of well-regarded universities, a big city vibe, and fees and living costs that are slightly below US levels. The city is also a major international centre for business and finance, and is the third largest hub for film and television production after Los Angeles and New York.
Options for university study in Toronto
Toronto has three internationally ranked universities, as well as many smaller schools. Leading the pack is the University of Toronto, a multi-campus college, with its downtown St George campus noted for its green spaces and striking gothic and Romanesque architecture. With over 69,000 students, this is the largest university in Canada and boasts an international reputation for research and teaching. Its distinguished research history includes the discovery of insulin in 1921. The Times Higher Education World University Rankings (2018) puts the University of Toronto at number 22 in its league tables. Students and graduates generally praise its teaching standards, social opportunities and friendliness. The teacher-student ration is around 1: 18.7.
York University is another large-scale institution with around 53,000 students and a wide choice of courses. Its main campus, Keele, is about 30 minutes’ bus ride from downtown. Students can take up the option of combining a major at Keele, with an option at York’s smaller bilingual Glendon campus, where students study for liberal arts degrees with an international edge, including language courses. This would suit students who already have some knowledge of both English and French and want to improve their language skills while gaining their degree.
Third on the list is Ryerson University, which offers more than 100 undergraduate and graduate programmes, and has gained a reputation for its careers-oriented approach. It offers courses in Business, Communications, Arts, Science, Engineering and Architectural Science, and has established links to Toronto’s business sectors.
Students can apply to all three of these establishments with the help of BridgeU, and our Document Sending function allows teachers to send application-related materials directly to the universities.
As with all large universities in major world cities, students newly arrived in Toronto may at times feel a little overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of students, all attending classes and lectures in different buildings at different times. Large class sizes, especially in the first year, can make friendships harder to form for the less socially outgoing. Students report that campus life is very much what you make it.
Students who thrive tend to be those who are proactive about joining some of the many student clubs and organisations on offer. Sports fans abound with high profile football and ice hockey teams. But Toronto also has a strong emphasis on arts and culture. The University of Toronto’s facilities include its own art gallery and theatre and writers Margaret Atwood and Michael Ondaatje, and the actor Donald Sutherland, are among its many notable alumni.
A variety of student accommodation is available, including University of Toronto’s distinct residence communities located close to each of its campuses. First stop to check out housing options are the universities’ websites – and getting your name on waiting lists early is imperative.
While summers can be almost tropical, students should be forewarned about Toronto’s winters, which can last from November to April. Snow is everywhere while temperatures can drop to -25-degrees C, and may not crawl above zero for months. Some students report that their mood can suffer during the dark winters. Escape is possible – at least for a couple of hours – to Toronto’s botanical Allan Gardens. And there’s always an affordable hot chocolate and fresh apple fritter donut to be had at Tim Horton’s – the quintessential Canadian coffee shop loved by students.
How much will it cost to study in Toronto?
According to Statistics Canada, the average tuition fees for international students in 2017/18 are CA$25,180 (US$20,540) per year. Arts and humanities courses tend to be a bit less, while subjects such as engineering and medicine are among the more expensive (an average of CA$28,625 (US$23,340) per year).
Any students who have a Canadian passport will qualify for cheaper domestic rates. Encourage prospective students to check out scholarship opportunities at Canadian universities – most have some opportunities that international students can apply for and these can bring down fees significantly.
If students are hoping to work while studying, they will have to study the visa restrictions from their country of origin quite carefully. There may be some opportunity to earn cash by working in a campus bar or shop, but these opportunities are limited and may need to be arranged in advance. Emailing the university’s international office to ask about available jobs is a good first step. The university may also be able to help students arrange internships and placements, relevant to their course, but these are likely to be unpaid.
Other things to flag
- International students, whose course is longer than six months, will need to obtain a Canadian Study Permit, which serves as a visa. To obtain this, they will need a certificate of acceptance (COA) from the government, as well as a Canadian student visa application package, available from the Canadian Immigration and Citizenship (CIC) website at www.cic.gc.ca.
- As part of the application process, students will be asked to prove that they have a ticket home, a valid passport and enough money to support themselves during their stay. In Ontario this is deemed to be Canadian $10,000 (US $7,070; £675) per year, on top of tuition fees.
- Students are required to have health insurance while studying in Canada.
The Top 10 Universities in Canada for International Students
Canada, also known as The True North, contains some of the top universities in the world, according to the Times Higher Education’s World University Rankings 2020. These academic institutions offer exceptional opportunities for higher learning. If you’re an international student hoping to study abroad, Canadian universities offer many different programs and degrees for you to choose from.
Obtaining a Canadian Study Permit will get you one step closer to studying at one of Canada’s world-class research institutions and learning in either English or French. Not sure which school is right for you?
Read on to learn about the top 10 universities in Canada or click here to learn about Canadian Study Permits. These schools offer a variety of programs that will appeal to students who are searching for the best universities in Canada for international students.
Below you will find a list of universities in Canada for international students with a short review of each school so you can find the best school for you.
University of Toronto
According to “The Times Higher Education Best Universities in Canada 2020 Rankings”, the University of Toronto ranked 18th globally and the top university in Canada.
The campus is one of the most diverse in Canada, attracting students from all around the world, including 160 countries, making U of T an attractive choice for international students. The university is structured like a collegiate system. If you want to be part of a large university and attend one of the best colleges within a university, then U of T is your best option.
Known as one of the best schools in Canada for medicine, the discovery of insulin occurred at U of T by renowned Nobel laureate, Frederick Banting. With a great number of undergraduate and graduate programs offered and a global mix of students, U of T is one of the most attractive schools in the country.
Notable alumni include five Canadian prime ministers and writers Michael Ondaatje and Margaret Atwood. In total, 10 Nobel laureates are affiliated with the university, including Banting.
University of British Columbia
UBC ranks second in the list of top 10 Canadian universities and 34th globally. The university earned its rank due to its reputation for research, distinguished alumni, and scholarships available for international students.
UBC has two campuses – one in Vancouver and one in Kelowna. Students from abroad will appreciate the fact that the climate of the Greater Vancouver Area tends to be much milder than the rest of Canada and offers proximity to beaches and mountains.
This prestigious university has housed many prominent people and produced many scholars and athletes – 3 Canadian Prime Ministers, 8 Nobel prizewinners, 65 Olympic medallists and 71 Rhodes scholars.
Montreal’s McGill University ranked third in Canada and 42nd globally, according to Times Higher Education. McGill is the only Canadian university represented in the World Economic Forum’s Global University Leaders Forum.
Renowned as a medical school, McGill established Canada’s first faculty of medicine, which attracts international students to the iconic campus. All of the original buildings were constructed with local grey limestone, which provides also a unique aesthetic.
Offering more than 300 degree subjects to more than 31,000 students, from 150 countries, McGill is one of three universities in Quebec at which you can learn in English. In fact, nearly a quarter of the student body is from overseas.
Notable McGill graduates are singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen and actor William Shatner.
The fourth-ranked Canadian and 72nd globally ranked university is located just over one hour southwest of Toronto in the city of Hamilton. Located on 121 hectares of land, McMaster is beautifully situated and is a close 15minute drive to the Royal Botanical Gardens.
McMaster readily accepts international students many who are drawn to its well-known medical school. Students and faculty come to McMaster from over 90 countries and the university has established around 70 international exchange agreements with universities around the world. Other well-known faculties are engineering, business, humanities, social sciences, and science.
McMaster is also well-known for its research work, particularly in the field of health sciences.
University of Montreal (Université de Montréal)
The University of Montreal is ranked fifth on the list of best Canadian universities and 85th globally. The only francophone university in the top 5, this school is located in the architecturally beautiful city of Montreal and the main campus is located on the slopes of Mont Royal. Seventy-four percent of the student population typically enrolls in undergraduate study.
Sports are popular at this university, particularly badminton, football, and hockey.
The University of Montreal is well-known for its many business graduates and for graduates noted for their contributions to scientific research. Former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, as well as 10 premiers of Quebec, are counted as distinguished alumni.
University of Alberta
The University of Alberta, with its main campus in the province’s capital – Edmonton – earned the sixth spot in the top 10 Canadian universities and the 136th spot on the Times Higher Education list of the world’s top universities. If you’re interested in energy research, the University of Alberta offers outstanding programs linked to this industry, including programs dedicated specifically to oil sands study.
U of A’s variety of majors as well as the achievements of its alumni, who have founded over 70,000 organizations across the world, contributed to its ranking. A distinguished faculty has received more 3M teaching awards than any other Canadian university.
University of Ottawa
The University of Ottawa, located in Canada’s capital city ranks seventh in Canada and 141st globally.
The largest bilingual (English-French) university in the world, Ottawa U offers courses in both languages. International students from more than 150 countries enroll at this public university and study at a school that offers high-quality education and traditionally lower tuition fees than other Ontario universities.
Studying downtown in a medium-sized city while also being able to live downtown, due to traditionally lower rents than Toronto, for example, is a definite draw for English speaking and non-English speaking international students.
University of Waterloo
Ranked eighth on the list of top ten universities in Canada and between 201st and 250th in the world, the University of Waterloo is located at the heart of Canada’s technology hub, in Waterloo, Ontario.
One of many schools in Canada for international students, this university has become a leader in co-operative education programs. UW has the world’s largest post-secondary co-operative education program, is one of the best Canadian universities for international students, and is committed to innovation and collaboration in order to foster a better future for Canada.
The University of Waterloo is known for its engineering and physical sciences program, which the Times Higher Education Magazine places in the top 75 programs worldwide.
Western is ninth on the list of top 10 Canadian universities and is ranked between 201st and 250th in the world.
As one of Canada’s research-intensive universities, Western is known for its exceptional academic programs, research discoveries, and its location in beautiful London, Ontario.
Western offers more than 400 undergraduate programs and 88 graduate degree programs. A mid-sized university, more than 38,000 students attend the school from 121 countries.
Considered one of Canada’s most beautiful campuses, Western is situated on a campus filled with trees, greenspace, beautiful study space, architecturally pleasing buildings, and impressive facilities.
This university has specialized programs in business administration, dentistry, education, law, and medicine.
University of Calgary
Situated close to the idyllic Rocky Mountains, the University of Calgary, founded in 1966, is located in the city of Calgary, in the province of Alberta and is ranked tenth in Canada and between 201st and 250th in the world.
The university has an alumni network of over 160,000 people, attracts around 30,000 students, 3,000 of which are international students from around 125 countries. The University of Calgary is primarily a research university and operates 50 research institutes and centres. A secondary campus opened in 2007 in Doha, Qatar.
Notable programs are engineering, commerce, dance, and kinesiology.
Distinguished alumni are former Canadian prime minister, Stephen Harper, and astronaut Robert Thirsk, who holds the Canadian record for the longest space flight and the most time spent in space.
One of the oldest universities in Canada, Dalhousie was established in 1818 by George Ramsay, the ninth Earl of Dalhousie and Lieutenant-Governor General of Nova Scotia, in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Ramsay established Dalhousie as a College with the intent of creating an educational institution that would be accessible to all.
Dalhousie became a university in the mid-1860’s and now offers over 180 university degree programs to its approximately 18,000 students across 12 faculties.
In 1997, Dalhousie merged with the Technical University of Nova Scotia (TUNS) in order to enhance its research capabilities to include applied technologies. Dalhousie is one of the public universities in Canada that offers a wide range of degree programs in the sciences, medicine, and the arts.
As one of the best universities in Canada, Dalhousie is unique as it is home to an agricultural campus, which includes a working farm, 1,000 acres of research fields, and several gardens and greenhouses.
Some of the notable graduates of the university include three former Canadian Prime Ministers, the Nobel Prize-winning astrophysicist Arthur B McDonald, and Michel Trudeau, son of Pierre Trudeau and younger brother of Justin.
Laval University (Université Laval)
Université Laval located in picturesque Quebec City is one of the most innovative universities in the country as it thrives on creativity, partners with industry and tech companies, is a leader in artificial intelligence, and is known as a top research school. Laval also boasts $357 million in dedicated research funds. Laval is also Canada’s top university for distance learning.
Known as a pioneer in northern research, Laval is home to three of the most important northern research initiatives in the world, as well as a centre of excellence, which has created products that have led to numerous patents and high tech start-ups to evolve.
Recognized as a university in Canada for international students, Laval welcomes around 7,000 international students from 120 different countries. Over 2,500 of its students are in Canada through a national and international mobility program, and nearly one in two doctoral candidates are from abroad.
Laval employs some of the most world-renowned professors – microbiologist Sylvain Moineau who developed a gene-editing tool; cancer researcher Jacques Simard, a pioneer in the field of cancer screening; and, Gary Kobinger, an expert in infectious diseases.
Notable alumni include Canadian Prime Ministers Louis St-Laurent, Brian Mulroney, and Jean Chrétien, as well as other distinguished graduates like world-famous architect Pierre Thibault, CEO of AI leading tech company Coveo Louis Têtu, respected businessman Louis Garneau, and the president and CEO of Québec biggest private energy company, Sophie Brochu.
University of New Brunswick
The University of New Brunswick was founded in 1785 by a group of seven Loyalists who left the United States after the American Revolution. The first campus was situated in Fredericton and then in 1964, a second campus was built in Saint John.
This university is unique in that it also operates two small satellite campuses located in Moncton and Bathurst, New Brunswick and has offices in the Caribbean and in Beijing.
The university is known across Canada as an entrepreneurial school and in 2014 UNB was named the most entrepreneurial university in Canada at the 2014 Startup Canada Awards. This school has a total enrollment of about 11,400 students and offers over 75 degrees.
The province of New Brunswick is the only bilingual province in Canada with both English and French spoken. This fact may be a deciding factor for international students whose native language is French.
York University, although not in the top 10 list of universities in Canada, is well-known around the world and is recognized as a reputable school for students wanting to study business at Schulich School of Business or law at Osgoode Hall Law School.
Located in north Toronto, York is also well-known for its excellent research capabilities and its more than 200 programs. York has the only Space Engineering program in Canada, a new Global Health program, and a unique cross-discipline Digital Media program.
International students from China will be happy to know that in 2017 the Shanghai Ranking Consultancy ranked York’s Kinesiology and Health Science program #1 in Canada and among the top 3 in North America.
York has a second campus recognized as one of the best colleges in Canada for international students who either speak French or want to learn French. Glendon College is a fully bilingual school located near the wealthy and well-treed Bridle Path area of Toronto.
York is the third-largest university in Canada, with a strong community of 53,000 students, 7,000 faculty and administrative staff, and more than 300,000 alumni. York has become known as one of the top schools in Canada for international students. You can learn across the globe in one of four campuses, including Costa Rica and India.
Notable graduates are film star Rachel McAdams, comedian Lilly Singh, evolutionary biologist and television show host Dan Riskin, Toronto Star columnist Chantal Hébert, and Joel Cohen, writer and producer of The Simpsons.
Simon Fraser University
Simon Fraser University (SFU) founded in 1965, features campuses in Vancouver, Surrey, and Burnaby, offering international students excellent choices in terms of west coast locations for study.
Those who want to enjoy Canadian colleges without having to pay high prices for rent, like you will find in Vancouver, can obtain the same great education in Burnaby and Surrey.
The Greater Vancouver Area is gorgeous as a whole, with Surrey and Burnaby sitting next to the Fraser River and Vancouver fronting the Pacific Ocean. SFU is known mainly for their business school and faculty of communication, art and technology.
SFU is proud to say that they have one of Canada’s strongest co-op education programs and students have been placed in local and international internships at organizations like Tesla and Facebook.
Ryerson Institute of Technology was established in 1948 after the end of the Second World War. There was a great need for skilled tradespeople following the War and Ryerson was ahead of its time as it offered a unique opportunity to learn academic theory combined with technical education at one of Canada’s only technical colleges.
One of the fastest-growing educational institutions in Canada, Ryerson University has evolved into a major destination for international students who want to live in downtown Toronto. Major investments have transformed the campus.
Ryerson University is among the best in the liberal arts, but also offers faculties in engineering and architecture, science and management. Similar to the best universities in Ontario, Ryerson also offers many Bachelor of Commerce options include accounting, finance, technology management, tourism, and hospitality majors.
Due to Ryerson’s location in downtown Toronto, one of the world’s most diverse cities, Ryerson is known as one of the best technical colleges in Canada for international students.
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