Many international students globally are drawn to Canada’s higher education system. Studying in Canada is an attractive option for international students due to the high-quality education offered by Canadian schools, the quality of life of Canadian cities and towns, as well as the possibility of qualifying for permanent residence after graduation.
Alberta is one of the popular student destinations in Canada, and the province’s market share of student visa approvals in Canada continues to increase. In 2022, Alberta welcomed over 21,086 international students, representing a 36 per cent year-on-year increase in study permit approvals for the province. This increase was significantly higher than the national average of 27 per cent, clearly indicating the growing popularity of Albertan universities and colleges among the international student audience.
In this article:
- 6 reasons why international students choose to study in Alberta
- Things to keep in mind before starting your studies in Alberta
- Best universities in Alberta, Canada
- Top colleges in Alberta, Canada for international students
There are many reasons why international students choose to come to Alberta to study. Here are some aspects that international students find attractive about Alberta:
Alberta offers a high quality of life
Whether you’re in the capital city of Edmonton, in Calgary, or in the smaller student city of Lethbridge, you’ll experience a high quality of life. Alberta offers international students access to essential amenities that promise a comfortable life as well as the safety and freedom that Canada is well-known for. Moreover, the province has a strong job market and multicultural communities, which allow students to lead fulfilling social and professional lives outside school.
Alberta is multicultural and embraces diversity
Over 23.2 per cent of Alberta’s population comprises immigrants from different parts of the world, and as a result, the province is very diverse. 21.4 per cent of Albertans speak a mother tongue other than English or French.
Whether you’re looking to build your community or find groceries and food from your home country, it may be relatively easy to find a taste of home in Alberta, especially if you’re in a large city like Calgary or Edmonton.
|Note: Read Arrive’s articles on finding a taste of home in and around Calgary:|
Alberta is home to some of the top universities and colleges in Canada
Alberta boasts several prestigious universities and colleges, including the University of Alberta and the University of Calgary, both of which are considered to be in the top 200 schools globally. Colleges in Alberta are also gaining popularity among international students as they tend to offer shorter study programs that are more job-oriented. Regardless of what you plan to study, you’ll find several high-ranking institutions in Alberta that offer suitable study programs.
English is the most commonly spoken language in Alberta
As an international student in Canada, you’ll need to understand, speak, and write the official language of the province reasonably well. Not only is language proficiency an essential admissions criterion in most universities and colleges, but you’ll also need to be familiar with the language to get around and manage your day-to-day tasks in Canada.
English is the official language in Alberta and this is the language in which you will communicate at school, at work, and in your daily life. Many international students find it easier to master English, compared to French, Canada’s other official language.
Ample part-time and full-time work opportunities
Alberta has a strong job market with sufficient job opportunities in most fields, so it’s not too hard for international students to find part-time work during their studies or full-time opportunities after they graduate.
As an international student, you can only work part-time if your study permit allows it. That said, working while studying is an excellent way to get some Canadian experience for your resume and earn some extra money to cover part of your living expenses in Canada.
If you plan to stay and work in Alberta after you graduate, you’ll need a Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP). You may qualify for a PGWP if your study program was longer than eight months and if you studied at an eligible Designated Learning Institution (DLI). Canadian work experience can also make it easier for international students to qualify for permanent residence (PR) later.
Relatively low tuition fees in Alberta
Compared to provinces like Ontario and British Columbia (B.C.), the cost of education is lower in Alberta. Even accounting for the fact that international student tuition fees are typically more than double what domestic students pay, you’ll find your studies to be more affordable compared to schools in many other Canadian provinces.
Knowing what to expect before you come to Alberta for your studies can make your transition smoother. Here are a few things to keep in mind while planning for your education in Alberta:
- High cost of living: Although living in provinces like Ontario and British Columbia may be more expensive than in Alberta, the cost of living in Alberta, especially in Calgary and Edmonton, may be much higher than in other countries. Before your move, use Arrive’s Cost of Studying in Canada calculator to accurately budget for your student expenses in Alberta.
- Student housing is limited and in high demand: One of the consequences of the growing popularity of Albertan universities and colleges globally is a shortage of student housing. If you plan to live on-campus, contact your institution to reserve your spot as soon as you receive a letter of acceptance.
- Off-campus housing is expensive in student cities: If you plan to live off-campus, start your search for affordable accommodation early. Housing costs in and around Calgary and Edmonton have increased steeply in recent years, so be prepared to share accommodation to stay within your budget.
- You may qualify for faster study permit processing: Students from 14 countries, including India and China, are eligible for faster study permit processing under the Student Direct Stream (SDS). To qualify for SDS, you’ll need to purchase a Guaranteed Investment Certificate (GIC) worth $10,000 from a participating financial institution, such as RBC. A GIC not only counts as proof of financial support, but it’s also a secure investment product that allows you to earn interest on your money, and receive a monthly installment to cover your student expenses.
|Note: The terms “college” and “university” are NOT used interchangeably in Canada. These are different types of institutions, both of which offer a high quality of education in Canada that is valued in the Canadian job market. Universities in Canada typically offer longer, academic study programs that lead to a degree, whereas colleges offer shorter, job-oriented programs that lead to a diploma or certificate.|
Many of the world’s (and Canada’s) top universities are located in Alberta. According to the QS World University Ranking 2024, the following are the best universities in Alberta:
The University of Alberta
Ranked #111 in the world and #4 in Canada, the University of Alberta has four campuses in Edmonton and one in Camrose, Alberta. The school admits over 41,000 students across 18 faculties.
Programs offered by the University of Alberta
The school offers 200 undergraduate program options, as well as 500 graduate programs across faculties such as science, arts, education, law, engineering, business, medicine and dentistry, nursing, native studies, pharmacy, environmental sciences and more.
International student tuition fees at the University of Alberta
- Undergraduate programs: Annual international student tuition fee for undergraduates usually ranges between $29,192.25 and $96,509.42, depending on your study program.
- Graduate programs: International students may have to pay a tuition fee of between $7,606.34 and $41,780.42 per year for graduate programs at the University of Alberta.
- Doctoral or Ph.D. programs: The annual international student tuition fee for doctoral programs ranges between $8,874 and $13,482.70.
Scholarship options for the University of Alberta
- International Admissions Scholarship: Top international students enrolling in an undergraduate program with an high admission average may be eligible for awards of up to $5,000.
- Gold Standard Scholarship: The top five per cent of students in each undergraduate faculty can receive scholarships of up to $6,000.
- University of Alberta Graduate Entrance Scholarship: Newly admitted master’s or doctoral students with an admission GPA of 3.7 or higher may be selected for this scholarship. The award grants qualifying students a stipend of $17,500 for students enrolling in a master’s program and $21,000 for students entering a doctoral program.
The University of Calgary
Ranked #8 in Canada and #182 in the world, the University of Calgary has four campuses in Calgary, Alberta, and one in Doha, Qatar. Over 34,000 students attend the school each year, including 8,000 graduate students.
Programs offered by the University of Calgary
UCalgary offers over 250 undergraduate programs and more than 175 graduate degrees across 65 programs. These programs cover fields such as medicine, arts, law, kinesiology, nursing, science, social work, veterinary medicine, business, architecture, engineering, and education.
International student tuition fees at the University of Calgary
- Undergraduate programs: The average international student tuition fee for undergraduate programs at UCalgary is between $9,997 and $63,144 per year, depending on the study program you choose.
- Graduate programs: The annual tuition fee for international students ranges from $510 to $34,619, depending on the graduate program chosen.
- Doctoral or Ph.D. programs: The typical international student tuition fee for most doctoral programs ranges between $8,407.53 and $21,848.40 per year.
Scholarship options for the University of Calgary
- President’s Admission Scholarship: Awards of up to $5,000 offered to eligible undergraduate students entering their first year of study at University of Calgary. To qualify, students must have a final high school average of 95 per cent or above.
- Faculty of Graduate Studies International Master’s Scholarship: This $10,000 scholarship is offered to qualifying students registered full-time in a thesis-based Master’s program in the Faculty of Graduate Studies.
- Eyes High International Doctoral Recruitment Scholarship: Ten awards of $15,000 are available for academically meritorius students students entering their first year of a doctoral program at UCalgary.
Mount Royal University
With two campuses in Calgary, the school enrols nearly 15,000 students each year. Mount Royal University is best known for its personalized and innovative learning environment.
Programs offered by Mount Royal University
Mount Royal University offers 36 undergraduate degree programs, including study programs in arts, business, child studies, nursing, computer information systems, social work, and education, as well as several diploma and certificate programs. The school currently does not offer master’s or doctoral programs.
International student tuition fees at Mount Royal University
- Undergraduate programs: On average, the international tuition fee for bachelor’s programs at Mount Royal University is $26,200 per year.
Scholarship options for Mount Royal University
- Mount Royal Bright Future Scholarship: This $3,500 renewable award is offered to eligible students enrolling in their first year of undergraduate study at MRU. To qualify, students must demonstrate financial need, have a admissions average of at least 70 per cent and have a track record of extracurricular or community involvement.
- Program-based awards: Several entrance scholarships are available to meritorious students entering their first year of studies in a particular study program.
Considered one of the top universities in Alberta, over 18,000 students attend MacEwan University in downtown Edmonton each year.
Programs offered by MacEwan University
The school offers 28 undergraduate degree programs across the faculties of arts and science, fine arts and communication, health and community studies, and nursing, and the school of business. At present, MacEwan does not offer graduate programs.
International student tuition fees at MacEwan University
- Undergraduate programs: On average, the international tuition fee for bachelor’s programs at MacEwan University is $21,600 per year.
Scholarship options for MacEwan University
- Chancellor’s Scholarships: International: International students entering an undergraduate degree program with an admission average of 80 per cent or above may be eligible for awards ranging from $4,000 to $14,000.
- Program-based awards: Several entrance scholarships are available to meritorious students entering their first year of studies in a particular study program.
Alberta University of the Arts
AUArts is one of four Canadian universities specializing in arts, crafts, and design programs. The university has a campus in Calgary, Alberta.
Programs offered by Alberta University of the Arts
The school offers 14 subject areas within the field of arts and students can enrol in undergraduate and graduate degree programs.
International student tuition fees at Alberta University of the Arts
- Undergraduate programs: The average international student tuition fee for undergraduate programs at AUArts is $19,272.90 per year.
- Graduate programs: The annual graduate-level tuition fee for international students is $31,250.
Scholarship options for Alberta University of the Arts
- Entrance scholarships: These awards are offered to selected students based on their academic and creative performance in high school. There are three entrance scholarship awards of $5,000 each for international students enrolling in undergraduate programs at AUArts.
A common misconception among international students is that college programs in Canada are not as valuable or sought after as university programs. However, this perception is rapidly changing and, in 2021, Alberta saw the second-highest year-on-year growth rate in college study permit approvals, after Ontario. Overall, college-level education was the fastest-growing study level in Alberta last year.
If you’re planning to apply to colleges in Alberta, make sure these popular schools are on your list:
Bow Valley College
Bow Valley College has its main campus in Calgary and regional campuses in Airdrie, Cochrane, Banff, and Okotoks.
Educational credentials offered at Bow Valley College
The school offers post-secondary and post-graduate certificate and diploma programs in technology, business, entertainment arts, community studies, and health and wellness.
International student tuition fees at Bow Valley College
Typically, international students at Bow Valley pay a tuition fee ranging from $4,733 to $14,400 per term, depending on the credential earned. The program length can also vary significantly, from single-term to six-term programs, which can affect your total tuition cost.
Scholarship options for Bow Valley College
- CEA Entrance Scholarship: Bow Valley College offers eligible international students registering for a two-year program at the Centre for Entertainment Arts scholarships ranging from $3,250 to $19,500. The scholarship is based on portfolio assessment at the time of application and acceptance to the program.
- International Student Entrance Bursary: The school also offers bursaries valued at $2,000 to qualifying international students entering a post-secondary career program, based on financial need.
International student enrollment at Bow Valley College
In 2021-22, nearly 20 per cent of students enrolled at Bow Valley College were international students.
Northern Alberta Institute of Technology
NAIT is a polytechnic institution and one of the largest apprenticeship training schools in Canada. At a given time, the school has over 15,700 students enrolled in credit programs and over 7,000 students in apprenticeship programs.
Educational credentials offered at Northern Alberta Institute of Technology
NAIT offers 89 credit programs leading to degrees, applied degrees, diplomas and certificates. The school also offers 31 registered trades programs.
International student tuition fees at NAIT
The average international student tuition fee at Northern Alberta Institute of Technology ranges between $11,970 and $42,000 per year.
Scholarship options for NAIT
- Subject-specific awards: These awards are offered to meritorious students enrolled in different study programs.
International student enrollment at Northern Alberta Institute of Technology
In 2021-22, international students at NAIT comprised 8.28 per cent of the total incoming students.
Located in Lethbridge, Alberta, Lethbridge College is considered to be one of Canada’s most prestigious research colleges.
Educational credentials offered at Lethbridge College
The college offers more than 60 certificate, diploma, applied degree, degree and apprenticeship programs in the areas of agriculture, nursing, business, criminal justice, arts, sciences, culinary arts and other trades.
International student tuition fees at Lethbridge College
The annual tuition fee typically ranges from $10,870 to $23,251, depending on the study program chosen.
Scholarship options for Lethbridge College
- LCSA International Student Entrance Award: These scholarships are offered to international students entering a post-secondary program at Lethbridge, based on academic merit and a personal essay.
- Subject-specific awards: These awards are offered to meritorious international students enrolled in different study programs at Lethbridge.
International student enrollment at Lethbridge College
In 2021-22, 9.1 per cent of students enrolled at Lethbridge College were international students.
Southern Alberta Institute of Technology
SAIT has one main campus and three satellite campuses in Calgary, Alberta.
Educational credentials offered at Southern Alberta Institute of Technology
SAIT offers nearly 200 programs that lead to applied and bachelor degrees, diplomas, certificates, and apprenticeships. Programs are available across multiple areas of study, including business, construction and trades, engineering technology, hospitality, arts, health, arts, transportation, and more.
International student tuition fees at SAIT
The annual tuition fee typically ranges from $7,740 to $30,950, depending on the study program chosen.
Scholarship options for SAIT
SAIT offers over 850 different types of scholarships and awards, including entrance awards, athletic scholarships, school-specific awards, and apprenticeship awards.
International student enrollment at Southern Alberta Institute of Technology
In 2021-22, international students at SAIT comprised 13.58 per cent of the total incoming students.
Lakeland College is renowned for its agriculture research and trades programs. Over 7,000 students are enrolled across the school’s two campuses – at Lloydminster and Vermilion, Alberta.
Educational credentials offered at Lakeland College
The school offers over 50 programs in the areas of agricultural sciences, business, energy, environmental sciences, health and wellness, fire and emergency services, human services, education, interior design technology, and trades.
International student tuition fees at Lakeland College
Typically, international students at Lakeland College pay an annual tuition fee ranging from $17,673 to $33,269.75, depending on the study program.
Scholarship options for Lakeland College
- Academic Excellence Scholarships: These awards are offered to incoming students with an academic average of 85 per cent or higher who enrol in business, environmental sciences, and interior design programs.
International student enrollment at Lakeland College
In 2021-22, nearly 4.52 per cent of the total incoming students at Lakeland College were international students.
As an international student planning to study in Alberta, Canada, you’ll have many universities and colleges to choose from. Alberta is home to some of the most prestigious educational institutions in the world, including the University of Alberta. Moreover, the province’s diversity and multiculturalism make it easier for international students to adapt to their new life and feel at home in Canada.