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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: McGill University and the University of Toronto. These are the two top universities in Canada, ranked 30th and 32nd in the world, according to the QS World University Rankings® 2016-2017.

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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 10 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.

 

University of Toronto

McGill University

QS World University Rankings® 2016-2017

Ranked 32nd worldwide in 2016/17

Ranked 15th in the world by academics and 54th by employers

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

Ranked 30th worldwide in 2016/2017

Ranked 34th in the world by academics and 51st by employers

Stronger scores than Toronto for research citations and international student diversity

Subject strengths*

Joint 18th in the world for arts & humanities

15th for life sciences & medicine

22nd for natural sciences

34th for engineering & technology

41st for social sciences & management

43rd in the world for arts & humanities

Joint 28th for life sciences & medicine 

Joint 46th for natural sciences

Joint 63rd for engineering & technology

Joint 49th for social sciences & management

 Location

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

86,709 students (2015-16)

16,948 at graduate level (19.5%)

15,931 international students (18.3%)

40,493 students (autumn 2016)

9,473 at graduate level (23.3%)

Roughly 10,933 international students (27%)

Annual tuition fees

Domestic:

Undergraduate programs: from CA$6,400 to $14,300

Graduate: $9,370 to $48,480

International fees: $29,740 to $55,900.

Undergraduate programs: from CA$2,328 for students from Quebec, $7,227.60 for other Canadian students

International undergraduate tuition fees start at $15,942.90 and go up to $40,802.70.

Fees are the same for masters degrees, and PhDs for international students cost $14,310.

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

QS World University Rankings® 2016-2017

At rankings level, the differences between the two top Canadian universities 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 and 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 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 highest 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 34th in the world, while McGill trails further behind at joint 63rd.

McGill and Toronto in the QS World University Rankings by Subject 2017

 

University of Toronto

McGill University

Accounting & finance

=28th

51-100

Agriculture & forestry

51-100

48th

Anatomy & physiology

8th

3rd

Anthropology

11th

36th

Archaeology

27th

--

Architecture

=39th

51-100

Art & design

51-100

--

Biological sciences

13th

32nd

Business & management

35th

48th

Chemistry

=20th   

36th

Computer science & information systems

=10th

51-100

Communication & media studies

--

51-100

Dentistry

48th

--

Development studies

15th

49th

Earth & marine sciences

14th

=34th

Economics

21st

51-100

Education & training

10th

33rd

Engineering (chemical)

=34th

47th

Engineering (civil)

31st

51-100

Engineering (electrical)

=30th

51-100

Engineering (mechanical)

32nd

=39th

Engineering (mineral & mining)

17th

=6th

English language & literature

12th

31st

Environmental studies

31st

26th

Geography

9th

27th

History

12th

35th

Law

17th

25th

Linguistics

22nd

=29th

Mathematics

=16th

51-100

Materials science

=49th

45th

Medicine

11th

22nd

Modern languages

=22nd

=45th

Nursing

=6th

39th

Performing arts

51-100

48th

Pharmacy

=21st

=31st

Philosophy

18th

=35th

Physics & astronomy

=25th

39th

Politics

12th

37th

Psychology

12th

=21st

Social policy & administration

18th

--

Sociology

17th

35th

Sports-related subjects

6th

16th

Statistics

=17th

37th

Theology, divinity & religious studies

11th

29th

Location 

Choosing between these two universities 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 largest two in the country.

While Toronto is accepted as Canada’s commercial and financial capital, both cities can make claims to being 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 index, Montréal is currently ranked first in the world, overtaking Paris and achieving a higher rating than Toronto for both the Affordability and Employer Activity indicators. 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, scoring first while Montreal is ninth.

Both cities also score well in the new Student View category, based on a student survey which asked students to rate their experience of a city in categories such as affordability, friendliness and tolerance and inclusion. For this category, Montreal is ranked joint fourth, with high ratings for its arts and culture, as well as for its friendliness, diversity and affordability, while Toronto is ranked 35th.

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 

As of the autumn 2016 enrolment, McGill had 40,493 students, of which around 10,933 (27%) were international, and about 9,473 (23.3%)were studying at graduate level. Of these, just over 20% of students speak French as their mother tongue.

The University of Toronto is significantly larger, with a total of 86,709 students enrolled in the 2016-17 academic year. Of these, 16,948 (19.5%) were studying at graduate level, and 15,931 (18.3%) 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 range from CA$6,400 to $14,300 depending on the program. For international students, prices are inevitably higher, ranging from around $29,740 to $55,900, again depending on the program chosen.

For graduate-level studies, prices span a broad range, from CA$9,370 to as much as $48,480 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.

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$2,328 annually, non-Quebec Canadians pay CA$7,227, and international students pay CA$15,942 (2016-17 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 CA$14,310.30 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 updated in April 2016 and again in April 2017 to include data from the latest QS World University Rankings® and other sources.

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Hossein M, Younes S & 79 others saved this
Written by Laura Bridgestock
The former editor of TopUniversities.com, Laura oversees the site's editorial content and student forums. She also edits the QS Top Grad School Guide and contributes to market research reports including How Do Students Use Rankings?

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16 Comments

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?

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