Studying in Vancouver – A Guide for Postgraduate Students

Studying in Vancouver – A Guide for Postgraduate Students

Written by Sarah Hastings-Woodhouse

Vancouver is one of Canada’s most diverse cities and the largest in British Columbia, known for its thriving art and music scenes and the spectacular mountain ranges that surround it.

This guide covers everything you need to know about studying in Vancouver as a postgraduate student, including living costs, top universities, working during your degree and more.

Why study your PhD in Vancouver?

Here’s a snapshot of what’s on offer for postgraduate students in Vancouver:

  • A rich cultural scene: Vancouver is well-known for its thriving art, theatre and music scenes. You can explore its countless galleries and museums or check out one of many events that take place in the city every year, such as the Vancouver International Jazz Festival and the Vancouver Fringe Festival.
  • Stunning scenery: Nature lovers will find spectacular scenery both in and around Vancouver. The North Shore Mountains are a fantastic location for hiking and skiing and provide a unique backdrop for the city’s skyline. Inside Vancouver itself, there are over 230 public parks, including the Queen Elizabeth Park which was built 500 feet above sea level and provides one of the highest viewpoints in the city.
  • A huge international community: Vancouver is known for being one of Canada’s most multicultural cities. It is the largest and most densely populated city in British Columbia, which is a particularly popular destination for overseas study, and home to over 143,000 international students.

The top universities in Vancouver for postgraduate study

We’ve listed the top-ranked universities in Vancouver, according to 2023 Times Higher Education World Rankings.

#1 The University of British Columbia

Ranked within the top 50 worldwide by the Times Higher Education, QS and Academic World Rankings for 2023, the University of British Columbia is Canada’s leading university. Its Vancouver campus is home to over 10,000 graduate students and is nestled amongst lush green forests near the western tip of the Point Grey Peninsula.

Almost 30% of students at UBC’s Vancouver campus are international, and the university has alumni in over 160 countries worldwide.

#2 Simon Fraser University

Simon Fraser University has campuses in all three of Canada’s largest cities – Vancouver, Burnaby and Surrey – and educates over 5,500 postgraduate students. It is well-regarded for its community engagement and sustainability research, and has fantastic industry connections for students looking to pursue internships or co-op education.

Living costs for students in Vancouver

There’s no getting around the fact that Vancouver is one of the more expensive Canadian cities to live in as a student, but careful budgeting can go a long way!

Here are some examples of typical expenses in Vancouver, using crowdsourced data from Numbeo:


Student Cost of Living in Vancouver - 2023
Monthly rent (1 bedroom apartment, city centre) CAD$2,851
Monthly rent (1 bedroom apartment, outside city centre) CAD$2,217
Restaurant Meal CAD$26
Cinema ticket CAD$18
Monthly travel pass CAD$140
Monthly utilities CAD$166
Based on crowdsourced data published by Numbeo.

The rent estimates above are for an entire single-bedroom apartment. Most students choose to cut down on costs by living in shared accommodation. For example, postgraduate accommodation at the University of British Columbia costs an average of CAD$925 a month, and the university estimates that living in a shared house or flat off-campus will cost around CAD$1,194 per month.

Working during your degree in Vancouver

International students in Canada can work unlimited hours in an on-campus role, or up to 20 hours per week off-campus.

On-campus jobs could include research or library assistant, or staff member at a university café. Many students work off-campus in casual roles such as waitressing or working as a courier.

You can read more in our guide on working while studying in Canada.

Things to see in Vancouver

Vancouver is surrounded by striking landscapes, from spectacular mountain peaks to endless stretches of coast and deep forests. You’ll have no shortage of opportunities to get out in nature, whether through hiking, skiing or even taking a ride in British Columbia’s Sea to Sky Gondola, which offers stunning views from almost 3,000 feet.

Its distinctive geography and mild climate have also made Vancouver one of the world’s most popular filming locations, and it has been the set of blockbuster movies like Deadpool and Juno, as well as popular TV series such as The X-Files and Supernatural – a draw for the film students (or enthusiasts) amongst you!

Vancouver has an attraction for students in every subject area, from the Contemporary Art Gallery for artists, to the Beaty Biodiversity Museum for biologists and palaeontologists. Many are either free to enter or offer generous student discounts.

As one of the most popular student cities in Canada, it’s no wonder that Vancouver has a thriving nightlife! From secret cosy cocktail bar, The Narrow Lounge, which is well hidden underneath a mattress store, to open-air patio club Playhouse, you’re spoiled for choice when it comes to venues for the perfect night out.

Careers in Vancouver

Canada is keen to attract international talent and offers a post-graduation work permit for those wishing to work there after their degree. This allows you to work in Canada for up to three years, depending how long your course took to complete.

Vancouver is an excellent location for early-career professionals in many sectors. It is particularly known as a hub for aspiring actors and directors due to its thriving film scene, which produces around 10% of Hollywood releases. It also is a popular location for tech start-ups, and is a leader in green technology and digital media.

Find a PhD in Vancouver

Search our Vancouver PhD database and find one that is right for you.


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Last Updated: 13 November 2023