What is the Difference Between College and University in Canada?

If you're an international student looking to live and work in Canada eventually upon completing your studies, then you're on the right track.

You'd be pleased to know that Canada has plenty of opportunities for foreign nationals settling in Canada. From quality education from world-leading Designated Learning Institutions (DLIs) to free universal healthcare, scholarships and mentorships, Canada has the necessary resources to sustain you long term.

If you want to study in Canada, you'd want to ensure you can keep up with the cost of living. You may find our resources in the top six Canadian cities with the cheapest cost of living here. Alternatively, as a student, you could explore the best places to live in Canada.

In this article, we will uncover why Canada is the ideal student paradise, the distinction between Canada colleges and universities, and suitable immigration programs you could use to immigrate to Canada sooner than you think.

Why Canada?

With award-winning universities, world-class facilities and a multicultural population, Canada has become the natural destination for thousands of international students.

So, why exactly are international students studying in Canada? We breakdown the reasons below:

  • Fees are very affordable
  • The degrees and diplomas are from well-renowned Canadian universities
  • Canada colleges and universities are recognized worldwide and are equivalent to those obtained from the US and other Commonwealth countries.
  • Easy accessibility to free universal health care in Canada, which is expensive, yet Canadian hospitals provide some of the most advanced healthcare in the world.

If you're looking to immigrate to Canada sooner or want to go from Temporary Resident (TR) to Permanent Resident (PR), find further information here.

Alternatively, contact our expert Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultant (RCIC) for the necessary advice and support to kickstart your immigration journey.

College versus University

So, as a student, you may ask: what exactly is the difference between Canada colleges and universities?

There are differences between the two types of learning institutions, so we've given you an in-depth breakdown below of how Canada would define a college and university.

Colleges in Canada

When we hear the term "college," we think about a learning institution that offers undergraduate qualifications. However, in Canada, colleges offer diplomas and technical training designed to fill the labour shortages, trends and needs of the Canadian economy.

Canadian colleges' approach is geared towards employment skills, career and trades training with a certificate for a one-year or less and a diploma for two to three programs.

Though most often provided by universities, a student may be able to obtain a bachelor's in Sciences, Mathematics, Humanities, History, and Engineering, amounting to approximately three to five years, depending on the program and college.

College Class Sizes

Classes tend to be smaller in size, which enables more one-on-one help. Here, the objective is to drive practical training, instruction, and hands-on experience to better prepare you for your chosen career path. You can make that transition easily and land that ideal job in Canada.

If you want to further your studies at a Canadian college, you may want to know the type of colleges in Canada. These are as follows:

  • Colleges of applied arts and technology
  • Community colleges
  • Institutes of technology
  • Polytechnics

Furthermore, if you are an international student who wants to ensure you're getting the best education without breaking the bank, you may find our resource for the top cheap colleges in Canada here.

College Program Type:

  • Two to three year Diploma Prerequisite: high school diploma
  • Certificate (one to two years) Prerequisite: high school and may be subject to other requirements depending on the program or college
  • Bachelor's (three years) Prerequisite: high school and diploma and may be subject to other requirements depending on the college, program course or province.

If you're an international student, it may be relevant for you to know more about the requirements for the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) test score for Permanent Residence (PR) in Canada.

What’s the Latest on College Bachelor Degrees (CBD) in Canada?

According to Statistics Canada, community colleges in Canada have recently started to introduce four-year degree programs, which are common in Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia. It has also been found that students who obtained a College Bachelor Degree (CBD) earn 12% more on average (per year) compared to University Bachelor's Degree (UBD) holders.

Their field of choice impacted this gap between the two groups of students. For example, college Bachelor's Degree holders who chose fields such as business, management and public administration or health and other related fields are assigned higher income earnings above average. In comparison, fields such as education, humanities or social and behavioural sciences and non-professional law programs are lower than average incomes.

Another influential factor, along with others, according to Statistics Canada, may be because CBD holders were more than two years older than UBD holders, who also registered faster earnings growth in the two to five-year period upon graduation.

Based on the above report by Statistics Canada, we can conclude that colleges offer hands-on career training and prepare graduates for jobs and how those jobs translate into reality. In contrast, universities strive for academic excellence for a promising career.

Universities in Canada

To attend a university in Canada, you need to understand the type of degrees Canadian universities offer and decide which degree you wish to pursue.

Below are Canadian degrees, according to EduCanada:

  • Three year Bachelor’s degree, prerequisite: high school diploma
  • Four-year Bachelor's with Honours, Prerequisite: high school diploma
  • One to two years Master's degree, prerequisite: Bachelor's degree
  • Three to five years PhD or doctoral studies, prerequisite: Master’s degree

In Canada, universities are defined as academic institutions that aim to nurture your chosen career and offer more academic and professional programs that enable graduates to complete their studies with a degree.

When applying to a Canadian university, you must 'major' in your studies and have a 'minor' area of study. Below are two main degrees Canadian universities offer:

1. Undergraduate degrees: Bachelor's degree.
2. Graduate degree: Masters or Doctorate.

University Class Sizes

Classes are usually larger, potentially over 100 students, which decreases one-on-one interaction. Because of this dynamic, students will develop more independent learning strategies.

For your convenience, simply find our five cheapest universities for international students in Canada here.

How to Apply for a Study Permit

To obtain a study permit for Canada colleges and universities, you must understand how to get a study permit. According to Canadianvisa.org, we outline the process below:

  • Step 1: Check eligibility - Ensure that you meet both the program requirements and the university or college criteria. You must take the English or French exam and meet the language requirements.
  • Step 2: Get a Letter of acceptance from a Designated Learning institution (DLI).
  • Step 3: Gather important documents like passport, biometrics, proof of finances and letter of explanation.
  • Step 4: Pay the application fees and apply online to the chosen program.

For more information on study permits, feel free to explore our resources on how to get a study permit here.

Available Immigration Programs

With over 100 visas and programs to choose from, you can enjoy an abundance of available immigration programs tailored to your needs and circumstances.

Below are some of the most commonly used and preferred immigration options…

Express Entry System

The Express Entry system is an online points-driven system which aims to manage immigration applications. Applicants applying to Express Entry can expect quick immigration results. Here are the three Express Entry programs:

  1. 1. Canadian Experience Class
  2. 2. Federal Skilled Worker Program
  3. 3. Federal Skilled Trades Program

Whether you're an international student or a skilled worker, you can explore your options and gain permanent residence through these programs. For more information on the Express Entry system, find our resource here.

Provincial Nominee Program (PNP)

This program is province-driven and targets skilled workers or students who want to live and work in Canada. Before settling in Canada, we advise that immigrants conduct the necessary research when choosing the right province - ensure that the province falls short of the skills you have to offer.

Skilled workers may have to obtain a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) from the Canadian employee. A positive LMIA would show that your employee is authorized to hire a skilled foreign worker.

For your convenience, find out more about the Provincial Nominee Program here. Alternatively, see how you can go from Temporary Resident (TR) to Permanent Resident (PR) sooner than you think.

Are you wanting to immigrate with your family and eventually settle in Canada?

Explore the sibling sponsorship program with the complete guide on how to go about the process.

Make sure you’re well prepared for the day you arrive and have the necessary documents on hand. However, when you're ready to apply for a study permit to study at one of the Cheapest Universities for International Students in Canada, be sure to reach out to us and get into contact with a Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultant (RCIC).

The Application Process: How to Apply

All immigration programs will require you to follow these steps if you are applying for permanent residence in Canada:

  • Step 1: Check if you meet the program criteria (and the job requirements) - you can do this with our eligibility assessment.
  • Step 2: Check your Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) Score - under the Express Entry system or other points-driven programs
  • Step 3: Gather your documents beforehand and have them ready
  • Step 4: Create your online Express Entry profile
  • Step 5: Apply to the most suitable program, pay the application fees and submit your application

While you await the evaluation of your application, you may be interested in learning more about the IRCC processing times.

Kindly note: Applicants should remain truthful in the information they provide on their Express Entry profile and official application. Always ensure that the fields are filled out accurately and provide the required documents to validate the information on the application. Failure to do so will result in a delay in processing times. Should the immigration officer suspect you have been dishonest in the information you've provided, your application will be rejected immediately.

Choose the Right University or College

It's completely natural to feel uncertain about the way forward or direction you should take. If you're unsure about which immigration program to choose or require advice on a good Canadian college or university, simply get in touch with one of our Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultants (RCICs) for the necessary support and guidance today.


1. Can a poor student study in Canada?

With over 100 visas and programs to choose from, the Canadian government makes immigration easy for students. As a start, you may want to secure a letter of acceptance from a Canada college or university with low tuition fees. Alternatively, you could consider getting a part-time job or exploring various scholarship options for international students.

2. What are the top five universities in Canada?

Canadianvisa.org has compiled the most recent top universities and colleges in Canada here.

3. What are the fastest ways to get to Canada?

Find out more about the easiest ways to live and work in Canada, which is also the fastest way that allows you to immigrate months from now.