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What’s it like to study in… Toronto?

The BridgeU guide to one of North America's most popular cities for international students

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If you have students who are thinking about studying in Canada, suggest they consider Toronto, the country’s largest city.  Situated in the English-speaking province of Ontario, Toronto is a multi-cultural city with a global outlook, and lots to offer overseas students.

The student population of Toronto reflects the diversity of the city itself, with students coming from around 160 different countries.  And its swathes of international applicants are generally pleased with their choice: Toronto is ranked 13 in the QS Top Student Cities. Toronto offers a good choice of well-regarded universities, a big city vibe, and fees and living costs that are slightly below US levels. The city is also a major international centre for business and finance, and is the third largest hub for film and television production after Los Angeles and New York.

Options for studying

Toronto has three internationally ranked universities, as well as many smaller schools. Leading the pack is the University of Toronto, a multi-campus college, with its downtown St George campus noted for its green spaces and striking gothic and Romanesque architecture.  With over 69,000 students, this is the largest university in Canada and boasts an international reputation for research and teaching. Its distinguished research history includes the discovery of insulin in 1921. The Times Higher Education World University Rankings (2018) puts the University of Toronto at number 22 in its league tables. Students and graduates generally praise its teaching standards, social opportunities and friendliness. The teacher-student ration is around 1: 18.7.

York University is another large-scale institution with around 53,000 students and a wide choice of courses. Its main campus, Keele, is about 30 minutes’ bus ride from downtown. Students can take up the option of combining a major at Keele, with an option at York’s smaller bilingual Glendon campus, where students study for liberal arts degrees with an international edge, including language courses. This would suit students who already have some knowledge of both English and French and want to improve their language skills while gaining their degree.  

Third on the list is Ryerson University, which offers more than 100 undergraduate and graduate programmes, and has gained a reputation for its careers-oriented approach. It offers courses in Business, Communications, Arts, Science, Engineering and Architectural Science, and has established links to Toronto’s business sectors.

Students can apply to all three of these establishments with the help of BridgeU, and our Document Sending function allows teachers to send application-related materials directly to the universities. 

Settling in

As with all large universities in major world cities, students newly arrived in Toronto may at times feel a little overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of students, all attending classes and lectures in different buildings at different times. Large class sizes, especially in the first year, can make friendships harder to form for the less socially outgoing. Students report that campus life is very much what you make it.

Students who thrive tend to be those who are proactive about joining some of the many student clubs and organisations on offer. Sports fans abound with high profile football and ice hockey teams. But Toronto also has a strong emphasis on arts and culture. The University of Toronto’s facilities include its own art gallery and theatre and writers Margaret Atwood and Michael Ondaatje, and the actor Donald Sutherland, are among its many notable alumni.

A variety of student accommodation is available, including University of Toronto’s distinct residence communities located close to each of its campuses. First stop to check out housing options are the universities’ websites – and getting your name on waiting lists early is imperative.

While summers can be almost tropical, students should be forewarned about Toronto’s winters, which can last from November to April. Snow is everywhere while temperatures can drop to -25-degrees C, and may not crawl above zero for months. Some students report that their mood can suffer during the dark winters. Escape is possible – at least for a couple of hours – to Toronto’s botanical Allan Gardens. And there’s always an affordable hot chocolate and fresh apple fritter donut to be had at Tim Horton’s – the quintessential Canadian coffee shop loved by students.

How much will it cost?

According to Statistics Canada, the average tuition fees for international students in 2017/18 are CA$25,180 (US$20,540) per year. Arts and humanities courses tend to be a bit less, while subjects such as engineering and medicine are among the more expensive (an average of CA$28,625 (US$23,340) per year).

Any students who have a Canadian passport will qualify for cheaper domestic rates. Encourage prospective students to check out scholarship opportunities at Canadian universities – most have some opportunities that international students can apply for and these can bring down fees significantly.

If students are hoping to work while studying, they will have to study the visa restrictions from their country of origin quite carefully. There may be some opportunity to earn cash by working in a campus bar or shop, but these opportunities are limited and may need to be arranged in advance. Emailing the university’s international office to ask about available jobs is a good first step. The university may also be able to help students arrange internships and placements, relevant to their course, but these are likely to be unpaid.

Other things to flag

  • International students, whose course is longer than six months, will need to obtain a Canadian Study Permit, which serves as a visa. To obtain this, they will need a certificate of acceptance (COA) from the government, as well as a Canadian student visa application package, available from the Canadian Immigration and Citizenship (CIC) website at  www.cic.gc.ca.
  • As part of the application process, students will be asked to prove that they have a ticket home, a valid passport and enough money to support themselves during their stay. In Ontario this is deemed to be Canadian $10,000 (US $7,070; £675) per year, on top of tuition fees.
  • Students are required to have health insurance while studying in Canada.
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