8 Top-Ranked Canadian Universities for International Students

Two university campus buildings frame a photo of university students studying. Illustrations of a Canadian flag, a red microscope, and a networked laptop accent the three photos.

As 2023 draws to a close, we’re highlighting some Canadian universities recognized for their achievements by two prestigious lists: Times Higher Education’s (THE) World University Rankings 2024 and the 2024 Maclean’s University Rankings. This list features universities located across the country, and each one is renowned for different things. If you’re a future international student considering Canada, these eight top-ranked Canadian universities are excellent options.

ApplyBoard can help you find the best Canadian university program for you, organize your documents, and prepare you to arrive in Canada, all on one platform. 

Flag of Canada.

The Classics

When talking about top-ranked Canadian universities, the University of British Columbia (UBC), the University of Toronto (U of T), or McGill University often come up. These universities placed in the world’s top 50 on the 2024 THE list, with the U of T at 21, UBC at 41, and McGill at 49. They were also the top three universities on the Canada’s Best Medical Doctoral Universities list by Maclean’s; McGill took the top spot, followed by U of T, then UBC. It’s inspiring to see these institutions continue to excel.

Below, however, we’re looking at eight top-ranked Canadian universities that international students might be less familiar with. We’ve listed them in the order they appear on the 2024 Times Higher Education rankings. Read on to learn more. 

Want to learn more about McGill, U of T, or UBC? Check out our list of the top Canadian universities for international students.

Short on time? Click on the links below to jump ahead.


A red brick building at the back of a lush green lawn, framed by leafy green trees (Edwards Hall, McMaster University)

Image Credit: jockrutherford from Owen Sound, ON, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

McMaster University

Ranked at 103 in THE’s 2024 global list, McMaster University is also consistently noted among Canada’s top research-intensive universities. Its main campus is in Hamilton, Ontario. McMaster’s medical school is highly respected; as their Maclean’s profile notes, “universities around the world, including Harvard, continue to use [McMaster] as a model.” 

Additionally, McMaster ranked fourth in Maclean’s 2024 Best Medical Doctoral Universities list. Its nursing program was fifth on Maclean’s 2024 Best Nursing Programs list. McMaster also offers well-respected engineering programs, ranking seventh in Canada in Maclean’s 2024 Best Engineering Programs list.

Students from over 90 countries study at McMaster in a student body of almost 35,000. Plus, international first-year undergraduate students are guaranteed on-campus residence, which can help you settle in and build your peer network.

Study health science in Canada to prepare for a career in a rewarding and in-demand field.

A tall, modern concrete building on the University of Alberta campus

Image Credit: WinterE229 WinterforceMedia, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

University of Alberta

The University of Alberta (U of A) is tied at 109 in 2024’s THE rankings. International students will excel in undergraduate classes taught by more 3M National Teaching Fellowship Award-winning professors than you’ll find at any other Canadian university. 

To help you settle in, all international students entering their first year at the U of A during the fall term qualify for guaranteed student housing.

As part of Canada’s U15 Group, students at the U of A’s campuses across Edmonton, Alberta have access to research opportunities in programs that rank among the best across Canada, and sometimes, the world. 

Top-ranked programs include nursing (#1 in Canada, #5 globally), petroleum engineering (#1 in Canada, #5 globally), instrument science and technology (#1 in Canada), chemical engineering (#1 in Canada), chemistry (#1 in Canada), and agricultural science (#2 in Canada). The U of A’s education programs also rank highly, reaching #3 in Canada in this year’s Maclean’s Best Education Programs list.

Take a look at our blog to see how university rankings work, and how you can use them to prepare to study abroad. 

A photo of the University of Montreal.

Image Courtesy: Universite de Montreal

Université de Montréal

The Université de Montréal (UdeM) is one of the world’s most respected French-language universities with main campuses in Montréal, Québec. UdeM is at 111 (tied with Germany’s University of Göttingen) on THE’s 2024 rankings, and 10th in Canada on Maclean’s Best Medical Doctoral Universities list. 

In addition to excellent medical programs, UdeM is Canada’s fourth-largest research university and is known for its collaborative, cutting-edge artificial intelligence work through the Mila laboratory.

Not fluent in French yet? Take a four-month, online language learning program for non-French-speaking students. It will help you reach the communication level needed for most UdeM programs.

Montreal is often called Canada’s cultural capital. Learn about what being a student is like in Montreal.

A landscape view of modern university buildings (lots of steel and glass) on the University of Waterloo campus

Image Credit: Victor Vucicevich, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

University of Waterloo

This year, the University of Waterloo (UW) climbed up at least 42 spots on the 2024 THE list. It rose from the 201–250 cohort to sit at 158th in the world. UW may be best known for its comprehensive co-op opportunities, where students gain paid work experience and a first-class education through alternating in-class and co-op terms. 

While co-ops started in UW’s top-ranked engineering programs (tied for #2 in Canada), co-ops are now a part of over 120 programs at UW. This evolution has made it North America’s largest post-secondary co-op program. Mixing theory and practice is effective; a 2022 survey found that six months after graduation, 96% of new UW co-op grads found work related to their studies, higher than the 79% Ontario-wide average.

Plus, if you want to start your own business or are working on research, UW’s intellectual property (IP) policy is an advantage. If you create something on campus, the idea is still all yours. (In short, all IP is owned by its inventor.)

A three-storey university building with a columnaded entry sits on a green lawn framed by trees. A more modern university building on the UOttawa campus rises behind it.

Image Credit: RobCA, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

University of Ottawa

As a bilingual institution in Canada’s capital city, the University of Ottawa (uOttawa) offers international students a classic Canadian experience at a top-ranked Canadian university. Students may take classes in English, French, or both languages on campuses that welcome students from over 150 countries.

At 177 on the 2024 THE World University Rankings, and 5th on Maclean’s Canada’s Best Medical Doctoral Universities list, uOttawa offers students excellent academic opportunities. Some of its top-ranked programs include:

  • Public, Environmental, and Occupational Health 
  • Cardiac Systems
  • Radiology 
  • Social Sciences 
  • Optics 

Plus, student support services, including international mentorship, on-campus primary care and walk-in clinics, and academic guidance help ensure you’re at your best, both in and out of class.

A modern glass-fronted university building rises up out of a group of leafy trees. (University of Calgary)

Image Credit: Jgcab, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

University of Calgary

The University of Calgary (UCalgary), in Calgary, Alberta is ranked in the 201–250 cohort in the 2024 World University Rankings, and tied for 7th in Canada on Maclean’s Medical Doctoral Universities list. With a 94% graduate employment rate, and as the top startup creator amongst Canadian research institutions, UCalgary students are set up for success. 

Plus, as Canada’s youngest (by median age), and third most-diverse city, Calgary is an outdoorsy, multicultural environment. It was also ranked the world’s seventh-most livable city this year! 

To help new students settle in, UCalgary campus housing offers a First-Year Guarantee, where all students applying directly after high school graduation who are 21 years old or younger are guaranteed a place in residence

Some of UCalgary’s programs rank in the top 50 worldwide. These include: 

  • Anatomy and Physiology 
  • Petroleum Engineering 
  • Hospitality and Leisure Management (#1 in Canada) 
  • Nursing 
  • Sports-related Subjects 
  • Veterinary Science 

UCalgary’s archaeology, education, and medical programs also rank amongst the world’s top 100.

Drawn to a fast-paced, global career that needs strong interpersonal skills? Learn if studying hospitality might be right for you.

Aerial photo of Western University campus

Image courtesy of Western University

Western University

Western University, in London, Ontario, ranks in the top 250 in the 2024 World University Rankings. Its students have also ranked Western #1 for student living quality for the last seven years in Maclean’s University Rankings. So, if you’re thinking of living on campus, Western offers a number of great options. Western also guarantees residence to single, first-year international students coming from high school.

Business and medical programs are some of Western’s most popular options, whether the highly-respected Economics and Business programs (ranked fourth in Canada’s Best Business Programs 2024), or Gastroenterology and Hepatology. The Energy and Fuels program also ranks in the world’s top 75. Other students excel in programs like Library and Information Management, Sports-related Subjects, Nursing, and Mineral and Mining Engineering.

Take a closer look at life at Western University in our Partner School Spotlight!

Photograph of Gordon Hall, Queen's University

Image Courtesy: Queen’s University

Queen’s University

Rounding out our list is Queen’s University, which placed ninth in Maclean’s Canada’s Best Medical Doctoral Universities list, and in THE’s top 300 for 2024. 

Queen’s attracts students from over 100 countries to study at its Kingston, Ontario campus. In fact, more than 90% of Queen’s students come from outside Kingston, whether from across Canada or around the world. This meeting of cultures and perspectives is part of what makes Kingston one of the world’s best university towns.

Entering undergrad studies? First-year students may be “undeclared,” which means you can try classes from across Queen’s faculties before deciding where to specialize. There are many great options; the university’s nursing, education, computer science, and business programs all ranked in Canada’s top 10 in the Maclean’s 2024 Program Rankings. 

Considering postgraduate studies? As a member of Canada’s U15 Group of research-intensive universities, Queen’s offers a leading-edge research environment.

Learn more about Queen’s University’s study programs and scholarships for international students. 


Two international students studying abroad.

From coast to coast, Canada’s universities have a lot to offer future international students. We hope this list has helped you narrow down which top-ranked Canadian universities could be a match for your academic goals!

Ready to search for study programs? ApplyBoard can help you find the best options, organize your application, and get you ready to land, all on one platform.


The most important stories in international education, backed by data