Study in Canada

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Known for its high academic standards, Canada has a wealth of choice when it comes to postgraduate study

As the second largest country in the world, Canada is famous for its natural beauty thanks to its many lakes, forests, mountain ranges and beaches. However, it's more than looks that attract thousands of international students to the country each year.

Canadian institutions offer more than 15,000 degree programmes in a range of subjects; tuition fees are also more affordable in comparison to other top study destinations.

The variety of opportunities combined with the country's friendly communities and multicultural provinces could make studying in Canada the perfect study experience.

Masters degrees

Canadian qualifications are globally recognised and are equivalent to those offered in the UK.

Institutions provide three types of degree:

  • Bachelors;
  • Masters;
  • Doctoral.

A Masters degree, (also called a 'grad' programme), usually takes one to three years full time. You'll learn through a combination of traditional lectures and workshops, interactive teaching, group work and projects. Your Masters will also include a dissertation.

Entry requirements vary widely between different universities and courses so make sure to check before applying. For entry onto a Masters course you will need an undergraduate degree (preferably a 2:1) and proof of proficiency in English through an English language test such as the International English Language Testing System (IELTS). Similar requirements will apply if you opt to study in French.

The academic year starts in September, although some universities have several start dates for their Masters courses.

To search for a Canadian Masters, see University study Canada - Search programmes.

Universities in Canada

Canada's higher education sector educates more than 1.5 million students a year. Universities vary in size, location and available programmes.

There is no federal ministry of education in Canada; instead each of the ten provinces and three territories holds responsibility for their own universities.

The country has almost 100 institutions, the majority of which are universities. However, others may go by the name of colleges, university colleges, institutes or schools. All have the power to award degrees. There are also non-university level institutions, which focus more on vocational training.

Canadian universities regularly feature in the QS World University Rankings, the highest ranked entries for 2014/15 are:

  • University of Toronto (20);
  • McGill University (21);
  • University of British Columbia (43).

For a list of accredited Canadian institutions see Universities Canada - Member universities.

Course fees

Tuition fees in Canada are less expensive than other destinations such as the UK, USA and Australia but they vary widely from university to university and from course to course.

As a rough guide fees can be anything from C$5,000 (£2,446) to C$30,000 (£14,679) per year.

Bear in mind that there will be additional costs such as university administration fees (C$100), international student application fees (C$250), compulsory fees for student services and adequate health insurance.

To help calculate tuition and living costs use Education in Canada's cost calculator tool - Step 1-2-3.

Funding to study in Canada

Funding opportunities will differ depending on your chosen course and location but there are a number of different scholarships, grants and bursaries available for international students.

For example, the International Tuition Award significantly reduces fees for international graduate students registered in full-time research-based Masters or Doctoral programmes.

It is also worth checking with your chosen university to see what bursaries or scholarships they offer.

For an up-to-date list of available funding see the Government of Canada - International scholarship opportunities for non-Canadians.

How to apply

There is no centralised application process and each university will have its own procedure so you'll need to apply directly to your chosen institution via an online application form.

You'll need to submit your qualifications and transcripts, demonstrate language proficiency and obtain letters of recommendation. Many international students are also required to provide an essay of intent or a personal statement of experience.

Application deadlines will vary depending on where you study but you should aim to submit you application eight to twelve months in advance.

Language requirements

Canada is a bilingual country that has two official languages - English and French. French is spoken mainly in the Quebec province but many other provinces have at least one institution that teaches in French and in cities such as Ottawa and Montreal you will hear both English and French on a daily basis.

You don't have to speak both languages to study in Canada but you will need to demonstrate proficiency in one, through an accredited language test, depending on which course you are studying.

Due to its bilingual nature Canada is great place to pick up a second language, in fact, the country is considered as a world leader in language training.

For more information on learning English or French while in Canada see Languages Canada.

Student visas

All international students who wish to study in the country for longer than six months need a study permit to do so. This permit acts like a student visa for the duration of your stay.

You can apply for a permit online or on paper; however paper applications take twice as long to process.

You will need to provide:

  • a letter of acceptance from your institution;
  • proof that you have sufficient funds to cover tuition and living costs;
  • proof that you are a law-abiding citizen;
  • medical records that show you are in good health.

It will be beneficial to apply as much in advance as possible.

For more information see the Government of Canada - Study in Canada.

Canadian exchanges and placements

If you're searching for exchanges and placements opportunities in Canada do exist.

  • British Council - IAESTE - gives sciences, engineering and applied arts undergraduates the opportunity to participate in exchange programmes. These take place during the summer and can last up to 12 weeks.

Study exchanges are fairly common and can be arranged through a bilateral agreement between universities so it's worth asking at your chosen institution about exchange opportunities.

Doctoral programmes

A doctoral degree, also known as a PhD, is the highest qualification offered by Canadian universities and generally takes two to three years of full-time study to complete.

Like in the UK they require the successful completion of original research and the completion of a thesis, which makes a substantial contribution to the advancement of knowledge in the students chosen field of study.