Best universities in British Columbia

Find the best universities in British Columbia using Times Higher Education’s World University Rankings data

October 13 2020
Canada, study in canada, international students

British Columbia, Canada’s westernmost province, is known for its high-ranking universities, beautiful terrain, adventurous activities and vibrant multicultural atmosphere.

It is one of the only provinces in Canada where the province assesses and standardises post-secondary education, with the Education Quality Assurance. This ensures quality and “allows post-secondary institutions to compete at an international level”.

Offering a balance of city life, the sea and the mountains, British Columbia is home to Vancouver, as well as other large cities such as Victoria and Surrey. Although Vancouver is an internationally renowned destination, Victoria is the province’s capital and is located on Vancouver Island, which is a quick ferry ride from Vancouver.

Canada may be known for its harsh winters, but British Columbia has the country’s mildest climate. In the centre of the region, the summer heat often rises above the 30°C mark, while the province’s southern coastal areas have some of the mildest winter temperatures in the country.

For those who love the outdoor life, British Columbia has abundant hiking and mountain trails, the Smoothie Smoothie (a completely downhill biking trail), kayaking in Vancouver Island North and Whistler Blackcomb.

Vancouver is known as Canada’s tech hub and is a great destination for graduates, particularly those interested in software development, biotechnology, aerospace and video game development. It is also a promising place to pursue a career in animation, television production and the film industry.

Vancouver is a reflection of British Columbia’s diverse and multicultural identity. Nearly half the city’s population speaks an additional language to English, and about a third of residents have Chinese roots. Many Vancouverites also have Scandinavian, Italian, Ukrainian or Greek heritage.

Tuition fees and living costs for international students can be affordable.

These are the best universities in British Columbia, according to Times Higher Education’s World University Rankings 2021.


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Top universities in British Columbia

1. University of British Columbia

The University of British Columbia (UBC), formerly known as McGill University College of British Columbia, has well-established traditions in interdisciplinary research, dating back to its founding in 1908. It is British Columbia’s oldest university.

The university itself came about following a proposal made by Jon Jessop, then provincial governor of British Columbia, who recognised the need for a higher education institution to serve the local area.

One of the oldest universities in Canada, the institution expanded rapidly in the 20th century, and it has broadened its catalogue of degrees considerably, which had originally concentrated on medicine, theology and law.

Today, UBC can offer about 500 bachelor’s and master’s degrees in subjects such as business and technology management, IT and applied technology, liberal arts and sciences, but also linguistics and translation. Over the years, UBC has launched more than 1,300 research projects alongside businesses and has fostered the creation of close to 200 new companies.

UBC’s 1,501-acre campuses are situated in downtown Vancouver, a major cultural and economic hub, and Kelowna, a city located in the vicinity of Okanagan Lake in southern British Columbia. There are numerous modern sports centres and a plethora of student clubs operating on campus that allow students to participate in a variety of activities from skiing to aviation and even archaeology.

The university offers modern facilities, including the national laboratory for particle and nuclear physics (TRIUMF), Canada’s second biggest research library (with more than 7 million publications) and a traditional Japanese botanical garden, which also serves as home for an Ichibō-a teahouse.

Over the years, UBC alumni have won several Nobel prizes, over 60 Rhodes Scholarships and more than 200 have become fellows of the Royal Society of Canada. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, artist Jeff Wall and actor Evangeline Lilly are also former students.

The university’s motto, Tuum Est (It is yours), reveals its commitment to attracting and supporting those who have the drive to shape a better world.


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2. Simon Fraser University

Established in 1965, Simon Fraser University (SFU) has grown into one of Canada’s top research-intensive universities, with a prevailing west coast spirit.

SFU has more than 37,000 students, in eight faculties, spanning a broad range of fundamental, interdisciplinary and applied research topics.

SFU’s original campus, Burnaby, is located on Burnaby Mountain and was designed by Canadian architect Arthur Erickson, who was inspired by Athens’ Acropolis. Brutalist in style, the Burnaby campus has been featured in science fiction television series such as Stargate SG-1, Battlestar Galactica and Andromeda, as well as many other TV shows and films. It is now home to more than 30 academic buildings and UniverCity, a sustainable residential community. It is joined by campuses in Vancouver and Surrey.

It has one of Canada’s strongest co-op education programmes and has placed students in local and international internships at organisations such as Tesla and Facebook.

Both within the university and in the greater community, SFU strives to increase awareness of Indigenous history, culture and knowledge. SFU has a Museum of Archeology and Ethnology, which holds many exhibits created by students as part of the museum studies courses offered in the department of archaeology. Several large wooden sculptures (“totem” poles) from the Royal British Columbia Museum in Victoria represent the major art traditions of the Indigenous coastal peoples of the region.

SFU students can access a wealth of academic and research opportunities. The university offers more than 3,100 international research partnerships via its links with 2,947 institutions across 128 countries.

Notable alumni include several former premiers of British Columbia, athlete Terry Fox and many other football players, actors and singers.

The university’s motto, “Nous sommes prêts”, means “We are ready”, and is a variation of the traditional motto of the Fraser Clan.

Best universities in British Columbia 2021

Click each institution to view its full World University Rankings 2021

World University Rank 2021 British Columbia Rank 2021 University
 34  1 University of British Columbia
 251–300  2 Simon Fraser University
 351–400  3 University of Victoria
 801–1000  4 University of Northern British Columbia (UNBC)

Read more: Best universities in Canada

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