Going to a University in Canada

The key points you need to know before you apply for a Canadian university – don’t leave it too late.

Canadian universities are popular with international students because they have some of the lowest international fees in the world. See the list below with fees starting from as low as $7,000 per year.

Hart House, University of Toronto

International tuition fees in Canada are generally lower than in the United States, United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand.

Canadian universities are globally recognised to be of a high standard. Three Canadian institutions are in the QS top 100 university rankings: University of Toronto (28), McGill University (33) and University of British Columbia (47) and 10 are listed in the top 250.

Before applying it is important to note that in Canada the word college has a different meaning than in the US. In Canada, a college is an institution which usually awards qualifications of a more vocational nature, often below bachelor’s degree level.

A university will offer bachelors, masters, and doctorate degrees.

Choosing a University

Some of Canada’s top universities have formed The Group of Thirteen. This group includes the universities of: Alberta, British Columbia, Calgary, Dalhousie, Laval, McGill, McMaster, Montreal, Ottawa, Queen’s, Toronto, Waterloo, and Western Ontario.

By visiting university websites and consulting league tables, it is possible to find out more about your potential institution.

Before applying, it is important to check that you meet the minimum entrance requirements. These differ between establishments but all will require a proficient level of English (outside Quebec).

Many university websites will state equivalent international qualifications for undergraduate entry such as the IB, US high school qualifications, and A-levels to name a few. As can be expected, a high-quality institution will require a high level of academic achievement.


Tuition fees for Canadian universities vary per university and course. Fees are generally paid per semester.

When choosing a university, it is a good idea to find out your course’s fees. Popular programs such as medicine and law will cost more than other subjects; dentistry is the most expensive with average fees of over $54,000 for 2017/18.

In 2017/2018 average foreign undergraduate annual tuition costs were $25,180. Graduate programs were cheaper at $16,252.

At the University of Toronto, the international undergraduate tuition fees ranged from $45,690 to $50,780 depending on the program, while at the University of British Columbia the minimum was $34,542.

In addition to tuition fees, additional compulsory fees for services like athletics and associations cost the average student $880. International students are also obliged to pay for health insurance, which is be provided by the Canadian government. Healthcare costs vary between provinces and institutions. Universities have plans available for international students.

Low Fees

As mentioned earlier some Canadian universities have some of the lowest international fees in the world. Here are some examples below of international student tuition fees.

Memorial University, St. John’s in Newfoundland and Labrador where a typical two semester bachelor’s degree program cost is $11,460 for the 2018/2019 academic year.
Brandon University in Manitoba with an undergraduate tuition fee of $7,677 – $8,100 for the 2018/19 academic year.
Dominican University College (Ottawa) which has programs in Philosophy and Theology with an undergraduate tuition fee of $11,900 for the 2018/19 academic year.
Universite de Saint-Boniface (Winnipeg) includes a Faculty of Arts and a School of Translation with fees averaging $6,684 for 2017/18.
University of Manitoba (Winnipeg) where over 17% of students are international students. Fees range from $14,500 for the Arts faculty in 2018/19 to $26,500 for Law.
University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon. International undergraduate tuition fees typically range from $18,100 – $22,300 for the 2018/9 academic year.
Arcadia University, Wolfville, Nova Scotia. International undergraduate fees are $19,407 for the 2018/19 academic year.


Most students stay in university dormitories which are on or close to campus. This accommodation is recommended for incoming undergraduate students as it provides a good way of meeting lots of new people. Dorms will often have shared facilities such as bathrooms and kitchens.

Across institutions, housing can be catered/self-catered and have standard/en-suite rooms.

All universities in Canada have easily available internet access.

Private accommodation, which is unregulated by the university, is also available throughout Canada.

Every university provides different accommodation, so it is best to check their websites to find more specific information. As an example, the University of Ottawa charges roughly $862-$1,675 per month for accommodation which has a range of different options (for the 2018-2019 academic year).

Leases are given on 8-month or 12-month contracts.

To be allowed to go to Canada to study, proof must be given that you will spend at least $833 per month in Canada. You can expect that most of this will be spent on accommodation.

Study Permit

Once you have been accepted to a Canadian university, you are able to apply for a study permit. A study permit is legally required if you will be spending more than 6 months in Canada.

The documents you will need to apply are:

  • A university acceptance letter.
  • Proof of your identity. For example, a valid passport and two recent passport-sized photos of yourself.
  • Proof of adequate funds for your studies. A single student will need $833 per month in addition to tuition fees and return transportation money.

Your proof could be bank statements, scholarships, loans, or a letter from somebody providing you with the funds. To be granted a study permit, you must have no criminal record (a police certificate may be needed) and be in good health (you may be asked to have a medical examination).

Study permit applications are sent to the visa office responsible for your country or area. You can check where your appropriate visa office is.

Different offices may request different documents. The time it takes to process a study permit application varies per country, so should be checked. Based on times taken on 2016, it should take 1 – 18 weeks. Australia/New Zealand should take 2 weeks, the UK 2 weeks, South Africa 16 weeks, and the US 4 weeks depending on the visa office. You can check times here.

Study permit applications have a processing fee of $150. The application should contain a receipt for this cost. The various forms required to apply for a study permit are found here.

Incoming students from some countries will have to apply for a Temporary Resident Visa. Citizens of Australia, Great Britain, Ireland, New Zealand and the US do not need this.

You can check whether you need this visa here. A visa application should be sent at the same time as your study permit application.

Working While Studying

As of June 01 2014 many international students can work off campus for up to 20 hours per week in term time, and full time during scheduled holidays without a work permit. There is a self assessment tool to check if you are eligible here.


Canadian universities will award scholarships for a variety of reasons including academic, athletic, and financial. It is best to check what scholarships your university offers – most will have dedicated scholarship pages on their websites. Scholarships can be awarded from a variety of sources, so it is advisable to look and apply.

The Canadian federal government offers a range of scholarships which are mostly postgraduate. US students can convert their US government FAFSA loans if they want to study in Canada.

Many universities consider all international students for entrance scholarships. For example, Trent University will award $1000-3000 based on academic excellence.

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