Studying in Canada

Canada is one of the best countries in the world to study, due to its excellent educational standards, high quality of life and its focus on diversity, to name but a few reasons. It has become one of the top countries in the world for international students choosing to study abroad.

In this guide to studying in Canada, we provide you with all the essential information needed to continue your educational experience in Canada. We cover obtaining a student visa, getting a scholarship, covering the cost of college fees and using education agents. We also provide a useful guide to finding a course and college or university that is right for you.



If you’re an international student thinking about making the move to Canada to continue your education, you’re not alone. Canada is one of the most popular destinations to study and attend college, and it’s really no wonder why.


Internationally Recognized Qualification

Canada is known for having very high educational standards and quality controls, and this leads to students graduating with qualifications that are valued around the world. 


Multicultural Society

Canada as a nation prides itself on being a welcoming, diverse and inclusive country. There are lots of different ethnic groups throughout Canada, and thousands of international students add to this cultural melting pot every year. This means that those choosing to study in Canada will feel included, content and hopefully over time, at home in their new country.


Chance to Learn a Language

Since Canada is bilingual (with English and French being the national languages), it provides even more opportunities than other countries to learn a language. The country is famous for having exceptional language training programs, and this benefits newcomers greatly. Coming to Canada to study is an excellent opportunity to improve your language skills in English, French, or both.


Possibility of Staying in Canada

After graduation, international students in Canada have the option of living and working in the country for a period of time. Post-graduate work permits can only be issued for the length of your study program, and for a maximum of three years. This is a great way to gain valuable work experience in Canada, which can then be used as experience when applying for the Canadian Experience Class program (which allows holders to stay permanently in Canada). For more information on visas and staying in Canada, see our ‘Immigrating’ section (link to be inserted).


High Quality of Life

Canada is famous the world over for having one of the highest standards of living in the world. It consistently tops quality of life polls, due to factors such as low crime, excellent health care, and high life expectancy. 




Undertaking third level education in another country is always quite expensive, especially when you must pay for travel costs, accommodation and general living expenses on top of college fees. However, the good news is Canadian college fees are often cheaper than other colleges in other developed, English speaking countries such as the US, the UK and Australia.



The cost of studying in Canada will vary depending on the course and the province you are studying in, but the average cost for an international student can be between CDN$8,000 and CDN$15,000 per annum for an undergraduate. Post-graduate courses are more expensive.  

Accommodation is another high expense. On-campus accommodation is always popular with college students, due to easy access to classes, amenities and other students, but this is always the most expensive option. It’s recommended to find accommodation yourself in the area near the college or university, as this is guaranteed to be cheaper.

Students are also responsible for buying course materials such as textbooks and supplies. They must also support themselves during their studies by paying for food, transportation and other expenses. You can find a useful tool to help you calculate the cost of post-secondary education at Can Learn.


Financial Assistance

Many students depend on financial assistance programs to cover the costs associated with post-secondary education in Canada. Generally speaking, there are two types of financial assistance for students: 1) “student loans,” which have to be repaid and 2) “grants,” “scholarships” or “bursaries,” which do not have to be repaid.

Both the federal government and the provincial or territorial governments have financial assistance programs that provide low cost loans, grants and scholarships for students. You can find detailed information on both federal and provincial or territorial financial assistance programs for students at Can Learn.

More information on loans, grants and scholarships can be obtained from the university or college that you plan to attend. Most institutions have an office that is responsible specifically for these matters.

For further information on scholarships, see our ‘Scholarships’ section. To find out more about obtaining a work permit and working while you are studying, see our ‘Ability to Work’ section.

Source: Welcome to Canada: What you should know, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada. Reproduced with the permission of the Minister of Public Works and Government Services Canada, 2013.



Scholarships are an excellent way to fund your college studies if you are able to obtain one, as all your college fees are paid for and you do not owe the college anything.  

Scholarships vary between institutions, so it’s recommended to check with the college or university you are most interested in to see what scholarships they have available.

Scholarships are usually given to the most academically gifted students who consistently achieve high results. When applying for a scholarship at the college or university of your choice, do your best to make a good impression and show the administrator why you are the best candidate for the scholarship. Highlight your previous exam results, achievements, extracurricular activities and any work or volunteer experience you may have.

Education in Canada, the Canadian government’s official education website, provides a useful guide to the scholarship opportunities available. The CEC Network website also has a comprehensive list of different scholarship options in Canada. 



Canada has two official languages: English and French. English is the most commonly spoken language in the majority of provinces and territories. Outside Quebec, 82% of Canadians speak English. You may choose to focus on learning or improving either English or French.


The importance of language skills 

Strong language skills are important for many reasons, such as doing well in college in Canada, finding a job, meeting new people, obtaining a visa and settling in Canada.

Newcomers come to Canada with different levels of French or English, and many feel they would benefit from further language training. It takes time, energy and commitment to improve your language skills, but the rewards are worth the effort. If you do not already speak one of Canada’s official languages at an advanced level, we encourage you to take steps to improve your French or English as soon as you arrive in Canada. 

If you already speak one of Canada’s two official languages at a high level, you should consider making an effort to learn the other one. In many parts of Canada, the ability to speak both English and French is a major asset for finding a good job and participating fully in all aspects of society. 


Taxpayer-funded language classes 

In Canada, most newcomers who are permanent residents are eligible for free taxpayer-funded language classes. 

For children and youth: the primary and secondary school systems provide English and French classes for children and youth.

For adults: many programs offer language classes to help adult newcomers improve their language skills. These language programs have many advantages: 

  • Classes are taught by qualified instructors
  • They are often available in a classroom with a small group of other adults or through distance education (that is, on the Internet or through printed materials sent to you at home).
  • Classes can be full-time or part-time, during the day, evening or on weekends.

Some programs may offer funding to cover the cost of childcare while you are studying and the cost of transportation to and from your classes. Childcare services are sometimes available on site. 

There are a number of different types of language classes available: 

  • General language classes at many levels.
  • Classes that teach advanced and workplace specific language skills.
  • Classes that teach literacy and language (for people who have difficulty reading and writing in any language).
  • Classes for people with special needs. 


Registering for taxpayer-funded language classes 

Federal, provincial and territorial taxpayer- funded language classes are offered in all provinces and territories. 

To begin language classes funded by the federal government, you must first get an assessment. This assessment is simply to find out your current language skills. To get an assessment, visit a language assessment centre in your city. You can find the address and contact information for an assessment centre near you on the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) website

After your assessment, staff will help you decide what language class is best for you. They will also provide you with a referral to a school so that you can begin classes. If you would like to find out your current language level before doing a formal language assessment, you can complete the self- assessment test at CLB-OSA

To find information about other language training programs funded by the provinces or territories, visit the website for newcomers of the province or territory in which you live.


Private Language Classes 

You may choose to pay for language classes at a private language school as an alternative to taxpayer-funded language classes.  


Language proficiency tests and certificates

There are some cases in which you may need (or want) to provide proof of your level of proficiency in either English or French (for example, when you apply for a visa, a job or entry into a university or college). Several language tests are widely recognized. They provide a certificate of language proficiency that can be used in a variety of situations. These tests and certificates are offered by independent organizations, not the Government of Canada. You can take these tests at locations across the country.

These are some of the most widely recognized English language tests and certificates:

These are some of the most widely recognized French language tests and certificates:

Source: Welcome to Canada: What you should know

www.cic.gc.caCitizenship and Immigration Canada. Reproduced with the permission of the Minister of Public Works and Government Services Canada, 2013.




Education agents and agencies are a popular feature in Canada’s education system. Many newcomers to Canada may be unaware of what education agents can do for them, so it’s important to be aware of what services they offer.


Benefits of Using an Education Agent

Education agents can assist you with all aspects of the Canadian education system, including finding a suitable college or university, student visa issues, entry requirements, registration, insurance, fees and finding accommodation. Education agents can be exceptionally helpful for international students, as they can explain how the Canadian system is organized and provide recommendations on suitable colleges, courses and programs.

Education agents can also advise students how to fund their studies and how to save money, by informing them about scholarships, student discounts, travel savings and price comparisons.

Many education agents build strong relationships with the students they work with, and keep in contact with them throughout the student’s time in college or university, ensuring they are satisfied with their educational experience.


Education Agent Requirements

Although the Canadian government does not have an official policy or accreditation system for education agents, the government recommends all education agents have completed the Canada Course for Education Agents. A list of graduates who have successfully completed the course is listed on the ICEF website.  

For more information on education agents and their role, see the Education in Canada website



All students need health insurance throughout their studies and time in Canada. If you are fortunate enough to be a Canadian citizen or a permanent resident, you will be automatically entitled to avail of Canada’s excellent public health system, which provides those eligible with free healthcare. This system is monitored and regulated by each provincial government, and the amount of coverage you receive varies between provinces. For more information on the public health system, see the website of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC).

If you are not a citizen or permanent resident, or simply wish to have more coverage than public healthcare provides, you will need to purchase private health insurance to cover you while you are in Canada. Medical coverage for international students varies between provinces, and between insurance companies.

The costs and types of cover vary widely, so you should be able to find a level of cover to suit your needs. It is always important to compare different policies to ensure you are getting the best value for money and the best coverage for your needs.

As finding the right insurance for you can be quite difficult, some people use an insurance broker. A broker will research all the options available to you, taking into account cost and suitability, and will provide you with recommendations.

The OmbudService for Life & Health Insurance (OHLI) website has a list of all insurance providers in Canada, categorised by insurance type. For more information, see their website.

Another type of government health coverage is called the Interim Federal Health Program (IFHP). This is only available to those of refugee status, protected persons, victims of human trafficking and those who are being resettled in Canada.  For more information on IFHP eligibility and the benefits offered, see the IRCC website




What is a bridging program?

Bridging programs are courses available in Canada for newcomers who have previous certificates, qualifications or work experience in their home country and wish to ‘bridge the gap’ between these and the Canadian equivalent. The programs are designed to allow newcomers to make use of their international achievements and experience, and increase the chances of obtaining a job in the Canadian labour market.


Who provides bridging programs?

Many colleges, universities, employers and community organisations provide bridging programs for newcomers to Canada. Each provincial government works with the Government of Canada to ensure bridging programs are provided in each province, and for a variety of professions.


Which occupations are bridging programs recommended for?

Any newcomer who wishes to work in a regulated occupation in Canada would benefit the most from partaking in a bridging program. Regulated occupations are generally split into two areas:

  • Regulated professions such as nursing, medicine, law, accounting, teaching, professional engineering etc.
  • Regulated trades such as electricians, technicians, plumbers, hairstylists etc.

Those who wish to work in a regulated occupation will require certification or a license from an official or voluntary body which represents the profession or trade. Bridging programs can help newcomers be better prepared and more successful in the licensing or certification process.

See our Credential Recognition section for more information on this. You can also take a look at the government website of your province, as each province’s regulated occupations and official bodies vary. 



If you are an international student wishing to study in Canada, you will need a study permit. To obtain a study permit, you must first receive an acceptance letter from a designated learning institution.

Each designated learning institution in Canada has a unique identification number called a Designated Institution (DLI#) which you must include on your study permit application form. You can find a list of designated learning institutions and their numbers on the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) website.


Applying for a Study Permit

As we have mentioned above, the first thing you will need to apply for a study permit is a letter of acceptance from the school, college or university you will be attending. You will also need:

  • Proof of identity – e.g. a valid passport
  • Proof that you can financially support yourself while in Canada
  • Letter explaining why you need the study permit and what you will be doing in Canada.

You can apply either online or on paper – full details are provided on the IRCC website. For more information on getting a student visa, extending your study permit and staying on in Canada after you graduate, take a look at Studying in Canada in our Immigrating section. 



It’s understandable that many international students wish to work and earn some money during their time studying in Canada, due to the high cost of fees, accommodation and general living expenses.


Working in Canada while Studying

If you wish to work while you are a student, you have several options:

  • Working on campus. You do not need a work permit to do this, as long as you are a full time student with a valid study permit.
  • Working off campus. Once again you do not need a work permit to do this, as long as you have a valid study permit and are studying full time in a course that leads to a degree or diploma, and is at least six months in duration. In this case, you can work a total of 20 hours a week during regular term time, and full time during long breaks such as summer holidays. You will need a social insurance number to work off campus. Find out more on the CIC website.
  • Working as a co-op student or intern. If work experience or an internship is part of your college program, you will need a work permit for this. To obtain a work permit, you must have a valid study permit, and the work must be essential to your study program. You may not be eligible for a work permit if you study English or French as a second language. You can submit an application through the CIC website.

For information on staying in Canada after you graduate and applying for the Post-Graduate Work Permit Program, take a look at Studying in Canada in our Immigrating section. 



If you have decided to study in Canada, the next step is choosing the right college and course for you.


Where to Study

There are many types of colleges and institutes. Some are formally recognized by governments, which partly manage them and provide most of their funding out of taxpayer dollars. They have a variety of names: “colleges,” “community colleges,” “colleges of applied arts or applied technology,” “institutes of technology or science,” or “collèges d’enseignement general et professionnel” (CEGEPs) in Quebec. Other colleges and institutes are entirely private and are usually called “career colleges.”

Public and private colleges and institutes usually offer programs of study that last one to three years. They issue diplomas and certificates that qualify graduates to work in specific professions within many different fields. These fields include business, computer and mechanical technologies, health, social services, agriculture, trades (such as carpenter, electrician and plumber) and many others. Some colleges and many institutes specialize in a particular field, while others offer a variety of programs across many different fields. In Quebec, trades are offered by school boards.

A growing number of recognized “colleges” also offer bachelor’s degrees and, in some cases, master’s degrees, in addition to college diplomas and certificates.


Choosing a Program of Study and Applying to Post-Secondary Institutions

To learn about different programs of study offered at Canadian universities, colleges and institutes, visit Education in Canada.

Once you have found one or more post-secondary programs that interest you, the next step is to apply for admission. To do this, you will need to get information about the admission requirements and procedures directly from the university, college or institute that offers the program you wish to take. You can also find general information about admissions at Canadian Information Centre for International Students (CICIC)

Admission to many post-secondary institutions in Canada is competitive and you may not be accepted unless you meet the admission requirements. In cases where spaces are limited, you may need to exceed the requirements. If you plan to pursue post-secondary studies, make sure to research programs and application procedures well in advance. Most institutions have firm deadlines and non-refundable application fees for applications, so you may have to apply as long as six months before the program begins.

If the language of instruction in the program you are applying to (English or French) is not your native language, you will be required to demonstrate your proficiency in that language by taking a language test. For general information on language proficiency tests, see our section on Learning English & French.

Most universities and colleges have services that provide extra support to students who speak English or French as a second language.

Source: Welcome to Canada: What you should know

www.cic.gc.caCitizenship and Immigration Canada. Reproduced with the permission of the Minister of Public Works and Government Services Canada, 2013.



University Rankings 2018 according to

The following is a list of some of the top ranked universities according to national and global rankings:

  1. University of Toronto: Ranked as the best university in Canada, it’s no surprise UT is one of the most popular choices for students around the world. Established in 1827, it has long held a reputation for being one of the best research and teaching institutions in North America. It’s located in the heart of uber-cool city Toronto, and admits approximately 15% international students.
  2. McGill University: Located in French speaking Montreal, McGill has an international reputation for excellence. McGill accepts a large number of international students (24% of student population), and prides itself on welcoming students from more than 150 countries worldwide. The college has two campuses and eleven faculties.  
  3. University of British Columbia: UBC has two campuses, one in Vancouver and one in Kelowna. UBC is consistently ranked among the top 40 universities in the world. It is a top research university and prides itself on its sustainability, becoming the first Canadian university to reach the Kyoto Protocol targets.
  4. University of Alberta: UA is located in Edmonton, Alberta, which is sometimes known as Canada’s ‘Festival City’. The college’s School of Public Health is the first faculty in Canada dedicated entirely to public health.
  5. Université de Montréal: Founded in 1878, UdeM is the largest university in Montreal and the second largest in Canada, with more than 60,000 students. Situated on the slopes of Mount Royal, the college lays claim to a particularly beautiful setting. The college considers itself a leader in research and innovative programs.
  6. McMaster University: Situated on Lake Ontario (the Waterfall Capital of Canada), McMaster is a medical-doctoral, research-intensive university. It is the only North American host site of a United Nations University – the Institute for Water, Environment and Health. It is known for its world class sports facilities, outdoor recreational attractions and its pedestrian friendly campus.
  7. Western University: Considered by many to be Canada’s most beautiful university due to its Gothic buildings, Western is located in London, Ontario. International students have long been a top priority of Western University. The university focuses on accessibility, sustainability and the maintaining its role as one of Canada’s safest universities.
  8. University of Calgary: Located in Calgary, Alberta, UC is one of the top five research universities in Canada. The college is currently developing the Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning, which promises to lead in educational innovation. The college admits over 31,000 students from 152 countries.
  9. University of Ottawa: Situated in Canada’s capital city, UO offers a unique English-French bilingual learning environment. UO has the largest French immersion program and largest law school in Canada. Their top professors include more than 50 Canada Research Chairs and the university boasts of a 97% employment rate for graduates.
  10. University of Manitoba: Located in Winnipeg, the university is situated on Anishinabe and Metis traditional land and is home to a thriving community of Indigenous researchers, staff and students. It focuses on supporting the local community, and contributing to the Manitoba economy. It is one of Canada’s top research institutions.

The above list is simply a guide for finding the right educational institution for you. There are hundreds of universities and colleges throughout Canada; make sure you explore all the options available. 



As colleges are generally smaller and provide more focused programs of study than those of universities, they can be more suitable for students who would like a more personal and specialized educational experience in Canada.

We have provided a list of some of the best colleges in Canada below.

  • Centennial College: Located in Toronto, Ontario (Canada’s most populated province); Centennial has evolved from a small community college to an internationally recognized institution. Centennial is recognized as one of the most culturally diverse post-secondary institutions in Canada. Almost 100 ethno-cultural groups are represented and 80 languages are spoken on campus.
  • Humber College: Humber College is one of Canada’s largest community college with 27,000 full time students. The college is located in Toronto. It is a member of Polytechnics Canada and offers a broad range of career focused credentials, including bachelor degrees, diplomas and certificates.
  • George Brown College: George Brown has three main campuses, all located in Canada’s largest city, Toronto. The college works closely with industry leaders to ensure programs are evolving and providing students with the technical and people skills required in the workplace. In 2011, the college was rated as producing graduates with the skills employers in the Greater Toronto Area value most.
  • Seneca College: Located in Toronto, Seneca offers full-time, part-time and continuing education options. It specializes in programs relating to technology, business, financial services and applied arts. The college has partnerships with industry leaders and believes education should be flexible and accessible.
  • Dawson College: Dawson College is located in the heart of Montreal, in Quebec. Established in 1969, it was the first English language institution in the city. The college sits on 12 acres of open space and is easily accessible by public transport. It provides a range of programs in several disciplines, including several pre-university programs.
  • Red Deer College: Located in Red Deer, Alberta, this college has over 75 program options, including an award winning Performing Arts programs. It has affordable fees and focuses on small class sizes. It has been named as one of the province’s most innovative organizations due to its Centre for Innovation in Manufacturing.
  • Saskatchewan Polytechnic: Located in Saskatoon, the polytechnic offers degrees, apprenticeships and technical training, and more. Students receive personalized attention and hands-on learning. The polytechnic enrols approximately 13,000 students and has a 95% program satisfaction rate.
  • Red River College: Named as one of the best colleges in the Manitoba province and located in Winnipeg, Red River is consistently expanding and growing. The college has more than 30,000 students and 200 programs. It is the provinces largest institute of applied learning and boasts a 95% graduate employment rate.
  • Nova Scotia Community College: NSCC is unique in that the college has thirteen campuses located throughout Nova Scotia. The college provides students with small class sizes, specialized programs and instructors with real world experience.
  • British Columbia Institute of Technology: Located in Burnaby, BCIT is one of British Columbia’s largest post-secondary institutions. BCIT programs are conducted in small class sizes, and programs are developed in consultation with leading employers. BCIT has a strong focus on technological and scientific development, with a state of the art Aerospace Technology Campus, robotics lab, a fully equipped radio and TV studio and a Marine Engine Room Simulator.

The above list is simply a guide for finding the right educational institution for you. There are hundreds of universities and colleges throughout Canada; make sure you explore all the options available. 

Helpful Links

CIC Website
CEC Network
ICEF Website

Related Resources

Staying in Canada

As Canada is one of the most beautiful countries in the world, has one of the strongest economies and a consistently high quality of life, it is no surprise that many of those who move to Canada wish...

Read More

Navigating the Canadian Immigration System

Newcomers Canada’s Immigration section is designed to help you find what you’re looking for as quickly as possible. We hope that in mapping out the various visa categories and programs it will...

Read More

Working in Canada

One of the most important aspects of moving to a new country is finding a job, and often this is also directly connected to getting a visa. Throughout our Working in Canada section, we have...

Read More

Stay Connected!

Join our community! Sign up for the Newcomers Canada Re-Route newsletter and get the latest updates on upcoming events.

© Copyright 2018

Made with <3 by Goatsocial