Top Universities for PhD Study in Canada – 2024
Written by Marcus Holt
Like its near-neighbour, the USA, Canada is a big country. However, unlike the USA, a relatively small proportion of Canada is actually inhabited. This means that the Canadian university system isn't as large (or complicated) as you might expect.
Research universities and graduate schools
There are around 100 research universities in Canada that offer PhD programmes. Other institutions such as liberal arts colleges and community colleges also exist, but these don't tend to offer PhDs. Universities often run their doctoral programmes within dedicated graduate schools.
Canadian universities can be public or private, depending on how they receive their funding:
- Public universities (the great majority) are financially supported by their local province or territory. They tend to offer more comprehensive study opportunities, including doctoral programmes.
- Private universities are funded by third-party sources (such as religious organisations). These tend to be smaller and more specialised.
Universities within Canadian provinces and territories
Canada's vast size and colonial history mean the country has developed a federal structure. It is divided into 10 provinces and 3 territories. Provinces are independent sovereign entities (similar to US states). Territories have their authority delegated by the central federal government.
Only provinces possess research universities (with the ability to offer doctoral programmes).
The part of Canada you choose to study in may determine available funding and the course language. Usually programmes will be offered in English, French or both.
There are 10 Canadian provinces whose universities offer PhD study:
- Alberta is a landlocked province in western Canada, famous for its vast forests, prairies and mountain ranges. There are 5 universities offering PhDs in Alberta and the official language is English.
- British Columbia is Canada's westernmost province. Its rugged landscape is characterised by temperate rainforests and striking coastal fjords. There are 7 universities offering PhDs in British Columbia and the official language is English.
- Manitoba is a central province, home to vast prairies and some of Canada's Great Lakes. There are 2 universities offering PhDs in Manitoba and the official language is English.
- New Brunswick is a small province on the eastern coast of Canada. It's home to forests, mountains and some of the oldest European settlements in North America. There are 2 universities offering PhDs in New Brunswick and the official languages are English and French.
- Nova Scotia is a maritime province in Atlantic Canada, made up of a peninsula and neighbouring islands. There are 5 universities offering PhDs in Nova Scotia and the official language is English.
- Newfoundland and Labrador is Canada's easternmost province, made up of the island of Newfoundland and the mainland region of Labrador. It is geographically defined by its subarctic tundra and striking mountains. There is 1 university offering PhDs in Newfoundland and Labrador and the official language is English.
- Ontario is Canada's most populous province, located in the east of the country. It is home to the Canadian capital, Ottawa, as well as the famous Lake Ontario and Niagara Falls. There are 22 universities offering PhDs in Ontario and the official language is English.
- Prince Edward Island is a maritime province on the east coast of Canada - the smallest in the country. It is made up of the titular island, plus a network of smaller islands. There is 1 university offering PhDs in Prince Edward Island and the official language is English.
- Québec is Canada's largest province, situated at the east of the country. It is home to a rich independent Québécois culture and is famous for its rivers, lakes and bays. There are 17 universities offering PhDs in Québec and the official language is French.
- Saskatchewan is a large landlocked province in central Canada, defined by its praries and lakes. There are 2 universities offering PhDs in Saskatchewan and the official language is English.
Canada's three territories are the Yukon, Nanavut and Northwest Territories. They do have colleges offering undergraduate degrees, but do not currently have universities with doctoral programmes.
How much do rankings matter for PhD students?
Rankings can be a helpful resource for prospective PhD students, but they shouldn’t be the be-all-and-end-all of your search. We break down how the system works and how to get the best out of it in our guide to PhD rankings.
Top 20 universities for PhD study in Canada
We’ve listed the top 20 Canadian universities in 2024, based on the current rankings published by Times Higher Education, QS and the Academic Ranking of World Universities.
Top 20 Canadian Universities in 2024
|University of Toronto
|University of British Columbia
|University of Alberta
|University of Montreal
|University of Waterloo
|University of Ottawa
|University of Calgary
|Simon Fraser University
|University of Victoria
|University of Manitoba
|University of Saskatchewan
|University of Guelph
|Information in this table is based on the latest Times Higher Education World University Rankings, QS World University Rankings and Academic Ranking of World Universities. Visit their websites for more information.
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