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What’s the difference between College and University in Canada?

Find out the differences between a college and university in Canada and which one is better for you.

If you choose to study in Canada, then you need to have a clear idea about the difference between colleges and universities in Canada to make sure that you choose the best study option for your needs.

We will explore the major differences here, but first you need to know that the Canadian education system is one of the best in the world. So, if you choose either a university or a college, one thing is certain – the quality of education is going to be very high.

Colleges in Canada offer career-oriented education, which means that they focus on specific employment skills, practical career training and trades. Colleges also have smaller class sizes and lower student-to-instructor ratio.

Universities, on the other hand, are degree-granting institutions, which means that they offer undergraduate and postgraduate degrees. The universities also focus on analytical skills, as well as academic and professional programs. Due to the higher student-to-instructor ratio, university programs offer more student independence than many college programs.

The universities and colleges in Canada work independently and are mutually exclusively responsible for the design and delivery of their programs. Education is a provincial responsibility in Canada, so the provincial governments govern all universities and colleges present in each province.

Which is better college or university in Canada?

The answer depends on your own education needs, profile, academic background, financial position and other preferences. However, we’ve listed the main differences between universities and colleges in Canada in the table below to help you better understand the differences and therefore make your own decision.

Universities Colleges
Offer undergraduate and postgraduate degree programs. Some universities also offer PhD options where international students are eligible to apply. Offer post-secondary Diploma programs.
Offer a large range of bachelor’s degree programs and selected master’s programs. A one-year program is called a Certificate, a two-year program is called a Diploma and a three-year program is called an Advanced Diploma.
A one-year program at a post-graduate level is called a Graduate Certificate while a two-year program at a postgraduate level is called a Graduate Diploma.
Research-based approach with an intention to prepare a graduate with knowledge related to all branches of a particular field. Practical approach intended to prepare graduates for the job market. The programs are only focussed on developing a particular skill set to make students employable in the same field.
A university graduate has a holistic understanding of a wider subject area. After gaining valuable work experience and creating solid track record in the industry, university graduates are usually preferred candidates for leadership roles. Colleges offer the shortest and most relevant route to employment, if the students know what they want to do. Students are advised to research well before they finalise a program, so that they are fully aware of the future prospects and career opportunities.
The tuition fee per year generally ranges between CAD 25,000-40,000 for bachelor’s degree programs, and CAD 25,000-75,000 for master’s programs. The tuition fee at colleges generally ranges between CAD 12,000-25,000.
After successful completion of a 4-year bachelor’s program or a 2-year master’s program at a public Canadian university, students are eligible to apply for a 3-year work permit, which allows them to stay and work in Canada. Completing a one-year program qualifies you to apply for a one-year work permit. But, if you successfully complete a 2 or 3-year program, you qualify to apply for the 3-year work permit like university graduates.
Many merit-based scholarship options are available for eligible students. Not many scholarship options are available for international students but with the tuition fee is already quite competitive, unavailability of scholarships is usually not a big deterrent for international students.

Check out for co-ops in your college

Colleges widely offer the co-operative education option which gives students the opportunity to gain work experience while studying and prepares them for the job market. If you are going to study at college, you need to check out if this option is available in your program.

Also, another point to note is that co-op is never guaranteed by institutions. Students will be required to work on their resume, perform well in interviews and always be at the top of their professional behaviour, in addition to excellent academic record, in order to increase their chances at getting a co-op job opportunity in their respective fields.

Discuss your best study options in Canada and get an expert advice about career prospects with your IDP Education Counsellor. Contact us today!

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