Top Universities in Canada by Province | Top Universities

Top Universities in Canada by Province

By Sabrina Collier

Updated August 14, 2023 Updated August 14, 2023

26 Canadian universities are featured in the QS World University Rankings® 2021, including three in the top 60. A further 11 are in the global top 400, all ranked based on a methodology which considers each institution’s rating among employers and academics, as well as its research impact and other factors.

See below for a table of the top 10 universities in Canada in 2021, and read on to discover more about the institutions in each province.

Top 10 Universities in Canada – QS World University Rankings 2021

Canada Rank

Global Rank






University of Toronto





McGill University  





University of British Columbia


British Columbia



Université de Montréal





University of Alberta





McMaster University





University of Waterloo





Western University





University of Calgary





Queen’s University



Top universities in Ontario

University of Toronto

More than a third of the top universities in Canada can be found in Ontario, and it’s also the most populous province in the country, home to more than 38 percent of Canada’s overall population. Four top Canadian universities are found in Canada’s largest city, Toronto, and two are based in capital city Ottawa, which were both featured in the top 50 of the QS Best Student Cities 2019. Ontario’s highest ranked institutions are:

  1. University of Toronto

Ranked joint 25th in the world and number one in Canada this year, the University of Toronto gets its highest score in the ‘academic reputation’ indicator (15th in the world) and is known for its research innovations, having been the birthplace of insulin and stem cell research.

  1. McMaster University

Based in the city of Hamilton, McMaster University is ranked 144th in the world, and was established in 1887, taking its name from the Honorable William McMaster, a prominent Canadian Senator and banker who bequeathed CA$900,000 to its founding.

  1. University of Waterloo

Ranked joint 166th in the world, the University of Waterloo is known for its cooperative education (co-op) programs, which allow students to integrate their education with relevant work experience.

  1. Western University

Previously known as the University of Western Ontario, Western University is ranked joint 203rd in the world this year and is a member of the U15, a group of 15 research-intensive Canadian universities. 

  1. Queen’s University

Queen’s University, based in Kingston, is ranked joint 246th in the world in 2021. Founded in 1841 via a royal charter issued by Queen Victoria, Queen’s boasts more than 1,400 hectares (3,500 acres) of land throughout Ontario.

  1. University of Ottawa

The highest-ranked university in Canada’s capital city, the University of Ottawa is placed joint 279th in the world, up two places from 2020, and is the largest bilingual university in the world, with around 42,250 students.

  1. York University

Another of the top Canadian universities located in Toronto, York University is ranked joint 531-540 in the world and is known for its prestigious film school, which is considered one of the best in Canada.

  1. University of Guelph

The University of Guelph, based in the city from which it takes its name, is ranked 571-580 in the world this year and is considered particularly prestigious for veterinary science. 

  1. Carleton University

Based in Ottawa, Carleton University is ranked 601-650 in the world this year, and 22nd in Canada.

  1. University of Windsor

In the city of Windsor, Canada’s southernmost city, the University of Windsor is placed 751-800 in the world and 25th in Canada in 2020. 

  1. Ryerson University

Ryerson University, in downtown Toronto, is ranked 801-1000 in the world rankings this year and is one of Canada’s largest universities, with 43,000 students.

Top universities in Quebec

McGill University

  1. McGill University

McGill University, based in Montréal, is the second highest-ranked of the top universities in Canada this year at joint 31st. Established in 1821, McGill currently has around 39,660 students, with around 32 percent coming from outside Canada. 

  1. Université de Montréal

Ranked 118th in the world this year, the Université de Montréal is known for its research, with over CA$500 million in research funding and one of the highest volumes of research for any university in Canada. 

  1. Laval University

Based in Quebec City, Laval University is placed joint 420th in the world this year, and is the oldest higher education institution in Canada, with roots going back to 1663. It was also the first French-speaking university in North America.

  1. Concordia University

Concordia University is ranked joint 477th in the world in 2021 and is in the global top 250 for both indicators which measure on-campus diversity: percentage of international faculty members and international students.

  1. Université du Québec

The Université du Québec is ranked 601-650 in the world in 2021 and made up of 10 constituent public universities which collectively have 87,000 students, the largest of which is in Montréal.

  1. Université de Sherbrooke

Based in the city of Sherbrooke, the Université de Sherbrooke is ranked 701-750 in the world in 2021 and also runs a campus in the Longueuil suburb of Montréal.

Top universities in British Columbia 

University of British Columbia

British Columbia is the westernmost province in Canada and is known for its breath-taking natural beauty. One of Canada’s most mountainous regions, British Columbia boasts the largest ski resort in North America, making it a popular choice with students keen on snow sports. Several top Canadian universities can also be found here.

  1. University of British Columbia

The University of British Columbia is consistently ranked third among the top universities in Canada and climbed seven places in the World University Rankings to now rank 45th, achieving its highest rank for the academic reputation indicator (28th). It has around 64,800 students at its campuses in Vancouver and Kelowna.

  1. Simon Fraser University

Ranked 13th among the top Canadian universities, Simon Fraser University is placed joint 323rd in the world and has its main campus in Burnaby, just east of Vancouver. It was established in 1965 and named after Simon Fraser, a North West Company fur trader and explorer.

  1. University of Victoria

The University of Victoria is ranked joint 370th in the world and 14th in Canada, and is located in the capital of British Columbia, Victoria. It’s home to roughly 21,800 students, over 3,000 of whom are international.

Top universities in Alberta 

University of Alberta

Alberta is the most populous of Canada’s ‘prairie provinces’ and is no less mountainous than British Columbia to its west. Two of the 10 highest-ranked universities in Canada are based here:

  1. University of Alberta

Ranked fifth in Canada and 119th in the world, the University of Alberta is mainly based in the city of Edmonton and is a major economic driver to the province, accounting for five percent of its annual GDP (Gross Domestic Product).

  1. University of Calgary

The University of Calgary is ranked 246th in the world and ninth in Canada in 2021 and is one of the younger top Canadian universities, founded in 1966. It’s been at the forefront of numerous innovations in its history, such as the invention of the neurochip.

Other top universities in Canada

Dalhousie University

The list of top Canadian universities doesn’t end there, with the provinces of Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador each hosting one internationally ranked university. 

  1. Dalhousie University, Nova Scotia

Ranked joint 291st in the world and 12th in Canada, Dalhousie University has three campuses in Halifax, and has its medical school in the city of Saint John, in the neighboring province of New Brunswick. 

  1. University of Saskatchewan

Located in the city of Saskatoon in the central prairie province of Saskatchewan, the University of Saskatchewan is ranked joint 465th in the world in 2020. 

  1. University of Manitoba

The University of Manitoba is located in province capital and largest city, Winnipeg, and is ranked 601-650 in the world this year. 

  1. Memorial University of Newfoundland

Finally, in Newfoundland you’ll find the largest university in the ‘Atlantic Canada’ region with 18,000 students, the Memorial University of Newfoundland, ranked 701-750 in the world.


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This article was first published in September 2019 and most recently updated in June 2020.

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This article was originally published in September 2019 . It was last updated in August 2023

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