Five Quick Points About Canada
- Huge area, relatively small population, beautiful natural environment
- One of world’s wealthiest nations
- Multicultural society with many immigrants
- Well-respected and sophisticated education system, and one of the top destinations for international study
- Safe and interesting place to study – students should begin planning early since admissions can be competitive
Location and Geography
Covering most of the northern part of the North American continent, Canada is the second-largest country in the world (after Russia), with a total land area of 9.9 million square kilometers. It stretches from the Pacific Ocean on the west, and to the Atlantic Ocean on the east. Northern Canada reaches into the Arctic Circle, while southern Canada stretches below the northern points of the United States (with which it shares the longest border in the world). The capital city is Ottawa (in the province of Ontario).
Because it’s so big, Canada’s climate varies considerably across its regions. But generally the country is known for its cold and sometimes long winters, beautiful and mild “shoulder seasons” (fall and spring), and hot but often short summers.
History and Population
Canada’s first inhabitants were Native Canadians, also known as aboriginal peoples, including Inuit peoples in the North. It was then settled by the British and French, and for a period of time was governed then heavily tied to England. In 1982 it formally severed its legal dependence on the British Parliament with the Act of Canada. Today’s Canada has more real ties with the U.S. (its largest trading partner) than with Britain, though its foreign policy is distinct from America’s and it enjoys strong historical links with Britain (see Government). Canada was a founding member of NATO and the United Nations.
Canada’s population is now just over 33 million, which is relatively small for a country of this size. Because much of Canada’s area is still wilderness, most Canadians live in highly urbanisedcentres in the south; nearly 90% of the population is concentrated within 160 kilometers of the U.S. border. Canada has two official languages: English (59%) and French (22%). Almost 20% speak another language.
Society and Culture
Today, Canada remains home to a large number of aboriginal peoples, now called First Nations, but it is truly a multicultural and multi-ethnic country. Over the past century and a half, it has welcomed 15 million immigrants, thanks to a national policy of multiculturalism. Canada’s diverse customs, cuisines, traditions, sports, and celebrations are a product of its aboriginal and European history combined with its recent waves of immigration from countries all over the world.
Canada is considered a peaceful, safe, and orderly country. Its violent crime rate decreased for 10 consecutive years from 1993 to 2003. Firearms are strictly controlled. Canadians enjoy a standard of living which is among the highest in the world.
One of the world’s wealthiest countries, Canada is a major industrialized trading nation. It is a member of the G7/8, the G20, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, and many other international bodies. It boasts a highly educated workforce and an increasingly diversified economy, but it is unusual among developed nations in the continuing importance of its natural resources sector (e.g., logging and oil). The Canadian economy is market-oriented like that of the U.S., yet government tends to provide more support and intervention than does the U.S. government. International trade is an important part of the Canadian economy, especially with the U.S. The currency is the Canadian Dollar.
Formally considered a constitutional monarchy, Canada is governed by its own House of Commons. While the governor-general is officially the representative of Queen Elizabeth II, in reality the governor-general acts only on the advice of the Canadian prime minister. While two main political parties tend to go back and forth in terms of who is in power, Canada’s government is overall incredibly stable and secure.
Living Conditions and Cost of Living
Many people find the cost of living in Canada is significantly lower than their home country, but of course this is not the case for all students (e.g., students from India or Nepal). Canadian housing is generally inexpensive compared with other developed nations – the average house price in Canada is around five times the average annual wage. Other costs are comparable or a little less expensive than other industrialized nations, with the exception of car insurance, which can be quite expensive in Canada. Citizenship and Immigration Canada estimates that international students require approximately $10,000 CAD per year, not including tuition fees, to cover living expenses.
Canada claims one of the highest rates of post-secondary education completion in the world. According to the 2006 census, six out of every 10 adults between 25 and 64 years of age had completed some form of post-secondary education. Enrollment in post-secondary education has grown significantly in recent years, due to increasing educational demands in the labor market rather than because of population growth. Post-secondary institutions are located throughout the country; there are approximately 70 universities and 80 colleges in Canada.
In Canada, the provinces and territories are responsible for all levels of education including colleges and universities.
In addition to post-secondary options, Canada offers a wide range of independent private boarding schools for younger students noted for their excellence in preparing young men and women for university and college placement.
Canadian universities offer high-quality education and are very well respected around the world. A degree from a Canadian university holds substantial prestige, thus making Canada a primary target for many international students.
University degrees are offered at three successive levels – bachelor's, master's, and doctoral. Bachelor's degrees normally require three or four years of full-time study, depending on the province. An honors bachelor's degree involves a higher degree of concentration in the major subject, as well as a higher level of academic achievement, and in some cases, an additional year of study. A master's degree typically requires two years of study after completion of either a general or an honors baccalaureate program.
Virtually all Canadian universities are public institutions, which is the main difference between Canadian and American universities
A community college is a public post-secondary educational institution that offers a variety of programs to high-school graduates and adults seeking further education or employment training. Public colleges offer vocational programs in a wide range of professional and technical fields including business, health, science, agriculture, applied arts, technology, skilled trades, and social services.
Diplomas are awarded for the successful completion of two- or three-year programs, while certificate programs most often take one year to complete.
Many colleges offer university transfer programs, providing the first two years of a university undergraduate program. Many also offer bachelor's and applied degree programs.
Colleges are much cheaper than universities and more career-oriented.
Information Specific to International Students
In 2008–09, there were over 80,000 international students in Canadian universities, constituting 7.7% of the total enrollment. The main countries from which students came were China, the U.S., France, India, and South Korea.
International students applying directly from high school to a university or college in Canada should begin planning early, since universities in Canada or particular programs within a university can be competitive.
Due to the different laws and regulations in each province the correct visa information can be obtained by visiting the Education in Canada website.
Students who want to work while studying in Canada must be registered as full-time students at an eligible post-secondary educational institution participating in the Off or On-Campus Work Permit Program. For part-time work on campus for the first six months of studies (maximum 20 hrs per week), students must prove that they are in good academic standing and are able to manage their studies first and foremost. Part-time on- and off-campus work permits are available after six months of studies provided students possess satisfactory academic standing. Work placements (co-op) are often available in the programs of study. Students can get access to up to three years of full-time employment in Canada after graduation.