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 2016-2017.
You might not have heard of all of them, but with eight 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.
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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 36th position in the overall World University Rankings and 25 per cent of its student population is international, the same proportion as at the University of Montreal, ranked just outside the top 100.
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.
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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 60,000 full-time students, of whom about 15 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 that ensured its inclusion in a list of the 17 most beautiful campuses in the world.
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.
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 50,000 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.
Comprised of four campuses in Edmonton and a number of other facilities elsewhere, the University of Alberta has had a significant impact on the region since it was founded in 1908.
In economic terms, it is estimated that the university generates $12.3 billion annually for the Alberta economy, equal to 5 per cent of the gross domestic product.
There are currently just under 40,000 students from almost 150 countries around the world. Class sizes vary, ranging from 10 students to just over 40.
The School of Public Health is Canada’s first dedicated faculty for disease prevention and the Faculty of Native Studies is the only such faculty in the country.
Courses and research about palaeontology is another distinctive focus at the university, due to the expertise of specific faculty members and the popularity of online courses on offer.
The university’s museum and library collections are vast, totalling more than 17 million curated objects and 12 million library items.
Many public figures in Canada are graduates of the university, including Joe Clark, the prime minister, and Nobel prizewinning physicist Richard E. Taylor.
Top universities in Canada 2017
Click each institution to view its full World University Rankings 2016-2017 results
|Canada rank 2017||World University rank 2017||University|
|1||22||University of Toronto|
|2||=36||University of British Columbia|
|4||103||University of Montreal|
|5||107||University of Alberta|
|7||=173||University of Waterloo|
|8||=195||University of Calgary|
|=9||201-250||Simon Fraser University|
|=9||201-250||University of Western Ontario|
|=12||251-300||University of Ottawa|
|=15||301-350||University of Victoria|
|17||351-400||University of Guelph|
|=18||401-500||University of Manitoba|
|=18||401-500||Université du Québec à Montréal|
|=18||401-500||University of Saskatchewan|
|=21||501-600||Memorial University of Newfoundland|
|=21||501-600||University of Regina|
|=21||501-600||Université de Sherbrooke|
|26||601-800||University of Windsor|