Canadian Education System

Canada is a federation of 10 provinces and three territories. Under the Canadian Constitution, provincial governments have exclusive responsibility for all levels of education. There is no ministry or department of education at the federal level. Canada’s three territories — Yukon, Northwest Territories, and Nunavut — do not have the same constitutional status as the provinces and are subject, in many areas, to more direct control by the federal government. With respect to education, however, the federal government has delegated this responsibility to the territorial governments, which, in turn, cooperate with the provinces to deliver postsecondary programs.

Canada’s post-secondary system consists of three types of institutions:

  • Universities
  • Colleges
  • Institutes
  • Polytechnics

Governments have processes to make sure these schools and the programs they offer meet their standards. Institutions that don’t go through government quality control are not officially recognized. Schools that are recognized can grant:

  • degrees
  • diplomas
  • certificates
  • other qualifications


Universities offer programs that lead to different types of degrees in many disciplines and subjects. There are three types of degrees:

  • bachelor’s degree: a basic degree given by Canadian universities that takes three to four years to complete.
  • master’s degree: a more advanced degree that usually takes one to three more years of study.
  • doctoral degree: the most advanced degree offered by Canadian universities. It generally requires three or more years of study and research following a master’s degree.

Colleges and institutes

There are many types of colleges and institutes. Some are formally recognized by governments. They are known as:

  • colleges
  • community colleges
  • colleges of applied arts or applied technology
  • institutes of technology or science
  • collèges d’enseignement général et professionnel in Quebec.

Other colleges and institutes are entirely private and are usually called career colleges.

Colleges and institutes usually offer one to three-year programs. They issue diplomas and certificates that qualify graduates to work in specific jobs within many different fields. A growing number of recognized colleges also offer bachelor’s degrees and, in some cases, master’s degrees. New Brunswick Community College and Nova Scotia Community College are publicly funded colleges.