Home to nearly 190,000 international students, Canada is a major global player in higher education. Its popularity with overseas students comes as no surprise – famously tolerant and with several genuinely world-class universities, Canada makes a lot of sense for postgraduates seeking an outstanding country in which to study a Masters.
Canadian institutions educate around 1.7 million students annually. They perform 40% of Canada’s research and development, and represent a total turnover of CAD $35 billion, generating economic wealth in communities across Canada.
The Canadian higher education sector is characterised by its diversity; Canadian universities vary greatly in size, history and their portfolio of programs and specialisms.
Provinces and territories are responsible for all levels of education, including universities and higher education. There is no federal ministry of education or formal accreditation system.
Universities tend to subscribe to provincial government charters and quality assurance frameworks as well as using the resources provided by the Canadian Information Centre for International Credentials to ensure that Canadian qualifications are recognized worldwide. There are also many organizations that accredit professional programs in subjects like Law and Engineering.
In Canada, Masters degrees (also known as 'grad' programs or simply 'grad school') generally come in the form of a Master of Arts (MA) or a Master of Science (MSc). Like the UK, there are also specialist Master degrees in a range of subjects, such as the Master of Fine Arts (MFA), the Master of Engineering (MEng) and the Master of Business Administration (MBA).
Canadian Masters programs usually last between one and two years (there might be additional internships or placements).
Along with traditional lectures and tutorials, your program is likely to include interactive teaching such as site visits, projects and group work. Most Masters include a dissertation (sometimes replaced by a consultancy project, depending on your subject area), which makes up a large proportion of the course’s credits.
The academic year tends to begin in September each year, but some universities have several start dates for their Masters’ programs. After a Christmas break, students return to university and study until the exam period in April.
Several Canadian universities offer Masters’ programs through the ‘co-operative education option’.
Co-op enables current students to gain hands-on, paid experience in placements related to their field of study. These opportunities are available in all disciplines and provide valuable work experience and contacts. Employers involved in the co-op program get highly qualified and motivated students to undertake specialized projects. Many of them also use it as a recruitment tool, allowing them to really get to know potential candidates and their abilities. For Masters students these internships are usually between two and four months.
To become part of the program you register as a co-op student – there may be additional requirements at the point of application (such as a high GPA) as well as attending compulsory training sessions. Once you have been accepted, you will receive notifications of opportunities that are developed by your institution’s co-op coordinator. Many employers will be 'repeat' placement providers.
International students who require a study permit have to apply for a co-op work permit and universities will be able to help with the administration for this.
Tuition fees for international students in Canada are relatively affordable compared to those in the UK and America, with most programs costing somewhere between CAD $13,000 and CAD $20,500 (USD $9,966-15,715). Arts and Humanities subjects will be at the lower end of this
scale, with Dentistry, Architecture and Business nearer the top. Domestic Canadian students generally pay tuition fees at around half the rate paid by foreign students.
There are several funding opportunities for international students in Canada, as well as scholarships offered by individual universities designed to attract talented overseas postgraduates.
You’ll be expected to have a minimum GPA (often a 3.0/4.0 or its international equivalent such as a UK upper second class bachelor) for your undergraduate degree. Depending on your subject area, you may be asked to provide a graduate entry test score such as a Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) or Graduate Record Examination (GRE).
If English is not your first language you’ll have to give evidence of proficiency through an English language test such as TOEFL or IELTS. Similar requirements will apply in French if you apply for a bilingual program or a course delivered entirely in French.
The application process is similar to that of other countries. You’ll have to submit the following as part of your application:
A completed application form, which is often submitted online A certified copy of your qualifications and transcripts
Proof of English and / or French proficiency, depending on the program that you are applying for
If you’ve completed post-secondary education outside of Canada, you might have to undergo an evaluation to determine the Canadian equivalent of your qualification and to verify the academic documentation that you’ve submitted. You’ll have to pay an international credential evaluation fee, unless you already have a third party international credential evaluation report.
Your application will generally be assessed by a central office to ensure you meet all the minimum entry requirements. It is then sent to the faculty / school, which will assess the academic quality and suitability of your application for your program of choice.
If you’re successful, you’ll receive a letter of admission, which you’ll need to be able to apply for a visa or scholarship (if relevant) and to complete your enrolment before registration.
To study a Masters in Canada, you’ll need to get a study permit. This will serve as your student visa and allow you to live and study in Canada for the duration of your course. You can apply for a Canadian study permit online, or through a visa application center at a Canadian embassy in your own country.
Before applying for a study permit, you’ll need a firm offer from a Canadian university (as shown by your letter of acceptance on a Masters’ program). You must also have no criminal record and be able to demonstrate that you’re in good health.
You’ll also need to provide proof of financial support, such as bank statements and scholarship award letters, to show that you can afford your tuition fees, living expenses and a return ticket to your home country.