Best universities in Toronto

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

October 12 2020
Downtown Toronto


On the shore of Lake Ontario, Toronto is Canada’s largest city and offers an attractive blend of campus learning and big city living. 

A renowned business and finance centre, but also a place with a thriving arts, culture and design scene, Toronto is one of the most multicultural and cosmopolitan cities in the world.

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Known for the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), it is a haven for film buffs and has been associated with the nickname “Hollywood North” since the late 1970s, because of its role as a production centre for both domestic and international film projects.

However, students of all disciplines will feel welcome here, what with its plethora of high-ranking universities and the fees and living costs that are lower than in the US. These are the best universities in Toronto based on the Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2021.

From volunteer work to internships to professional roles, Toronto offers a promising job scene for students. As well as clubs, societies and sporting organisations to help pave the way for future employment, many universities also have their own newspapers, radio stations, and student-run blogs.

There is much to explore and enjoy in your free time, from the vibrant neighbourhoods of Chinatown, Koreatown and Little Italy to events such as TIFF and Nuit Blanche, a free all-night contemporary arts festival, and for fashionistas, the Ryerson Mass Exodus.

Getting around the city is easy and good value for money, with Presto, the electronic payment card system, enabling students to move around the city and top up funds using their mobile phones.  

While summers can be extremely hot, Toronto’s winters, which can last from November to April, are bitter. Expect thick snow everywhere and temperatures often below -25°C, not moving above 0°C for months. That being said, there’s still a lot to do despite the freezing weather, from cross-country skiing, tobogganing and tubing to skiing in the nearby mountains.

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The best universities in Toronto

1. University of Toronto

The University of Toronto (UofT) is considered one of the world’s most prestigious universities. 

Founded in 1827, it offers more than 700 undergraduate and 200 postgraduate degree programmes to a student body of almost 60,000.

The university is well known for its courses in medicine, business, engineering, humanities and education.

The University of Toronto has several campuses, with its downtown St George campus likened to the universities of Oxford and Cambridge on account of its mix of green space and historical architecture.

UoT’s Mississauga campus, on the banks of the Credit River to the west of the city, includes 225 acres of protected green belt, while its Scarborough campus, which is home to students studying the more hands-on, lab-based disciplines, is also home to a new aquatics centre.

The university attracts many sports fans and has a strong reputation in football and ice hockey. Other campus attractions include more than 1,000 student organisations as well as a recreational centre and student facilities that include an art gallery, theatre and concert hall.

UoT has 44 libraries, comprising 19.5 million physical holdings and more than 6.4 million electronic holdings – making it the third largest library system in North America.

With international students from about 160 countries, the university prides itself on being as cosmopolitan and multicultural as the city it inhabits. The top five countries of origin are China, India, United States, South Korea and Hong Kong.

UoT has a long-standing reputation for innovation and research, and was the birthplace of scientific breakthroughs such as the discovery of insulin and stem cell research, and the invention of the electron microscope.

Its motto is Velut arbor aevo, Latin for “may it grow as a tree through the ages”.

With a reputation for producing leaders, it counts five Canadian prime ministers among its alumni, as well as the writers Margaret Atwood and Michael Ondaatje and actor Donald Sutherland.

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2. York University

York University was established in 1959 as a non-denominational institution and has grown to become a leading international teaching and research university. 

With approximately 53,000 students from 178 countries, 325,000+ alumni and leading professors who are working with more than 300 university, industry and NGO partners to tackle pressing issues, York has one of the largest and most diverse student bodies in Canada.

The university spearheads a series of programmes and 8,500 experiential education opportunities, including internships, community placements, co-ops and capstone projects, which help students prepare for the changing world. 

At 457 acres, the main Keele campus is Canada’s largest postsecondary site. The five-storey Bergeron Centre for Engineering Excellence – nicknamed “the Cloud” because of its design – opened in 2015. It is home to the Lassonde School of Engineering, where there are no lecture halls, and instead of classrooms there are active learning labs.

The Glendon campus, which is home to Glendon College, offers courses taught in both French and English. Outside Toronto, York has satellite campuses in Hyderabad, India, and Costa Rica, which continue to expand. Students at York’s Schulich School of Business and Osgoode Hall Law School, as well as in the liberal arts, creative and performing arts, professional studies, health, engineering, education and sciences have the opportunity to study at these sites.

York is extremely convenient for those who want quick access to downtown Toronto, as a well as the highlights of campus life – there is a shopping mall and subway in the middle of the Keele campus.

York University’s motto is Tentanda via or in English, “the way must be tried”. 

Notable alumni include actor Rachel McAdams, entertainer and comedian Lilly Singh, evolutionary biologist and television show host Dan Riskin, Toronto Star columnist Chantal Hébert and writer and producer of The Simpsons, Joel Cohen.

The top universities in Toronto 2021

Click each institution to view its full World University Rankings 2021

World University Rank 2021  Toronto Rank 2021 University
 18  1 University of Toronto
 401–500  2 York University
 601–800  3 Ryerson University

Read more: Best universities in Canada

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