Many international students across the world hope to further their career goals and broaden their options by studying in Canada. Canada holds the promise of a high-quality education, a great quality of life and the possibility of settling here permanently after you graduate.
British Columbia (B.C.) is the second most popular destination for international students in Canada, after Ontario. In 2022, the province welcomed 78,518 new international students, over 18.7 per cent of total students coming into Canada.
In this article:
6 reasons why international students choose to study in British Columbia
There are many reasons that make British Columbia an attractive study destination in Canada. Here are some common things that appeal to international students moving to the province:
British Columbia offers a high quality of life
Whether you’re in the Greater Vancouver Region (GVR) or in the popular student cities of Abbotsford or Kamloops, you’ll get to experience a high quality of life. B.C. offers everything students need to live well, including access to amenities, comfort, safety, freedom, community, and a strong job market. Keep in mind though that British Columbia (especially the Greater Vancouver Region) also has a higher cost of living compared to most other provinces, so accommodation and amenities may be relatively expensive.
B.C. is multicultural and diverse
British Columbia is home to people from all over the world, and 29 per cent of the province’s population comprises immigrants. 27.8 per cent of British Columbians have a mother tongue other than English or French.
Whether you’re looking to build your community or find groceries and food from your home country, it may be easier to find a taste of home in B.C., compared to other provinces and territories in Canada.
Home to some of the top universities and colleges in Canada
B.C. is home to several prestigious universities and colleges, including the University of British Columbia, which ranks number 34 globally. Colleges in British Columbia, too, are becoming popular among international students as they tend to offer shorter study programs that are more technical and better aligned with job market requirements. Regardless of what study program you wish to pursue, you’ll find several high-ranking institutions in B.C. that fit your requirements.
English is the most commonly spoken language in B.C.
As an international student, you’ll need to be at least moderately proficient in the official language of your province. You’ll need to understand the language to keep up in class and effectively manage your day-to-day tasks.
In British Columbia, English is the most commonly spoken language, and that will be the language in which you communicate at school, at work, and in your daily life. Many international students find it easier to master English, compared to French, Canada’s other official language. That said, languages such as Punjabi, Mandarin, Cantonese, and Tagalog are also commonly spoken in B.C.
Sufficient part-time and full-time job opportunities in B.C.
Whether you’re looking for part-time work during your studies or full-time work after finishing your study program, British Columbia has a strong job market with ample job opportunities in most fields.
If your study permit allows it, you may be eligible to work part-time while studying. This is a great way to gain Canadian work experience and earn money to cover some of your living expenses in Canada.
If you plan to stay and work in B.C. after you graduate, you’ll need to apply for a Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP). You may qualify for a PGWP if your study program was longer than eight months and if you studied at an eligible Designated Learning Institution (DLI). Gaining Canadian work experience can also make it easier for international students to qualify for permanent residence programs later.
B.C. transfer system
This system allows students to transfer their credits and enrollment from one college or university to another. Basically, the transfer system gives you a chance to move to a better or different institution if you have good grades and have completed the required credits.
Things to keep in mind before starting your studies in British Columbia
Before you move to British Columbia for your studies, it’s important to familiarize yourself with what living there will be like. Here are some things to keep in mind while planning your international student journey:
- High cost of living: The cost of living is quite high in British Columbia, especially in Vancouver and the Greater Vancouver Region. Before moving to B.C. for your studies, use Arrive’s Cost of Studying in Canada calculator to budget for your student expenses. Staying within your budget will help you avoid financial stress and make it easier to focus on your studies.
- Student housing is limited and in very high demand: If you’re enrolling in your first year of studies in B.C. and want to opt for on-campus housing, contact your institution to reserve your spot as soon as you receive a letter of acceptance. Keep in mind that these housing options are limited and fill up quickly.
- Housing is expensive in and around Greater Vancouver: If you plan to live off-campus, start your search for affordable accommodation early. Housing costs in the GVR are quite high, so be prepared to share accommodation.
- You may qualify for expedited study permit processing: Students from 14 countries, including India and China, are eligible for faster processing of their study permits under the Student Direct Stream (SDS). To qualify for SDS, you’ll need to purchase a Guaranteed Investment Certificate (GIC) worth $10,000 from a participating financial institution such as RBC. Once you arrive in Canada, you’ll receive a portion of your investment, along with the interest earned, back every month to cover your student expenses.
Best universities in British Columbia (B.C.) for international students
British Columbia is home to many of the world’s top universities. According to the QS World University Ranking 2024, the following are the best universities in B.C.:
The University of British Columbia
Ranked #34 in the world, the University of British Columbia is considered one of the best universities in Canada. UBC has two campuses, located in Vancouver and Okanagan. The school admits over 65,000 students from 140+ countries each year.
Programs offered by the University of British Columbia
The university offers over 250 undergraduate degree programs and over 335 post-graduate programs, including 220+ master’s programs, 100+ doctoral programs, and 15 graduate certificate programs. UBC offers programs in various disciplines such as medicine, business, economics, engineering, history, media, education, and more.
International student tuition fees at UBC
- Undergraduate programs: Annual international student tuition fee for undergraduates usually ranges between $36,082 and $80,259, depending on your study program.
- Graduate programs: International students may have to pay a tuition fee of between $9,500 and $78,909 per year for graduate programs at UBC.
- Doctoral or Ph.D. programs: The annual international student tuition fee for doctoral programs ranges between $5,407 and $52,900 (for specialized combination programs).
Scholarship options for the University of British Columbia
- International Major Entrance Scholarship (IMES): Exceptional international students entering an undergraduate program at UBC are automatically considered for the IMES. You’ll have a better chance of winning this award if you are academically meritorious and excel in extracurricular or community activities. The scholarship may be renewed for up to three years, provided you continue to demonstrate academic excellence.
- Outstanding International Student (OIS) Award: The OIS is a one-time merit scholarship offered by UBC to eligible incoming international students. Students with strong academic and extracurricular performance may be eligible for this award.
Simon Fraser University
The Simon Fraser University has three campuses in the Greater Vancouver Region: Burnaby, Surrey, and Vancouver. The school admits over 37,000 students from 145+ countries in the world.
Programs offered by Simon Fraser University
The school offers over 200 undergraduate programs and 86 graduate programs across eight faculties: applied sciences, arts and social sciences, education, business, environment, health sciences, science and communication, art and technology.
International student tuition fees at Simon Fraser University
- Undergraduate programs: The average international student tuition fee for undergraduate programs at SFU is $32,724 per year. However, programs in engineering, business, and computer science may cost significantly more.
- Graduate programs: The annual tuition fee for international students ranges from $6,200 to $63,320, depending on the graduate program chosen.
- Doctoral or Ph.D. programs: The typical international student tuition fee for most doctoral programs at Simon Fraser University is $6,200 per year.
Scholarship options for the Simon Fraser University
- Undergraduate Scholars Entrance Scholarship: This program is open to both international and domestic students entering their first year of undergraduate studies at Simon Fraser directly from high school. To be eligible, students must have an excellent academic and extracurricular record. The value of the awards ranges from $20,000 to $130,000.
- UGGLA Family Scholarship: This is a need-based scholarship awarded to ten students enrolling at SFU. Students who identify as Black, a person of colour, LGBTQIA2S+, Indigenous, or living with disabilities can apply for this scholarship.
- International Excellence Entrance Scholarship: Meritorious international students from certain countries who are enrolling in specific study programs are automatically considered for these scholarships. The award value is typically $10,000.
University of Victoria
Ranked as one of Canada’s top universities for international research collaboration, the University of Victoria has one campus in Victoria, B.C. Over 22,000 students enrol at the school each year in various areas of study.
Programs offered by the University of Victoria
The school offers over 280 undergraduate and graduate programs across nine faculties including business, education, engineering and computer science, fine arts, human and social development, humanities, law, science, and social sciences.
International student tuition fees at the University of Victoria
- Undergraduate programs: The annual international student tuition fee for undergraduate programs typically ranges between $44,574 and $64,113.
- Graduate programs: International students typically pay an annual tuition fee between $8,076 and $40,050, depending on the graduate program they choose.
- Doctoral or Ph.D. programs: For doctoral programs, the international student tuition fee ranges from $8,076 to $23,064 per year.
Scholarship options for the University of Victoria
- University of Victoria International Entrance Scholarship: This is a $5,000 scholarship given to selected meritorious international students enrolling in their first year of undergraduate studies at the University of Victoria.
- UVic International Women’s Achievement Scholarship: International women students with a good academic record who’re entering an undergraduate program in science, engineering, or computer science may be eligible for this award.
- Vikes International Athlete Award: International undergraduate students entering or transferring to the University of Victoria who compete on any Varsity level sports team at the school may be eligible for awards of up to $40,000 (paid over four years).
University of Northern British Columbia
Popularly known as Canada’s Green UniversityTM, the University of Northern British Columbia is a small university with campuses in Prince George, Fort St. John, Terrace and Prince Rupert, Quesnel, and Gitwinksihlkw in British Columbia. In 2022-23, about 17 per cent of the 3,656 students enrolled at the school were international students.
Programs offered by the University of Northern British Columbia
The university offers 62 undergraduate and 30 graduate-level programs across multiple subject areas.
International student tuition fees at the University of Northern British Columbia
- Undergraduate programs: The average international student tuition fee for undergraduate programs at the University of Northern British Columbia is $24,771 per year.
- Graduate programs: The annual tuition fee for graduate programs ranges between $7,645 and $16,565. However, the annual fee may be as high as $26,000 for the MBA program.
- Doctoral or Ph.D. programs: Typically, doctoral programs cost $7,645 per year for international students.
Scholarship options for the University of Northern British Columbia
- International Student Scholarship: Ten awards of $1,000 each are offered to incoming undergraduate students with a valid study permit and a strong academic record.
- UNBC Merit Award: Merit-based awards of $2,500 each are offered to full-time students entering an undergraduate program at UNBC.
- UNBC Leadership Award: New full-time undergraduate students enrolling at UNBC may be eligible for these $3,000 awards provided they have a proven track record in both academics and leadership involvement.
Top colleges in British Columbia for international students
One of the misconceptions international students often have is that college programs are not as valuable or sought after as university programs. This is not the case, and in fact, in 2022, 60 per cent of international students who received a study permit to study in British Columbia enrolled in college programs.
If you’re considering applying to colleges in B.C., these popular schools should be on your target list:
Langara College is commonly considered to be one of the top colleges for undergraduate studies in Canada. Langara has two campuses in Vancouver, B.C.
Educational credentials offered at Langara College
The school offers certificates, diplomas, associate degrees, baccalaureate degrees, and post-degree programs across five key areas of study: health, arts, business, science and technology, and humanities and social sciences.
International student tuition fees at Langara College
The annual tuition fee for international students typically ranges from $15,750 to $18,762, depending on the program chosen.
Scholarship options for Langara College
- International Entrance Award: This merit-based scholarship of $5,000 is offered to 20 incoming international students entering their first year of undergraduate studies at Langara.
International student enrollment at Langara College
In 2021-22, nearly 34 per cent of students enrolled at Langara College were international students.
Douglas College is one of the largest colleges in B.C. and enrolls nearly 25,000 students each year. The school has two campuses in Metro Vancouver (New Westminster and Coquitlam) and smaller training centres in Surrey, Burnaby, and Maple Ridge.
Educational credentials offered at Douglas College
Douglas offers certificate, diploma, advanced diploma, graduate diploma, post-baccalaureate diploma, post-degree diploma, associate degree, and bachelor’s degree programs in over 60 subject areas.
International student tuition fees at Douglas College
The average international student tuition fee at Douglas College is $19,102 per year.
Scholarship options for Douglas College
- Douglas International Education Regional Entrance Award: This award is offered to eligible students from select countries who have an above-average GPA and high English language test scores. The award value ranges from $1,000 and $2,000.
- Dr. Guangwei Ouyang International Education Entrance Scholarship: An award of $2,500 is granted to eligible international students with a strong academic record and a proven track of community engagement.
International student enrollment at Douglas College
In 2021-22, international students at Douglas comprised 18.13 per cent of the total incoming students.
Vancouver Community College
VCC has two campuses in Vancouver, in Broadway and the Downtown area. The school enrolls over 15,000 students each year.
Educational credentials offered at Vancouver Community College
The school offers around 110 diploma, certificate, apprenticeship, associate degree, advanced certificate, and bachelor’s degree programs across various disciplines. This includes several trade certificates and apprenticeships, including in areas such as hairstyling, cooking, and baking.
International student tuition fees at Vancouver Community College
Typically, international students at VCC pay an annual tuition fee ranging from $17,165 to $25,971.
Scholarship options for Vancouver Community College
- VCC Entrance Award: Incoming students with excellent academic and extracurricular track records who’re starting a full-time program at VCC may be eligible for a one-time award of up to $2,500 each.
International student enrollment at Vancouver Community College
In 2021-22, 19.6 per cent of students enrolled at Vancouver Community College were international students.
Camosun has two campuses in Victoria, B.C. Over 14,000 students attend the school, including international students from 70+ countries.
Educational credentials offered at Camosun College
The school offers over 160 programs, including certificate, diploma, advanced certificate and diploma, degree, and post-degree programs. These programs span numerous areas of study, such as arts and humanities, business, health sciences, human services, indigenous education, natural sciences, sport and exercise, technologies and engineering, and trades and apprenticeship.
International student tuition fees at Camosun College
The average international student tuition fee for most programs at Camosun is $23,835 per year.
Scholarship options for Camosun College
- Camosun International Academic Advancement Scholarship: This $1,000 award is offered to international students with strong records of academic performance and community involvement.
- Subject-specific awards: These awards are offered to meritorious international students enrolled in different study programs, such as the business diploma, business administration bachelor’s degree, mechanical engineering technology diploma program or computer systems technologist diploma program.
International student enrollment at Camosun College
In 2021-22, nearly 12 per cent of the total incoming students at Camosun College were international students.
Okanagan College has campuses in Penticton, Kelowna, and Vernon, B.C. Over 15,900 students attend the school each year.
Educational credentials offered at Okanagan College
The school offers 46 different programs, including diploma, certificate, and degree programs to international students. These programs span numerous areas of study, such as arts, business, commercial aviation, language, health and social development, science, technologies, trades, and food, wine, and tourism.
International student tuition fees at Okanagan College
The annual tuition fee typically ranges from $6,400 to $34,806, depending on the study program chosen.
Scholarship options for Okanagan College
You may be eligible for one of the many awards, scholarships, and bursaries available to students enrolling at Okanagan.
International student enrollment at Okanagan College
In 2021-22, approximately nine per cent of students enrolled at Okanagan College were international students.
As an international student planning to study in British Columbia, Canada, you’ll have many universities and colleges to choose from. B.C. is home to some of the most prestigious educational institutions in the world, including the University of British Columbia. Moreover, the province’s diversity and multiculturalism make it easier for international students to adapt to their new life and feel at home in Canada.