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The English Canadian Education System

Before attending one of our Canadian universities, it is better to understand their local education system and know what to expect in terms of course, housing, fees etc.

This page should answer many of your questions, but if you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact one of our advisors!

The English-speaking Canadian system

The Canadian university system is different from the European system, which is under the “Bachelor/Licence-Master-Doctorate” formula. This system divides tertiary education into 3, 5, and 8 years and imposes a pace of learning that is not always suitable. From this perspective, the Canadian system is advantageous:

Firstly the Canadian system is broken down in a more flexible manner: it is possible to take courses for variable durations: 2 years, 3 years, 4 years, 6 years … there are many programmes with various objectives that can be suited to you.

Secondly the amount of content during the semesters is also flexible: you can increase or decrease your workload per semester by taking fewer or more subjects

The second point of divergence between the European training offer and its North American counterpart is the rigidity of the curriculum. Canadian universities emphasise the need for a student to “build” his own education. Therefore a flexible curriculum has been implemented and it will, essentially resemble your personality and interests. Each course is assigned a certain number of credits, and it is these credits that you will “buy” each semester. Therefore, you can choose the number of courses you want according to the workload that suits you.

You also have the opportunity to study different fields of study within the same degree through the major (main field of study) and minor (field of secondary studies) system. So it is quite possible to do a programme in Biology with a minor in philosophy for example.

The Canadian marking system is also different from the system used in France. Each grade obtained is expressed as a percentage (e.g. 60% instead of 12/20). Each percentage range is a letter A+, A, A-, B +, B, B-, C +, C, C-, D and F. For example, the percentage range corresponding to an A+ is 90-100%. The one corresponding to a B is 72-75%. You must have an average of C over the entire semester to pass the course, i.e. 60-63% (12/20). Although, at first glance, this may scare a foreign student, the goal is perfectly attainable. The average of all the courses of the semester is called the TGPA (Term Grade Point Average), which conditions the GPA (Grade Point Average) – your overall average at the end of your programme.

Canadian degrees

There are over 200 tertiary education institutes in Canada. Here is some information on the education system so you can see in which level you would find yourself.

It is important to note that there are some similarities with the European LMD system. After 4 years, you will complete a Bachelor Degree, which is the equivalent of the License in France. This implies that you must have completed 4 years of study to be able to pass to the next level in Canada. You should have already completed an M1 in France in order to qualify for a Masters degree.


  • Colleges are the “first option” in Canadian tertiary studies. These institutions offer different types of diplomas; they are often short (1 to 3 years) and professional (comparable to the DUT / BTS). They also offer Bachelor’s degree (equivalent to the French license).
  • These institutions are often smaller than universities with a higher student-staff ratio and therefore are more individually focused and personal. This is an ideal option for an international student studying abroad for the first time.
  • Universities recognise professional degrees completed in colleges and it is not uncommon to see students complete their training by validating a Bachelor.


In North America, the term “university” refers to any institution offering 1st and 3rd cycle degrees. Most Canadian universities are highly specialised: some are recognised for their medical programmes, others are better known for their political science programmes, and so on.

The Canadian university campuses are much larger than the colleges and offer all the necessary amenities (gyms, shops, coffee shop etc.) They are practically very small cities!

Entry into Canadian universities may be subject to a strong selection. The path of each applicant is examined under a magnifying glass. The GPA (your overall average) is very important because it determines your eligibility in certain programmes.

The Selection

The selection of students is chosen according to their application. Your level of English is a determining factor. You will need to take the IELTS or TOEFL before leaving and obtain the marks required by the Canadian university. If you feel that your English needs a little help before passing the IELTS, the universities also offer intensive courses in a language school – training periods after which you will directly join a university programme. We are at your disposal to advise you on English exams. For more information about English language courses in Canada, see our “English Courses” section.

Your application will include all your results and qualifications obtained since the Baccalaureate (Bac included). You can also add a personal statement, your CV, and one or more letters of recommendation. Study Experience will assist you in building your application and make sure it is optimised.

The Academic Year

Most Canadian universities offer 2 major year-rounds starting in September and in January. Each school year is independent. Students returning in January will not be joining another programme that had begun 5 months earlier.

Some universities in Canada occassionally offer summer sessions, practical to complete additional credits and reduce the duration of your course.

Tuition Fees

Aside from Quebec, which offers reduced tuition fees for French students, tuition is about CAD 14000 per year for studies within a college and between CAD 20000 and CAD 30000 per year for university studies in the English speaking provinces in Canada.


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