Universities and Colleges in Canada – For International Students

If you have decided to study in Canada, you're at the beginning of a journey that holds great promise. We're here to help you choose the right destination.

28 Nov 2021, 9:30 am


min read

Universities in Canada for International Students

Over the years, many people have chosen and continue to choose Canada as a destination for study. Many feel that it could be a thrilling experience, both educationally and culturally.


If you have decided to study in Canada, you’re at the beginning of a journey that holds great promise.  The next few years of your life as a student in Canada could be the most exciting and rewarding in terms of learning and culture.

There are several top-notch universities and colleges in Canada. Still, while you have the liberty to choose any of these institutions, you want to select an institution that most closely aligns with your goals. This means you should carefully weigh all of your options.

Begin by listing the most critical factors involved in your decision. For example, which is your preferred city of residence in Canada, and could you find the right academic institution in that city? Conversely, would you rather prioritize your course of study, not caring where you live?

International students coming to Canada must ensure that their intended school is a Designated Learning Institution (DLI). This means that it is accredited by a provincial or territorial government and can offer programs to international students. 

Universities in Canada for International Students

The college and university systems include the post-secondary educational institutions in Canada. There is a marked difference between the two types of institutions. This is important to consider before making your mind up on a school and program.


  • Offers graduate and undergraduate degrees, e.g., bachelor’s, master’s, Ph.D. 
  • Offers degrees for professionals like dentistry, nursing, engineering, etc.
  • Focuses more on theory, although some of the courses and schools may also offer hands-on training. 
  • It is more expensive than a college certificate.
  • University is far more costly, and it takes longer to complete a degree compared to a college certificate.


  • Offers diplomas, certificates, bachelor’s degrees, and associate degrees.
  • Offers programs more for trades that professional degrees, like crane operator, vet tech, paramedic, hairdresser, etc.
  • Focuses on practical training, but may also include some theory.
  • Costs less than a university degree, and the programs run for a shorter period.

University VS College in Canada

Canada houses some of the world’s leading educational institutions. If you’re looking to study at a prestigious university in one of the world’s most developed nations, then you are on the right track.

The academic reputation of the university should play an important role when making your choice. However, you shouldn’t rely solely on this factor alone. Focus instead on what you think is the right program for you. International students tend to gravitate to Ontario, British Columbia, and Quebec, which contain most of the top universities in Canada.

If you’re the type of student that thrives on demanding lectures and research, an academically-driven university may best suit your personality. Several Canadian universities have solid reputations which they have built through years of providing provocative, challenging, and rewarding programs.

These programs equip students with the requisite skills and knowledge they need to forge a successful career path, either in Canada or abroad.

On the other hand, if you’d prefer a hands-on learning experience working with practitioners and also gaining work experience while you study, then consider a college program. Most of these programs have work placements and industry-focused training.

While on paper, there may be a general perception as to the pedigree of a college education when compared to a university degree, but don’t let that dissuade you. Canada has a vibrant network of colleges that have a strong reputation among employers.

If you need more information, you can check out our list of top universities in Canada below.

What Is The Difference Between College And University In Canada?
In Canada universities mostly focus on academic and professional programs, while colleges focus more on career training and trades.
How Many Colleges And Universities Are There In Canada?
In 2020 there are 103 universities and 112 colleges in Canada.

Best Colleges and Universities for International Students in Canada

Below are the top universities and colleges in Canada for international students.

British Columbia University

The University of British Columbia (UBC) is made up of two campuses and hosts over 60,000 students. These learners come from all over the world to have an exceptional educational experience. British Columbia University prides itself on its culture of research and innovation.

British Columbia Institute of Technology

British Columbia Institute of Technology was first established in 1960 as a single campus but has since expanded into five schools. BCIT has small classes that follow a practical, problem-solving approach to teaching and learning.

McGill University

McGill University is one of Canada’s most prestigious universities, with a rich history spanning over 200 years. McGill is known for its excellent research, and it’s also one of the best medical institutions in Canada. The school hosts over 40,000 students and offers 300 different programs.

Simon Fraser University

Simon Fraser University was founded in 1965. The school has three campuses in Vancouver, Surrey, and Burnaby in British Columbia. SFU hosts over 35,000 students and offers over 95 different undergraduate programs.

Vancouver Film School

Established in the late 1980s, Vancouver Film School is one of the best global film schools in Canada. This institution prepares students for the real world by taking a practical approach to teaching. The Vancouver Film School offers 13 one-year courses, which include film production, 3D visual animation, sound design, and more.

Fairleigh Dickinson University

Fairleigh Dickinson University has five campuses located in England, U.S., Canada, Vancouver, and British Columbia. The FDU host over 12,000 students and focuses on preparing them for the world by implementing an ideas-based educational culture.


Apart from the top colleges and universities mentioned above, in Canada, there are many other educational institutions for international students just as good as the top-ranked ones.

Finding the Appropriate Location for You

Whatever you decide, keep in mind that your future university or college will be your home for the next few years. It’s crucial to make the correct choice from the beginning.

You can choose to have an urban experience in cities like Vancouver, Montreal, or Toronto, as they’re home to some of Canada’s most renowned colleges and universities. If you prefer calmer scenery away from the noise of the city, there are institutions in smaller towns that have a cozy, community feel.

Ultimately, the success of your university or college experience may depend significantly on where you decide to study. With this in mind, here are some other essential things to consider beyond your coursework.

What Options Do I Have for Accommodation?

The first issue you’ll need to tackle as a student is your accommodation. Most universities in Canada do offer student accommodation.

This is a great option that allows you to meet people and build valuable relationships that could help you while you’re in Canada. You may have to share a room with another student if you stay in the school dorms.

Campus residences may also serve as the simplest and most affordable option for international students. In most cases, the paperwork is easier to put together than trying to rent somewhere outside campus before your arrival. More importantly, you have the peace of mind of knowing there is already a place to stay upon your arrival. Also, residences generally come well-equipped and fully furnished.

Campus accommodations are not without their downsides, and many international students seem to prefer the option of off-campus accommodations.

The bustling life around the campus might make it difficult to find a quiet place to study, and many associated costs like a meal plan you may not have to use might make this option a bit more expensive.

Also, if you prefer a little bit more privacy, then getting an apartment off-campus away from all the noise and crowdedness might be a better plan for you. Make sure you check the local listings if you’re on a budget and prioritize affordability.

What About Off-Campus Accommodation?

Living off-campus can be a much cheaper option for you, depending on the type of private housing. There are three types of off-campus accommodation available to international students:

Shared Apartments

This option offers you a single room in a shared living space with one or more roommates. You may also have to share kitchen space, bathroom, and dining area. 

Renting a Furnished or Unfurnished Apartment

This option is especially suited to those who love their privacy and desire some added comfort. Most international students go for the furnished apartments as it helps reduce the added cost of buying these items. 

Host Family or Homestay

This option involves you living with a host family and is suited for those who would prefer having a sense of home/family while studying in Canada. The host families rent out a private, single-occupant room and serve one to three meals a day, with internet access.

British Colombia University
British Colombia University

There are many ways to find and secure a private apartment or shared accommodation before your arrival. You can check local newspapers for information on student accommodation close to your institution that is available for rental. Also, websites like Airbnb, Wimdu, Craiglist, and Kijiji, can help you find the best off-campus accommodation. 

Alternatively, some schools have a housing office that helps their students find affordable housing. You could also consult with the student union or student association in your school, as they can be a good source of information to guide you in your search. 

There Are Many Benefits Associated With Living Off-Campus, Such As:
  • You have more freedom
  • You have your privacy and added comfort
  • It allows you to integrate better into Canadian society, giving you an all-round learning experience.
  • Shared apartments are cheaper and could save you some money

Other Things to Consider

Can I Work While Studying?

If you are considering working while you study in Canada, the first step is to check your college or university website to find out if international students are permitted to work on campus. You could also check job websites like the Government of Canada job bank or Indeed.

 Having a part-time job to support you while you study and live in Canada is quite important, and there are several options for you to consider. You can work in cafes, restaurants, retail stores, book stores, libraries, and even as a lifeguard or swing instructor. The list is endless; you have to check job listings regularly. You can also check local newspapers regularly for job openings.

For more information – Working while studying in Canada explained.

Social life

Most international students wonder what the campus social life is like in what will soon become their new home. Canadian universities offer a wide array of clubs and societies that students can join – including sports, journalism, activism, hobbies, nights out, games, and more. You may also want to look at what is going on with off-campus activities.

Which Student Services are on Offer?

This is an integral aspect of student life, and colleges and universities in Canada naturally offer a selection of in-house student services aimed at providing critical support to students. You must become adequately informed about what is on offer in your institution of choice.

Is there accommodation and financial aid for international students? What are the healthcare options provided on campus? Which amenities are offered to students?

What Visa Do You Need to Study in Canada?

To study in Canada you need to get a Study Permit (often referred to as “Student Visa”). This visa usually takes 38 days to process and is valid for 90 days after your last session of study. You can apply via the Canadian visa application center in your country.

What Is The Age Limit For A Student Visa In Canada?
To get the Study Permit you need to be 18 years old or more. There is no fixed age limit for Canadian Study Visa. However, some of the provinces have an age limit and it may vary. Generally, Student Visa holders are between 18 to 35.

For those who finished the last study a long time ago, in some cases, CIC may require an explanation of such a break.

What’s the Cost?

Tuition fees in Canada vary across different institutions and provinces, but the cost is still reasonable when compared to other countries around the world.

Other factors that determine the cost of tuition in Canada include the type of program, whether or not you are an indigenous or international student, and whether you’re enrolling for an undergraduate or postgraduate level program.

Average Cost For Students

The average cost of tuition fees for undergraduate international students in 2019/20 was CA$29,714 per year.

Humanities courses are generally the cheapest (averaging CA$7,000/year), while professional courses like engineering and medicine are among the most expensive at an average of CA$21,717/year.

Fees for courses related to business and management are lower than the national average, at CA$6,827 per year.

 If you’re worried about money, you can choose an institution with lower fees than others. The cost of studying varies markedly across the different provinces. For example, Manitoba is the cheapest province in Canada in terms of academics. It’s almost half the cost of studying in British Columbia, which is one of the most expensive provinces.

 There are ten provinces in Canada, and each has different institutions with varying tuition and living costs.


This province has the most universities in Canada, and the highest tuition fees – averaging $8434 yearly.


The average tuition fees in Alberta are$8168 annually. This province has ten schools, and that includes 3 Christian schools with very high tuition.

Nova Scotia

This Atlantic province has nine schools that have an average yearly tuition of $7734 for local students. International students pay an average of $8867.

New Brunswick

Despite being a small province, the average tuition still falls within the top half of the provinces at $7520 per year.

British Columbia

This province is known for its expensive cost of living and unreasonable rental and housing prices. The average tuition is $7193 yearly.v


Saskatchewan’s institutions have an average tuition of $7136.

Prince Edward Island

There’s only one school in this province and the tuition is $7082 per year.


The province of Manitoba has five schools with an average tuition of $6333.


This province only has one school, and the tuition is $3400 per year.


YStudents from Quebec enjoy the lowest tuition rates in the country at an average of $3374 per year. International students pay the highest average tuition rates in Canada at an average of $8847 per year.

Bottom Line

It’s an excellent idea to know the answers to all of these questions before you land in Canada. This will hopefully ensure that you have an enjoyable experience both within and outside the walls of your lecture halls. This is going to be a new experience for you – in a foreign country and in a home that is new to you, therefore, you owe it to yourself to have every aspect of this new life well-covered.

Have you already chosen your preferred institution? Now you need a student permit. We’ve got you covered!

You may have a lot of questions and you may not know where to start. If that’s the case, feel free to reach out to an RCIC at any time for some advice and support.

Get started on the Road to Permanent Residence
Sign up to our newsletter to receive our PR Roadmap delivered straight to your inbox, along with the latest immigration news!

The child of immigrant parents, I came to Canada when I was just five years old. I used to volunteer at an immigration resource centre and now work for the Canadian Federal Government. Writing is my passion and I hope my words can provide some help to a new immigrant or someone considering a move to Canada.

You may also like

The possibilities are endless when it comes to finding study programs in Canada for international students. Keep reading to learn more about one of Canada's best universities - Vancouver Film school.

Editor’s Note

You can trust the integrity of our balanced, independent immigration advice. We may, however, receive compensation from the issuers of some products mentioned in this article. Opinions are the author's alone. This content has not been provided by, reviewed, approved or endorsed by any advertiser, unless otherwise noted below.

Need Help?

Moving to a new country is a massive, life-changing decision with high stakes. You can’t afford to have things go wrong when the future of your career and family depends on the success of your visa application