Where should I study? BC vs. ON Education System

Empty lecture hall

Despite being part of the same country, Ontario and British Columbia (BC) operate their post-secondary education systems very differently. The reason for these differences is mainly because of their governments. Therefore, they each have different legislation that determines how their education is to be run and delivered.

Structural differences

One of the differences is the types of post-secondary institutions that each province can offer. For one, BC has five main types:

  • Public institutions
  • Private and out-of-province 
  • Public degree-granting
  • Private training
  • Theological
  • Aboriginal-controlled institutions

BC takes another step further and provides another way to categorize these schools:

  • Research-intensive such as UBC, SFU, or UVic
  • Teaching-intensive such as Capilano University
  • Colleges such as Okanagan College
  • Institutes such as BCIT

While Ontario has its fair share of public and private institutions, it doesn’t have any aboriginal controlled institutions nor does it share a post-secondary structure with BC. What Ontario does have that BC doesn’t are French post-secondary establishments like Collège Boréal and private career colleges (PCC). It also happens that the only post-secondary school that offers theology studies is completely in French.

It’s also important to make note that PCCs have a very similar purpose to BC’s institutes and teaching intensive schools. They both offer certificate and diploma programs that are designed to prepare their students for the workforce as soon as they graduate. A college in BC is different from a college in Ontario. Colleges in BC can offer Bachelor’s degrees to their students or can act as a transition period between high school and university. 

UBC's skyline at sunset

School applications

The way you apply for post-secondary also works differently. For Ontarian universities, students have to directly apply through Ontario Universities’ Application Centre (OUAC). It has a base fee of $135 for international students and an additional $35 for any school. Applying for colleges also requires another service called the Ontario College Application Service (OCAS). This includes applications to PCCs. 

British Columbia’s universities function independently when it comes to their university applications. They set their own requirements and fees, unlike Ontario where the schools collectively have the same requirements. You’ll also have to check each school’s website to see those admission requirements. For BC, you can apply to each school individually or you can use BC’s education planner (BCEP) and apply through there. 

Transferring credit

As for transferring credits, you might have an easier time understanding how it works in British Columbia. This is because one of BC’s education features is its integrated system. That’s not to say that transferring is a breeze in BC, but BCEP allows transferring and planning to go more smoothly. On the other hand, Ontario does not possess this kind of resource, but it doesn’t mean that it’s impossible to do any transferring either. 

Toronto's skyline at sunset

Which one is better?

All in all, it’s also important to look deeper into individual schools when it comes to your education. The University of British Columbia will certainly operate differently than The University of Toronto. However, these are just the general differences between how the education systems run, but things like culture and standard of living also need to be taken into consideration. Even Western University will provide a different experience than UofT. 

It all depends on what you’re looking for. Both provinces offer many of the same programs at least at the Bachelor’s level. If you’re looking for faith-based education, you might lean more towards going to school in BC. If you’re looking for education that is immersed in French, then you might lean towards going to school in Ontario. 

Ultimately, any job or career in Canada and some international jobs will recognize a Canadian degree with relevant job experience. The wonderful thing about Canadian education is that you get to shape your own experience. You get to decide which one is better for you.

Don’t forget to check out our School Search Feature to find schools in BC, Ontario, and other provinces in Canada.

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