Studying in Canada: The Different Provinces Explained

Canada's diverse geography and culture gives students a wide range of options. Learn more about the different provinces. 

image of Ontario skyline

It’s not hard to see why Canada continues to be an attractive destination for international students. 

The Canadian university system offers undergraduates a wealth of different study opportunities. Canadian universities are all very unique, with campuses located in some of the most picturesque cities and small towns in the world. What’s more, Canada offers international students a world-class university education, at a much lower price than its neighbour, the USA. 

Canada combines big cities and vast, beautiful countryside. It’s also a culturally diverse, bilingual country. 

So before we go any further, let’s take a quick glance at some of the reasons why an international student might want to think about Canada for their university education.

Want to learn more about studying in Canada? 

Download your free Canada country guide, complete with essential information on the different types of Canadian degree, and their  entry requirements. 

What are the benefits of studying in Canada?

Lower tuition fees

As we’ve already mentioned, Canadian universities offer international students a much lower price tag than their US counterparts. Out-of-state fees for international students are lower for both private and public universities.

Quality of education

According to Times Higher Education’s World University Rankings, 30 Canadian institutions rank as the best in the world

Less test/transcript heavy application process

Compared to the US system, Canadian universities give more weight to a student’s more recent school grades and test scores. Canadian universities also place much less emphasis on test scores, so there’s less reliance on the SAT or ACT to gain admission.

A diverse, welcoming community for international students

Canada is a very popular country for international students - not only due to the lower cost of study, but also because it’s culturally diverse. What’s more, being an undergraduate in Canada can help to put students on the fast track to become a permanent Canadian resident after they’ve finished their studies.

Natural beauty

It goes without saying that Canada is a beautiful country for studying at university, being the home of natural wonders like the Northern Lights, Lake Superior and of course Niagara Falls!

Note: If your students are thinking about Canada as a potential university destination, it is worth noting that some Canadian universities are in hard-to-reach locations, and can be expensive to travel to! Make sure they factor this into their research! 

Studying in Canada: A Beginner's Guide to the Provinces

As we’ve already discussed, Canada is huge! Like the USA, its vast and varied geography means that students are spoiled for choice when it comes to starting their university applications. 

In this section, we’ll give you a brief overview of the different provinces in Canada, and discuss some of the universities located in each one. 

Alberta

Alberta is one of the three ‘prairie’ provinces in Canada. It borders the Rockies, so it’s a great spot for hikers and skiers alike! The climate in Alberta is reasonably temperate, with four seasons combining warm summers and cold winters (hence its popularity for skiers). 

picture of Alberta skyline

Top universities in Alberta

The University of Alberta 

The University of Alberta has a strong reputation for research and excellence, in subjects such as humanities, sciences, social sciences, creative arts and business. It also offers taught courses in French at the Faculte Saint-Jean. International students applying here can expect tuition fees between $14,000 and $16,000.

The University of Calgary 

The University of Calgary is a research university that boasts four campuses across the province of Alberta, as well as a fifth international campus in Doha, Qatar. Again, tuition fees range between $14,000 and $16,000. 

British Columbia

British Columbia offers students both coastlines and mountains. It’s home to big cities like Vancouver and smaller towns like Victoria. It’s a large province with a range of climates. While British Columbia is an English speaking province, it’s also home to over 700,000 residents who speak other languages. 

British columbia skyline

Top universities in British Columbia

The University of British Columbia 

The University of British Columbia sits in the QS Top 50 in world rankings. UBC also has a great reputation for highly specialised degrees, such as journalism, international economics, and food market analysis. The price tag for international students is a bit higher, at $26k-28k, but it’s worth taking a look at UBC’s scholarship offering to see if your students can apply for financial aid

Simon Fraser University 

Like UBC, Simon Fraser University has a strong international reputation, with almost a third of undergraduates being international. For students who are keen on sport, it’s worth noting that SFU is the only Canadian university that’s a member of the National Collegiate Athletic Association, the largest college sports organisation in the world.

Manitoba 

Considered one of the three ‘prairie provinces’ in Canada (alongside Alberta and Saschetawan), Manitoba has a continental climate, though it does experience cold winters too!

manitoba legislative building

Top universities in Manitoba

The University of Manitoba

Based in the city of Winnipeg, The University of Manitoba is a research intensive public university. International students make up about 15% of its total student population, and it has one of the largest indigenous student populations in the country. 

It’s also an elite university for sports - Manitoba’s sports teams have 42 Canadian inter-university national championships! 

The University of Winnipeg 

Again based in the city of Winnipeg (the clue’s in the name!), this university offers students an urban campus, small class sizes and a commitment to environmental sustainability. Winnipeg also seeks to make all of its students more aware of indigenous Canadian culture, with an Indigenous Course Requirement (ICR) for all new undergraduates. 

New Brunswick

New Brunswick is one of the four Atlantic provinces on the east coast of Canada. It’s a bilingual province, with roughly two thirds of the population identifying themselves as English-speaking, and the other one third French speaking. 

Its terrain is comprised more of forest uplands and it’s a much less densely populated province compared to some of the others. Some parts of New Brunswick experience a humid, continental climate, whilst the northernmost regions have a subarctic climate.

Top universities in New Brunswick

The University of New Brunswick

The University of New Brunswick has two amazing, picturesque campuses for international students to choose from. Whether it’s Saint John with it’s delicious seafood and waterfront pubs, or Fredericson with its famous Farmer’s Market, both campuses offer students access to vibrant New Brunswick culture. 

Universite de Moncton

This is a French language university in New Brunswick, spread across three campuses. It’s the only wholly French-speaking university in the province. Moncton is also one of only two universities in Canada that teaches French common law. 

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Newfoundland & Labrador

Newfoundland and Labrador is the easternmost province of Canada. 97% of its inhabitants are English speaking. It’s known for glaciers and whale-watching and is a place where it’s possible to see the Northern Lights. 

newfoundland and labrador harbour

Top universities in Newfoundland & Labrador

Newfoundland and Labrador only has one major university (though it does have a number of smaller colleges and higher education institutions to choose from). 

Memorial University

Memorial University is Newfoundland and Labrador’s only university and is spread across four campuses, and offers online learning for those students who are interested. It’s also one of the top 20 research universities in Canada. 

As one of the largest universities in North Canada, Memorial University awards over 75 scholarships, so it’s worth students checking these out if they’re worried about financial aid. 

Novia Scotia

One of Canada’s maritime provinces, it’s also the second-smallest. It has a continental climate, with the Atlantic Ocean moderating the winter and summer temperatures. The province is known for its history, seafood and wildlife (particularly puffins and seals). 

In terms of culture, Novia Scotia boasts a lot of interesting museums which showcase its rich ethnic heritage, as well as a number of music and arts festivals. For students who love the outdoors, it’s also the home of two national parks - Kejimkujik National Park and Cape Breton Highlands. 

picture of Cape Breton, Novia Scotia

Top universities in Novia Scotia

One of Canada’s maritime provinces, it’s also the second-smallest. It has a continental climate, with the Atlantic Ocean moderating the winter and summer temperatures. The province is known for its history, seafood and wildlife (particularly puffins and seals). 

In terms of culture, Novia Scotia boasts a lot of interesting museums which showcase its rich ethnic heritage, as well as a number of music and arts festivals. For students who love the outdoors, it’s also the home of two national parks - Kejimkujik National Park and Cape Breton Highlands. 

Dalhousie University

Dalhousie University is located in Halifax, Novia Scotia. It offers 3,600 courses in over 180 undergraduate, postgraduate and research degrees. It’s an internationally respected institution, so definitely worth considering for international students interested in Novia Scotia! 

It’s also noted for its Agriculture campus, located one hour from the main Halifax campus. As you may have guessed, it’s home to the university’s Faculty of Agriculture. 

Mount Saint Vincent University 

Mount Saint Vincent is known for its small campus and opportunities for distance learning. Its list of flexible, personalised learning is small, but it’s worth looking at for students who are interested in taking an online course. 

Ontario

Ontario is Canada’s most populous province, comprising over 38% of the country’s total population. It boasts the beauty of natural landmarks such as Niagara Falls, but is also home to Ottawa and Toronto, arguably Canada’s most well-known cities. 

North Ontario has long, cold winters and short summers, whilst the southern part of the province is tempered by its proximity to the Great Lakes. 

picture of Niagara Falls in Ontario

Top universities in Ontario

The University of Toronto

The University of Toronto sits in the QS Top 30 rankings, and is a public university comprised of 11 colleges. As well as being well-known for its scientific research, it also has a reputation as an all-round excellent research institution.

The University of Waterloo

The University of Waterloo sits in the technology hub of the city of Waterloo. It’s a university with lots of close connections to industry and it’s worth noting that Waterloo ranks as number 1 in the world for student-employer partnerships, with 87% of its students being employed within six months of graduation.

Western University

Western University is an institution that offers students a range of over 400 degree programmes! It’s also considered one of the world’s most beautiful universities, with a campus comprising hundreds of acres of land and stunning Gothic architecture. 

Prince Edward Island 

The smallest and most densely populated province in Canada, Prince Edward Island plays host to a handful of universities and higher education institutions. Historically, Prince Edward Island is also one of Canada’s oldest settlements. It’s known for its seafood. 

Top universities in Prince Edward Island

The University of Prince Edward Island

Prince Edward Island’s main university is based in Charlottetown, and offers students personalised learning, small class sizes and a campus with a rich history spanning 200 years. The university’s eight faculties means that students have a wide range of degree courses to choose from. 

Quebec

Quebec is a primarily French speaking province and has a French-influenced culture and history. It’s the largest province in Canada and the second largest in terms of population. 

Because it’s such a large province, Quebec has a range of climates. The south has four seasons varying from hot summers to cold, snowy winters. As you move north, the temperatures in both summer and winter get colder. In the far north, you can expect an Arctic climate with a freezing and long winter. 

Being mainly a French-speaking province, Quebec’s culture can feel quite distinct from the rest of Canada’s. However, it’s worth noting that cities such as Montreal are bi-lingual, so international students who only speak English shouldn’t worry too much about fitting in! Quebec is ethnically diverse, particularly in the larger cities. Quebeckers are known for loving ice hockey, their national dish: poutine (cheese and gravy on french fries) and - most of all - Quebec!

picture of Quebec in winter

Top universities in Quebec

McGill University

Based in Montreal, McGill University is in the QS top 50 world rankings, and attracts thousands of international students from over 150 countries every year. It offers many international scholarship programs and has an excellent academic reputation in both the arts and sciences. 

Universite Laval

In the QS top 500, Universite Laval is a French-language University with undergraduates from 120 countries

Saskatchewan

Saskatchewan is one of the prairie provinces and nearly 10% of it is comprised of rivers, reservoirs and lakes. Saskatchewan is landlocked, and is known for its rich agricultural industry. The province is known for hunting, fishing and hiking. Most of the province has a continental climate with warm summers, but Arctic winds coming from the north means that winters can also be cold! 

river in Saskatchewan, Canada

Top universities in Saskatchewan

University of Saskatchewan

With a reputation as an old and distinguished Canadian institution, USask offers students an interdisciplinary approach to research and learning. The university’s signature research areas include agriculture, water security, energy and mineral resources. There are also a range of on-campus services to offer students pastoral support during their time studying at USask.

Finding the right Canadian university: questions to ask your students 

If you're working with students who are considering potential Canadian universities, they'll most likely need help focusing their research. For those counselors or teachers who are helping students with the Canadian university application process, here are the big questions they'll need to answer. 

Rural or urban?

Canada mixes remote rural locations and vibrant, global cities. So it’s worth students asking themselves: what’s the best learning environment for me? Do I like nature walks, skiing, or being near the Ocean? Do I love discovering big sprawling cities? Do I like being able to escape into a quieter/ country area but also having a city nearby?

Living costs, travel costs & accessibility 

International students applying to Canada need to remember that it’s huge! So it’s worth thinking about how cheap/expensive it would be to get to an international airport to go home! It might also be necessary to think about public transport in more remote areas. 

And finally, it’s worth thinking about the cost of living in different Canadian cities and provinces. For example, Vancouver is one of the most expensive cities in Canada. How much will transport, food and accommodation cost on top of tuition? 

Weather 

You'll notice that we've mentioned the weather and climate a few times in our tour of the Canadian provinces

It’s certainly true that parts of Canada are very cold. Our advice for students seeking warmer climes is to look at universities and campuses situated closer to the US border! Alternatively, students who are happier with colder temperatures, or are interested in winter sports might want to consider universities in the northern provinces. 

To learn more about the Canadian university application process, download our latest guide to studying in Canada, complete with more information about Canadian university degrees, entry requirements and financial aid. 

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