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Canada as a Study Abroad destination
Pushpinder Bhatia
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February 06, 2008

Part II: Canada's education system, popular colleges

Canada, the second largest country in the world, is both a geographically vast and an ethnically diverse country in which to study. Canada's [Images] natural environment offers many recreational opportunities as well as a high standard of living in cosmopolitan and multicultural cities.

Canadians are known for being a peaceful and friendly people. They also are inhabitants of a multicultural and bilingual country which welcomes students from all religions and nationalities. Thousands of students come to study in Canada every year and even more come to Canada to learn English or French bring a rich culture to the Canadian classrooms.

The large urban centres of Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal are particularly well-known for their multicultural way of life. This rich cultural variety can be seen in the many languages spoken on the street, or the cuisines served through open restaurant windows or many cultural celebrations throughout the year.

Let's understand the education system in the maple leaf country first.

The education system in each of the 13 provinces in Canada is governed by the rules and regulations of that particular province. There are various post-secondary institutions that include colleges, universities and technical schools.

Each post-secondary school has its own set of rules on how to apply, and decides what level of English you will need to be at to be accepted, as well as other entry requirements for various courses of study.

Besides this, there are private career and vocational schools which are not necesssarily governed by provincial governments. There are career colleges, community colleges -- both of which are non-degree granting institutions offering courses ranging from 1-3 years. The fee is generally lower than the university or university colleges.

Then there are university colleges offering four-year undergraduate degrees as well as graduate courses ranging from Masters to doctoral. Lastly, there are universities generally offering primarily masters and research programmes only.

To decide which institution to apply to and to ascertain your eligibility, one should contact the college or university directly or better still ask an expert counsellor for seeking advice on the same.

The counsellor will be able to guide you on the basis of your academic record, extra curricular activities, your performance in various tests like the GRE, TOEFL, your finacial background etc. Once you have chosen a place to study you will need to apply to that school, college or university.

Every school has different requirements to apply. Make sure you apply early for your chosen course of study. Do keep certain things in mind before applying for them ie the cost of application, tuition fees, health insurance, rent/living cost and various entrance tests.

Moreover, the government of Canada does not pay for the medical costs of foreign students, so you will need to take that into consideration.

Once the student receives his/her letter of acceptance from the educational institution, he/she will need to apply for the student permit. The time needed to process an application to study in Canada may be different at various visa offices. One does not need a study permit if you plan to take a course or programme in Canada that lasts six months or less. You must complete the course or programme within the period authorised for your stay in Canada.

Visa requirements
If you are considering an education in Canada, here's what you will need:

~ Letter of admission from the chosen institute
~ IELTS/ TOEFL score (generally 6-6.5 bands in IELTS and 70+ score on TOEFL; iBT is considered sufficient)
~ Proof of sufficient funds for the whole duration of the course

The visa fee is Rs 5,080. 

Cost of studying and living in Canada
Studying in Canada is very affordable when compared to other western countries. The overall cost for an international student to study in Canada depends on the student's own needs and 'lifestyle'.

Each university has a different tuition level and each city has different living costs. Generally, though, it is estimated that students from abroad would need between CDN $10,000 to CDN $15,000, depending on their school and programme.

Canada less expensive than Australia, the USA or UK
Yes. In general, Canada offers the lowest tuition rates for international students compared to Australia, New Zealand [Images], the UK and the US. For example, in the US, costs for public universities were almost 1/3 higher than fees for Bachelor's degrees in Canada, while US private university fees were more than double those of Canadian universities.

Generally, the applied sciences courses such as medical and engineering are more expensive than the applied ones. The average tuition fee of colleges vary from CDN $9,000 to CDN $12,000 and the same for a university is CDN $10,000 to CDN$ 16,000.

Besides this, students who can not meet minimum English language requirements can take up an English Language Programme, the tuition fee of which ranges from CDN$ 900 to CND$1,200 per month depending upon the level of study and the course selected.

Students have options for study in the certificate and diplomas offered in all major fields of study. As far as scholarships are concerned, they are more for the graduate courses (masters or postgraduate by Indian standards) rather than for undergraduate courses.

About working while studying
Foreign students can work in Canada during their studies, and even after they graduate. In most cases, they will need to apply for one of the student-related work permits, which are required if you want to work in a co-op/internship placement, off campus, or after graduating from your studies (Post-Graduation Work Permit Programme).  

Ideally, any person who is enrolled as a full-time student is allowed to work for 20 hours per week on campus when the session is on and full-time during the scheduled breaks, including summer or winter holidays and reading weeks.

So any of the work-permits beyond the on-campus would require certain conditions to be fulfilled by the student ie the study programme requirements and the conditions of both the work permit and study permit.

Moreover, such a work permit is generally valid for the same period as the study permit. To qualify for any such permit, the student must already hold a valid study permit, and must have been a full-time student at a participating institution for at least six of the last 12 months before applying.

This is so because the likelihood of students quitting their study programme is highest during the first few months of study, which is why the Department of Citizenship and Immigration Canada wants to ensure that work permits are issued to legitimate students

There are a wide range of accommodation options available for students during their studies in Canada. The most popular options are home-stays, private apartments, hotels and hostels, and on-campus residence.

While the home-stay accommodation is also the most cost-effective way to live in Canada and a different experience altogether; on campus residence is a popular way for students to live, study, and make friends.

Ideally the cost ranges from CND$ 250-CDN$1,500 per month.

In addition to tuition and accommodation, each student is expected to pay for their own living expenses, such as transportation, food (if living in a private accommodation option), medical insurance and spending money. The average cost of living in Canada is around CND$10,000-CDN$15,000.

As far as rankings are concerned, there are no official rankings from the government's side. However Maclean's, a news magazine in Canada, ranks Canadian universities on an annual basis known as the Maclean's University Rankings.

The criteria used by the magazine are based upon a number of factors, which include characteristics of the student body, classes, faculty, finances, the library, and reputation. The rankings are split into three categories: primarily undergraduate (schools that focus on undergraduate studies with few to no graduate programmes), comprehensive (schools that focus on undergraduate studies but have a healthy selection of graduate programmes), and medical doctoral (schools that have a very wide selection of graduate programmes). One can refer to them as a rough guide at his own peril.

The popular courses that Indian students opt for after +2 and graduation are business, IT, computing, hospitality, MBA, and science.

Part II: Canada's education system, popular colleges

The writer of this article is the CEO of PAC Asia Services, a study abroad consultant firm. For more information, one can visit

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