Canadian University System

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Understanding the Canadian University System

The Canadian higher education system is world-renowned for its high quality and diverse range of educational institutions that offer a variety of programs and degrees that attract international students from around the world.

In Canada, higher education is primarily provided by universities, colleges, and technical institutes. These institutions are both publicly funded and privately operated. Public universities receive government funding and are regulated by provincial or territorial governments, while private universities operate independently and rely on tuition fees and private funding.

Canadian Higher Education Structure

Each province in Canada is responsible for education at all levels within it, including universities i.e. there is no federal accreditation. This means that each province and territory regulate the standards of education and any issues which arise as well, and these are strict to ensure quality.

Canadian Study Levels

Qualification Providers
Course Duration
Certificates and Diplomas Colleges, Community Colleges, Technical Colleges 1-2 years
Associate Degree Community Colleges, University Colleges 2 years
Bachelor's Community Colleges, Universities 4 years
Postgraduate Diploma Community Colleges, Universities 1-2 years
Master's Universities 2 years
PhD or Doctorate Universities 4-7 years

Canadian institutions

In Canada, ‘college’ refers to a community college or a technical school where students can earn a certificate, diploma or associate’s degree.

Students can study an undergraduate or postgraduate course at a university, whilst at graduate school, they can obtain an advanced certificate or degree.

Canadian Universities

Universities in Canada are divided into three categories: research universities, primarily undergraduate universities, and comprehensive universities.

Grading System

The grading system at Canadian universities and colleges is different from other countries, with the ten provinces within Canada all having their own grading systems. For example, Quebec and British Columbia provinces do not include the grade “D”, thus making the grade “C” as the lowest grade for passing the threshold.

If you are applying to study in Canada as an overseas student, it is important to be aware of what is required to successfully gain entry when converting your native grades into Canadian ones.

- Calculate your GPA for Canadian universities

GPA counts can vary depending on where you are in the world, with some as high as 20. The Canadian GPA varies from one university to the next, even within provinces. Generally, a 4.0 GPA indicates an A grade, and 0.00 indicates an F.

To ensure you meet the entry criteria for a Canadian school, you can calculate your GPA by doing the following formula:

Your GPA= Total Grade Points earned multiplied by the credit hours for each course.

Provinces in Canada

Each province in Canada has its own way of organising, funding and marking curriculum across its universities and colleges. If you would like specific information on the grading for each specific Canadian province below, reach out to an SI-Canada consultant who will be happy to help.

Credit System

The Canadian higher education system operates on a credit-based system, where students earn credits for completing courses in the program and whether they complete those at a college or a university. These credits can be taken forward if they wish to transfer to another program or university.

The academic year typically starts in September and consists of two semesters, although some institutions also offer a trimester system or a quarter system. Most undergraduate programs take four years to complete, while professional programs like medicine, law, and engineering may require additional years of study.

Study in Canada

Begin your Canadian university application by arranging a free consultation with SI-Canada today.

Increase your chances of success when applying

SI-Canada specializes in selecting the right Canadian university or college for international students by reviewing your academic background, discussing your career goals and helping you apply. Our application services can help you achieve your dream of studying in Canada.

Study in Canada Blog

"Everything was explained well to me by Vidushi. There was a 100% transparency in everything and Vidushi was highly responsive throughout the process making it smooth and hassle free for me. Rahul from the Visa team also was really patient in the entire process and made sure I understood and get things done timely."

Amanpreet KaurInternational Business Management (May 2024 intake)

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