To see the updated version of this article, for 2014/15, click here.
If you’re looking to study at one of the top universities in Canada, there’s a fairly strong chance you’ll have considered studying in either Toronto or Montréal. One Anglophone and one Francophone, these are the two largest cities in Canada, and both offer an impressive selection of world-leading universities – including Canada’s two highest-ranked, the University of Toronto and McGill University.
More broadly, the provinces within which Toronto and Montréal are based – Ontario and Quebec – each boast an extensive selection of world-class universities. However, this eastern side of Canada doesn’t have a complete monopoly on high quality higher education. Indeed Canada’s third highest-ranked university, the University of British Columbia, is way over on the west coast, in Vancouver.
Here’s a quick overview of the top universities in Canada by province, based on the QS World University Rankings® 2013/14.
Top Universities in Ontario
Ontario has rather a lion’s share of the top universities in Canada. Towards the east of the country, it’s Canada’s second largest province by area and most populous by far, home to around 40% of Canadians. It’s also home to Canada’s capital city, Ottawa, and the country’s largest city, Toronto. The latter is known for its international diversity, thriving cultural scene, busy financial district – and strong selection of universities.
The top universities in Ontario are:
- University of Toronto (ranked 17= in the world; 1st in Canada)
- McMaster University (140 in the world; 6th in Canada)
- University of Waterloo (180 in the world; 7th in Canada)
- Queen’s University (189= in the world; 8th in Canada)
- University of Western Ontario (199= in the world; 9th in Canada)
- University of Ottawa (227 in the world; 11th in Canada)
- York University (401-410 in the world; 16th in Canada)
- University of Guelph (461-470 in the world; 21st in Canada)
- Carleton University (501-550 in the world; 23rd in Canada)
- Ryerson University (701+ in the world; 25th in Canada)
- University of Windsor (701+ in the world; 26th in Canada)
Top Universities in Quebec
To the north of Ontario, Quebec is Canada’s largest province by area, second largest by population, and the only province in which French is the sole official language. The province capital is Quebec City, and largest city is Montréal – the second largest city in Canada, and dubbed its ‘Cultural Capital’. Montréal is home to several of the best universities in Canada, including the world-famous McGill – until recently the country’s highest-ranked, but narrowly overtaken by the University of Toronto in the QS World University Rankings 2013/14.
The top universities in Quebec are:
- McGill University (21st in the world; 2nd in Canada)
- Université de Montréal (92= in the world’ 4th in Canada)
- Laval University (329= in the world; 15th in Canada)
- Université de Quebec (411-420 in the world; 17th in Canada)
- Université de Sherbrooke (441-450 in the world; 20th in Canada)
- Concordia University (481-490 in the world; 22nd in Canada)
Top universities in British Columbia
Canada’s westernmost province, British Columbia (or BC) is popular among snowsports fans, as the home of Whistler Blackcomb, North America’s largest ski resort. While not quite offering the same number of world-class universities as Ontario or Quebec, it does boast three entries within the QS World University Rankings. These include one institution in province capital Victoria and two in largest city Vancouver – a particularly attractive study destination for those keen to combine city life with close proximity to both coast and mountains.
The top universities in British Columbia are:
- University of British Columbia (ranked 49th in the world; third in Canada)
- Simon Fraser University (244= in the world; 13th in Canada)
- University of Victoria (321= in the world; 14th in Canada)
Top universities in Alberta
East of British Columbia, Alberta is the most populous of Canada’s three ‘prairie provinces’. Its capital, Edmonton, and largest city, Calgary, are each home to one of Canada’s top-10 universities. Calgary in particular has a reputation for being a pleasant place to live, having been named one of the world’s cleanest cities and a leader on environmental sustainability. Edmonton’s claims to fame include North America’s largest mall, and a year-round cultural program which justifies its nickname ‘the Festival City’.
The top universities in Alberta are:
- University of Alberta (96 in the world; 5th in Canada)
- University of Calgary (201 in the world; 10th in Canada)
Other top universities in Canada
Given that Ontario and Quebec are home to the largest segments of the Canadian population, it’s unsurprising that these two provinces are Canada’s leaders when it comes to universities. As detailed above, British Columbia and Alberta also have strong offerings – and there are also several other Canadian provinces with at least one university ranked among the world’s best.
Here, then, are the best of the rest:
- Dalhousie University (244= in the world; 12th in Canada) – Nova Scotia province
- University of Saskatchewan (421-430 in the world; 18th in Canada) – Saskatchewan province
- University of Manitoba (431-440 in the world; 19th in Canada) – Manitoba province
- Memorial University of Newfoundland (601-650 in the world; 24th in Canada) – Newfoundland and Labrador province