Comparing international and domestic student fees in Canada

Asheesh Moosapeta
Published: December 12, 2023

Canada is home to hundreds of thousands of international students, with the country housing one of the biggest in-flows of student migration in the world.

International students in Canada can receive an internationally recognised standard of education, in an overwhelmingly immigrant friendly country. However, they can simultaneously face more barriers to entry, due to higher premiums they must pay in tuition for post-secondary Canadian education, versus their domestic peers.

Discover your options to study in Canada

This article will compare international vs. domestic student fees between different study programs at both the undergraduate and graduate level; and further try to understand how post-secondary education for international students in Canada compares with other countries.

Note that all fee information presented below is based on annual tuition fee figures from 2023-2024 and are averages of programs from both universities and colleges. Fees will vary depending on both Designated Learning Institutions (DLIs)—the only schools approved to accept international students in Canada—and program. Lastly, many programs in associated areas of study have been grouped together in this report, due to the relatedness of their content and comparable tuition pricing for their programs.

Programs are categorised based on Canada's Classification of Instructions Programs (CIP), 2016 version.

Overall fees

Among all programs, the average tuition fee for undergraduate Canadian/domestic students was $7,076 CAD, while international students at the same level of education paid an average of $38,081 CAD, a difference of 5.3X in tuition fees.

At the graduate level (across all programs), the average fee paid by domestic student was $7,573 CAD, while international students paid on average $22,061 CAD, yielding a difference of 2.9X between both averages. Read on for a program-by-program breakdown of tuition fees in Canada.

Architecture

These programs encompass programs that prepare students to apply mathematical and scientific principles to designing, developing, and evaluating materials, systems, and methods to equip buildings for human inhabitation, and other purposes.

At the undergraduate level, these programs cost domestic students $6,927 CAD, and international students $35,360 CAD, 4.4X the domestic amount. At the graduate level, programs in this faculty cost $6,886 CAD for domestic students, and $27,575 CAD for international students, a 4X difference.

Business Management and Public Administration

Business management contains various programs geared towards equipping individuals with the necessary skills to manage and control the operations and processes of an institution.

Public administration, on the other hand, includes any program that prepares individuals to function as managers in the executive branch of government. It concentrates on a systematic investigation of executive structure and administration.

At the undergraduate level these degrees cost $7,571 CAD for domestic students, and $36,631 CAD for international students (or a 4.8X difference). At the graduate level, the difference lessens, costing $14,293 CAD for domestic students, and $27,239 CAD for international students—1.9X more.

Education

Education programs encompass those that focus on theory and practice of learning and teaching—as well as related research, administrative, and support services.

At the undergraduate level, degrees in education cost $5,358 CAD for Canadian students, and $26,166 CAD for international students, meaning that international students pay 4.8X the domestic student fees for these programs. At the graduate level, degrees in education cost $6,957 CAD for domestic students, and $19,533 CAD for international students, with a fee difference of 2.8X.

Engineering

Degrees in engineering encompass programs that prepare students to apply mathematical and scientific principles to solve practical problems. These include programs in aerospace, architecture, manufacturing, and much more.

At the undergraduate level, domestic students paid $8,879 CAD while international students paid $43,606 CAD (or 4.9X). At the post-graduate level, domestic students paid $7,696 CAD, while international students paid $25,137 CAD, 3.2X the domestic amount.

Keep in mind this is one of the biggest education categories, with a wide range of programs and tuition fees. To get a better idea of what programs are encompassed within “engineering”, visit Statistics Canada’s directory here.

Executive and Regular MBAs

An MBA (Masters of Business Administration) is a common post-graduate degree for many seeking to work in a business-related field, as a manager or even founder. These degrees are often pre-requisites to higher positions in a company’s management chain.

MBAs can be executive (where the student retains their full-time job, usually attending school for part-time hours, often at night), or regular, which conforms more closely to a full-time student program.

Humanities

This area of instructional program involves an emphasis on languages, literature, philosophy, music, art, and religion, distinct from social and physical sciences.

At the undergraduate level, degrees in the humanities cost $6,080 CAD for domestic students, and $37,730 CAD for international students; resulting in a difference of 6.2X. At the graduate level, these degrees cost $4,678 CAD for domestic students and $14,217 CAD for international students (3X difference).

Law

Distinct from legal studies, degrees in law are concerned with training individuals for professional practice in common or civil law, for example: qualifying as a notary in Quebec, taking bar exams, and/or conducting in-depth jurisprudence research.

At the undergraduate level, these degrees cost $13,621 CAD for domestic students, and $45,938 CAD for international students, a 3.3X difference in fees. At the graduate level, these degrees cost $6,227 CAD for domestic students, and $20,046 CAD for international students, resulting in a smaller 3.2X difference.

Executive MBAs cost $45,596 CAD for domestic students, and $68,224 CAD for international students, a 1.5X difference. Regular MBAs on the other hand, cost $31,028 CAD for domestic students, and $43,755 CAD for international students.

Mathematics, Computer, and Information Sciences

Mathematics encompasses programs including algebra, geometry, applied math, statistics, and more. Computer science includes programs on computer theory, designing computer systems, and user interfaces. Information sciences, include programs in information classification, storage, processing, and more.

At the undergraduate level, degrees in these programs cost $7,278 CAD for domestic students, and $41,163 CAD for international students, creating a difference of 5.6X. At the post-graduate level, domestic students paid $9,169CAD, while international students paid $21,163 CAD (2.3X).

Medicine

This program class is designed to educate individuals to become independent medical practitioners, equipping them with skills for preventing, diagnosing, and treating a variety of human diseases, injuries, and other health conditions.

At the undergraduate level ,these degrees cost domestic students $15,558 CAD, and international students $69,426 CAD, resulting in a difference of 4.4X. Data was not available for programs in medicine at the graduate level.

Nursing

These programs cover a variety of educational programs related to theory and practice of nursing. This encompasses multiple specialties, including nursing administration, nursing science, forensic nursing, and critical care.

At the undergraduate level, these programs cost domestic students $6,182 CAD, and international students $27,747 CAD, a 4.4X difference. At the graduate level, these programs cost domestic students $6,973 CAD and international students $18,910 CAD, resulting in a 2.7X difference.

Physical and Life Sciences and Technologies

Physical sciences involve the study of physical phenomena, from large structures to the smallest atoms, and the ways that these things interact. Life sciences, on the other hand, focus specifically on organic and biological phenomena, covering everything from ecology and research to biomedical sciences. Technologies studies involve the instruction and research of the physical tools used within scientific study.

At the undergraduate level, these degrees $6,167 CAD for domestic students, and $39,501 CAD for international students, a 6.4X difference. At the graduate level, tuition costs $7,052 CAD for domestic students, and $18,025 CAD for international students (or 2.5X more).

Social and Behavioural Sciences, and Legal Studies

Social and behavioural sciences is a class of educational programs that centres on the methodical examination and analysis of social structures, societal establishments, and patterns of social behaviour.

Legal studies, on the other hand, are focused on educational programs designed to train individuals for the legal field, related support professions, and professional legal research. It also concentrates on studying legal matters in non-professional programs. Note, for the purposes of this study, that legal studies are kept separate from the study and practice of law (discussed earlier in this article).

At the undergraduate level, these degrees cost $6,040 CAD for domestic students, and $36,480 CAD for international students—yielding a difference of 6X. At the graduate level, the gap lessens, with tuition costing $6,277 CAD for domestic students, and $18,026 CAD for international students (or a 2.8X difference).

Visual and Preforming Arts and Communication Technologies

Visual and performing arts degrees focus on the creation and interpretation of works and performances that use auditory, kinetic, and visual phenomena to express ideas and emotions in various ways.

Meanwhile programs in Communication Technologies study how messages in different media and produced, used, and interpreted within and across different contexts, channels, and cultures.

At the undergraduate level, these degrees cost $6,312 CAD for domestic students, and $31,475 CAD for international students, resulting in a 4.9X tuition difference. At the graduate level, these costs declined slightly to $5,783 CAD for domestic students, and $17,837 CAD for international students—or 3X more than the domestic rate.

So, is it still worth studying in Canada as an international student?

While higher tuition fees can be discouraging for international students coming to Canada, it is important to keep them in context. For example, while tuition fees are higher for international students in Canada, they are still (on average) much lower than tuition fees in comparable international student destinations like the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia.

In addition, Canada’s favourable exchange rate compared to the currencies of other popular international student destinations is another cost-saving advantage, especially when converting foreign currency (as most international students will have to do).

Finally, Canada is among the most international student friendly destinations in terms of post-graduation work and immigration opportunities. While many other countries may impose barriers to immigration, and even with obtaining a work permit—Canada has instead instituted a specific post-graduation work permit (PGWP) for international graduates while continuously increasing the number of immigrants it welcomes yearly—even providing international graduates a specialised path to become Canadian permanent residents.

Discover your options to study in Canada

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