Natural beauty at every turn, world-class degrees and welcoming natives are just a few of the attractions for the 500,000 international students that head to Canada each year

Consistently voted one of the safest places to live, Canada is the second biggest country in the world and as a result has something for everyone.

According to QS Best Student Cities 2018 three of its cities - Montreal (4th), Toronto (13th) and Vancouver (17th) - feature in the top 20. Combine this with high standards of research and teaching and studying north of the USA 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 2019:

  • University of Toronto (28th)
  • McGill University (33rd)
  • University of British Columbia (47th).

Ten more Canadian institutions appear in the top 300 - an accolade only a handful of nations worldwide can boast.

Degree courses in Canada

Lasting three or four years depending on the university there are more than 200 undergraduate degrees on offer to students 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, the University of Toronto is ranked in the top ten for anatomy and physiology, while the University of British Columbia is ranked third in the world for sports-related subjects according to the QS World University Rankings by Subject 2019.

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.

PhDs

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.

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.

Course fees

Studying in Canada is generally cheaper than it would be in other English-speaking countries such as the USA, UK or Australia; however, fees 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$25,000 (£14,300) per year.

You also need to factor in additional study costs such as administration fees from CAD$150 to $500 (£87 to £288), health insurance roughly CAD$600 (£345) and international student application fees not required by all institutions, but around CAD$250 (£144) 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's 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.

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.

How to apply

There is no centralised application system in Canada meaning you'll need to apply to each institution directly. You need to make sure that your chosen institution is a Designated Learning Institute, as these are the only ones approved to take international students.

In addition to proving you speak the language you'll also need to provide evidence of sufficient funds. Currently, to study outside of Quebec this is set at CAD$10,000 (£5,700) a year on top of your tuition fees. This rises to CAD$11,000 (£6,300) if you're studying in Quebec.

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.

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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