Education: Why Study in Canada?
by Lin Wang
A world class education. A chance to discover a different culture. An internationally recognized degree. An opportunity to meet people from across the globe and learn about various lifestyles.
These are just some of the things that Canadian universities and colleges have to offer for the thousands of international students that arrive each year. While each student’s motivation may differ, many of them come because of the education system and high quality programs. Others seek to enrich their knowledge with the experience of living in a foreign country. More are attracted by the many opportunities that would be available both during and after their studies.
Whether you are just considering pursuing post-secondary in Canada, or applying for a study permit, it is important to get an overview of the institutions and program options available.
Universities and Colleges
While universities and colleges can provide similar programs, there are key and notable differences. Universities are larger institutions that offer academic degrees in a variety of disciplines, including professional fields such as medicine, engineering, and law. They also offer more activities, clubs, and services. In addition, the student body is generally more diverse, allowing international students to meet people with different backgrounds while connecting with people who share their culture. Universities are also considered more renowned, especially in the national and international scheme. However, their size leads to bigger classes and fewer personal interactions with professors. Furthermore, to cover the cost of having many program options, tuition costs and student fees are much higher.
On the other hand, colleges generally offer diplomas and shorter programs, with the option of transferring to a university in later years. The environment is more intimate, allowing for closer connections with students and staff. They also have lower entrance requirements and cheaper tuition, though this means that college students have fewer program options and opportunities.
Generally, college is more suitable for students who are seeking a practical education that will allow them to enter the workforce quickly.
The rankings of Canadian universities and colleges vary depending on the source of the ranking and the specific criteria. However, Canadian institutions are generally respected across the world. Some Canadian universities are well rounded and highly ranked in many areas, while others have specialties.
McGill University in Montreal, for example, is renowned for its undergraduate, graduate, and professional programs, as well as for research. It has consistently ranked as one of the top three universities in Canada and U.S. News ranks it 18th overall in the world. According to the same source, McGill’s medical doctor program also resides 10th internationally. It also has the most diverse student body in Canada, with 7000 international students hailing from 160 nations. Compared to institutions around the globe, McGill also ranks 14th for Arts and Humanities, and 17th for the Social Sciences.
The University of Toronto, which has three campuses (in downtown Toronto, Mississauga, and
Scarborough) is another top university in Canada, and places around 29th overall on the international stage. It also scores 8th for Engineering and Information Technology, as well as 11th for both the Arts and Humanities category, and the Life Sciences and Biomedicine category. Despite the size of the university, the undergraduates are divided into smaller colleges – which allows the development of close-knit communities. The University of Toronto’s primary strengths are its excellent research and teaching faculties.
Another institution in the top 40 universities across the world is the University of British Columbia, which generally ranks 2nd or 3rd within Canada. It is best known for its Social Sciences and Life Sciences faculties, which rank 13th and 16th respectively. The two UBC campuses are filled with excellent recreation facilities, and are home to more than 5500 international students, with almost 4000 of them in undergraduate programs. The main campus is also surrounded by gardens and parks, located in Vancouver, a lively, scenic city that hosted the 2010 Olympics.
Besides the top three Canadian universities, many others are famous for specific undergraduate and graduate programs. Queen’s University, Simon Fraser University, and the University of Western Ontario all have business schools with excellent reputations. The University of Waterloo is arguably the best across Canada for the fields of mathematics, computer sciences, engineering and architecture. In Canada, the law schools at the University of Saskatchewan and the University of Alberta both rank in the top five, along with McGill, the University of Toronto, and the University of British Columbia.
One international student planning to begin her first year of university in Canada explains that she is mostly attracted by the high quality education. She is hoping to enter an engineering program with a focus on mechanical engineering, and states that Canadian universities employ more advanced technology and better training compared to schools in her home country.
She has considered studying in other nations, but in the end chose the west coast because of the pleasant environment and the good weather. Her decision was also influenced by the fact that her father managed to obtain a permit to work in Canada. When asked about the application process, she comments that “it is not complicated” and the biggest challenge was learning English.
An international Ph.D. student at UBC also provided his views on studying in Canada. He applied to many top universities in Canada and the United States, but found that Visa applications took too long for the U.S. Thus, he decided on Canada, thinking it would be “a good country to live in”, hoping to become a resident after graduation. Regarding choosing a specific program, he decided on UBC because of its interesting research work. While reflecting on his experience studying in Canada, he reveals that he faced difficulties at the beginning with learning the language and adapting to the culture, but also learned a great deal academically and met international students from 40 different countries. He especially enjoyed experiencing various cultures and enthusiastically recommends future students to “not be shy and get involved in activities”.