If you want to study in Canada, the good news is that tuition fees are generally less expensive than in other major Anglophone destinations (the US, UK, and Australia), although they are still quite high in comparison to other countries. Canada is one of the world’s most popular destinations for international students, offering a diverse variety of experiences and opportunities in a country known for its vast expanses, multicultural cities, and natural beauty.
The Council of Ministers of Education, Canada (CMEC) offers a useful online tool that allows prospective international students to quickly calculate the costs of studying at different universities in Canada, as well as providing guidance on the documents needed to apply.
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Tuition fees in Canada
Universities in Canada set their own fees, and these vary depending on several factors: what program you’re studying, whether you are an international or home student, and whether you’re studying at the undergraduate or postgraduate level. According to the latest report from Statistics Canada, tuition fees in Canada fell by an average of 5.3 percent for undergraduate domestic students and rose by 7.6 percent for international undergraduates in 2020/2021.
If you’re a Canadian citizen studying in Canada, you can expect to pay an average of CA$6,463 per year for an undergraduate degree, and CA$7,056 per year for a graduate degree.
Undergraduate tuition fees in Canada
According to Statistics Canada, the average tuition fees for undergraduate international students in 2020/21 are CA$29714 (~US$22,500) per year. humanities courses tend to be cheaper(averaging $5,542), while subjects such as engineering and medicine are among the more expensive (an average of CA$21,717 (~US$16,446) for dentistry and $14,162 (~US$10,724) for Medicine. Fees for business and management courses are lower than the national average, at CA$6,827 (~US$5,170) per year.
Postgraduate tuition fees in Canada
If you want to study at postgraduate level, and again vary depending on your program, the tuition fees are generally lower. Statistics Canada puts the average postgraduate tuition fee for international students at CA$17,744 in 2020/21, which is approximately US$13,437; a four percent increase from the previous year.
As is the case worldwide, executive MBA programs are generally the most expensive, averaging around CA$56,328 (~US$42,657), while regular MBAs cost CA$27,397 (~US$20,747) on average. (You can read more about studying an MBA in Canada here).
To find out more, get your free online copy of the QS Top Grad School Guide, including a dedicated section about postgraduate study in Canada.
Cost of living in Canada
Although Canadian student visa requirements say you must have at least CA$10,000 (~US$7,570) (or CA$11,000/~US$8,300 if studying in Quebec) on top of your tuition fees, you’ll likely need to budget much more than this for your living expenses. Your living costs will vary considerably depending on your location and spending habits, with large cities generally more expensive to live in.
The Université de Montréal estimates students will need a total of CA$14,700 per year including housing, food, accommodation, books and course supplies, phone costs and miscellaneous expenses. Similarly, the University of British Columbia, located in Vancouver, estimates living costs of CA$15,500 per year, not including mandatory health insurance, which is CA$864 per year under the BC Health Plan. According to the 2019 Mercer Cost of Living Survey, Toronto was the most expensive Canadian city to live in, closely followed by Vancouver, with rent particularly high in both cities.
The three main types of student accommodation (homestay, university accommodation and private accommodation) vary considerably in costs, with students paying around CA$3,000-7,500 (~US$2,271 – 5,680) for on-campus accommodation each year. Private shared accommodation can cost around CA$8,400 (~US$6,361) per year plus bills. University accommodation is often cheaper, with some universities offering meal plans to allow you to purchase food from the university’s food outlets.
Here are some examples of average living costs in Canada, taken from Numbeo in October 2019:
- Eating out at a restaurant: CA$16 per person (~US$12)
- One-way ticket on local public transport: CA$3 (~US$2.27)
- Loaf of bread: CA$2.86 (~US$2.17)
- Cinema ticket: CA$13.50 (~US$10.22)
- Monthly gym fee: CA$48.25 (~US$36.54)
You will need to purchase compulsory health insurance while studying in Canada. This will cost approximately CA$600-800 (~US$455-607) per year. You should also budget for extra costs, such as warm winter clothing if you don’t already have any.
Student visa and application fees
You do not need a Canadian study permit if your course or program lasts six months or less. Applying for a study permit costs CA$150 (~US$114). To study in Canada, you will need to obtain a Canadian study permit, which serves as a student visa for the duration of your stay. Click here to read more about how to get a Canadian student visa.
Fees to apply to universities in Canada will vary depending on the university and your country of origin. For example, the University of British Columbia charges undergraduate Canadian students CA$70.50 (~US$53.40) and international students CA$118.50 (~US$89.70). You may be able to get this fee waived if you are an international student from a developing country.
Financial aid to study in Canada
Scholarships, grants, and bursaries are available for international students wishing to study in Canada, at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels. These include specific scholarships for sporting and academic achievement, and subject-specific scholarships.
Many universities in Canada offer their own scholarships, so you might also be able to apply for a scholarship offered exclusively by the university at which you plan to study. In all cases, it’s important to apply as early as possible as scholarship funding is limited and highly competitive. International applicants have also advised to research study abroad scholarship opportunities offered by organizations in their home country.
One notable source of scholarships to study in Canada is the Canadian Commonwealth Scholarship Program, which provides scholarships to students of other Commonwealth countries. You might also find the financial assistance information on the Canadian Information Centre for International Credentials website useful. More scholarships to study in Canada can be found here.
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Student jobs in Canada
If you’d like to get a part-time job to help support yourself while studying in Canada, you can work on or off-campus for up to 20 hours during university semesters and full-time during breaks such as the winter or summer holidays, without the need for a work permit.
To qualify, you must:
- Have a valid study permit
- Be a full-time student
- Be enrolled at a designated learning institution at the post-secondary level
- Be studying in an academic, vocational, or professional training program that leads to a degree, diploma, or certificate that is at least six months in duration
You will also need a Social Insurance Number (SIN) from Service Canada to work in Canada or to receive benefits and services from government programs. You can find out more about how to work during or after studying in Canada here.