Canada makes a large investment in its education system. In fact, Canada is one of the world’s top education performers and among the top three countries in spending per capita on public post-secondary education, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
Canada is a federation of ten provinces and three territories. Under the Canadian constitution, provincial governments have exclusive responsibility of all levels of education. There is no ministry or department of education at the federal level.
Canada's three territories, Yukon, Northwest Territories, and Nunavut, do not have the same constitutional status as the provinces, but with respect to education, the federal government has delegated this responsibility to the territorial governments, which, in turn, cooperate with the provinces to deliver postsecondary programs.
At the post-secondary level, Canada offers a range of education institutions:
- University Colleges
- Community Colleges
- Career Colleges or Technical Institutes
Canada has a large selection of universities located in both urban and rural settings in every region of the country. Canadian universities are largely publicly funded; as a result they are of a consistently high quality, regardless of location or area of study. Universities retain a high degree of academic autonomy.
They offer a broad range of courses and a full range of degrees from undergraduate to doctorates, and can also offer certificates and professional degrees. Fees for universities differ depending on the province, institution and program of study.
The universities are internationally known for the quality of teaching and research. Degrees from Canadian universities are considered to be equivalent to those from American and other Commonwealth universities.
University CollegesUniversity colleges combine Canadian university and college traditions, with a strong base of applied and academic programs offered in campus environments. University colleges offer students a wide range of program choices of either academically-oriented university degree programs or the more practically-oriented college diplomas and certificates.
As part of the Canadian college system, university colleges are distinguished by their strong student support services, small classes and strong campus environment. They also may offer combined degree/diploma programs and university transfer programs.
Community CollegesCommunity colleges have the primary function of responding to the training needs of business, industry and the public service sectors. They also meet the educational needs of vocationally-oriented secondary school graduates, employment-seeking university graduates, as well as the lifelong learning requirements of the adult population. They offer professional programs of 1 to 3 years (often including a work term) that are highly applicable in the job market.
Some community colleges offer university transfer programs that allow students to take courses that are parallel to those offered for the first two years of a four year university program. Students must still apply to the university to gain admission to complete the last two years of the four year program.
Career Colleges and Technical InstitutesCareer Colleges and Technical Institutes are privately owned institutions that offer training programs that provide students with practical skills for the job market after a short period of instruction. These institutions are provincially approved and regulated, ensuring that program standards and quality are maintained.
Students seeking short-term training programs in multimedia, film studies, computer/internet studies, graphic design and hospitality and the like apply to career colleges. The emphasis at these institutions is on practical skills and some may specialize in specific areas such as business, computers and secretarial skills. Career colleges have highly competitive fee structures.
Type of qualifications
CertificateThis is a post senior secondary qualification awarded on successful completion of a program which is usually one year in duration. These programs are typically offered by colleges.
DiplomaThis is a post senior secondary qualification awarded on successful completion of a program which is usually one to two years in duration. These programs are typically offered by colleges.
Bachelor degreeThis undergraduate program is a post senior secondary qualification awarded on successful completion of three to four years of study. These programs are typically offered by universities and lead to graduate level studies.
Bachelor degree (Honors)This undergraduate program comprises a higher degree of concentration in the honors subject, as well as a higher level of academic achievement. At some universities, an honors degree may require an additional year of study.
Master degreeThis graduate program is awarded on successful completion of two years of study. These programs are offered by universities and could comprise a combination of coursework and research.
Doctorate or Ph.D.This graduate program is the highest qualification awarded on successful completion of four to seven years of study. The program comprises some coursework, but primarily assessed on original research and thesis submitted. The degree is generally known as a Ph.D.; however, doctoral degrees may also be granted in particular fields of study such as music (DMus) or law (LLD).
The academic year
The academic year usually starts in September and ends in May. Each academic year normally comprises two semesters, the second semester commences in January. Some institutions have a trimester system which comprise three semesters in an academic year and therefore offer multiple intakes in January and May.
A limited number of specialized programs are offered in the summer session that commences in May.