Canada is rich in options for students

Canada is No. 1


In 1992, the United Nations ranked Canada as the best place in the world to live. This assessment was based upon Canada's achievements in terms of educational attainment, life expectancy, national income and general quality of life. The appraisal took account of Canada's abundance of fresh water, comfortable population density, low incidence of violent crime and a health care system that is a model for the world.

Canada's Education System is Excellent

Canada boasts a wide range of quality educational institutions. Canadian degrees and diplomas are recognized worldwide. Moreover, because Canadian education is highly subsidized by governments, Canadian tuition fees are among the lowest in English-speaking countries.

Canada's contributions to science and other fields of research are well known. Our Nobel Prize winners for science include Dr John Polanyi and Dr Gerhard Herzberg. The achievements of Drs Banting and Best, the discoverers of insulin, and of Dr Norman Bethune are in part due to Canada's excellent academic research facilities.

Canada is a Leader in Language Training

For over a century, Canada's two official languages have been taught as second languages. As a multicultural society receiving new immigrants who speak various languages, Canada has become a world leader in language training, especially in the area of English and French for Academic and Special Vocational Purposes.

Most educational institutions offer beginner's and upgrading programs in English and/or French (known as English or French as a Second Language). Sometimes the language courses are offered before you begin your regular academic program, and sometimes they can be taken at the same time.

Canada is Multicultural

Canada is a multicultural society with two official languages (English and French). Rather than a melting pot, Canada is a cultural mosaic where the customs and traditions of many cultures are recognized and respected.

Canada is Peaceful and Clean

Canada is a peaceful, politically stable and safe country to live in. Its cities are remarkably clean. Canadians are environmentally conscious and are constantly making efforts to ensure excellent air and water quality.

Canada is Rich in Sports and Culture

Canada offers four seasons of recreational opportunities, cultural activities and year-round sports in world class facilities. Whatever your interest - golf, tennis, badminton, squash, racquetball, swimming, other water sports such as canoeing, skiing (Alpine and Nordic) - Canada offers ample facilities at a fraction of their cost in many other countries.

Spectator sports are widely available, including major league baseball (the Toronto Blue Jays and the Montreal Ex[pos), football, and hockey (of course!).

Canada produces a wide variety of films and has a large number of rock stars and other performing artists. In addition, Canadians have access to films, television broadcasts and rock concerts by artists from around the world, notably from the United States, our nearest neighbor.

Canada is Beautiful

Canada, with its ten provinces and two territories, is well known for its space: vast expanses of prairie and forest with not a building in sight. Indeed Canada contains an overwhelming variety of natural beauty. No matter where you live in Canada, interesting and even breathtaking landscapes are usually just a short walk or bus ride away.

Canada boasts four United Nations-recognized World Heritage Sites for global cultural significance and six nominated for natural values. There are numerous other attractions, such as the hugely popular Niagara Falls.

Canada's cities are also beautiful. There are many metropolitan centres, the three largest being Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver. Yet there are also abundant smaller cities and rural areas which offer all or most of the educational and other facilities of the big cities. Students can travel inexpensively in Canada by inter-city bus and train (VIA Rail). Stand-by air travel is also reasonably priced.

Canada is First Class in Health Care

The Canadian health care system is among the best in the world. Tow provinces (Nova Scotia and Saskatchewan) offer medical insurance to international students at no cost. International students can join the Alberta and British Columbia provincial health plans for a charge of approximately $30-40 per month (single person). In the other provinces, private medical insurance can be acquired at moderate cost. It should be noted that medical insurance is essential.

Education in Canada

The Canadian public education system is intended to provide a broad education for as many people as possible. Virtually all Canadians have at least ten years of formal education. However, increasing social and technological complexity have made it necessary for many to remain in school well beyond the compulsory age of 16. Many Canadians return for further education in mid-career. Although funded in part by the federal government, education is primarily a provincial responsibility. As a result, ten separate provincial education systems have been created.

Post-Secondary Education in Canada

Degree-Granting Institutions
There are 90 universities and degree granting colleges in Canada. In 1992 93,570,000 full-time students were enrolled at these institutions.

Several types of degree granting institutions exist.

Universities: institutions which provide professional training and research leading to a first and advanced degree (Bachelor's, Master's and Doctorate).

University Colleges: institutions which offer degree programs at the undergraduate level (Bachelor's), and also offer college level courses that lead to a certificate or diploma.

Colleges: smaller institutions with undergraduate (Bachelor's) and sometimes graduate (Master's Doctorate) programs, usually affiliated with universities.

Theological Colleges: institutions granting degrees in religion and theology only, sometimes affiliated with universities.

Other Specialized Institutions: institutions which offer degree programs in a single field (for example, institutes of technology).

Enrollment of International Students

In the 1993-94 academic year, there were over 93,000 international students attending Canadian post-secondary institutions, secondary schools and elementary schools. Of this total, 37,800 were at universities, 27,900 at colleges and trade/vocational schools, and 27,500 at elementary and secondary schools. More than half were from Asian countries. The top ten source countries were: Hong Kong, United States of America, Japan, Taiwan, People's Republic of China, Philippines, United Kingdom, France, Malaysia and Singapore.

Many Canadian post-secondary institutions view their international students as a key component of the "internationalization" of their campus, and therefore have set target enrollment percentages for international students. A few institutions limit the number of international students who may be admitted to high-demand programs, and a few admit international students on a space-available basis only.

Snapshot of Canada

Canada is the second largest country in the world (after Russia), but it is one of the most sparsely populated. Its population is over 29 million, with more than half of the people living within 400 kilometres of the southern border adjoining the Untied States. Canada reaches from the Great Lakes in the south to the Arctic Ocean in the north, and from the Pacific Ocean in the west to the Atlantic Ocean in the east. Thus Canada's geographic location links it to the Pacific Rim countries and to Europe, while acting as an avenue to the United States, Mexico, and Central and South America.

Life in Residence

Most universities and some colleges provide student residences (sometimes called dormitories or dorms). These are living accommodations specifically for students of a given institution. Some residences are for women only, some for men only, while others are co-educational or "co-ed" (for both women and men). Sometimes there are residences specifically for married students. Many residences offer food services or cafeterias, while others provide small kitchens for student use. There is also usually a common area or lounge. There are both advantages and disadvantages to living in residence. The social atmosphere of living in residence can be a definite advantage to a newcomer. It is one of the best places to meet people and make contacts on any campus. Residences are often preferred over renting an apartment because they are safe, close to classes and may be cheaper.

On the other hand, if you are a person who needs privacy, residence may not be for you. There are often more shared (or two-person) rooms than single (or one-person) rooms available. Even if you are able to get a single room, it may be small. Despite these disadvantages, it is often recommended that you stay in residence for your first year of study in Canada because it is a way to meet people and to get involved in campus activities.

How to Apply

In general, it is best to start applying at least one year in advance to the institution(s) you select. All institutions have their own application deadlines; therefore, it is strongly suggested that you contact the institutions individually to find out more about application procedures. Admission standards, which are set by each institution, are usually similar to those of other institutions in the same province. So once you select the institution(s) you are interested in, write directly to them to receive the application procedure and detailed requirements for acceptance. It is also a good idea to ask about scholarships and residence rooms at the same time.

Immigration regulations

After being accepted by an institution for a program of study in Canada, the student should apply for a student authorization at the nearest Canadian diplomatic mission. For nationals of some countries, visitor visas are also required; these are issued at the same time as the student authorization. In order to apply for a student authorization, you need the following documents:

  • A valid passport
  • An original letter of acceptance from a university, college or other institution
  • Evidence of adequate funds to cover tuition and living costs for you and your dependents, including return transportation (see the section entitled Expenses)
  • For students going to Qu‚bec institutions, a certificat d'acceptation du Qu‚bec (CAQ) from Qu‚bec immigration authorities
  • If applicable, a letter from the student's sponsor
  • A letter of reference from a dependable person in your community will help.

In some cases, a medical examination by a doctor designated by the Canadian government may be needed. The immigration officer will provide information on this requirement.

There is a processing charge of $125 (1995) for the student authorisation (family maximum is $350). There is no fee for the visa when it is issued with a student authorisation.

Under no circumstance should a student come to Canada without a valid student authorisation (and visa if required).

An exception to the above exists for citizens and permanent residents of the United States, St. Pierre and Miquelon and Greenland, who may apply for the student authorisation at a Canadian port of entry. The same documentary requirements apply as for all students.


This section applies chiefly to international post-secondary students.

As a student, you may apply for an employment authorization if:
a) the employment is certified by your educational institution as being an essential and integral part of your course of study, e.g. a cooperative program; or
b) you are a graduate assistant; or
c) you wish to work part time on campus at a community college or university where you are registered as a full-time student (summer employment may be full time): or
d) you have completed a community college or university program and wish to work for up to one year in employment related to your field of study; or
e) you are sponsored by the Canadian International Development Agency and the employment is part of your program arranged by CIDA; or
f) you have been, through no fault of your own, cut off from finances upon which you are dependent for your day-to-day expenses.

Note: Spouses of full-time university and community college students may apply for authorization to work anywhere, subject to medical requirements.

In all cases it is necessary to obtain an employment authorization (work permit) from Citizenship and Immigration Canada before taking any employment. If you work without an employment authorization, your student authorization will cease to be valid and you may be required to leave Canada.

There is ONE exception. Students working at the post-secondary educational institution in which they are enroled do NOT require an employment authorization, provided that their student authorization bears a notation to these effect.

In most cases, employment authorizations are employer-specific. This means that a student has to find a job first, then apply for an employment authorization. An open, one-year employment authorization is available for on-campus employment, however. There is a $125 charge (1996 for an employment authorization.

Funding for International Students

At the graduate level, institutions offer a number of scholarships, as well as teaching and research assistantships, for which international students can compete. Some graduate scholarships offered by institutions are reserved specifically for international students. You should ask about scholarships and assistantships when you write to the institution for an application form.

Little funding is available to students enrolled in a first-year undergraduate university program or college program, although international students who have completed one year of study are usually eligible to compete with Canadian students for "in-course" awards.

Tuition fees vary considerably from province to province and from one institution to another. The Ontario government waives the special international student fee for 1,000 international graduate students with exceptional academic standing (the individual universities distribute the waivers). International graduate students in British Columbia pay the same fee as that paid by Canadians. The Quebec government waives the special international student fee for a specified number of students from about 100 countries; you must contact the education authority in your home country to apply for these waivers. Universities in Quebec also offer a specified number of waivers to international graduate students.

For information on the Qu‚bec exemptions and bursaries, write for the booklet Studying in Qu‚bec, from the MinistŠre de l'Education, 1035, rue de la ChevrotiŠre, 11e ‚tage, Qu‚bec (Qu‚bec) G1R 5A5. For information on Ontario exemptions and graduate scholarships, write to the Ontario Graduate Scholarship Program, Student Support Branch, Ministry of Education and Training, P.O. Box 4500, 189 Red River Road, 4th Floor, Thunder Bay, Ontario P7B 6G9.

Public post-secondary education in Canada is subsidised by both the federal and provincial governments. Because of this subsidy, tuition fees are lower in Canada than in many other countries. To give you an idea of tuition costs, a range of undergraduate fees and college fees charged to international students appears below.

Tuition Fees

The range of tuition fees shown below were those charged to international students in 1995-96 for eight months of study (two semesters) in a university undergraduate arts and science program. Incidental fees are not included in these figures. All amounts are in Canadian dollars.

University undergraduate arts and science fees for international students 1995-96

Alberta $5,057-$6,446
British Columbia $3,951-$7,066
Manitoba $3,652-$4,799
New Brunswick $3,890-$6,260
Newfoundland $4,624
Nova Scotia $4,700-$6,940
Ontario $8,380-$9,244
Prince Edward Is $4,520
Qu‚bec $7,453-$7,470
Saskatchewan $2,550-$4,350

Graduate student fees vary greatly depending on the program and province of study.
Community college fees vary widely. It should be noted that differential fees are charged in many provinces and that there are few exemptions and bursaries available. The following approximate fees are for one academic year, and refer to 1994-95

Community college fees for international students 1994-95

Alberta $8,500
British Columbia $4,800 -7,500
Manitoba $866
New Brunswick $800
Newfoundland $4,500
Nova Scotia $1,800*
Ontario $8,375
Prince Edward Is $5,500
Qu‚bec $4,316
Saskatchewan $1,420
Yukon College $1,300**

* This rate is for unsponsored students; CIDA-sponsored student fees are $6,500.
** Residents of Alaska pay domestic student fees ($650; under review).

Students must request precise tuition amounts from the institution they wish to attend.

School Fees

Fees for international students at public schools are set by the province or by individual school boards, which usually have authority in a region or, in the case of large metropolitan areas, in a section of a city. Many boards charge no fees; other boards charge fees ranging from about $4,000 to $9,000 per year. Where a fee is charged, some special services such as counselling are often provided. Consult the individual school boards for precise information. Private schools set their own fees.

Living Costs

Relative to other countries, living costs in Canada are moderate. Students need in the range of $800-$1,000 Cdn. per month (exclusive of tuition fees). Aside from tuition fees, the rent paid for an apartment or residence room constitutes the biggest cost for an international student. Living accommodations in a metropolitan area generally cost more than in a rural area or small city or town.

When you apply for your student authorization at the Canadian embassy, high commission or consulate in your home country, the Immigration officer will ask for proof that you have sufficient funds to maintain yourself. Potential income from employment in Canada will not be counted by the Immigration officer when assessing your financial status (an exception is made for teaching and research assistantships). If your intended institution of study provides a cost of living estimate, the immigration officer will require evidence of $10,000 to cover 12 months living expenses for a single student. An additional $4,000 will be required for a spouse and an additional $3,000 for each dependent, to cover 12 months living expenses. This amount includes food, accommodation, transportation, medical insurance, books, clothing and sundries. Tuition and other student fees are not included in this amount.

The amounts required for Quebec are slightly different: $9,600 for a single student, $12,960 for two people (student plus one dependent), $16,000 for three people (student plus two dependents), and an additional $2,240 for each additional dependent. A $500 installation amount is also required.

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