FAQs: Higher Education in Canada

Do you want to study in Canada and join over 530,540 international students in Canada?

Students flock to study in Canada from all over the world, including countries like India, China, Vietnam, France, South Korea, Iran, Nigeria, and Brazil, to name just a few. So why choose higher education in Canada over any other country abroad?

According to World Population Review, Canada is ranked third worldwide for having the best education system. It also has the highest educated adult population in the world.

Canada also has some of the top-ranking universities globally, including the University of Toronto, McGill University, the University of Alberta, McMaster University, University de Montreal, and the University of Waterloo.

Canada also offers fantastic work programs for international graduates after they have completed their qualification through programs, like the Post-Graduation Work Permit Program, which allows international graduates to stay and work in Canada. This gives students the opportunity to gain work experience to either prepare them for a successful international career or potentially gain enough Canadian experience to apply for Canada permanent residency. And this is just one of the many amazing post-study opportunities that Canada has to offer.

Besides these incredible reasons there’s the fact that Canada allows its students to work part-time for 20 hours per week, the diversity, cosmopolitan cities, and vibrant student life that so many cities have to offer.

But before we get ahead of ourselves, let's take a look at some of the top frequently asked questions about post-secondary education in Canada as well as how to apply for a Canada study permit.

1. What is Considered Higher Education in Canada?

smiling students working in library | Higher Education in Canada

In Canada, any form of post-secondary qualification, including undergraduate and postgraduate degrees, diplomas, or certificates, is considered to be higher education. This includes education received at: 

  • universities;
  • community colleges; and
  • technical, applied, or applied science schools.

  • 2. How Does Higher Education Work in Canada?

    Most Canadians go on to complete some form of post-secondary education after high school. The education system can vary from province to province and also depends on whether or not the institution is public or private. For example, in Quebec, students finish secondary or high school a year earlier than in other Canadian provinces. Students are then required to complete a compulsory General and Vocational College (CEGEP) course which takes the place of the first year of university.

    Below is an outline of how Canada’s education systems differ from province to province.

    Canada's Education system | Higher Education in Canada


    As mentioned earlier, Canada offers different forms of qualifications, namely degrees, diplomas, and certificates.


    There are three types of degrees:

    • Bachelors;
    • Master’s; and
    • Doctorate.


    Most diplomas will take at least 4 semesters or two years to complete, however. advanced diplomas can take six semesters or three years to finish.


    Most certificates will take around two semesters or one year to complete.

    And the great news is that all of these qualifications could earn you permanent residency points through various immigration programs, especially those under the Express Entry system and certain Provincial Nominee Programs (PNPs).

    3. Is Higher Education Free in Canada?

    Although public education for permanent residents and Canadian citizens is free, post-secondary or higher education in Canada is not free for international students. Canada does however offer international scholarships for non-Canadians.

    Global Affairs Canada (GAC) offers fully government-funded scholarships to exceptionally talented international students. It is very competitive as students will be applying from all over the world.

    It is also important to note that if you choose to apply for a GAC scholarship, you may be required to return to your home country after finishing your study program. This means that you may not be able to stay and apply for a work visa through programs like the PGWP or through a provincial graduate program. You may have to return to your home country and apply from there.

    Visit our website here for more information on how to get a scholarship to study in Canada.

    4. How Much Does Higher Education Cost in Canada?

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    This depends on your qualifications and where you intend to study in Canada. The average tuition fee for international undergraduate students is about CA$32,000 per year but this of course depends on your study program.

    For example, humanities students can expect to pay around CA$5,542 per year whereas engineering and medical students will look at paying around CA$21,717 per year.

    International postgraduate students can expect to pay around CA$17,744 per year, on average. MBA programs can cost around CA$27,397 on average per year.

    5. How Many Higher Education Institutions Are There in Canada?

    There are currently 223 public and private Canadian universities, and 213 public colleges and institutes. Of these institutions, there are various Designated Learning Institutions (DLIs) that may allow you to apply to stay and work in Canada once you’ve graduated. Below is a breakdown of the number of DLI’s in each Canadian province or territory.

    Designated learning Institutions by Province/Territory
    Province/TerritoryNumber of DLIs
    British Columbia265
    New Brunswick39
    Newfoundland & Labrador31
    Northwest Territories3
    Nova Scotia40
    QuebecNot Applicable
    Prince Edward Island20

    6. Which is the Cheapest University in Canada?

    As mentioned previously, tuition fees vary from program to program, institution to institution, and province to province. But, to give you an idea of how little you could expect to pay as an international student, here are five affordable Canadian universities and their tuition fees.

    Top 5 Affordable Canadian Universities
    UniversityTuition Fees (CAD)
    Memorial University of Newfoundland2,150 – 11,460
    University of Regina1,715 – 20,050
    Royal Roads University3,750 – 27,600
    University of Saskatchewan4,110 – 24,000
    Athabasca University1,625 – 17,250

    7. Does Canada Accept International Students to Study Canada?

    Yes. Canada accepts thousands of international students every year. In fact, in 2019, 404,165 Canada study permits were issued to students worldwide followed by 530,540 permits in 2020. Although the percentage of foreign enrolments dropped to 17 percent in 2020, there was still a significant increase, despite the effect that COVID has had on travel restrictions.

    All international students will need a study permit to be allowed to study in Canada and a travel visa in order to enter Canada. This will automatically be issued with your study permit.

    8. Which Course Is Best in Canada for Permanent Residency (PR)?

    young Arab man holding Canada passport gesturing excellent symbol | Higher Education in Canada

    Based on whether your intention is to live in Canada permanently after your studies. It's a good idea to not only check to see which jobs are in demand in Canada, but particularly which jobs are in demand in the province you intend to study in. This is because programs such as the Post-Graduation Work Permit Program as well as various provincial programs offer graduates the chance to stay and work in that province. Below are some of the best study programs to consider based on the labour demand across Canada.

    Top PR-Friendly Study Programs in Canada

    • MBA
    • Computer Science/Information Technology
    • Business and Finance
    • Engineering and Management
    • Healthcare and Management
    • Journalism and Media Communications
    • Engineering and Management

    9. Is There an Age Limit to Study in Canada?

    Although there is no age limit, however, there is a minimum age requirement to study in Canada at a post-secondary institution. You must be at least 18 years old and have an acceptance letter, a valid study permit, and an IELTS score.

    10. Do I Need a Permit to Study in Canada?

    Yes. All international students need a valid study permit to legally be able to study in Canada.

    How to Apply for a Canada Study Permit

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    Step 1: Do you meet the requirements for a study permit in Canada?

    In order to qualify to apply for a study permit for Canada, you will need to meet certain requirements: including:

    Canadian Study Permit Requirements

    • Be admissible to Canada
    • Enrolled at a Designated learning Institution (DLI) - have an acceptance letter
    • Have enough money to pay for your tuition fees
    • Have valid IELTS scores
    • Having enough money to pay for everyday expenses such as food, rent, and transportation
    • Have a clear criminal record
    • Have a clear medical record
    • Have proof that you intend to leave Canada after your studies are complete

    Step 2: Do I have all the necessary documents to complete my application?

    To make sure that the application process goes as smoothly as possible, it's best to make sure that you have all of your paperwork in order before starting the application process. This will also make it easier should you be asked by Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) to provide supporting documents as you will only have 30 days to do so.

    Step 3: Ready to submit your application?

    Now that you have all your documents in order you can start the application process.

    How long does it take to get a study permit in Canada?

    On average, the processing times for a Canadian study permit application can take about 15 weeks, however, depending on where you are applying from it can take quicker or longer.

    If you are from one of the following countries, you may qualify for faster processing of just 20 calendar days, through the Student Direct Stream.

    Eligible Student Direct Stream Countries

    • China
    • India
    • Morocco
    • Pakistan
    • the Philippines
    • Senegal
    • Vietnam

    How much is the Canada study permit fee?

    A Canada study permit will cost CAD150 to process.

    Studying in Canada in 2021 and Beyond

    confident Asian graduate student holding degree | Higher Education in Canada

    Studying in Canada can open up a number of opportunities that you may never have been able to imagine. Having a Canadian education or qualification is not only valuable in the sense that it could help boost your career, but it also opens up the door to a new future in Canada. If you qualify and are able to gain enough work experience in Canada you may be able to apply for Canada permanent residency through programs like the Canada Experience Class (CEC) or through various provincial programs.

    Ready to find your path to a brighter future in Canada? Take the first step with CanadianVisa.org.

    We work with a team of Canadian immigration and visa professionals or Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultants (RCICs) who will be able to guide you and give you the best advice on how to submit a successful Canada study permit application. We even have a dedicated student advisor who can help you with your motivation letter when applying to your university of choice. Why wait when opportunities like this only come around once, maybe twice in a lifetime. The time to take your future into your own hands is now. And we’re ready to help you achieve your goals, every step of the way.