Canada is one of the most attractive destinations for international students wishing to study abroad. The country is known for its world-class education system and a wide variety of study programs for undergraduate, graduate, and post-graduate students.
If you’re exploring the option of studying overseas, the fact that Canada is home to some of the top universities in the world is reason enough to add it to your list of study destinations. Nine Canadian universities feature in the top 200 academic institutions worldwide, according to the U.S. News & World Report’s Best Global Universities 2022, which compared institutions across 90 countries.
Besides the quality of education and institute rankings, there are many other reasons that make Canada a great study destination. This article compares some of the most popular study destinations and outlines six factors that make Canada one of the best countries in the world for international students.
In this article:
- Affordable study programs compared to other countries
- Better quality of life and lower cost of living in Canada
- It can be easier to get admission into Canadian study programs
- Ample post-graduate job opportunities in Canada
- Multicultural classrooms and workforce
- Canadian immigration pathways for international students
Why is Canada an attractive study destination?
As an international student, one of your key criteria for choosing a study destination may be tuition fees. While the cost of education abroad can be quite high, the average tuition fee for study programs in Canada is lower compared to other popular study destinations like the United States (U.S.), the United Kingdom (U.K.), and Australia.
|Average tuition fee for international students (in CAD)||Undergraduate Programs (per year)||Graduate programs (per year)||MBA from a leading university (for program)|
|Canada||$33,623 CAD||$20,120 CAD||$98,000 CAD|
|United States||$37,200 CAD||$40,300 CAD||$187,734 CAD|
|United Kingdom||$40,500 CAD||$27,000 CAD||$156,258 CAD|
|Australia||$29,000 CAD||$33,170 CAD||$84,917 CAD|
Tuition fees will not be your only expense when you’re studying abroad. You’ll also need to account for non-tuition fees, such as additional university fees, health insurance, and ancillary fees. And of course, you need to budget for your living expenses, which include accommodation costs, the cost of food, travel, your phone bill, and more during your period of study. In Canada, international students can expect to spend between $19,000 and $28,000 CAD on living expenses in their first year. This includes the cost of accommodation (on- or off-campus), food, transportation, insurance, books, and other personal expenses. In addition, you’ll also need to pay the application fees for your study permit or student visa and for the institutions you’re applying to.
According to a recent cost of living comparison, the cost of living plus rent indices for Canada, the U.S., the U.K., and Australia are 54.62, 57.60, 53.24, and 61.51 respectively (these indices are relative to New York City). This means that it’s comparatively more expensive to live in the U.S. and Australia than in Canada. On average, living in the U.K. is slightly more economical than in Canada, but the cost of living may be higher in larger cities where universities are located.
Quality of life is usually a factor of several aspects, such as quality of education, health care, employment, job security, environmental quality, and individual freedom. In the recent 2021 Best Countries Ranking, Canada was ranked the best country to live in. Australia ranked #6 on the list, but the U.S. and the U.K. did not make it to the top 10.
| Tip: Use Arrive’s monthly expenses calculator to estimate and plan for your monthly living expenses as an international student in Canada
Compared to the U.S., it can be relatively easier to get admission into Canadian universities or colleges. For admission into bachelor’s programs as an international student, Canadian universities typically take your high school academic track record into account. In the U.S., international students applying for undergraduate programs also need to get a good score on the SAT or ACT exam and there’s more emphasis on overall extra-curricular development. If you’ve been focusing on academics over these other criteria, you may have better chances of getting accepted to a Canadian university. Australia and the U.K. have eligibility criteria similar to Canada.
Canadian universities also tend to have a better acceptance rate compared to similarly ranked U.S. institutions, so your chances of securing admission into an institute and study program of your choice are higher.
As an international student, one of your criteria for choosing a study destination might be the possibility of staying and working abroad after your graduation. In most cases, this will mean applying for and getting a work permit, and being able to find a suitable job after you graduate or complete a higher education program.
In Canada, the process of getting a Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP) is fairly simple and you can apply for one immediately after finishing your study program or within 180 days of its completion. You may be eligible for a work permit if you’ve studied at an authorized Designated Learning Institution (DLI) with a valid study permit and if you were enrolled in a full-time study program that was at least eight months long. The validity of your work permit in Canada will depend on the length of your study program and can range from eight months to three years. So if you’ve completed a Bachelor’s program in Canada, you’ll likely qualify for a three-year PGWP.
The Canadian PGWP is an open work permit, so you can choose to work in any field, regardless of whether it’s related to your study program. There are no restrictions on the time period within which you must find employment. It is also comparatively easier to find for international students to find a job in Canada after completing their studies. With a PGWP, you can choose to work part-time, full-time, or start your own business in Canada.
In comparison, the post-graduate work permits or Graduate visas granted by the U.K. are typically two years long for international students who’ve completed their undergraduate or graduate program on a valid student visa or Tier 4 (General) student visa in the U.K. A three-year work permit is only issued to international students who’ve completed a doctoral program in the country. This visa allows students to work, or look for work, at any skill level.
In the U.S., international students who’ve completed a study program that’s at least one year long on an F-1 visa are eligible to apply for a one-year Optional Practical Training to gain work experience related to their education. Students in STEM majors can get a 24-month extension on their OPT. However, international students on OPT cannot remain unemployed for more than 90 days, which means that you’ll need to find and start a job within three months of completing your degree. While you’re completing your OPT, your employer can sponsor an H-1B work visa lottery application on your behalf once per year. However, since the H-1B visa is lottery-based, not everyone who applies will get it.
Another advantage of studying in Canada is that you’ll usually be a part of a multicultural classroom, and after graduation, a diverse workplace. Canada welcomes international students from all parts of the world and consequently, you’ll have a chance to stay connected to your roots and learn about other cultures. As an international student, understanding cultural differences within the classroom fosters an environment of inclusivity and respect, which will help you be better prepared as you enter the global workforce.
Canada’s leading university, the University of Toronto, for instance, has around 21 per cent of international students who come to study in Canada from 168 countries. In comparison, the top U.S. universities have between 11 and 17 per cent of international students enrolled.
One of the main reasons Canada is a popular study destination among international students is because it’s easier to immigrate and get permanent residence (PR) after your study program. The country offers many immigration pathways, and for Express Entry streams like Canadian Experience Class (CEC), Federal Skilled Worker (FSW) program, and Federal Skilled Trades Program (FSTP), you may be able to get extra points for your Canadian education to improve your Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) score.
Some of these streams require you to have Canadian work experience for which you’ll first need to apply for a Post Graduate Work Permit after completing your education. Many Provincial Nominee Programs (PNPs) also have specialized streams for international students who’ve completed a study program in specific Canadian provinces. Depending on the immigration stream you choose, you may be eligible to apply for Permanent Residence soon after graduation or with 12 to 24 months of Canadian work experience.
Once you receive your PR, the duration of your residency in Canada as an international student and temporary foreign worker can also be taken into account while determining when you’ll be eligible to apply for citizenship.
Canada plans to welcome over 400,000 new permanent residents per year between 2021 and 2023, and getting a Canadian degree or diploma can increase your chances of being selected for PR. In comparison, in the U.S., fewer green cards are issued and there may be long wait times, depending on your country of birth, even if you do qualify. In the U.K., you’ll need to complete five years in a post-graduation job to be eligible for an “indefinite leave to remain (ILR) Visa”.
As an international student, choosing a country to go to for higher education is a big decision. You’ll need to evaluate not just the quality of universities and study programs, but also the opportunities the country offers to work and stay after your graduation. Canada’s world-class education system, coupled with the immigration pathways the country offers, makes it one of the best study destinations for international students.