Canada has become one of the top destinations for international students. It’s a large, multicultural country, with top-rated universities, and a plan to welcome more than 1.2 million new permanent residents by 2023.

More than any country, Mainland China felt the pandemic’s impact, and the number of applications for Canadian study permits submitted by Chinese students fell by 65.1% in 2020. Travel restrictions and safety concerns are not expected to persist post-pandemic; so the outlook for Chinese students is becoming brighter. August 2021 Visa Tracker figures for Chinese students showed that visa applications were receiving an 89% approval rate.

Top Canadian Universities for Chinese Students

Chinese students are attracted to the most prestigious schools in large, cosmopolitan cities, with Toronto and Vancouver being the top destinations. Vancouver was rated in Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) as the 3rd Most Livable City in the World, moving up from 6th in 2019. Toronto was rated #7 for two consecutive years, 2018 – 2919, and #4 for the three years prior.

These are the top five Canadian universities for Chinese students, based upon the number of Canadian study permits issued:

1 University of Toronto: According to “The Times Higher Education Best Universities in Canada, 2020 Rankings”, the University of Toronto ranked 18th globally and it was the #1 university in Canada. U of T attracts students from 160 different countries, largely due to its diversity. The university placed #1 Best Overall in Mclean’s “Canada’s best universities by reputation: Rankings 2021” list.

U of T is structured like a collegiate system. You can be part of a large university while attending one of the best colleges within a university. The school offers a wide range of undergraduate and graduate programs.

Notable University of Toronto alumni include writers Michael Ondaatje and Margaret Atwood, and 5 Canadian Prime Ministers. 10 Nobel laureates are affiliated with the university, including Frederick Banting.

University of Toronto

2 York University: Like U of T, York is a highly regarded institution situated in Toronto. York was recognized as a global leader for three consecutive years in the “Times Higher Education Impact Rankings, 2021 Rankings”. York placed 11th in Canada and 67th globally.

York also ranked in the top 4% globally in two United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that closely align with the strategic focus of the University’s Academic Plan (2020), including 3rd in Canada and 27th in the world for SDG 17 – Partnerships for the Goals – which evaluates how the University supports and collaborates with other universities in working towards the SDGs.

Notable alumni include film star Rachel McAdams, comedian Lilly Singh, evolutionary biologist and television host Dan Riskin, Toronto Star columnist Chantal Hébert, and Joel Cohen, writer and producer of The Simpsons.

York University

3 University of British Columbia: UBC ranked second in “The Times Higher Education Best Universities in Canada, 2020 Rankings” under the top 10 Canadian universities, and it came in 34th globally. The school earned its rank for the international scholarships available to international students, its reputation for research and its distinguished alumni. UBC also placed #2 Best Overall in Mclean’s “Canada’s best universities by reputation: Rankings 2021” list.

Another big attraction is that the climate on British Columbia’s coast is much milder than the rest of Canada.

UBC’s distinguished alumni include 3 Canadian Prime Ministers, 8 Nobel prizewinners, 71 Rhodes scholars and 65 Olympic medalists.


4 University of Waterloo: The University of Waterloo (UW) is located just one hour west of Toronto. The school ranked 8th in Canada in “The Times Higher Education Best Universities in Canada, 2020 Rankings” under the top 10 Canadian universities. The school is known for its engineering and physical sciences programs, and Times Higher Education Magazine placed it in the top 75 programs worldwide.

UW is recognized worldwide for its engineering and computer science programs. It placed #3 Best Overall in Mclean’s “Canada’s best universities by reputation: Rankings 2021” list.

University of Waterloo

5 Western University: Coming in 5th in the number of study permits issued to Chinese nationals, Western is known for its academic programs and research discoveries. Located in beautiful London, Ontario, Western ranked 9th in Canada in “The Times Higher Education Best Universities in Canada, 2020 Rankings” under top 10 Canadian universities.

Western offers specialized programs for business administration, dentistry, education, law, and medicine. Notable alumni include Canadian actor Alan Thicke, businessman Kevin O’Leary, politician Jagmeet Singh, Canadian-American broadcast journalist Morley Safer and Indian scholar and activist Vandana Shiva.

Western University

Other Top Canadian Universities with International Students

McGill University: McGill ranked 3rd in Canada, and 42nd globally in “The Times Higher Education Best Universities in Canada, 2020 Rankings” under the top 10 Canadian universities. McGill is also the only Canadian university listed in the World Economic Forum’s Global University Leaders Forum. The school offers more than 300 degree subjects to more than 31,000 students, from 150 countries.

McGill established Canada’s first faculty of medicine and is renowned as a medical school. Notable McGill alumni include singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen and actor William Shatner.

McGill University

McMaster University: McMaster ranked 4th in Canada, and 72nd globally in “The Times Higher Education Best Universities in Canada, 2020 Rankings” under the top 10 Canadian universities. The campus is located just over an hour southwest of Toronto. Students and faculty come to McMaster from more than 90 countries.

McMaster is recognized as a medical school, through its research in the field of health sciences, but also has strong business, engineering, humanities, science and social sciences faculties.

McMaster University

University of Montreal (Université de Montréal): The University of Montreal ranked 5th in Canada, and 85th globally in “The Times Higher Education Best Universities in Canada, 2020 Rankings” under top 10 Canadian universities. Seventy-four percent of the student body on average enrols in undergraduate study.

The University is known for its business graduates and for graduates who make significant contributions to scientific research. Distinguished alumni include 10 premiers of Quebec and former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau.

University of Montreal

University of Alberta: The U of A ranked 6th in Canada, and 136th globally in “The Times Higher Education Best Universities in Canada, 2020 Rankings” under the top 10 Canadian universities. It’s the fifth-largest university in Canada, with 41,000 students at five separate campus locations.

U of A is considered a “comprehensive academic and research university” (CARU), which means that it offers a range of academic and professional programs that generally lead to undergraduate and graduate-level credentials.

Distinguished alumni include visionary Paul Gross, winner of the 2009 Governor General National Arts Centre Award for Achievement, and longtime Stratford Festival designer and Vancouver 2010 Olympic Ceremonies design director, Douglas Paraschuk.

University of Alberta

University of Ottawa: U of O, is a bilingual public research university in Ottawa. It’s the largest English-French bilingual university in the world. The school is co-educational, enrolling more than 35,000 undergraduate and over 6,000 post-graduate students. The school has roughly 7,000 international students from 150 countries, accounting for 17 percent of the student population.

Distinguished alumni from the University of Ottawa include the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, Richard Wagner, former Ontario Premier, Dalton McGuinty and Alex Trebek, former host of the TV show Jeopardy!

University of Ottawa

University of Calgary: U of C ranked 10th in Canada in “The Times Higher Education Best Universities in Canada, 2020 Rankings” under top 10 Canadian universities. The University of Calgary is also one of Canada’s top research universities, located in the nation’s most enterprising city..

Notable alumni include former Canadian prime minister, Stephen Harper, Java computer language inventor James Gosling and astronaut Robert Thirsk, Canadian record holder for the longest space flight.

University of Calgary

Top 5 Canadian Colleges for Chinese Students

1 Fraser International College: FIC is a private college on Simon Fraser University’s campus. The college offers international students a direct pathway to degree programs at the SFU university. The courses at FIC are designed in consultation with faculty and departments in SFU. FIC offers 1-year pre-university programs and guarantees direct transfer to SFU when GPA reaches the standards according to the various majors.

Fraser International College

2 Seneca College: Located in Toronto and Peterborough, Seneca International Academy is a multiple-campus public college that offers a world-class education that’s recognized globally; with degree, diploma and certificate programs. There are 145 full-time programs and 135 part-time programs at the baccalaureate, diploma, certificate and graduate levels.

Seneca College

3 Centennial College: Founded in 1966, Centennial College was Ontario’s first community college; and it has grown to five campuses in the Greater Toronto Area. Centennial College has more than 14,000 international and exchange students enrolled at Centennial this year. Centennial received the 2016 Gold Medal for Internationalization Excellence from Colleges and Institutes Canada (CICan).

Centennial College

4 George Brown College: Situated in downtown Toronto, George Brown College offers more than 160 career-focused certificate, diploma, postgraduate and degree programs. Students have the opportunity to live, learn and work in the heart of Canada’s biggest economy. George Brown is a fully accredited college of applied arts and technology with three full campuses in downtown Toronto; with 35 diploma programs, 31 advanced diploma programs as well as eight degree programs.

George Brown College

5 Fanshawe College: More than 6,500 international students choose Fanshawe each year, from over 100 countries. The college offers more than 200 post-secondary certificate, diploma, degree and graduate programs, and has been offering real-world career training for 50 years as a full-service Government of Ontario community college. Their London, Ontario campus boasts state-of-the-art learning facilities.

Fanshawe College

Cost of Tuition

The average international undergraduate tuition cost in Canada is currently $33,623, according to Statistics Canada. This represents a 7.1% increase in the 2020/21 academic year. Since 2016, roughly two-thirds of international students studying in Canada have been undergraduates.

Just over 12% of international undergraduate students were enrolled full-time in engineering, paying on average $37,377 for tuition fees in 2021/2022. 0.4% on average of international students were enrolled in professional degree programs. The average tuition fees for international students in professional degree programs range from $38,110 for law to $66,503 for veterinary medicine.

Study Permits

If your course is longer than six months International students require a study permit in Canada. To apply for an initial study permit you will need to create an account on the IRCC website or sign in. Your IRCC account lets you start an application, submit and pay for your application and receive future messages and updates related to your application.

Before you apply online, you will need access to a scanner or camera to create electronic copies of your documents for uploading. And you will need a valid credit card to pay for your application.

Answer the online questionnaire and specify “Study Permit” when prompted. You will be requested to upload supporting documents and your completed application form.

You will need these documents to apply for your study permit:

  • proof of acceptance
  • proof of identity, and
  • proof of financial support

Your school must send you a letter of acceptance. You will upload an electronic copy of your letter with your study permit application.

You must have a valid passport or travel document. You will upload a copy of the information page of your passport. If you’re approved, you must then send in your original passport.

You can prove that you have the funds to support yourself with:

  • proof of a Canadian bank account in your name, if you’ve transferred funds to Canada
  • a Guaranteed Investment Certificate (GIC) from a participating Canadian financial institution
  • proof of a student or education loan from a bank
  • your bank statements for the past 4 months
  • a bank draft that can be converted to Canadian dollars
  • proof that you have paid tuition and housing fees
  • a letter from the person or school giving you money, or
  • proof of funding to be paid from within Canada, if you have a scholarship or are in a Canadian-funded educational program

After you click the Submit button, you will pay your application fee. As of November 30, 2021, IRCC no longer accepts payment with debit cards using Interac® Online, but they still accept all Debit MasterCard® and Visa® Debit cards.


Application to Study in Canada, Study Permits

Register for an IRCC secure account

Sign in to your IRCC secure account

Study permit: Get the right documents

Study permit: How to apply

Study permit: After you apply

Study permit: Prepare for arrival


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