Are you thinking about pursuing higher education in Canada? Well, Canada is home to globally recognized universities and colleges known for their academic rigor, cutting-edge research, and high standards of education. Institutions such as the University of Toronto, McGill University, and the University of British Columbia consistently rank among the top in the world.

For international students seeking a high-quality and affordable education, Canada provides an ideal study-abroad destination. With a multicultural environment, opportunities for research and work, and pathways to permanent residence, higher education in Canada offers a transformative experience that extends beyond the classroom. Additionally, the use of English and/or French makes it easier for many international students to study and interact with others.

Let’s look at the higher education in Canada including where you can study and what kind of degree level you can pursue.

Types of Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) in Canada

1. Universities

Universities dominate the institutions of higher education in Canada. They include public-funded and private universities admitting students from all over the world. Some of the top universities in the world known for extensive research are located in Canada. When you graduate, you’ll receive a bachelor’s, master’s, or Ph.D. degree, which is represented by a GPA score according to the region’s grading system.

The universities offer several degree programs at all levels including business, computer studies, humanities, engineering, and medicine. So, whatever degree you are planning to study, you will find it in one of the many universities in Canada. Some of the best universities you can consider for your studies in Canada include McGill University, the University of Toronto, and the University of Ottawa.

2. Colleges

If you are interested in gaining valuable skills and experience during your program of study, then consider enrolling at Canadian colleges, polytechnics, or vocational schools. These institutions offer practical or hands-on learning. After successful completion of your program, you’ll receive a certificate or diploma, or a post-graduate diploma, with programs running from a few months to 4 years. Additionally, you can pursue various apprenticeship programs, university transfer programs, and other applied degrees.

Whether you want to pursue Culinary studies, agriculture, design, or hospitality management, you can get these and many more programs at Canadian colleges. Some of the top colleges and vocational schools to consider include Mohawk College, The Northern Alberta Institute of Technology, and Vancouver Community College. Colleges may also be referred to as Colleges of applied arts and technology, Polytechnics, Community colleges, or Institutes of technology.

3. Language Schools

English and French are the two official languages used in Canada. Also, Canadian institutions use either English and/or French for teaching. If you are not fluent or familiar with two languages, joining a Canadian Language school would be a good idea. Canada’s language schools offer high-quality programs in English and French that you can pursue to gain language skills for your studies, work, or interacting with others.

The courses taught in language schools take a few weeks to a few months, and certification is given at the end of your studies. Some of the best language schools in Canada to consider include the International Language Academy of Canada(ILAC), Kaplan Vancouver Language School, and MWS Student Camps.

Types of Degree Levels in Canada

1. Bachelor’s Degree

Bachelor’s degrees can be attained at various Canadian institutions of higher education, including universities and some colleges. You must have completed a senior secondary diploma to apply for the undergraduate degree. It takes 3-4 years and one must complete at least 120 credits to graduate with a bachelor’s degree. Though the duration and number of credits vary per program, with programs like medicine or engineering taking longer.

The first two years involve studying foundational and general knowledge of traditional academic subjects and then specializing in your chosen major coupled with a supervised practicum. All Canadian universities offer bachelor’s degrees in various fields, like the undergraduate programs at the University of British Columbia and the University of Montreal.

2. Master’s Degree

You must have completed a bachelor’s degree to apply for a master’s degree at Canadian universities. Unlike a bachelor’s degree, the master’s program comprises intensive research that leads to a thesis, comprehensive exam, or a major project. It takes 1-3 years and 45 credits to complete the program depending on the type of program.

There is a range of master’s programs to sample from Canadian institutions like the MSc Dental Sciences program at McGill University or the Criminology and Social Justice program at Toronto Metropolitan University.

3. Doctoral Degree

A doctoral degree or doctorate is another degree level that you can study at any of the Canadian universities. There are many other requirements to apply for a Ph.D. degree like completing a master’s degree among others. It typically takes 4-6 years to complete with the first two to three years focusing on coursework then the last years focusing on independent dissertations or working on a thesis. Additionally, you need to complete 90 credits to graduate.

You can sample the various doctorate degrees offered by Canadian universities like Laurentian University and the University of Guelph.

FAQS About Higher Education in Canada

What Grading System Does Higher Education in Canada Use?

Canada uses the Letter Grading or GPA scoring system, which varies between regions and institutions. Normally, many institutions globally that use the GPA system usually use a maximum score of 4.0, however, Canada has a mix of both 4.0 and 9.0 which can be represented by letters such as A (Excellent) or F (Fail). If you get a score between 0-100, it can be converted to the equivalent grade with higher scores giving you the highest GPA.

The GPA system is very important as it is used by some universities to determine whether one can receive financial aid or not. A higher GPA can also boost your chances of securing employment and admission to graduate school.


Higher education in Canada arguably offers several opportunities for international students looking for quality education coupled with personal and professional growth. With top-ranking institutions of higher education focusing on academic excellence, research innovation, and a well-rounded educational journey, Canada makes an attractive destination for those aspiring to pursue higher education on an international stage.


We hope this article has delivered an informative content. Read more articles about studying abroad on our Study in Canada Page! Be sure to also check out the Available Programs in Canada for more study options!

About the Author: Hyun Lee

Hi! I am Hyun, and I am the founder at Global Scholarships. I've received a full-tuition scholarship at Birmingham-Southern College and a $1,000 Burger King Scholarship for my undergraduate degree and was offered a fully funded scholarship consisting of tuition, living stipend, and health insurance for computer science Ph.D. program at North Carolina State University. You can read more about my scholarship journey here. If you are interested, you can follow me on Linkedin where I regularly write about scholarship opportunities.

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