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Study in British Columbia, Canada

Population: 4,400,057

Province overview

British Columbia is the most western province of Canada, with borders on the US states of Alaska, Washington, Idaho and Montana. The area is categorised by the Rocky Mountains, which offers huge opportunity for snow sports, and the province is therefore an extremely popular destination for those students travelling to take up graduate programs overseas, with more than 100,000 international students opting to study in the province each year.

As with many places in Canada, British Columbia is synonymous with snow sports – the province hosted the Winter Olympics and Paralympics in 2010, and as the Rocky Mountains run through it it has become a holiday hotspot. 
The province’s largest cities are Victoria, which is its capital, and Vancouver.

Education profile

British Columbia has always been a popular choice for international students who are taking graduate programs – out of all of Canada’s provinces, it is the one that attracts the most international students. The province is home to eleven public and five private universities.

Those that are best equipped to offer postgraduate courses are:
All of these universities offer a wide range of graduate programs in a number of academic areas. Masters degrees generally take one year, whilst PhDs take between three and five years.

British Columbia is also the first province in Canada to introduce a seal of quality for international students interested in post-secondary education. The Education Quality Assurance (EQA) seal is a governmental seal of approval awarded to institutions who meet the highest levels of quality in the province.

Immigration and visas

Most foreign nationals will need a study permit to study on a graduate course in Canada and others may need to apply for temporary residence in Canada.

Generally people taking a postgraduate course in Canada that lasts less than six months will not be required to gain a student visa. Regardless of whether or not you need a permit everyone must demonstrate:
  • Acceptance from a university or educational institution in Canada.
  • Ability to pay tuition fees, living expenses and return fares to their home country.
  • Satisfy health requirements.
You can find out more about students visas and immigration in Canada at Citizenship and Immigration Canada’s website.

Life in British Columbia

Often called the ‘gateway to the pacific’, British Columbia is also known as the only place in Canada where you can partake of a ‘West Coast Special’ – meaning you can spend the morning skiing and the afternoon playing golf! It is diversity such as this that makes international students arrive in huge numbers every year, and should give you some idea of how exciting life in Canada’s most westerly province really is. If this isn’t enough, those looking to take up graduate programs in British Columbia should know that over 100 languages are spoken in the province.

Vancouver, probably the province’s most famous city, was named as the third most ‘liveable’ destination in the world by The Economist magazine in 2011. It is a city with a thriving film scene, a vibrant nightlife and a large student population. 

If you want to travel during your graduate program, the USA is within easy reach – cities including Los Angeles, Seattle and San Francisco are only a short flight away.

Working in British Columbia

If you are thinking of staying in British Columbia after the completion of your postgraduate course you will have a large number of opportunities to choose from.

Because of its booming film industry, Vancouver is sometimes known as ‘Hollywood North’.  Alongside the cultural opportunities that living and working in a large city offers, this prosperous sector can offer multiple opportunities to creative graduates. It is also a well known media hub.

Aside from film, other prosperous industries in British Columbia include retail and the construction industries. In terms of business, Vancouver is where most corporations are based.


The cost of your accommodation will vary hugely depending on the area you choose to live in. Some of the most popular areas for those on graduate programs in Vancouver include the West End, Kitsilano, East Vancouver and South Granville.

The majority of universities offer accommodation on campus for those who are studying postgraduate courses. If you live on campus you will benefit from being very close to the lecture halls, and all your bills and utilities will be included in your rent. You will live with other students, usually in a shared flat. Depending on your choices and the amount you want to pay you may share a double room.

If you decide to live off campus in a shared flat or house it is likely you will be responsible for paying utilities and bills yourself.

Weather and climate

British Columbia has a mild and rainy climate, with certain areas being the mildest in Canada. However, winters can see severe snowfall, especially in northern and central areas – this is what gives the province its exceptional skiing conditions. In summer, in some regions, long periods of dryness can increase the risk of forest fires.

What to do next

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