For a wealth of choice, culture and outstanding natural beauty, studying in Canada offers an irresistible, affordable alternative to some of its more sought-after competitors - without scrimping on quality

It's not only the picturesque backdrop of world-famous mountain ranges, lakes and beaches that has attracted 350,000 international students to the world's second-largest country to further their education.

Combined with the friendly Canadian good nature, multicultural provinces and consistently high standards of research and teaching, heading north of the USA is emerging as the preferable option and offers the perfect student experience.

Universities in Canada

Across its 98 universities, Canada’s higher education sector nurtures 1.5 million students per year. Three of Canada's universities appear in the top 50 of the QS World University Rankings 2016/17:

  • McGill University (30th)
  • University of Toronto (32nd)
  • University of British Columbia (45th).

Ten more Canadian institutions appear in the top 300 - an accolade only a handful of nations worldwide can boast. McGill University offers more than 250 specialised postgraduate degrees.

Student exchanges

Canada does not have a centralised exchange programme, but many UK degree courses - both undergraduate and postgraduate - offer the chance to partake in an international exchange arranged between universities via an agreement. Check with your university department to see if they have links with any Canadian institutions.

Degree courses in Canada

A Bachelors degree from a Canadian university is globally recognised for its high quality, due to Canada's reputation for excellent standards of research and teaching. For example, McGill University's Anatomy & Physiology department is ranked third worldwide and the sports department at University of British Columbia is ranked fourth. More than 200 degree programmes are on offer to students in Canada at Bachelor level.

Masters degrees

Otherwise known as 'grad' programmes, Masters degrees typically involve one to three years' full-time study, although course length will vary considerably depending on discipline. The academic year begins in September and two-semester courses usually run until late April/early May; there are options for summer study (some institutions are exceptions to this structure, such as the University of Waterloo, that offer some full tri-semester courses).

Alongside traditional lectures and assignments, you'll take part in interactive learning, which is likely to involve site visits, placements and group work. The majority of Masters programmes also include a heavily-weighted dissertation.


A Doctoral degree, or PhD, requires two to three years' full-time study to complete, although a longer period of focused research and writing to complete the Doctoral thesis is usually required of candidates.

A PhD completed in a Canadian institution is regarded as equivalent to one obtained in the UK.

Course fees

Studying in Canada is a generally cheaper venture than it would be in other English-speaking destinations such as the USA, UK or Australia; however, fees will vary between courses and institutions.

Typically, a postgraduate degree in Canada will set you back between CAD$4,000 and 6,000 (£2,500 to £3,600), although some can be as expensive as CAD$22,485 (£15,000) per year.

It is important to factor in additional costs of studying and living into your budget, such as compulsory administration fees (from CAD$150 to $500), health insurance (roughly CAD$600) and international student application fees (not required by all institutions, but around CAD$250 for those that do).

Funding to study in Canada

International students are not eligible for the same public funding as Canadian graduates, but don't worry - there are a number of funding options available for non-native students.

It is a good idea to contact your chosen university to inquire as to what bursaries or funding they may offer.

For an up-to-date list of scholarship options for non-Canadian students, see the Government of Canada's International Scholarship Opportunities.

Language requirements

Canada is officially a bilingual country, comprising of English and French speakers. You won’t need to be fluent in both languages to study in Canada, as Quebec is the only French-speaking province. Fluency in English will be enough to navigate your way around all other provinces, although in many you will hear both languages and most have at least one French-speaking institution.

Upon entering the country you may be required to take an accredited language test to demonstrate your proficiency in English. The International English Language Testing System (IELTS) is an approved test for all Canadian institutions.

For more information on French language testing, and testing for those with additional needs, visit Languages Canada.

How to apply

The application process for postgraduate study in Canada varies across courses and institutions. Generally, you'll need to research the entry requirements for your chosen course and get in touch with the university directly. The majority of applications are submitted via online systems.

You can apply for admission onto a course in Canada one year before its start date; applications tend to close the March before and candidates opting for popular courses are encouraged to apply at their earliest convenience to avoid complications or disappointment.

As well as a language test, you need to provide evidence of sufficient finances to be admitted into the country. Currently, this is set at CAD$10,000 (approx. £5,703) per year of your stay, on top of your tuition fees.

Student visas

British students who wish to study in Canada for longer than six months need to obtain a study permit, which acts as a visa, prior to travel. You can apply for a permit through the Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) website, or the Canadian embassy in your country. Paper applications are accepted; however, these will take much longer to process.

In order to qualify for a permit, you must present:

  • a letter of unconditional acceptance from your institution
  • proof of sufficient funds, including a purchased ticket home
  • proof that you are a law-abiding citizen and are in good health.

The EduCanada Step 1-2-3 tool is a great resource for any international student looking for more information on obtaining a Canada study permit.

Comparison to UK qualifications

All levels of Canadian graduate qualification are held with the same regard as their UK equivalent, and will be recognised by future employers as such. For further education, your degree score will be converted comparably to reflect the system of your chosen institution (for instance, a 2:1 undergraduate degree from the UK may be regarded as a B+ or a 3.5 GPA in Canada).

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