Choosing Canada for Higher Education

Denise Nickerson – Education Guide to Switzerland

A great place to study

In the past, Canada was overlooked as an option for international students searching for the right university setting.  Many expat families just wanted their children to study “back home”, either in the USA or in the UK. Today more and more students in Switzerland and other countries are looking at Canada as a viable possibility for a variety of reasons. You may be attracted to the North American style of learning. Perhaps the access to beautiful natural settings. The diverse and friendly population or the lower cost of living when comparing Canada to Europe.

With ten provinces and three territories, Canada is the world’s second-largest country by area (and only the 37th largest in terms of population). In other words, there is plenty of room for international students looking for a little space for their big ideas! Although there is a national association called the AUCC (Association of Universities and Colleges in Canada) for higher education setting standards and linking Canadian universities nationwide, the provinces govern higher education individually. There is no federal ministry of education in Canada.

International students are welcome

In Canada, the international student population has increased a great deal (more than 60%) in the past decade. As a general rule, international students are welcome. Canadians value diversity and how it can contribute to the overall educational experience on university campuses.  International students usually pay higher tuition than local students as well, which the universities also appreciate.  Tuition fees are approaching those in the USA and the UK; however, there are some opportunities for international students to win scholarships to study in Canada.

Scholarships for international students

Humber College (a polytechnic) and York University (Canada’s 3rd largest university) both in Toronto, Ontario offer the possibility of full scholarships for talented international students. Places like Concordia University in Montréal, Quebec and Vancouver Island University in British Columbia offer a variety of scholarships for non-Canadians as well. If you are interested in financial support at any Canadian university, communicate with the admissions office before applying to make sure you are eligible.  Most scholarships for international students in Canada are based on academic merit.

Provide proof of your level in English or French

Expect to face language ability evaluations in French or English depending on where you apply. Universities in Canada take care to make sure that their international students can participate fully and succeed in their academic courses and this begins with the ability to read, write, think and speak in the language of instruction.  Language requirements vary from university to university, so be careful to follow application instructions.

Student visas

As with studies in any country, if you do not hold a Canadian passport, you will have to obtain a student visa in order to attend university there – a letter of acceptance does not stand on its own. This is something to keep in mind when applying. There have been delays in recent years due to strikes among the Canadian foreign services, which can slow the student visa process down.

Plenty of choice – but not too many choices

McGill University and the University of Toronto lead the pack in terms of global rankings. They usually placing in the top 30 universities world-wide.  It is worth taking the time to look into the offerings at other universities as well. The good news is that there are only about one hundred universities in Canada. This means you actually can get an idea of where you might fit in.

Applications are welcome from a variety of academic programmes

According to Canadian guidance counsellor Heather Grant, based in Toronto, students applying from Switzerland will encounter few roadblocks when it comes to the different high school diplomas available here in Switzerland. Most Canadian admissions officers are familiar with the IB Diploma, the Swiss Maturité, and the French Baccalaureate. Some Canadian universities even offer advanced university credit for successful AP exam results. Like in US, each Canadian university will have its own admissions standards and policies in terms of academic results.

Technology – one compelling reason

Canadian students learn in computer labs and smart classrooms, and benefit from widespread connectivity. The universities maintain a high standard when it comes to technology. This prepares students for a rapidly changing work environment upon graduation.

Immigration to Canada – another reason Canada is an attractive option for international students

In 1971, Canada embraced the value of multiculturalism through official government policy – and that decision has had amazing results. At the beginning of this century, Canada’s population consisted of over 34 well-represented ethnic groups and about twenty percent of the total population was made up of people whose native language was neither English nor French! Sound familiar? Switzerland is about as linguistically diverse.  This means that both as an international student with a Swiss high school experience and as an international person in Canada – you will feel comfortable being yourself! If you decide you would like to gain some work experience in Canada upon graduation, you can benefit from immigration policy that recognises your university studies as valuable.

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