Heading north: The experience of American students at Canadian universities

October 26, 2016
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A Road surrounded by trees

Canadian universities are increasingly seeking to internationalize their campuses and to offer their students opportunities to have international experiences that will help enhance their global skills.

In early 2016, Universities Canada, at the invitation of the U.S. Embassy to Canada, conducted a series of focus groups to identify push and pull factors that draw American students to Canadian universities, and the challenges they face in doing so.

Focus group findings:

American students describe their experience at Canadian universities in very positive terms with respect to the quality of academic offerings, campus life and preparation for their career of choice.

They choose Canada for these main reasons:

Undergraduate level:

  • Paying for relatively lower tuition fees at Canadian universities
  • Experiencing another culture while remaining relatively close to home.

Graduate level:

  • Studying a specific program, field of research or learning from a faculty member.

Major barriers include:

  • Uncertainty with respect to the immigration process
  • Paucity of funding they can access (scholarships and grants)
  • Logistical concerns related to daily life


American students enrolled at Canadian universities proposed that:

  • Canadian and American institutions, along with Canadian and American government bodies, do more to raise awareness about the quality and breadth of available academic programs in Canada, and promote opportunities to study in Canada south of the border.
  • Universities’ marketing efforts highlight the value-for-money, relative safety and diversity of cultural experiences that the Canadian postsecondary education system has to offer.
  • More funding be made available and accessible, especially at the graduate level, to American students.
  • Universities continue to make support services available to American students to facilitate their transition to Canada.

Tagged:  Global connections, Study abroad

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