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McGill University or University of Toronto?

McGill University or University of Toronto? main image

Deciding to study in Canada is kind of a no-brainer, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to pick a university. If you’ve got this far, it probably means you’ve whittled it down to two of the country’s best-performing universities: the University of Toronto (pictured above) and McGill University. These are the two top universities in Canada, ranked joint 25th and joint 31st in the world respectively, according to the QS World University Rankings® 2021

Of course, there’s much more to the Canadian higher education system than just these two. 26 universities in Canada are ranked among the world’s best in the QS World University Rankings, including 12 in the top 300.

However, it’s McGill and Toronto that consistently stand out as the top two. With both performing at a highly impressive level, your choice is likely to be a more personal one.

To help any lucky prospective students facing this choice, here’s a look at how these two top universities in Canada measure up on key indicators, followed by a more detailed comparison.


QS World University Rankings® 2021

Ranked joint 25th worldwide in 2021

Ranked 15th in the world by academics and 25th by employers

Stronger scores than McGill on faculty-student ratio and international faculty diversity

Ranked joint 31st worldwide in 2021

Ranked 37th in the world by academics and 34th by employers

Stronger scores than Toronto for research citations and international student diversity

Subject strengths*

18th in the world for arts & humanities

13th for life sciences & medicine

18th for natural sciences

Joint 22nd for engineering & technology

Joint 18th for social sciences & management

30th in the world for arts & humanities

27th for life sciences & medicine 

Joint 47th for natural sciences

Joint 47th for engineering & technology

Joint 43rd for social sciences & management


Toronto, Canada’s largest city

Additional campuses in Scarborough and Mississauga

Montréal, Canada’s second-largest city in French-speaking province Quebec (but teaching is in English)

Student community

93,081 students (2019-20)

20,296 at graduate level (22 percent)

23,019 international students (25 percent)

39,664 students (Fall 2019)

10,201 at graduate level (26 percent)

12,635 international students (32 percent)

Annual tuition fees


Undergraduate programs: from CA$6,100 per year

Graduate: CA$10,080 to $46,270.

International fees: CA$ 21,560 to CA$64,810.

Undergraduate programs: from CA$2,622 for students from Quebec, CA$8,186 for other Canadian students

International undergraduate tuition fees start at CA$21,500

Fees are the same for master’s degrees, and PhDs for international students start at CA$8,600

*Based on the broad subject areas of the QS World University Rankings by Subject.

QS World University Rankings® 2021

At rankings level, the differences between the two top universities in Canada are tiny – both are clearly among the world’s leading institutions and score well across all of the indicators used to compile the rankings. Both fare particularly well when it comes to international reputation, ranked well within the global top 50 by surveyed academics.

Toronto has the most diversity among its faculty members, as well as a better faculty-student ratio (designed to give a rough idea of how much contact time students can expect), while McGill leads on research citations per faculty member (which aims to assess research impact), and has slightly more international diversity among its students. 

Subject strengths

In the QS World University Rankings by Subject, Toronto is ahead in each of the five broad subject areas. Interestingly, these rankings also suggest the two top Canadian universities have similar sets of subject strengths: both score highly for arts and humanities as well as life sciences and medicine. The main point of divergence is in engineering and technology, for which Toronto ranks joint 22nd in the world, while McGill trails behind at joint 47th

McGill and Toronto in the QS World University Rankings by Subject 2020


University of Toronto

McGill University

Accounting & finance



Agriculture & forestry



Anatomy & physiology












Art & design



Biological sciences



Business & management






Classics & ancient history



Computer science & information systems



Communication & media studies






Development studies



Earth & marine sciences






Education & training



Engineering (chemical)



Engineering (civil)



Engineering (electrical)



Engineering (mechanical)



Engineering (mineral & mining)



English language & literature



Environmental studies












Library & Information Management









Materials science






Modern languages






Performing arts









Physics & astronomy









Social policy & administration






Sports-related subjects






Theology, divinity & religious studies




Choosing between these two top universities in Canada also means making a choice between their respective cities – Montréal and Toronto. Both are in the south-east of Canada (Toronto’s a little further south) and both are large cities – in fact, they’re the largest in the country.

While Toronto is accepted as Canada’s commercial and financial capital, both cities can make claims to be the country’s leading cultural hub – and both have strong cases to make. As well as vibrant music, film and nightlife scenes, both also boast extremely high levels of international diversity. In fact, Toronto is among the world’s most multicultural cities. According to a 2011 report by the Toronto Foundation, just over half of the city’s residents were born outside of Canada.

Though Toronto may be slightly more diverse overall, Montréal has a more internationally diverse student community (see below). In the QS Best Student Cities ranking, Montréal is currently ranked fourth in the world, higher than Toronto. It’s also the best in the world according to the ‘student view’ indicator, which is based on a survey which asked students to rate their experience of a city in categories such as affordability, friendliness and tolerance and inclusion. Toronto also performed well in this indicator, coming 14th, but nowhere near as impressively as Montréal.

Montréal also achieves higher ratings than Toronto for affordability and employer activity in the ranking. The latter is based on a survey of graduate employers, domestic and international, to see which cities they prefer to recruit from. Both cities are in the top 10 for desirability, though Toronto is ahead on this indicator, ranked first compared to Montréal’s 10th

One of the main differences between the two cities is language. Toronto is English-speaking, while Montréal, where McGill is located, is in the French-speaking province of Quebec. However, most teaching at McGill is conducted in English, and proof of English proficiency is an application requirement.

It should also be noted that while the University of Toronto’s main campus is right in the heart of the city, it also has two additional campuses, one in Scarborough (a district in the east of the city) and another in Mississauga (a neighboring city to the west).

Student community 

McGill University


As of the Fall 2019 enrolment, McGill (pictured above) had 39,664 students, of which around 12,635 (32 percent) were international, and about 10,201 (26 percent) were studying at graduate level.

The University of Toronto is significantly larger, with a total of 93,081 students enrolled in the 2018-19 academic year. Of these, 20,296 (22 percent) were studying at graduate level, and 23,019 (25 percent) were international. That’s a lot of students by any measure – Toronto has one of the largest student communities among institutions featured in the QS World University Rankings. 

As well as being split across three campuses (see above), the University of Toronto also makes its huge community more manageable by using a college system, similar to that at Oxbridge (Oxford and Cambridge) in the UK. Applicants to the Faculty of Arts and Sciences choose one of seven colleges, each of which provides a smaller student community within the overall university.

So, if your decision about where to study in Canada can’t be made based on the course that best matches your own academic interests and career plans, lifestyle factors could certainly help tip the balance. Maybe you want to practice your French, or perhaps you like the idea of being part of a smaller college community as well as a member of a very large student body. Or, maybe, you’re just more attracted to either red (McGill's color) or blue (Toronto's)...

Fees & funding  

Given their stellar reputations, McGill and Toronto may be forgiven for charging relatively high fees.

At the University of Toronto, tuition fees for undergraduate domestic students start at CA$6,100, depending on the program. For international students, prices are inevitably higher, ranging from around CA$21,560 to CA$64,810, again depending on the program chosen. 

For graduate-level studies, prices span a broad range, from CA$10,080 to as much as $46,270 depending on the program. The university does state, however, that it is committed to providing financial support for those pursuing research-based graduate programs. Partial funding is also available. Toronto also recently announced that from autumn 2018 most international students will pay the same fees as domestic students for PhD programs (excluding certain programs).

At McGill University, entrance policies are slightly different, with residents of Quebec province receiving discounted fees. Prices also depend on the program. For programs within arts and sciences, residents of Quebec are charged CA$2,622 annually, non-Quebec Canadians pay CA$8,186, and international students pay CA$21,500 (2020/2021 figures). At graduate level, all students can enroll on a full-time master’s program for the same price as their undergraduate fees, while international students pay upwards of CA$8,600 for PhDs. 

To take a look at the financial aid available to international students at McGill University, visit the international student funding page. Or, for more information on fees at the University of Toronto, visit this webpage.

This article was originally published in January 2014. It was most recently updated in June 2020 to include data from the latest QS World University Rankings® and other sources.

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Abdoulaye M, Samiur R & 190 others saved this
Written by Laura Bridgestock
The former editor of TopUniversities.com, Laura oversaw the site's editorial content and student forums. She also edited the QS Top Grad School Guide and contributed to market research reports, including 'How Do Students Use Rankings?'

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Hello there! I'm Suzanne from India, I completed my mbbs here in looking for a good university in Canada for my postgraduation in Pediatrics. Can you please let me know and also about scholarships available for Indian students. Thank you

Hi Suzanne, Queen's University offers international scholarships specifically aimed at Indian students, and here's a link to more scholarships to study in Canada.

Hello! My name is Jakhangir. I'm from Uzbekistan. I'm 22.I want to study in USA but I have no ielts certificate then my English is not good

Hi, I'm a current international student in the US. I'm planning to apply university of Toronto. As far as I researched the information, the admission fee for applying is around 180$. Is that really expensive for applying schools in Canada?

Hi current im abdelhafid from marocco i want some helpe to sutdy in canda

Hello Laura, thanks for this useful website. Can you help me find some good universities in Canada that offer Kinesiology, as I am looking for admissions for my daughter.

Hi there. Going to apply for McGill next month. does the annual tuition fee is around the amount shown above? used McGill fee calculator and found that it shows 44k instead of 15k

Hello everyone. I was reading through the blogs and found this comment section to be the most prompt at replying. I have a very immediate dilemma and nobody seems to answer it thoroughly. I have received an offer from University of Manitoba for an MBA and an other from University of Ottawa for Engineering Management. My past has been in the engineering domain for 5 years and I wanted to learn the business functions now. So the question here would be whats better in the long , short run? A better university or a better program? I wish to do the course this year as I am already late into the party. It would be really kind if anyone could help me out in this regard. Thanks again.

Hi everyone! A newbie here. I was planning to go back to studying. And i saw this forum. And it catches my eye. It was lovely university. :) Godbless!

Great and informative piece.

Hi madam
I am Parvez Alam from India and I am a student of final semester B tech specialisation in Chemical Engineering.
I am interesting in pursuing my master programme in Chemical Engineering/ Petroleum Engineering.
How may I get admission and Scholarship in this university?

Hi Parvez, links to the financial aid pages of the University of Toronto and McGill can be found in the article above, and we have a list of more scholarships to study in Canada here. You can find full details on how to apply for Toronto or McGill on their official websites, but lots of general information is available here. Hope this helps!

Madam, I'm Joseph,35, from Ghana, west Africa and I'm holding a diploma in commerce with a grade of pass. Please may I know if I will be allowed to do a course in bsc or BA. MOREOVER,I have 7 years work experience.

Hi Joseph, if you have a high school diploma you can study your bachelor's degree in Canada. To find out more about studying abroad in Canada, please have a look at our complete guide. :)

How do i get a scolarship into this university

Hi Joshua, I'd advise you to have a look on the official websites of McGill and the University of Toronto, which you'll find linked in the last paragraph of this article. 

Dear sir/madam,
I need an application form to apply for admission in University of Toronto.
Thank you very much

Hello! To apply, you'll need to visit the university website and follow the guidelines for the course you're interested in studying.

Dear Mr/Ms
i need an application form to apply for admission in University of Toronto
thanks a lot
nader behtash

i need an application form to apply for admission in McGill