Canada is home to some of the top universities in the world. In fact, 26 Canadian institutions are counted among the best in the world, according to Times Higher Education’s World University Rankings 2018.
You might not have heard of all of them, but with six universities in the top 200, Canada’s best colleges offer plenty of opportunities for a world-class education.
Compared with the US, Canada can also provide cheaper study options, simpler application processes and more opportunities for permanent residency.
Best universities worldwide
Canada’s top two universities – the University of Toronto and the University of British Columbia – score particularly highly for research impact, which means that these schools are producing high-quality academic work that is well respected.
The University of British Columbia is ranked in joint 34th position in the overall World University Rankings and 29 per cent of its student population is international.
Many of Canada’s universities are well known for promoting a global outlook through enrolling international students, hiring international faculty and encouraging international collaborations, meaning that you can expect a cosmopolitan feel on campus.
According to the Canadian Bureau for International Education’s International Student Survey, more than 90 per cent of students questioned were satisfied or very satisfied with their studies in Canada, and 95 per cent would recommend Canada as a study destination.
Student experience in Canada
Top 5 universities in Canada
Originally controlled by the Church of England, the first university founded in the colony of “Upper Canada” is structured as a collegiate system, much like prestigious universities in the UK. The 12 colleges all have different histories and features.
The University of Toronto (UofT) has many pioneering achievements to its name, including Canada’s first academic publishing house, the first forest science faculty in the country, and becoming the first Canadian university to reach more than C$1 billion in endowment.
Influential academic movements began at the university, including the Toronto School of literary criticism and communication theory, the NP-completeness theory in computer science, and research into stem cell treatment.
The UofT’s downtown campus contains several historic buildings and courtyards that will impress European visitors sceptical of the architecture in North America.
More than 700 undergraduate degrees and 200 postgraduate degrees are on offer and the university is one of the best in the world for medicine.
It has a particularly large student population – more than 68,000 full-time students, of whom about 16 per cent are international.
Notable alumni include five Canadian prime ministers and the writers Michael Ondaatje and Margaret Atwood. In total, 10 Nobel laureates are associated in some way with UofT.
The oldest university in the province, the University of British Columbia (UBC) is one of the most competitive in Canada.
There are two campuses, one in Vancouver and one in Kelowna. The main campus in Vancouver is near several beaches and boasts views over the North Shore mountains. There are a number of botanical and memorial gardens on campus as well as a renowned performing arts centre.
UBC offers a number of scholarships for students, including the Donald A. Wehrung International Student Award for candidates from war-torn countries.
Seven Nobel prizewinners are associated with the university, as are 69 Rhodes scholars and 65 Olympic medallists.
The world’s largest cyclotron – a type of particle accelerator – is housed at UBC, in TRIUMF, the country’s national laboratory for particle and nuclear physics.
Students and researchers are organised into 12 faculties on the Vancouver campus and a further seven on the Kelowna campus. UBC offers a special joint undergraduate programme with Sciences Po – a higher education institution in Paris.
In total, more than 50,000 full-time students are enrolled at UBC and a quarter of them are international.
Three Canadian prime ministers have been educated at UBC, including Justin Trudeau, the current prime minister, who graduated with a bachelor of education degree.
McGill University is the only Canadian institution represented in the World Economic Forum's Global University Leaders Forum, which comprises the leaders of 26 of the world’s top universities.
It was founded in 1821 and the main campus is at the base of Mount Royal in downtown Montreal. Most university buildings are in a park-like campus, where many first-year students also live.
All original buildings were constructed using local grey limestone, giving the campus a striking aesthetic.
In 1829, McGill founded the nation’s first faculty of medicine, and to this day the university scores particularly highly in world rankings for clinical subjects.
The university offers more than 300 different degree subjects to more than 40,000 students from 150 different countries. It counts itself as one of Canada’s most internationally diverse institutions.
Singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen and the actor William Shatner are graduates of McGill. The university also claims more Rhodes scholars than any other Canadian university.
Entering students have higher average grades than those at any other university in the country.
McMaster University is located in Hamilton, Ontario with the main campus situated on 121 hectares of land near Hamilton's Royal Botanical Gardens.
The university is named after William McMaster, a prominent Canadian senator and banker who donated C$900,000 to the founding of the institution.
McMaster’s medical school is well-renowned and the university also provides teaching across the faculties of engineering, business, humanities, social sciences and science. The university places a strong emphasis on research working to target some of the most urgent needs in society particularly in the field of health sciences. This includes research from the Stem Cell and Cancer Research Institute which turned bits of human skin into blood cells, which could help to alleviate the shortage of blood donors.
Students and faculty come from over 90 countries worldwide and the university holds some 70 international exchange agreements with universities around the world.
The university's motto, chosen from Colossians 1:17 is: "In Christ all things consist" written in Greek. The McMaster motto is unusual in that it is written in Greek instead of the traditional Latin or English.
The only francophone university in the top five, the University of Montreal is the second largest university in the country in terms of student numbers, with more than 37,000 students enrolled. A quarter of all students are international.
The University of Montreal’s main campus is on the slope of Mount Royal. The landmark tower was built in the Art Deco style in the 20th century.
Seventy-four per cent of the student body is enrolled on an undergraduate degree. A students’ union represents both undergraduate and postgraduate students and there are three fraternities and sororities affiliated to it.
University sports are a popular recreation – the teams are known as the Carabins and compete in badminton, Canadian football and hockey, among other sports.
Many renowned business leaders are graduates of the university, including the chief executive officer of the United Technologies Corporation. Other graduates are noted for their contributions to scientific research, including innovations in nuclear power, visual perception and quantum cryptography.
Ten premiers of Quebec are graduates of the university, in addition to many other government officials who were educated at Montreal.
Top universities in Canada 2018
Click each institution to view its full World University Rankings 2018 results
|Canada Rank 2018||World University Rank 2018||University||Province||City|
|1||=22||University of Toronto||Ontario||Toronto|
|2||=34||University of British Columbia||British Columbia||Vancouver|
|5||108||University of Montreal||Quebec||Montreal|
|6||=119||University of Alberta||Alberta||Edmonton|
|=7||201–250||University of Calgary||Alberta||Calgary|
|=7||201–250||University of Ottawa||Ontario||Ottawa|
|=7||201–250||University of Waterloo||Ontario||Waterloo|
|=11||251–300||Dalhousie University||Nova Scotia||Halifax|
|=11||251–300||Laval University||Quebec||Quebec City|
|=11||251–300||Simon Fraser University||British Columbia||Burnaby|
|=15||301–350||University of Victoria||British Columbia||Victoria|
|=17||401–500||University of Manitoba||Manitoba||Winnipeg|
|=17||401–500||University of Saskatchewan||Saskatchewan||Saskatoon|
|=19||501–600||Memorial University of Newfoundland||Newfoundland and Lbrador||St John's|
|=19||501–600||University of Québec||Quebec||Quebec City|
|=19||501–600||Université de Sherbrooke||Quebec||Sherbrooke|
|=24||601–800||University of Northern British Columbia (UNBC)||British Columbia||Prince George|
|=24||601–800||University of Regina||Saskatchewan||Regina|
|=24||601–800||University of Windsor||Ontario||Windsor|
Read more: Best universities in the United States