Canada is recognised globally for its higher education qualifications which is one reason why over 800,000 international students head there each year. It also has some of the lowest tuition fees among English-speaking countries making it an affordable study destination. With over 100 universities and colleges and more than 15,000 undergraduate and graduate degree courses it offers students plenty of choice.
Where is Canada?
Canada is the second largest country in the world located in the northern part of North America. It is divided into ten provinces and three territories which stretch from the Atlantic to the Pacific and northward into the Arctic Ocean. It is renowned for beautiful natural scenery and a huge diversity of landscapes and climates. The climate differs across the different regions; Vancouver is mild and rainy, Montreal and Toronto are hot in summer and cold in winter whereas the northern part of Canada is cold all year. Most Canadians live in the south where the weather is warmer.
Canada is a safe, tolerant and diverse country, with a reputation for welcoming people and cultures from all round the world, and for upholding respect for human rights. It’s proud to be one of the world’s great multicultural societies; nearly 1 in 4 of the population was born outside Canada so there are many languages spoken and a wide range of ethnicities.
If you are looking for a cross-cultural experience, you will definitely find it in Canada. Canadians enjoy a wide range of outdoor activities from biking and hiking to ski-ing and swimming, and they are passionate about their favourite winter sport, ice hockey.
Canada has two official languages; English and French. You won’t need to be fluent in both languages to study in Canada. English is the mother tongue of the majority of Canadians and Quebec is the only French-speaking province, so don't be put off if you're not a linguist!
If you choose to study in Quebec, you'll likely meet a lot of students who are studying French as most UK universities have connections and partnerships with universities or businesses in Quebec to offer study or work experiences a little further afield than just across the pond!
Higher education in Canada
In Canada the ten provinces and three territories are responsible for their own education systems. Do your own research to find out more about each region, the universities and colleges in each, and discover what student life is like. Clever Canada have put together a useful guide to the 50 best Canadian cities for international students. It’s wise to start this research at least 12-18 months before you hope to enrol on a course. You can find out more from The Canadian Information Centre for International Credentials
Bachelor’s degrees are generally three or four years of undergraduate study depending on the university you choose. Masters degrees are known as ‘grad’ programmes and typically take from one to three years of full time study, depending on the subject. The academic year in Canada starts in September.
Choosing a course
For general information about living and studying in Canada, and to search for specific degree courses based on subject area, language of instruction, education level and province/territory go to EduCanada.
Entry to courses in Canada is decided by each institution so do check the specific entry requirements for any course that interests you in the course details on the university website. Typically you will need an appropriate school leaving certificate for entry to a Bachelor's degree. For British students this will be 2 or 3 A-levels, or equivalent, for entry to an undergraduate course.
For entry to Masters courses a Bachelor’s degree is usually required plus proof of language proficiency. If English isn’t your first language and you are applying for courses taught in English, you can prove your proficiency by taking an internationally approved English test such as IELTS or TOEFL.
How to apply to universities in Canada
You should aim to apply at least a year in advance of the start date for an undergraduate degree course at a university or college. There’s no centralised application system; each university/college has its own application process and policy regarding admission requirements. So check the university/college website or contact them directly for further details of how to apply for the course you are interested in.
Financing your Canadian studies
Tuition fees and cost of living vary between courses and universities. However, it is possible to study at a top Canadian university for nearly half the cost of a comparable course at a private US university. You can find out more about study costs for international students at EduCanada.
There are some scholarships for international students to study in Canada. For further information about scholarships see EduCanada. Some international students choose to work and study in Canada to give them some extra spending money.
Find out more about work and study here.
Study permits and visas for Canada
Most international students need a study permit to study in Canada and you should apply for it before coming to Canada. Exceptions are listed on the Government of Canada website. You will need a letter of acceptance from a ‘designated learning institution’ which has been approved by the provincial or territorial government to host international students. Make sure the university or college that has accepted you is on the list of designated learning institutions before you start the application process for your study permit. If you are planning to study in Canada for less than six months you will need a travel visa. International students can work part time (up to 20 hours a week) in Canada without a work permit but if you want full time work or to undertake a work placement as part of your course you will need to apply for a work permit. For further information about study permits and visas see EduCanada.
Why not join the millions of international student alumni who have studied in Canada!