Studying in Canada: The lowdown

Samuel Clennett

Going to university abroad can be an amazing opportunity – not just to benefit from some of the world’s great educational institutions, but also to explore another country. And Canada is a country especially worth exploring, boasting brilliant cities and some of the world’s most spectacular scenery.

That’s why this article will explain how you as an Australian student can go and study in Canada. It’ll also offer some advice on how to manage your money when you’re abroad using Wise – but more on that once you know all about what Canada has to offer you.

Studying in Canada

Canada has many top universities. Foremost among them, according to world rankings, are the University of Toronto, Montreal’s McGill University, and Vancouver’s University of British Columbia¹.

Canada’s universities provide the usual range of undergraduate and postgraduate degrees, with plenty of choices on offer in both English and French. Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver are considered some of the world’s best student cities, while plenty of quality universities are housed within smaller (and cheaper) cities as well. It’s well worth taking a good look through all the options available in Canada, and finding out what the top picks are for the particular course you’re interested in.

As an Australian, you do have the right to study in Canada, although of course you’ll need to get accepted by your university of choice. To find out if you’re likely to be accepted onto a particular course, you’ll need to consider the university’s own admissions criteria for your subject.

Are there downsides to studying in Canada? The cost of living is perhaps the major one, if you’re tempted by one of the big cities. But the same is true of most large cities around the world. The chance to live in Canada might mean that it’s still well worth the expense.

It’s worth noting that the province of Quebec is a little different from the others when it comes to university study, with term times and potentially the length of a degree varying from the national norm – this is largely because the education system there sees secondary school students finish earlier and then do some pre-university training. So if you want to study in Quebec – for instance at one of Montreal’s several universities – you’ll need to take particular care to check you meet the admissions standards².

Study visa

If you’re an Australian citizen, then the document that will allow you to study in Canada is known as a study permit. You need this before you arrive in Canada.

To get hold of a study permit, first you’ll have to get accepted by the place where you plan to study. Then, you should apply either online or at a Canadian visa application centre in Australia, providing them with all the documents and information that they require. It could be a lengthy process, so be sure to do it as early as you can³.

A study permit will cost you CAD 150, and if it’s approved, you should also receive a visa, which is the document that’ll let you actually enter the country⁴. Check out a complete guide to getting a Canadian student visa here.

Cost of studying in Canada

Can you study in Canada for free? Sadly not. But by the standards of international student fees, tuition fees in Canada are relatively affordable for foreigners. They’re not exactly what you’d call low, though.

For the 2019/2020 academic year, the average yearly tuition fees are CAD 29,714 for undergraduates and CAD 17,744 for graduates. There’s wide variation by subject, though: engineering, medicine or veterinary medicine will likely cost you more than the average, while business, management and public administration is somewhat less⁵.

International students in Canada do have to pay more than Canadians. Substantially so, in fact: Canadian undergraduates have average fees of CAD 6,463, and graduates CAD 7,056⁵. The difference is steep, but not unusual: international students often face far steeper fees than home students; it isn’t an issue unique to Canada by any means.

Of course, bear in mind that these are just average figures – universities can charge different amounts. So you should look up the fees specific to the courses you’re interested in before panicking too much.

Here’s an overview of the likely costs of studying in Canada – but do bear that caveat in mind. These are only estimates, and it’ll all vary widely depending on where you study and which course you choose.

University application feeVariable. E.g. CAD 180Set by the university. CAD 180 is the figure for the University of Toronto⁶
Study permit applicationCAD 150
Tuition feesCAD 29,714 (undergraduate) or CAD 17,744 (graduate)Average yearly figure for international students. Will vary by university and course.
Other university feesVariable. Could be between CAD 1,537 and 3,391These are McGill’s estimated “Ancillary fees” for 2019-20⁷. They cover costs related to student services.

That’s just the university-related costs – don’t forget to factor in other major costs like rent, food, and transportation. There’ll be plenty of books to buy, too.

The cost of living in Canada varies substantially by city, with Vancouver and Toronto the costliest by some margin.

Universities in Canada

Here are just a few of the most popular Canadian universities for international students.

  • University of Toronto
  • University of British Columbia – Vancouver / Kelowna
  • McGill University – Montreal
  • McMaster University – Hamilton
  • University of Montreal
  • University of Alberta – Edmonton

Don’t let that list restrict you, though – there are many great places you could study. It’s often the best idea to be guided by your course: find the option that best reflects what you want to study, and keep an open mind about which city it’s in.

A great way to pay for your studies: Wise

Whatever level of university fees you’re facing, you’re probably going to need to pay using money stored in bank accounts back home. Which can get expensive – especially if we’re talking about those substantial Canadian tuition fees.

Thankfully, you don’t have to use your bank to make that sort of international transfer: though a popular option in the past, international bank transfers are notoriously expensive and unpredictable. These days, specialist providers use technology to make international transfers easier and more affordable. If you are looking for a way to send money to Canada, Wise could be an option.

Wise is one of them, and it only ever uses the real mid-market rate for its international money transfers, with the low fee always clearly stated in advance. It’s a super convenient way to send money overseas that can be as much as 8x cheaper than using a bank.

What’s more, a borderless account from Wise is even more convenient, granting you the ability to hold money in 40+ international currencies. As you make your move to Canada and get set up with a Canadian bank account, this could prove useful and make it a lot easier for you to spend money there without incurring costly international transaction fees.

There’s no monthly fee for a borderless account, and in Australia you even get a debit Mastercard with it, making paying internationally a walk in the park.

Good luck exploring your options to study in Canada. It’s a wonderful place both to study and to live, and could provide you with the education of your dreams.


  1. University Rankings
  2. Guide to Canadian Universities
  3. Visa's and Study Permits
  4. Study Permits
  5. Tuition Fees
  6. Application Process
  7. Yearly Costs

All sources accurate as of 13 December 2019

This publication is provided for general information purposes only and is not intended to cover every aspect of the topics with which it deals. It is not intended to amount to advice on which you should rely. You must obtain professional or specialist advice before taking, or refraining from, any action on the basis of the content in this publication. The information in this publication does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from Wise Payments Limited or its affiliates. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether express or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.

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