Canadian universities to return to in-person classes this fall

Shelby Thevenot
Published: March 14, 2021

With promises that Canadians will be vaccinated by the end of September this year, post-secondary institutions are more confident that it will be safe to return to in-person classes for the fall semester.

The return to in-person learning activities depends partially on the public health authority, as well as each institution's administration. At this point, those universities that have officially announced fall returns have also said they will monitor the threat of coronavirus, and act accordingly to keep students and staff safe.

Under the current travel restrictions, international students are allowed to come to Canada as long as they are going to an institution with a COVID-19 readiness plan. Canada's travel restrictions are expected to be updated for U.S. residents later this month, and in mid April for the rest of the world.

A November 2020 Statistics Canada report shows that roughly two-thirds of new international student enrolments at Canadian post-secondaries in the 2018-19 school year were at universities. Here is a look at some of the Canadian universities that have plans to welcome students back to campus, and some that plan to make their official announcements soon

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British Columbia

On March 8, B.C.'s health minister advised post-secondaries in the province to prepare for a full return to on-campus activities. Following this announcement, many B.C. universities announced plans to return to in-person classes, but keeping student and staff health and safety at the forefront of their planning.

University of British Columbia confirmed that they are planning to return to in-person classes and increased in-person research in the fall. The UBC is also working to accommodate quarantine arrangements for international students, if it is required, and options for on-site immunization.

The University of Victoria is also planning for a full return to in-person classes in September. The following institutions also expressed plans to allow in-person classes: Vancouver Island University,  Thompson Rivers UniversitySimon Fraser University, the University of Northern British Columbia, Capilano University  and Trinity Western University.


The University of Alberta plans to welcome more students and staff back to campus this fall, relying on a blended model of in-person and remote learning.

A spokesperson from the University of Calgary told CIC News: "The University of Calgary has not made a decision on the delivery method (face-to face or online) for classes in the Fall 2021 semester. This decision will be made in April 2021 and will then be communicated to students and the campus community."

The University of Lethbridge is planning for a "significant return to campus" this fall, but says it is likely some health directives pertaining to the use of masks and physical distancing will remain in place.


The University of Saskatchewan is planning to bring back some level of in-person instruction this fall. The university's president, Peter Stoicheff, said that due to the uncertainties around the vaccine roll-out it is too early to say what will be offered on campus. However he expects a full return to in-person classes for the winter 2022 semester.


The University of Brandon has not released any details on returning to in-person instruction. The university's registrar, Andrea McDaniel, said in a media release, “Our intention is to announce a course of action for Fall 2021 that we can commit to, without needing to backtrack or pivot midway through the term.”

The University of Manitoba is planning to allow classes with a maximum of 20 students to return to in-person instruction. Lab classes will be limited to no more than 25 students. Larger classes will continue to operate remotely.


The University of Toronto is aiming to allow in-person instruction and supports for students in the fall. Faculty, staff, and librarians are expected to return to campus. Students can do research on campus, with certain safety measures.

Brock University is planning to offer as many courses on campus as possible, including labs and other experiential learning, graduate seminars and undergraduate classes, according to a media release.

The University of Ottawa expects to provide a full on-campus experience, offering more courses in person or in "hybrid formats.” The university will equip classrooms with technology that will allow for simultaneous in-person and video conferencing teaching, CBC reports.

Western University is planning to return to face-to-face instruction, and offer more on-campus activities.

The University of Windsor is also planning a measured return to face-to-face programming and on-campus activities in fall 2021.


Quebec has previously announced that universities and CEGEPs could gradually return to in-person instruction one day a week. Physical distancing measures must be respected both in and out of class, and that students and staff must wear government-issued face masks at all times.

McGill University is expecting to return to in-person classes in September. Some courses will continue to incorporate online teaching, but the university says students and staff should prepare to return to "more regular rhythms" of on-campus activity.

Concordia University is planning for an announcement about the fall term in May, but is considering offering a mix of in-person and online classes, Global reports.

New Brunswick

St. Thomas University is planning to offer both online and in-person classes for fall 2021. The university will make a final announcement between May and June.

Nova Scotia

Acadia University is expecting a full return to campus this fall. Staff and students are asked to begin preparing for in-person learning. Some courses may start the term in a virtual or hybrid format and will move to fully in-person classes later in the term.

Dalhousie University expects that class-size restriction may keep larger lecture classes online. In a media release, the university says it "hopes" to offer in-person learning activities of less than 100 people, such as tutorials, labs, and small-to-medium-sized classes.

Prince Edward Island

The University of Prince Edward Island is expected to return to a “more normal” teaching and learning environment this fall, CBC reports.

Newfoundland and Labrador

Memorial University is already resuming in-person research work, after reversing its decision to fully return to in-person work this past February. A spokesperson told CIC News that the university expects to make an announcement soon on whether or not it will return to in-person classes this fall.

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