Skip to main content

Life Planning Information Website - Education Bureau

The Education System

Learning opportunities are available from coast to coast in Canada, with each of 10 provinces and 3 territories having its own system of elementary, secondary and post-secondary education.

(a) Universities

Canada has more than 100 public and private not-for-profit universities and university-degree granting institutions, giving students a vast choice of undergraduate and post-graduate programmes, as well as professional designations, certificate and diploma courses, and short career-focused programmes. 3 types of degrees are offered: 1) Undergraduate programmes which lead to a bachelor's degree after 3 or 4 years of study depending on province (an honor degree usually involves more concentration and additional credits); 2) Master's or Graduate degrees; 3) Doctoral or PhD programmes. Students can specialise by choosing from a huge range of programmes, from social science, biology, computer technology, nursing, media studies and agriculture. Students can also choose to apply to universities ranging in size from very large, research-intensive institutions to much smaller, primarily undergraduate focused campuses.

(b) The College System

There are over 135 colleges and polytechnics offering credentials that are sanctioned by provincial and territorial governments. Public colleges may also be known as institutes of technology, community colleges, polytechnics, college of applied arts and technology, and in Québec, colléges d'enseignement général et professionnel (cégeps). They offer a wide range of education programmes in a vast array of technical and professional fields, including business, agriculture and agri-food, health, social services, broadcasting and journalism, technology, sciences, information technology, engineering, environment, language, and arts. Programmes take from a few months to 4 years to complete including:

  • Certificates (1-2 years) and Diplomas (2-3 years);
  • University Transfer Programme (2 years)
  • Academic and applied degrees (3-4 years)
  • Post-graduate diplomas (1 year)

There is no national set of entrance exams for universities and college - instead, your prior academic records will be reviewed as part of the admission process. Hong Kong students may enter universities or colleges in Canada after the completion of HKDSE (Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education) Examination / GCE A Level (General Certificate of Education Advanced Level) / IB (International Baccalaureate®) Diploma Programme. Some colleges that offer foundation programmes may accept students of S5 (grade 11) standard.

International students must demonstrate proficiency in either English or French, depending on the college or university. This may involve writing tests such as the International English Language Testing System (IELTS), Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), Canadian Academic English Language Test (CAEL) or Test de francais international (TFI). Many institutions offer English or French as a Second Language programmes to international students who do not already have language proficiency.

(c) Elementary and Secondary Schools

There are public and private primary and secondary schools in Canada. Public schools usually do not provide boarding facilities. They are intended for local students but they also accept international students and provide a Homestay Programme with Canadian families. Many private schools provide residences. Some are sponsored by missionaries and many are keen on accepting international students.

In all provinces other than Quebec, students may seek admission to university after 12 years (Grade 1 to Grade 12) of primary and secondary schooling.

Admission to most secondary schools in Canada is based generally on the student’s academic performance in past 2 years and current year.

(d) Language Education

Elementary and secondary schools, colleges and universities offer English or French as a Second Language programmes that can shape students' accent and increase their vocabulary base to fit Canadian education needs and future professional life. In addition, there are private schools and colleges that are dedicated to the teaching of English and French, often exclusively to international students and new immigrants. They are funded through tuition fees.

Tuition fees and other expenses

Average full-time annual fees for International Students in Canada

(in C$)

Elementary/Secondary School



Tuition fees




Living costs (including accommodation and food, insurance and books)

(Home stay)



Total costs




Notes: Fees will vary between institutions, specialised programme, housing options, personal spending and with variations between Canada.

Hong Kong / Canada Education Conversion Chart

Application Procedures

Students are advised to start applying for admission 9 months prior to the term's commencement date. Application forms may be obtained on the websites of the schools / colleges / universities or school district boards. For post-secondary level applications, some provinces allow you to complete one form online through an agency that submits your application to a number of institutions, such as OUAC in Ontario, Apply BC in British Columbia, and Apply Alberta in Alberta. Email applications are now widely accepted. Upon completing the application form, the applicant should return it together with the required supporting documents and application fees before the closing date. After the university, college, school / school board has evaluated the application, it will issue a provisional letter of acceptance to the eligible applicant. Formal letters of acceptance will usually be given upon receipt of tuition fees. Students who have been accepted are urged to proceed to the Canada Visa Application Centre immediately to apply for a student visa.

Visa Application Procedures

For information on how to apply for a Study Permit, please visit:


This webpage serves only as a general guide to studying in Canada. Further information is available at the official website:  EduCanada

For general enquiries, please contact:
Consulate General of Canada in Hong Kong and Macao 
9/F, Berkshire House, 25 Westland Road, Quarry Bay, Hong Kong 
Email :
Website :

Back to Top