12th January 2015
Second largest country in the world, Canada is known for its astonishing mountains, lakes and prairies, but also for its multicultural and friendly society. This English-French speaking country is a strong alternative to the United States for students wanting to study in North America.
Are the universities any good ?
It is no surprise that Canada is the 7th most popular HE destination in the world (its international cohort represent 6.5% of its student community). The quality of Canadian universities is consistently recognized in international rankings: in the QS World University Ranking 2014/15, 26 Canadian institutions are ranked, of which 3 are in the top 50, and 10 in the top 200. Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver are its largest cities, and are the most popular for students. These cities feature top universities such as McGill, University of Toronto, and University of British Columbia. As a result, Canadian degrees are well respected around the world, and are broadly considered equivalent to those from the United States.
One thing to know though: many universities in Quebec offer English-speaking courses, but it is mainly a French-speaking province, and students should be ready to make some efforts to learn French.
How do students find courses and apply to universities?
With 98 universities to choose from, it can be a daunting task for students to find the best course for them. They are advised to start their research on this portal. Undergraduate degrees typically take 3 to 4 years to complete, depending on the institution.
Unlike the UK, Higher Education in Canada is not managed by the federal government but by the 10 provinces. As such, there is no UCAS-like central application system (although there is one in the province of Ontario (OUAC), so in most cases students submit their applications directly to individual universities. Normally this process is straightforward, but students should get in touch with the university's international office to guide them through the procedure. The good news for British students: A-levels are well recognized in Canada, but some institutions will require an additional essay, letter of reference and possibly evidence of extracurricular commitment. Proof of proficiency in French may also be required in Quebec!
What’s student life like?
The United Nations consistently ranks Canada in its top 10 for the best places to live in the world, and Montreal usually ranks in the top 10 for the best student cities world-wide. The opportunities for learning and entertainment are tremendous: Canada offers an exciting lifestyle for students, with world-class facilities for sports, art galleries and music concerts. Nevertheless, students need to be aware of the extreme weather conditions in winter. British winters are a cake walk in comparison!
How much does it cost?
The cost of studying in Canada is generally equivalent to the UK. Tuition fees will vary by degrees, subjects and universities, but international students should expect to pay around CA $15,000 (£9,000) for an undergraduate degree. Unlike the UK, generally arts and humanities degrees are cheaper than engineering and medicine degrees.
Students can use this online tool to figure out the cost of their studies, as well as find the documents needed in order to apply.
Like in the United States, nation-wide scholarships are available for international students based on sporting or academic prowess. In addition some universities offer their own scholarships to international students. The Canadian Commonwealth Scholarship Program might be of interest for British students.
Students should bear in mind that bursaries tend to be highly competitive and students are advised to apply for them as early as possible.
Unique Selling Point
One great thing to know about studying in Canada is that you can start working after graduation, without having to leave the country for visa issues. The Post-Graduation Work Permit can last up to 3 years and is something not a lot of countries offer to their international students. Successfully securing work after graduation helps towards establishing permanent residency in Canada.
(c) Flickr, Emmanuel Buybrechts
For similar articles on advising students on applying to university abroad, check out: Netherlands, Australia, Ireland.