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What is Post-secondary education?

Post-secondary education refers to those whose highest level of educational attainment is an apprenticeship or trades certificate or diploma (including ‘centers de formation professionnelle’); college, or other non-university certificate or diploma; university certificate or diploma below bachelor level.In Canada, there are different types of post-secondary schools:

  • Universities
  • Colleges
  • Institutes

Schools that are recognized can grant:

  •  Degrees (Three levels of degrees)

Bachelor’s: generally three or four years of undergraduate study
Master’s: one or two years of study after the bachelor’s degree, including a thesis, practicum, or research paper or course-based
Doctoral: three years of study including a thesis, usually after the master’s degree

  •  Diplomas
  •  Certificates

To find out whether a school/university is officially recognized, contact Your Special Immigration for post-secondary education in the province or territory where you live or want to live. At most post-secondary institutions, there are two main terms of study per year: September to December and January to April. Most schools also offer summer courses.

Higher education in Canada

Undergraduate degrees in Canada can take either three or four years to complete, depending on the university. Postgraduate degrees last between one and three years to complete, depending on the type of degree. Different types of higher education providers in Canada include: universities (which carry out research and provide both undergraduate and postgraduate degrees), community colleges and technical, applied arts or applied science schools (which grant certificates, diplomas, associate’s degrees and bachelor’s degrees).

As universities in Canada are managed by provincial governments, you’ll find there will be slight differences in how education is carried out. Quebec, in particular, is markedly different to the rest of Canada, with different term times and length of study. For instance, students finish secondary school a year early and must take a mandatory pre-university General and Vocational College (CEGEP) course, essentially eliminating the freshman year of university. Check with your chosen institutions for specific details.

Top universities in Canada

Canada has a well-established position among the world’s leading study destinations. The most popular Canadian provinces for international students are Ontario, British Columbia and Quebec, which between them are home to many of the top universities in Canada.

For those looking to study at an elite university in one of the world’s most developed nations, applying to study in Canada can be an attractive option. A total of 26 universities in Canada feature in the QS World University Rankings® 2019, of which three are in the world’s top 50, with 11 more making the world’s top 300 – a feat matched only by a handful of other nations.

The two highest Canadian entries are the University of Toronto (28th) and McGill University (33rd), located in Toronto and Montréal respectively (the two largest cities in Canada). Also ranked within the global top 220 are the University of Alberta, McMaster University, Université de Montréal, the University of Waterloo, and Western University.

Tuition fees in Canada

In general, tuition fees in Canada are less expensive compared to other major Anglophone destinations (the US, UK and Australia), but still higher than most other countries. Average tuition fees in Canada for international undergraduate students start at about CA$17,337 (about US$13,350) per year. Universities in Canada set their own fees, and the cost of study also depends on the type of course and the subject – tuition fees in Canada for arts and humanities students tend to be at the lower end of the scale, with subjects such as engineering and medicine students among the more expensive.

Applying to universities in Canada

When you’ve chosen a shortlist of universities to apply to, the next stage is to get in touch with each university’s international office, which will guide you through the application procedure. You will need to apply directly to each institution, as there is no centralized application system.

The process for applying to universities in Canada is generally straightforward. Most Canadian higher education institutions require the completion of a high school diploma and, in some provinces, the completion of 40 hours of community service/volunteer work (this may not be expected of international students – check with the institution). International students may also be asked to provide proof of language proficiency, either in English or French.

For some university programs, and for almost all international students, you will be required to provide an essay, a statement of intent or 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.

In order to study in Canada, you will need to obtain a Canadian study permit, which serves as a Canadian student visa for the duration of your stay. You do not need a Canadian study permit if your course or program lasts six months or less.

Financial aid to study in Canada

With strong academic grades and well-rounded experiences, you might just qualify for one of the many scholarships, programs or funding opportunities created for international students just like you who choose to study abroad in Canada.

Scholarships, grants, and bursaries are available for international students wishing to study in Canada, at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels. These include specific scholarships for sporting and academic achievement, and subject-specific scholarships. You might also be able to apply for a scholarship offered exclusively by the university at which you plan to study. In all cases, it’s important to apply as early as possible as scholarship funding is limited and highly competitive. International applicants are also advised to research study abroad scholarship opportunities offered by organizations in their home country.

One example of a source of scholarships to study in Canada is the Canadian Commonwealth Scholarship Program, which provides scholarships to students of other Commonwealth countries.

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