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Canada: Popular destination for international students
Canada consistently ranks within the top 10 of the United Nations’ list of the “best places to live in the world”.
Over 360,000 international students are pursuing higher education in Canada (2015). These students came from over 185 countries, and the top three source countries were China, India and France.
International students choose to study in Canada for its high-quality education, globally recognized qualifications, and the stable, safe and peaceful society.
Higher Education in Canada
Master’s degrees in Canada usually takes around two years to complete.
According to the Canadian Bureau of International Education, 90% of international students are either very satisfied (29%) or satisfied (61%) with their experience in Canada. The country also boasts one of the world’s highest levels of investment in education. In fact, in 2014, Canada overtook the US as the world’s leading per-capita spender on higher education.
Canada’s higher education system was ranked 5th in the world in the QS Higher Education System Strength Rankings 2016, reflecting the strength of its flagship universities and overall system strength.
Different types of higher education providers in Canada include: community colleges; technical, applied arts or applied science schools (which grant certificates, diplomas, associate’s degrees and bachelor’s degrees); and universities (which carry out research and provide both undergraduate and postgraduate degrees).
There are over 90 universities in Canada, of which 17 are private. 27 Canadian universities are highly ranked.
Canada also has around 150 colleges – also known as community colleges, technical colleges, regional colleges or CÉGEPs (in Québec) – which offer short courses and diplomas. In addition, the country has a long history of specialized career colleges, which seek to prepare students for specific vocations.
The academic year in Canada lasts from September to June.
Internships at Canadian universities
At most Canadian universities, students are encouraged to pursue internships, which may also be part of the curriculum. These internships are called “co-ops” (co- operative education) and can be highly competitive. Typically, students will spend alternate semesters between learning in the classroom and applying that knowledge in a workplace.
Higher quality of education & research
Canada’s high academic standards and rigorous quality controls mean that you’ll be attaining high-quality education that will open doors for your future and benefit your career over the long term. A Canadian degree, diploma or certificate is globally recognized as being equivalent to those obtained from the United States or Commonwealth countries.
Canada’s colleges, polytechnics and cégeps (vocational collages) offer industry-aligned, career-focused programs with growing levels of applied research directed at solving industry problems. Over 90% of Canada’s college graduates find a job in their field of study within six months after graduation and 93% of employers are satisfied with graduates’ qualifications.
Research is one of the key components of a Canadian post-secondary education. In Canada, the government and industries join together to support research in fields such as telecommunications, medicine, agriculture, computer technology and environmental science.
More than one third of Canada’s research is conducted at Canadian universities – one of the highest rates among OECD and G8 countries.
Top universities in Canada
Canada’s universities are among the best in the world.
A total of 26 Canadian universities feature in the QS World University Rankings 2016-2017, including three within the global top 50. These are McGill University (30th), the University of Toronto (32nd) and the University of British Columbia (45th).
Following are the top Canadian universities, featured among the world’s best:
1. McGill University: Located in Montréal, McGill has around 40,000 students enrolled, of which 25% are international. It has the highest number of Rhodes scholars and Nobel Prize winners among any Canadian university.
2. University of Toronto: Located in Canada’s largest city, the university contributes CA$15.7 billion to the Canadian economy per year and is famed for its research innovations, including the discoveries of insulin and stem cells.
3. University of British Columbia: Located in Vancouver and Kelowna, the university’s student body of 61,100 includes 13,200 international students from 155 countries.
4. University of Alberta: Located mainly in Edmonton, the university currently enrolls 38,700 students from 147 countries and has a major impact on the economy of Alberta, being the province’s fourth-largest employer.
5. Université de Montréal: One of Canada’s major research centers, it has almost 67,000 students, including 9,300 internationals.
6. McMaster University: Located in Hamilton, Ontario, on a scenic 300-acre campus, and is particularly renowned for its medical school.
7. University of Waterloo: It’s a member of the U15 group of research-intensive Canadian universities, and is particularly famed for its cooperative education (co-op) programs.
8. University of Calgary: The University of Calgary is the birthplace of a range of important inventions, including the neurochip.
9. Western University: Previously called the University of Western Ontario, Western University is located in London, Ontario. It has an enrollment of about 28,400 students, representing 117 countries around the world.
10. Queen’s University: Located in Kingston, Ontario, it is one of Canada’s oldest institutions, established in 1841 – 26 years before Canada itself was founded. The university holds more than 3,500 acres of land throughout Ontario.
11. Simon Fraser University
12. Dalhousie University
13. University of Ottawa
14. University of Victoria
15. Laval University
16. York University
17. Concordia University
18. University of Saskatchewan
19. Université du Québec
20. University of Guelph
21. University of Manitoba
22. Carleton University
23. Université de Sherbrooke
24. Memorial University of Newfoundland
25. University of Windsor
26. Ryerson University
Eligibility & application process
You must take IELTS or TOEFL to demonstrate your proficiency in English, which is required by most Canadian universities. You will be required to provide an essay, a statement of intent or a personal statement of experience.
Other documents required may include: letters of reference, examples of extracurricular involvement, evidence of community service, athletic participation, and details of awards and scholarships won.
You will need to apply directly to each university, as there is no centralized application system. You may need to pay an application fee of $10-$100 USD, depending on the university. In some cases, you may get an application fee waiver as well.
You will have to purchase health insurance while studying in Canada. This will cost approximately CA$600 (~US$450) per year.
To get a student visa in Canada, you must have received a letter of acceptance from the university before you can apply for your visa. Applying for a study visa will cost you around $110 USD.
You must also be able to demonstrate that you can financially support your tuition and living expenses during the course of your study in Canada. You should be able to cover the tuition fee and living expenses (around $7,500 USD per year).
In addition to the financial regulations, you must not have any criminal record and you should be in good health. You may also be required to take medical examinations before being issued a visa.
Next, you need to obtain a Canadian student visa application package, from the CIC website, your local visa office or the Canadian embassy or consulate. You’ll be given a personal checklist code to submit your application online. To do so, you must create a MyCIC account, where you’ll fill in all your details, pay your fees and upload the required documents. This includes showing you have a ticket home and a valid passport.
Your Canada visa application can take anywhere between 2 weeks and 20 weeks, depending on which embassy you apply to. You should check the processing time as soon as possible, and ideally begin the application process as soon as you have received your letter of acceptance from your target university.
On approval of visa, you’ll be sent a letter of introduction, and a temporary residence visa, if required. Bring these along with your passport, proof of your finances and your letter of acceptance to the border control agency in Canada, who will issue your Canadian study permit.
Part-time job opportunities
The international student visa allows you to work on-campus and off-campus. You should always check first with your university’s international student office for all the rules and regulations with respect to part-time work before you start working.
You may qualify to work on or off-campus for up to 20 hours during university semesters and full-time during breaks such as the winter or summer holidays, without a work permit. To qualify, you must:
- Have a valid study permit
- Be a full-time student
- Be enrolled at a designated learning institution at post-secondary level or, in Québec, a vocational program at secondary level
- Be studying in an academic, vocational or professional training program that leads to a degree, diploma or certificate that is at least six months in duration
You will also need a Social Insurance Number (SIN) from Service Canada to work in Canada or to receive benefits and services from government programs.
Life in Canada
Canada is the 2nd largest country in the world by total area. It is famous for its picture-postcard natural beauty, as well as its modern, liberal, open and easy- going multi-cultural society.
Canadian people are known for being extremely friendly and polite, so you should have no trouble fitting in after arriving.
Canada is known for its cool climate, with four very distinct seasons. Temperatures can soar to 35°C (95°F) and can get rise higher still during summer. During winter temperatures can drop as low as -25°C (-13°F).
The wind chill can make it feel much colder than the stated temperature. Make sure you have plenty of bulky clothing to keep you warm in the depths of winter!
Canada’s culture has prominent French, British, American and aboriginal influences. It also has a large immigrant population, making it an extremely diverse society.
You should expect a great cultural experience when studying in Canada, with a vast choice of outdoor activities including hiking, ice-skating, water sports, snowboarding and of course ice hockey (the official winter sport).
If you’re not a sports fan, you could instead enjoy Canada’s thriving music, comedy, theater and film scenes, with famous musicals touring the large cities.
To assimilate better in Canadian culture, you may join student societies on campus to connect with other international students, as well as locals who can help you explore Canadian life.
Considered one of the more desirable places in the world to live in, Canada has a low crime rate, so you simply need to exercise common sense to stay safe during your stay. The number for emergency services is 911.
Big Cities in Canada
The largest city in the French-speaking province of Quebec, Montreal is also the second-largest city in Canada.
Some of the universities in Montreal are McGill University, Université de Montréal, Concordia University and Universite du Quebec.
Widely cited as the cultural capital of Canada, Montreal boasts a unique combination of European sophistication and American pizzazz, which gives it a buzz few other places can match. As a student, you’ll certainly never be at a loss for things to do, with plenty of theater, music, dance and visual arts to explore, including the annual Just for Laughs comedy festival, the world’s largest of its kind. And don’t miss the Montreal Fireworks Festival, frequently hailed as the best and largest fireworks festival in the world.
The provincial capital of Ontario and the largest city in Canada, Toronto is known for being one of the world’s most multicultural cities, with around half of its 2.6 million-strong population hailing from outside of the city. Accordingly, it is an exciting and diverse place to live in, with its residents’ heterogeneity reflected in the city’s culture and cuisine.
Some of the universities in Toronto include University of Toronto, York University and Ryerson University.
Home to the Toronto Stock Exchange and the country’s five largest banks, Toronto is Canada’s leading financial center – while also being known as a world leading hub for the entertainment, media and creative industries.
Toronto’s collection of museums and galleries is impressive. The Toronto International Film Festival is one of the world’s biggest, and the city’s live music scene is celebrated by locals and visitors alike.
A relatively young city on Canada’s west coast, Vancouver is the perfect destination for those who want to combine city living with easy access to the great outdoors. The landscape surrounding Vancouver is truly spectacular, ranging from lush green forests and stunning lakes, to the rugged magnificence of the Canadian Rockies.
Some of the universities in Vancouver include University of British Columbia, Simon Fraser University, University of Victoria and Vancouver Island University.
Canada’s third-largest metropolis, Vancouver consistently features in lists of the world’s most livable cities – and has become one of Canada’s best- known and most-visited cities. Cultural offerings include three prominent theater companies, the Vancouver International Film Festival, and a vibrant and diverse music scene. And for those who are not keen on cold weather, Vancouver might suit you, as it’s one of the country’s warmest cities during winter.
Quebec city is the capital of the province with which it shares its name. Its Old Town, with pretty cobbled streets surrounding the striking Château Frontenac and the only preserved city ramparts in North America, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and Quebec as a whole is full of historic and architectural interest. In fact, there are 37 National Historic Sites of Canada in Quebec City and its enclaves.
Some of the universities in Quebec City includes Laval University and Université du Quebec.
There’s no shortage of things to do here, in terms of both nightlife and culture, and the city is especially known for its colorful Winter Carnival, lively gay scene, and intimate live music venues.
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You may also want to check out our article on 11 Reasons to Study in Sweden
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