Canada’s best student cities

  • 6 min read
Canada’s best student cities

Canada is the world’s third-most-popular study abroad destination, leapfrogging the likes of the UK and China to claim its place on the podium.

In 2019, 642,000 international students were studying in Canada1. Research shows they were attracted to Canada’s high-quality academic opportunities, multicultural society, and impressive post-graduate options.

But it’s not a one-way relationship. While Canada’s skyrocketing international admissions look great on the surface, they hide an ever-growing reliance on international students.

Canada’s reliance on international students

Canada’s low birth rate has hit the education sector hard. The number of Canadian-born students enrolling at universities has fallen sharply as the country’s cohort of 18-24 year-olds has stagnated.

As a result, more universities are relying on the income generated from international students to stay afloat and fund their operations. In 2019, almost 40% of all Canadian tuition fees were paid by international students, generating nearly $4 billion in annual revenue for the country’s universities2.

Perhaps more importantly, international students contribute $22 billion annually to the Canadian economy and help sustain over 170,000 jobs1.

International students are an asset to both your university and its surrounding economy, so getting them through your campus gates couldn’t be more important. However, the location of your institution has a huge influence on prospective students’ application and enrollment decisions.

We've compared university cities in Canada to see where students are most likely to study. In our research, we’ve included tuition fees, the cost of rent, the percentage of young people and graduates living in the city, levels of diversity, and environmental factors.

We’ve also looked into access to vegan food, crime statistics, proximity to national parks, and, of course, the most important factor when considering where to study: the cost of beer.

The best places to be a student in Canada

10) Calgary

In the province of Alberta, Calgary just makes it into the top ten. The city is a great option for students - it’s a highly diverse area and scores well for sustainability. Its proximity to a national park earns it bonus points.

9) Vancouver

As one of the largest cities in Canada, Vancouver boasts a very diverse and educated population. Sandwiched between mountains and oceans, it offers an incredible location. However, the pricey living costs can push it out of some students' budgets.

8) St John’s

The only city in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador in the top 10, St John’s is the eighth-best city to be a student. The draw of cheap tuition, accommodation, and reasonably-priced beer makes St John’s an attractive place to spend your university years.

7) Edmonton

The capital city of Alberta, Edmonton is the seventh best city to be a student in Canada. Edmonton scores consistently across the board and being so close to a national park helps give it an edge.

6) Brandon

Located in the province of Manitoba, Brandon claims sixth place. Tuition costs are below-average and many young people live there, so it’s a real educational hub.

5) Quebec

The fortified city is steeped in history and has lots to offer students. Cheap tuition and rent are just a few of the reasons it’s so attractive. Low levels of crime also help to make this remarkable city even more appealing to call home while you’re a student.

4) Charlottetown

The capital of Prince Edward Island, Charlottetown just misses out on the podium. The city has a high proportion of young people living there, a national park is on its doorstep, and affordable rent.

3) Trois- Rivieres

Also in the Quebec province, Trois- Rivieres scored the third highest in our research. The city offers cheap tuition and rent, has low levels of crime for safety-conscious students.

2) Rouyn-Noranda

Located in the province of Quebec, Rouyn-Noranda takes the silver medal. It’s the least expensive place to study in Canada and has a large graduate population. Rouyn-Noranda scored well for its sustainability and beer is cheap too!

1) Montreal

Montreal has taken the crown as the best city to be a student in Canada. Situated in the Quebec province, Montreal offers lower than average tuition costs. It scored well for its sustainability and has loads of vegan dining options. We discovered there was a high percentage of graduates living in the city, suggesting job opportunities are plentiful.

Didn’t make the top 10?

11) Toronto 21) Ottawa
12) Rimouski 22) Lethbridge
13) Guelph 23) Medicine Hat
14) Fredericton 24) Kingston
15) Victoria 25) Kamloops
16) St. Catherines 26) Moncton
17) Saguenay 27) Peterborough
18) Windsor 28) Regina
19) Winnipeg 29) Nanaimo
19) Abbotsford 30) Red Deer

How can you attract more international students?

Diversify your source countries

56% of Canada’s international students come from India and China1, but that doesn’t mean you should rely on these nations.

Recruiting students from a wider variety of markets can help to boost your admissions, safeguard your strategy, and give you the edge over your competitors.

That’s where Studee comes in. We’ll help you attract and enroll pupils from across the globe.

We match students to your entry criteria and support them throughout the admissions process, saving you serious time. Better still, our performance-based model ensures you get the most out of your marketing spend. It’s a win-win.

Learn more about our service

Promote your most popular programs

Business, management, and public administration programs are most popular amongst international students in Canada. But as the labor market changes, the overseas demand for mathematics and computer science programs has skyrocketed too.

If your institution offers programs in these areas, use them to your advantage. Push them to the front of your marketing materials and describe how international students would be supported on the course.

If you want to promote your courses to a wider pool of prospective pupils, is the place to be. Thousands of students visit our website every day to find their dream program and university. Let’s start getting them enrolled at your institution.

Offer an unbeatable admissions experience

Before studying in Canada, students have to find the right university and program, navigate the application process, and secure a visa. This can be an overwhelming and stressful experience, so many students drop off before they’ve seen it through.

That’s why offering tailored admissions support is crucial. If you can prevent students from getting anxious and confused in the first place, and answer any questions they may have, they’re more likely to complete the admissions journey.

We know this can be time-consuming for your overstretched staff, but that’s where Studee can help. Our NAFSA-trained advisors act as an extension of your team, supporting students all the way from application to enrollment. Not only does this save you time, but it also gives you the best possible conversion rate.


1 CIC News, 2020

2 Statistics Canada, 2020