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Top Public Universities in Canada

Last updated: 8 July 2024 Canada University Rankings Canadian University Guide

Public universities are institutions of higher education that are predominantly funded by public means through a national or subnational government, as opposed to private universities, which rely primarily on private funding sources. Key characteristics of public universities include:

Public universities are crucial in providing accessible higher education opportunities, conducting research, and serving the public interest.

Canada is home to many renowned public universities, which are also considered some of the best in the world. We have highlighted Canada's leading public institutes below, and if you would like to apply, we can provide expert guidance from our friendly team. Begin your study in Canada journey by arranging a free consultation today.

best public universities canada

Top Public Universities in Canada

The most prestigious and popular public universities in Canada are generally the best in the country, with many of them featuring among the top-ranked universities at several ranking systems worldwide. The following are Canada's top-ranking public universities (QS World University Rankings 2025).

1. University of Toronto

The University of Toronto is among the best public universities in Canada, and it usually ranks at the highest spot in all the major world university rankings by different organisations. Canada's leading public research university provides students with undergraduate and graduate study programmes across various disciplines. With its diverse student body that comprises 27% international students, world-class faculty, and vibrant campus community, U of T provides students with an enriching academic experience in the most popular city of Canada, Toronto.

2. McGill University

McGill University is one of Canada's oldest and most prestigious universities in Montreal. It is world-renowned for its comprehensive academic programmes and vibrant campus life. The public university offers several undergraduate and graduate degrees in disciplines such as the arts, sciences, engineering, medicine, law, and management. Its distinguished faculty includes renowned scholars and researchers considered leaders in their respective fields.

3. University of British Columbia

UBC is another prominent university that attracts students from across the globe for its high quality of education. Situated in Vancouver and Kelowna, UBC is a globally recognised institution that offers undergraduate, graduate, and professional programmes across various disciplines. With its commitment to experiential learning and interdisciplinary collaboration for research and teaching, UBC provides international students with an enriching academic experience that prepares them for professional success in an increasingly interconnected world.

4. University of Alberta

The University of Alberta, located in Edmonton, is a leading public research university known for its strong academic programmes and vibrant campus life. Offering a wide range of undergraduate and graduate degrees across various disciplines, U of A is dedicated to providing a high-quality education and fostering innovation and research. The university is renowned for its contributions to fields such as energy, health sciences, and environmental studies.

5. University of Waterloo

The University of Waterloo was established in 1957 and has since established itself as a leading institution for education and research. The university allows students to choose from various undergraduate, graduate, and professional programs across six faculties. One of UW's distinguishing features is its cooperative education program, which integrates academic study with paid work placements in industry, government, and the non-profit sector, enabling students to gain real-world experience during their study years. 

6. Western University

Western University, located in London, Ontario, is known for its strong academic programmes and vibrant campus community. It offers a range of undergraduate, graduate, and professional degrees across various disciplines. Western is recognised for its research contributions and high-quality education, particularly in business, law, medicine, and the social sciences. The university emphasises a well-rounded student experience, combining academic excellence with extracurricular engagement.

7. University of Montreal

The University of Montreal is a major French-language public research university in Montreal, Quebec. It offers various undergraduate and graduate programmes across numerous disciplines, including arts and sciences, engineering, medicine, and law. The university is renowned for its research output and contributions to various fields.

8. McMaster University

McMaster University, located in Hamilton, Ontario, is known for its innovative teaching methods and strong emphasis on research. It offers a variety of undergraduate and graduate programmes across disciplines such as health sciences, engineering, business, and the humanities. McMaster's problem-based learning approach and research-intensive environment have earned it a reputation as one of Canada's top universities. The university is committed to fostering creativity, critical thinking, and student collaboration.

9. University of Ottawa

The University of Ottawa (uOttawa) is a prominent bi-lingual public university known for its high quality of education and impact on research. With a focus on bilingualism and multiculturalism, uOttawa provides students with opportunities to pursue their academic interests and develop fluency in English and French. Students can choose from various undergraduate and graduate programs across faculties such as Arts, Science, Engineering, Law, Medicine, and Social Sciences.

10. Queen's University at Kingston

Queen's University at Kingston, located in Kingston, Ontario, is one of Canada's oldest and most prestigious universities. Known for its strong traditions and academic excellence, Queen's offers a wide range of undergraduate and graduate programmes across various disciplines. The university is particularly recognised for its research contributions and vibrant campus life. With a focus on student engagement and community involvement, Queen's provides a supportive and enriching academic environment.

Requirements to Study at a Canadian Public University

All the public universities in Canada have certain entry requirements that may differ according to the level of the study program and the particular institution. Still, some common prerequisites exist, which are discussed below:

Cost of Studying at a Public University

The cost of studying at public universities in Canada for international students generally varies depending on factors such as the program level and the institution. For undergraduate courses,  students may need to pay tuition fees ranging from CAD 20,000 to 50,000 per year, with additional expenses for living, books, supplies, and health insurance averaging between CAD 15,000 to 20,000 annually. Postgraduate tuition fees can vary from CAD 15,000 to 40,000 per year. 

Canada Public University Scholarships

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If you would like to join the international student community in Canada, arrange a free consultation today.

Universities featured in this article:

  • University of Toronto
  • University of British Columbia
  • McGill University
  • University of Waterloo
  • University of Ottawa
  • University of Alberta
  • Western University
  • University of Montreal
  • McMaster University
  • Queen's University
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