Studying in British Columbia FAQ
In order to apply for a Canadian study permit, prospective international students must first obtain a letter of acceptance from a Designated Learning Institution (DLI). As each institution may have different admission requirements and application processes, interested applicants may contact the desired institution(s) individually. Find out more about studying in British Columbia.
For a full list of DLIs by province, click here.
- The University of British Columbia: Commonly referred to as UBC, this is one of the highest-regarded universities in Canada, with a strong international reputation for research and academics. While research is a main focus, the university has recently developed partner programs with community groups, and students have access to a number of co-op placements and community involvement opportunities. UBC offers over 200 undergraduate programs in 14 faculties, including the province’s only medical school.
- Signature programs include Commerce, Sciences, Medicine, Film, and Law.
- Simon Fraser University: With its interdisciplinary approach and a three semester system, Simon Fraser University has some notably unique aspects. It is regularly ranked within the top universities in Canada, and worldwide.
- Signature programs include Kinesiology, Criminology, Computer Science, Business, and the Humanities.
- The University of Victoria: A lower student-teacher ratio and a small-town community setting lend an intimate feeling to this university, which nonetheless has big aspirations. Ranking within the top 200 universities worldwide, the University of Victoria — or “UVic” — is well-regarded abroad for its research. International tuition fees at UVic are among the lowest in the province for university-level education.
- Signature programs: Biomedical Engineering, Economics, Earth and Ocean Sciences, and Health Information Science.
- Okanagan College: Okanagan College is located in one of the warmest regions of Canada. It provides language training as well as vocational and trade programs to over 350 international students from over 30 different countries. International students receive help from cultural liaisons, who are native speakers of many different languages. Many courses taken at Okanagan College are transferable to universities in BC and across Canada.
- Signature programs: Associate of Science, Diploma Criminal and Social Justice, Diploma Writing and Publishing, Motor Vehicle Body Repair, and Carpentry.
- British Columbia Institute of Technology: Courses in high-tech and engineering dominate the schedule at this forward-thinking college. BCI.T. has a focus on hands-on experience, and students can benefit from facilities such as a new aerospace technology campus, with a fleet of aircraft to practice on. Certain programs lead to professional certification, easing the transition into the workplace for graduates.
- Signature programs: Business & Media, Applied & Natural Sciences, Engineering & Technical Studies, Computing & Information Technology, and Health Sciences.
- Camosun College: Over the past three decades, Camosun College has built a solid reputation for welcoming international students. Courses focus on hands-on teamwork and experimentation. Programs on offer include a wide variety of transfer programs, and a number of academic upgrading options for more advanced study programs at institutions such as the University of Victoria.
- Signature programs include Trades and Technology, Engineering, Upgrading, and University-Transfer programs.
- Due to the province’s prosperous natural resources industry, many students come to BC for programs in forestry, mining, and engineering.
- The variety of natural environments and ecosystems in BC also encourage many students interested in marine and animal biology, geography, and natural sciences. The University of British Columbia is the best university in Canada for environmental sciences, according to Maclean’s magazine.
- Arts students aren’t left behind. With a thriving counter-culture and many artistic communities, BC institutions are host to many popular Arts and Humanities programs. Vancouver’s Emily Carr University of Art + Design is the only Canadian institution ranked among the top 50 universities for art and design worldwide.
- In addition to the programs above, institutions across BC offer a broad range of programs.
Tuition for international students varies widely, depending on the institution and study program. As a rough estimate, international students in British Columbia may expect to pay around CAD $14,000 per year at a college. At the undergraduate level, international students may expect to pay between $18,000 and $25,000 per year at a university, depending on the program of study (certain specialized post-graduate programs may be more expensive). Language school and graduate school tuition may differ significantly.
- International students studying in Canada are required to purchase health insurance before arriving in Canada. Often, this is organized through the post-secondary institution.
- International students may be eligible for BC’s Medical Services Plan (MSP). The MSP is mandatory for anyone who lives in BC for six months or longer. International students are advised to apply for the MSP as soon as they arrive in BC, as it takes three months to become eligible for the MSP. Individual educational institutions may offer health plans for students before they become eligible for the MSP.
- If an international student is not eligible for MSP, he or she must subscribe to another healthcare plan.
In order to apply for a study permit, a potential international student must show that he or she has $10,000 in addition to tuition fees to cover living expenses in BC. This equates to $833 per month.
Below is an approximate estimation of living costs for students in BC. The actual figures may vary between urban and rural areas.
|Factor||Per month (approx.)||Per year (approx.)|
Accommodation (single, off-campus)
|Health insurance (MSP)||$75||$900|
|Recreation and entertainment||$150||$1,800|
|Transportation (central Vancouver price)||$91||$1,092|
|Cost of living total||$1,726||$20,712|
International students in BC may have access to private loans on the same terms as Canadian citizens and permanent residents. Loans may be offered by banks, student organizations, or other groups. It is important to properly research loan options, and understand the interest and repayment plans, before committing to any contract.
Many organizations and institutions may offer scholarships or bursaries to international students studying in BC. For more information, students are encouraged to contact the international student services department of their institution.
Graduate programs in particular often have funding options for students pursuing a Master’s or PhD program. It is important to contact the educational institution directly for more information.
- As a popular study area across Canada, many BC universities and colleges offer Computer Science and Technology programs.
- Simon Fraser University, the University of Victoria, and the University of British Columbia are both ranked by Maclean’s magazine in the top 10 Canadian universities for computer science.
- As a popular study area across Canada, many BC universities and colleges offer Nursing and health programs.
- Maclean’s magazine ranks the University of British Columbia third in Canada for its nursing program.
- Many colleges including Camosun College (partnered with the University of Victoria), the British Columbia Institute of Technology, and Okanagan College (partnered with UBC) offer recognized Baccalaureate Registered Nurse programs.
STEM is an acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. While careers in STEM fields are popular, there is no specific program entitled “STEM” in a BC college or university. Prospective students are encouraged to research programs in their particular area of interest. Use the School Search tool to research programs in these fields.
Employment in BC is growing rapidly, and 80 percent of jobs are in the services-producing sectors. Sectors that have witnessed the greatest growth in employment recently are the Finance, insurance, real estate, rental and leasing, Professional, scientific and technical services, and Business, building and other support services sectors.
The top industries in BC by employment figures, as of September 2016, are:
- Wholesale and retail trade
- Health care and social assistance
For more information:
Graduates from a DLI in BC may apply for the Post-Graduation Work Permit after graduating from an eligible study program.
- The British Columbia Provincial Nominee Program (BC PNP) has two streams: Skills Immigration and Express Entry. The Express Entry stream is aligned with the federal Express Entry immigration system, allowing eligible applicants to receive priority processing of both their BC PNP application, and if nominated, their permanent residence application. Individuals who may not be eligible to enter the Express Entry pool may still be eligible for another BC PNP category. To find out more, select one of the following categories:
- International graduates who have completed their education at a school in British Columbia may be eligible to immigrate through the federal Express Entry immigration system. Graduates may be awarded a significant number of points on account of their high level of education. Moreover, international graduates of Canadian educational institutions may have obtained important Canadian work experience, another highly valued factor under the Express Entry system.
Situated between the Pacific Ocean and the Canadian Rockies mountain range, the more populated areas of BC experience a mild, temperate climate. Summers are warm at around 20°C or higher, and winters in the coastal regions are the mildest in Canada. Unlike most of Canada, winter temperatures rarely drop below freezing and snowfall is low — but rainfall is often high.
- The BC Transfer System allows students to undertake studies at one school and then transfer seamlessly to another, allowing for easier second- or third-year admission to some of the most competitive universities in the country. Many international students take advantage of academic upgrading programs at colleges like Columbia College and Douglas College, before transferring to another university.
- BC’s government is the only provincial government that endorses certain schools under an “Education Quality Assessment”. This helps international students choose schools that they may not have visited before, and offers them some consumer protection.
- BC’s best-known and largest city is Vancouver, world-renowned for its quality of life. It is one of Canada’s largest and most ethnically-diverse cities, and many immigrant communities are well-established throughout the city.
- BC’s provincial capital, Victoria, is located on Vancouver Island off the main coast of Canada. Several universities and colleges are located in Victoria, so the city has a large student population. Tourism and the hi-tech sector are both strong industries in Victoria.
- Kelowna, Abbotsford, and Kamloops are the next most populated cities after Vancouver and Victoria.