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In Canada, post-secondary institutions are divided into two major types. The university provides academic and professional training, and research leading to degrees (BA, BSc, MA, MSc, PhD, etc.).

The community college offers certificate and diploma programs in career and vocational training. College-level institutions may also be known as colleges of applied arts and technology, technology institutes. Academic transfers from community colleges to universities are sometimes possible. In Québec, collèges d’enseignement général et professionnel (cégeps) offer two types of program: vocational programs are 3 years, and pre-university programs are 2 years.

There are also several university colleges, which straddle the line between universities and colleges. They offer selected undergraduate (bachelor’s) programs but not graduate (master’s and doctoral) programs, as well as college programs.

There is no formal ranking of institutions in Canada. They are remarkably uniform in quality across the country.

There are over 90 degree-granting institutions and 200 community colleges in Canada.

The academic year generally runs from September to April. Spring and summer courses are available in most cases. Some institutions operate on a semester or trimester system which allows them to accept students to begin studies in September, January or May. University undergraduate programs normally last three to five years, while community colleges offer programs ranging from one to three years.

English and French are Canada’s two official languages. At most universities and colleges, instruction is in one of the two languages, although a few use both. Students applying for admission must satisfy the institution’s language proficiency requirements in the language of instruction. You should inquire at the time of application if a language proficiency test is required, and ask about the procedures for taking the test.

Services for International Students

Most post-secondary institutions have a person to assist international students. He or she is the International or Overseas or Foreign Student Adviser, and works in the International Education Office or Department of Student Services. Most secondary schools which charge fees for international students offer the services of an International Student Adviser or similar counsellor. Students should make themselves known to the Adviser soon after arrival on campus and learn about orientation programs and other activities available through the Adviser`s office.

Brochures containing information about your Canadian campus and community can be obtained before departure. Request the brochures from the institution where you have been accepted.

Distance Education

A host of educational institutions and organizations across Canada provide distance education and training courses.

One of the pioneers and leaders in the field of borderless learning is Athabasca University in Alberta, established in 1970. Another institution that concentrates on distance education is the Open Learning Agency in British Columbia. A specialist in this field in Québec is the Télé-université of the Université du Quebec.

Another barrier-free school leader is the Canadian Virtual University, a creation of a group of chartered Canadian universities offering degrees and diplomas, online and via distance education, and with a selection that includes over 200 complete programs and over 2,000 courses in English and French. Furthermore, credits earned at any partner university can be applied to a CVU program as long as the course meets the program requirement.

The Canadian Association for Distance Education also maintains a list of regional and national distance education organizations across the country.

Career Colleges

In addition to the country’s degree-granting institutions and community colleges, Canada is home to hundreds of privately run career colleges that provide training and certification to adult students in various skills, such as automotive service, electronics, retail management, and child care and animal care, through daytime, evening and weekend courses.

Information on career colleges across Canada can be obtained through the National Association of Career Colleges.

Academic credit recognition and equivalencies

Each university and college in Canada sets its own admission requirements and its own criteria for recognizing academic qualifications obtained abroad. In addition, each campus admissions office has information about requirements for translation and authentication of any documents required for admission.

International students can also consult one of several evaluation services across Canada to obtain an assessment on how academic credentials obtained outside Canada compare with credentials recognized in a Canadian province or territory. Keep in mind these agencies charge a fee and their evaluations are only conducted in an advisory capacity and do not guarantee recognition of credentials for purposes of admission to a Canadian post-secondary institution.

Therefore, it is important that you verify with the academic institution that you plan to attend whether it will accept an assessment done by one of these services.