Top Ten Universities for International Students in Canada
You've chosen to study in Canada, but you can't decide which university is right for you. Of course each university has particular strengths according to program or faculty – it's widely known that the University of Waterloo is the math and tech job factory, or that the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design is the place to go if you're an aspiring painter or printmaker. Many surveys rank Canadian universities according to a wide variety of criteria, from professor-to-student ratio to vibrancy of social life, so it stands to reason that plenty of competing factors will influence your choice. Our ranking of Canadian universities takes into account reputation, location, quality of programs, immigration-friendliness of location (sorry, Université de Moncton), and tuition costs.
Tuition varies from program-to-program in each university, but our estimated undergraduate fees are based on the average annual cost for four-year bachelor degrees in Arts or Science and our graduate fees are based on the average annual cost for a master's degree in Arts or Science.
10. University of Alberta, Edmonton
- Undergraduate international tuition and fees: $20,076
- Graduate international tuition and fees: $8,220
A large research-intensive university nestled way up north next to Canada's bad-press-snagging-but-wealth-producing oil sands, the University of Alberta is an expensive place to study as an undergraduate but a very, very competitively-priced place to study as a grad student. Edmonton is a large city with all the amenities, but it's also one of the coldest places on this list.
9. Université de Montreal
- Undergraduate international tuition and fees: $14,618
- Graduate international tuition and fees: $12,550
The largest french-speaking university in the world outside of France, UdM has relatively affordable tuition and excellent french-language business and engineering programs. Most importantly, all citizens of France and a changing list of other francophone countries qualify for Quebec-resident tuition rates, which are the lowest in the country at about $1500 a year. This applies to all of the universities in Quebec, which saw its student population rioting in the last few years to keep their tuition cheap. If you can qualify for the local rate and you speak French, UdM is the clear choice.
8. Dalhousie University, Halifax
- Undergraduate international tuition and fees: $15,792
- Graduate international tuition and fees: $16,762
The biggest university east of Montreal, Dalhousie is the second most-affordable placed to get a Bachelor's degree outside of Quebec, and it's located in the immigrant-friendly, seafood-rich port city of Halifax. Dal is best-known for its law and journalism programs, and for the whimsically retrograde foundation year at its liberal arts enclave, King's College.
7. University of British Columbia, Vancouver
- Undergraduate international tuition and fees: $23,300
- Graduate international tuition and fees: $7,793.50
You might want to consider the least coast if you're planning to get an undergraduate degree in Canada, but if you're looking for a PhD in Marine Biology or an MFA in Creative Writing, the big school out in the far west end of Vancouver is your bet. The best university in one of the world's great cities, UBC offers international graduate students a rate barely higher than its domestic fees. The climate, proximity to jaw-dropping natural beauty, and diversity of the city and university's population make it an excellent first-choice for foreign graduate students. And then there's that sushi.
6. York University, Toronto
- Undergraduate international tuition and fees: $19,575
- Graduate international tuition and fees: $12,032
Speaking of diversity, York is Canada's biggest, most diverse, and most progressive school. Offering the most competitive tuition costs of any major research institution in Toronto, York lets you live in the Big Smoke without getting gouged with a brand name. Toronto's virtues are well-known: the food, the amenities, the insane mayor. If you, like a large percentage of most other foreigners, are choosing Toronto as your port of entry to Canada, give York a chance
5. University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon
- Undergraduate international tuition and fees: $17,470
- Graduate international tuition and fees: $5,377
Much like UBC, the University of Saskatchewan is a large research university with a solid reputation (especially history and agriculture) with shockingly low graduate tuition costs. With the cheapest grad tuition west of Quebec, the Paris of the Prairies might be your best bet if you like your winters crisp and your skies enormous.
4. University of Toronto
- Undergraduate international tuition and fees 2014: $34,000
- Graduate international tuition and fees 2014: $19,714
We'd be remiss if we didn't include the big one on our list, Canada's hulking behemoth of reputation and cost. If you're the kind of international student who feels at home in a self-consciously elite institution, or if you're just the kind of student who would prefer a world-class education at a beautiful downtown campus in a megalopolis, U of T is the natural if somewhat dull choice. Or maybe you just think you get what you pay for: this is the most expensive school in the country in the most expensive city in the country, after all. Maybe it's worth it?
3. Queen's University, Kingston
- Undergraduate international tuition and fees: $26,361
- Graduate international tuition and fees: $14,114
Queen's is like the University of Toronto for those who want the brand delusion without the full price tag. Halfway between Toronto and Montreal, Kingston isn't very big or diverse, but it is a hell of a lot cheaper than the big cities to the east, west, and north. That proximity is great if you want a quick getaway, and the isolation works if you want to stay immersed in your studies. The cheapest of Ontario's “northern ivy league,” Queen's has great engineering, law, medicine, political studies and geography schools in a bucolic lakeside setting. Beware the American-style school spirit.
2. Memorial University, St. John's
- Undergraduate international tuition and fees: $8,800
- Graduate international tuition and fees: $5,718
Maybe it seems crazy to lodge the sixty-year old little university on the cliffside in Newfoundland ahead of the grand old stone dames of Ontario, but the numbers don't lie: because of an oil-boom-backed tuition freeze, Memorial is the cheapest place to study in English Canada for international students, and the cheapest in Canada for those who don't qualify for any of the fee exemptions in Quebec. With excellent and original programs in naval architecture, maritime engineering, and the humanities (including one of the only graduate programs in folklore on the continent), and with a rock-bottom cost of living and unique and welcoming local culture, Memorial could make St. John's your first stop in Canada.
1. McGill University, Montreal
- Undergraduate international tuition and fees 2014: $17,859 (or $1500 with exemptions)
- Graduate international tuition and fees 2014: $16,117 (or $1500 with exemptions)
Pretty much the only university that anyone outside of Canada has ever heard of (sorry, Western), McGill is also inside the People's Republic of Quebec, nestled in the heart of Canada's sexiest city, Montreal. It also has those strongly competitive tuition rates for those who qualify. The cheapest of Canada's big three cities, Montreal is a dream-come-true for twenty-somethings, although it is arguably the North American city that feels least like North America. Hey, if you want a Starbucks on every corner, just go to York. If you want to experience Canada as it's advertised to the world (i.e. bilingual, liberal, cultured, and stoned), go to McGill.
If you enjoyed this, why not check out our 2013 list of Canadian universities?
Top 10 Universities in Canada 2014