The last thing you want to do as an international student is spend your or your family’s hard-earned savings on tuition at a school in Canada that’s simply not worth it. Yes, there are some world-class campuses in Canada, and a lot of very good schools. But there’s also some schools that you might be best to avoid. They might be average in terms of the education they offer but with high tuition costs. Or they might simply be very low-ranked colleges or universities where international students still have to pay thousands of dollars in tuition fees that may not be the best investment in their future.

So, let’s find out what the Worst Value Post-Secondary Schools in Canada are! Keep in mind that first is worst in our rankings. So, we’ll start at the 10th worst school in terms of value of education and work our way down to the worst at number 1. Ready?

Before we give you our worst 10 deals, we should point out that our baseline data to see what kind of value a degree from these universities offers, is the University of Alberta in Edmonton with a QS World ranking of 113 which places it near the top schools in Canada but not as high as schools like University of Toronto and UBC, or McGill and Waterloo. U of Alberta is also not quite as expensive as Canada’s top tier schools, so it’s a good comparison to see the value of a degree from other lower-ranked universities in the country. Our baseline tuition costs from U of Alberta are as follows:

Faculty Program Housing Tuition – Intl. Students
Engineering – U of A Civil/Env. Engineering Residence on campus CAD 39,500 per year
Science – U of A Nutrition & Food Sciences Off-campus CAD 29,500 per year
Arts – U of A Design Off-campus CAD 29,500 per year

 Please note that we’ve given two options that show the cost if you decide to live off-campus. (Maybe you have family in Canada that can put you up for example.) Living in residence is often available for all undergraduate programs and courses so always ask your university about that option, regardless of what courses you plan to take.

Here are our 10 worst deals as far as value of education in Canada goes:

 

10. University of Manitoba – Winnipeg, MB

Administration Building, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg June 3, 2005 This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

by James Teterenko / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

Surprised? Yes, UMB has had a good reputation in the past, especially in areas like architecture, but remember that this is cost versus world-ranking in quality-of-education survey. Let’s see how the school’s ranking and its tuition costs compare with our baseline at U of Alberta:

Faculty Program Housing Tuition – Intl. Students
Engineering – U of Manitoba All engineering programs Residence on campus CAD$39,900 per year ($22,100 tuition + $13,800 residence package)
Science – U of Manitoba All Sciences Programs Off-campus CAD$18,00 per year
Arts – U of Manitoba All Arts Programs Off-campus CAD$14,800 per year

How about U of Manitoba’s QS World Ranking? It’s way below U of A’s ranking of 113. Down there at 601-650. And you actually pay more for an engineering degree at U of Manitoba! So, if you’re thinking of taking applied sciences in Canada, be aware that U of M is not the best deal.

Looking at pure science programs and arts programs, you do get significant savings compared to U of A when living off-campus in both cases. Is it worth the savings? 500 points below U of A in the QS University Rankings?

You decide.

 

9. Carleton University – Ottawa, ON

{{GFDL}} Carleton University in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada; August 2004; seen from the Bronson St. Bridge over the Rideau River

by Peregrine981 / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

Carleton is a little like Rodney Dangerfield, complaining about how they don’t get the respect they deserve. Never at the top of local rankings like Maclean’s Canadian University rankings, they have a middling-to-not-so-bad reputation with perhaps political science as one of their top faculties. This is understandable for a university that’s just a 15-minute drive from Parliament Hill and various and sundry government agencies and departments scattered around the nation’s capital.

This is not a bad university at all, but let’s look at it’s ranking in the QS survey which was 651-700 which is below University of Manitoba and well behind top schools like UBC or U of T.

Next step is to check out the table below and see what you pay in tuition to attend Carleton:

Faculty Program Housing Tuition – Intl. Students
Engineering – Carleton All Engineering Programs Not specified CAD$34,221 per year
Science – Carleton All Science Programs Not specified CAD$26,490 per year
Arts – Carleton Humanities Not specified CAD$26,490 per year

Notice that, while Carleton’s engineering is slightly cheaper than U of Alberta or U of Manitoba’s programs, it is still rather expensive. And its science and arts degrees are only a few thousand dollars cheaper a year. All this with a ranking that’s hundreds of points below U of Alberta’s.

The question of value – or lack of it – is a little clearer in the case of Carleton’s cost versus quality.

 

8. Memorial University – St. john’s, NL

Memorial University by IseDaByThatEditsTheBoat / CC0

[Public Domain]

At the risk of being smacked in the head with a frozen cod from the stormy waters where the Gulf of St Lawrence gives way to the mighty North Atlantic and only the brave and the daring dare sail their fishing vessels, we must place Newfoundland’s Memorial University in 8th place in our worst university deals rankings. And of course, the first thing we’d get told is that wasn’t a fishing vessel we ran into but rather a floating platform using the latest deep-water technology to drill for oil. None the less we must consider Memorial because as you’ll see, its cost is actually not that bad at all, but its ranking is a bit of a problem.

It’s small but not that small with a little less than 20,000 students and campuses in places you’ve never heard of like Corner Brook, or Happy Valley-Goose Bay in Labrador, as well as the main campus in St. John’s. It’s an innovative campus with a student-centric approach and a fairly high output of research according to QS.

And who knows? Someday it might be recognized as a must-see choice for students from around the world. The numbers for now tell a different story, however. Its ranking is 701-750 in the QS Top Rankings survey and that’s low, really quite low. Let’s see what the costs are:

Faculty Program Housing Tuition – Intl. Students
Engineering – Memorial All Engineering Programs Residence & Meals CAD$21,500 per year
Science – Memorial All Science Programs Off-campus CAD$11,500 per year
Arts – Memorial Humanities Off-campus CAD$11,500 per year

Remember that St. John’s Newfoundland is not a large city and it might be difficult to find rent off campus, though you can certainly give it a try but you might find that the residence plan is your best bargain.

As for the quality of education, yes tuition is noticeably cheaper at Memorial compared to U of Alberta. If you don’t mind a huge step down in rankings and recognition for your degree, then go for it. But if you want a degree that helps your career no matter where you decide to live and work, Memorial may not be the school of your choice.

 

7. University of Windsor – Windsor, ON

University of Windsor by Ken Lund from Reno, Nevada, USA / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)

by Ken Lund / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 2.0

This is a school that has been investing heavily in innovation – especially research labs – and has been gaining ground in its ranking and recognition. Still, it comes in at 651-700 in the QS ranking which is a long way from top quality schools’ rankings in Canada.

The good news is that it’s a relatively affordable place to study for an Ontario university. Let’s look at the costs:

Faculty Program Housing Tuition – Intl. Students
Engineering – U of Windsor All Engineering Programs Residence & Meals CAD$22,655 per year
Science – U of Windsor All Science Programs Off-campus CAD$15,145 per year
Arts – U of Windsor Humanities Off-campus CAD$14,375 per year

These are quite reasonable tuition levels, especially considering the engineering costs includes residence and meals. If you’re not worried about name recognition and world rankings, Windsor isn’t that bad a deal. But for anyone concerned with getting a degree you can leverage in major economic centres around the globe, you might want to look elsewhere.

 

6. Ryerson University – Toronto, ON

The Ryerson University Library in Toronto, Ontario. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

by UnionFront / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

Come on! The campus is right downtown in Toronto, next to the best shopping and less than a dozen blocks from the ferries to the Toronto Islands! Its buildings are cutting edge and it’s a really cool place! What is it with these guys at QS? Here’s what they say in their QS rankings report on Ryerson:

Ryerson is the most applied to university in Ontario relative to available spaces. 
Culturally diverse and inclusive.
Externally funded research has doubled in the past four years.

Unfortunately, none of this is enough (at least not yet) to lift the school past its abysmal rankings of 801-1000 in the QS survey.

And it’s not at all cheap either. Here are the costs of tuition for international students:

Faculty Program Housing Tuition – Intl. Students
Engineering – Ryerson All Engineering Programs Residence & Meals CAD$53,900 per year
Science – Ryerson All Science Programs Off-campus CAD$27,600 per year
Arts – Ryerson Humanities Off-campus CAD$27,600 per year

Ouch. That’s basically US level costs for engineering students when accommodation costs (including meals) are thrown in.

Sure, you can live off-campus. In Toronto, one of Canada’s more expensive cities where 6 people sharing a cramped 3-bedroom 15 subway stops away from campus might save you some money. If Toronto was less expensive to live in and if Ryerson was a little less costly and a little more recognized internationally it would not be on this list.

But for now, it’s earned its place with expensive tuition and a ranking that doesn’t match up to the costs of studying there.

 

5. Lakehead University – Thunder Bay, ON

Office of Communications, Lakehead University, This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

by Atac / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 2.5

This smaller university is of course located in Thunder Bay at the far western edge of the Great Lakes. Hence its name. Unless you like long car drives and worrying about bears when you stop to take a bathroom break in the middle of the woods, you have to get on a plane to reach a major urban centre. Whether that’s east back in Toronto or West to Winnipeg.

There’s a Paleo-DNA Lab and a Biorefining Research Institute which sound impressive, but you won’t find the range of courses that you do in our previous universities. Especially ones like Ryerson, U of Manitoba or Carleton.

While it doesn’t get a score in the QS rankings, the Times Higher Education rankings have it at 601-800.

How much does it cost for an international student to study there?

Faculty Program Housing Tuition – Intl. Students
Engineering – Lakehead All Engineering Programs Residence & Meals CAD$39,400 per year
Science – Lakehead All Science Programs Off-campus CAD$23,730 per year
Arts – Lakehead Humanities Off-campus CAD$23,730 per year

For a smaller university, in the middle of nowhere - they also have a campus in Orillia which is more than a little closer to Toronto - with little to no international recognition, these are not cheap rates. You’d be better off at Memorial University or University of Windsor for example, in terms of value. That’s why Lakehead is our 5th worst university deal.

 

4. Université de Sherbrooke – Sherbrooke, QC

Universite de Sherbrooke by Zbeen1329 / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)

by Zbeen1329 / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

Sherbrooke is a lovely, medium- sized city located in what are called The Eastern Townships of Quebec, rolling hill and farming country with the odd ski hill cropping up as you head East down the autoroute (highway) from Montreal and approach the border with Vermont. But this is a francophone school where you will have trouble taking your courses in English. If you are fluent enough in French – or French is your native language – then schools in Quebec (aside from a handful of English-language universities like McGill) become a viable option. For a medium-sized university, it reportedly invests heavily in research and has over 70 research chairs. But the question is: does U of Sherbrooke provide value for money?

Faculty Program Housing Tuition – Intl. Students
Engineering – U de Sherbrooke All Engineering Programs Not specified CAD$19,459 per year
Science – U de Sherbrooke All Science Programs Off-campus CAD$19,459 per year
Arts – U de Sherbrooke Humanities Off-campus CAD$19,459 per year

There are several choices for accommodation including co-ops, apartments, or renting a room in a house. That means you should assume these tuition levels do not include costs of room and board - which for an 8-month academic year come to at least CAD$10,000 unless you manage to share living accommodations and greatly reduce your rent.

How does U de Sherbrooke rank? If you consider the past 6 years or so, it’s a disappointing downward slope, from a QS ranking of around 400 in 2014 down to 651-700 in 2019. If you wish to study in French and are willing to pay for a less-recognized school, then maybe U de Sherbrooke is not a bad option. But in Quebec, and certainly in Canada, there are better deals to be had.

 

3. Bishop’s University – Sherbrooke, QC

Bishop's by JasonParis / CC BY (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)

by JasonParis / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 2.0

If you head south from Sherbrooke you come to the town of Lennoxville, a short drive away. (It’s essentially a suburb of Sherbrooke and is legally part of the city, though culturally distinct.) Here you find a smaller English-language liberal arts school with an emphasis on education and business studies that is struggling a little to keep up with a fast-paced, changing environment in academics.

A peaceful, rural location with elegant brick buildings (and a golf course even) is nice but is it enough given the costs of studying there? Most students are from elsewhere so almost everyone lives in residence and interestingly it ranked top in student satisfaction in a 2019 Maclean’s survey. It also ranked 12th in Maclean’s undergraduate rankings. But try finding it on any international ranking system like QS or Times Higher Education rankings.

What does it cost to study and live there?

Faculty Program Housing Tuition – Intl. Students
Business – Bishop’s U All Business Programs Residence on campus CAD$30,460 per year
Science – Bishop’s U All Science Programs Off-campus CAD$21,110 per year
Arts – Bishop’s U All Arts Programs Off-campus CAD$21,110 per year

You will likely be living in residence, so add anywhere from CAD$4,000 to $5,000 for an 8-month academic year to the off-campus tuition costs in the above table. For a school with little research and not much in the way of applied science programs, these are not cheap costs at all.

Yes, it’s popular with students because of the sense of community it generates, as a bit of a throwback to earlier times when life was simpler and a little easier on campus. Is that what you need to prepare for the world of work in the 2020s?

 

2. University of Winnipeg – Winnipeg, MB

University of Winnipeg by KrazyTea / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)

by KrazyTea / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

U of Manitoba’s little sibling is also located in Winnipeg. Founded just over 50 years ago, it is also a liberal arts college like Bishop’s. The undergraduate faculties are as follows: arts; business & economics; education; kinesiology & applied health; and science. There isn’t much research and precious little applied science aside from certain areas in healthcare (excluding medicine and dentistry).

While it is a small school with a high professor-to-student ration, it doesn’t even rank at QS or Times Higher Education rankings. In the Maclean’s undergraduate universities ranking it comes in 15th.

What are the costs for internationals? Let’s see:

Faculty Program Housing Tuition – Intl. Students
Business – U of Winnipeg All Business Programs Not specified CAD$17,670 per year
Science – U of Winnipeg All Science Programs Not specified CAD$17,010 per year
Arts – U of Winnipeg All Arts Programs Not specified CAD$14,220 per year

Winnipeg is relatively cheaper than cities like Toronto or Vancouver, so living off campus might be relatively cheap in Canadian terms, especially if you share accommodations. This is one of the cheapest schools on our list in terms of tuition but its also a reflection of its lack of rankings on an international level and its relatively narrow offering of courses.

If you wish to get a chemistry degree or a degree in education on the cheap this might be your choice. For quality education, however, you’d possibly be better off looking elsewhere.

 

1. Mount Saint Vincent University – Halifax, NS

Mount Saint Vincent by misterjerk2 / Public domain

[Public Domain]

In leafy Halifax, this small university offers tuition that is not the cheapest and a course selection that is interesting but far from the widest available at mid-to-small sized post-secondary schools in Canada. Its ranking is near the bottom of the Maclean’s survey we’ve been using and if you search for the school at QS or Times Higher Education surveys you will get nothing. It’s not even there, unlike some of our unranked schools, like U of Winnipeg, which do appear at QS & THS.

It offers some courses that interestingly are not offered in the same form at many other Canadian universities, like a Bachelor’s degree in Public Relations, or a degree in Tourism & Hospitality Management.

Halifax has a lovely climate in summer but you’ll be there in fall and winter and part of spring, so bracing storms off the North Atlantic that dump a couple of feet of wet snow on the city will be closer to some of your daily experiences.

How much does all that shovelling of wet, cold stuff cost?

Faculty Program Housing Tuition – Intl. Students
Education – Mount St. Vincent Education Residence on campus CAD$24,284 – $28,483
Science – Mount St. Vincent All Science Programs Off-campus CAD$17,260 – $17,660
Arts – Mount St. Vincent All Arts Programs Off-campus CAD$17,260 – $17,660

You’re paying over CAD$28,000 to get a degree in education at one of the lowest ranked universities in Canada - excluding community colleges of course which offer diplomas and certificates for the most part rather than full bachelor’s degrees.

Does this sound like a good value proposition? If you want a degree in public relations and you like the idea of living in Halifax, then maybe it is. Otherwise, Canada has much better value to offer you as an international student.

 

Might you actually find what you’re looking for at one of these schools? Of course you might. But when it comes to rankings and international recognition, don’t expect too much for the dollars you will have to spend as an international student.


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