About education in British Columbia

British Columbia is one of the world’s most popular destinations for international students because of our world-renowned education and transfer system.

Photo: Thompson Rivers University

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BC’s education system is among the most respected in the world

It’s also home to a world-acclaimed transfer system, which means you can move easily from one qualification level to the next and from one post-secondary institution to another. This gives you the flexibility to choose the study path that best suits your educational goals.

Post-secondary international students can transfer between programs of study and institutions without applying for changes to their study permits. For more information about transferring between institutions in BC, visit the British Columbia Council on Admissions and Transfer (BCCAT).

Elementary and secondary schools

In BC, children between the ages of 5 and 18 attend Kindergarten to Grade 12 programs at either an elementary or secondary school. Parents can choose to enrol their child in either a public or independent school that offers these programs. There are approximately 360 independent schools and about 1,590 public schools.

Many schools provide support services for students whose first language is not English. There are both short- and long-term program options.

Post-secondary institutions

BC is the first province in Canada to provide students with a globally recognized seal of quality for post-secondary education, the Education Quality Assurance (EQA) designation.

When you choose an institution with the EQA designation, you can be assured that it has met or exceeded government quality assurance standards and offers consumer protection.


Teaching and research universities offer undergraduate and graduate degree programs at both the Masters and PhD levels. Some also offer diplomas and certificates in professional fields, as well as continuing education programs.

Colleges and institutes

Colleges provide courses and programs in trades, vocational, career technical, and academic studies leading to certificates, diplomas, associate degrees, and applied degrees. They also offer programs that prepare adult learners for post-secondary studies. Some college programs allow you to transfer into university programs to complete an undergraduate degree. Institutes are organized according to career, vocational, and technical specialties, covering a variety of occupations. They may offer credentials from certificates to degrees.

Degree granting private and non-BC public institutions

Private and out-of-province public institutions must be authorized by the government to deliver degree programs. This ensures you have access to a top-notch post-secondary system.

For a current list of institutions and programs that have received ministerial consent, visit the Degree Authorization website.

Private career and language training

Privately-operated career and language training institutions offer non-degree level programs in a variety of areas of study. In BC, private training institutions require a certificate under the Private Training Act if they provide, or offer to provide, at least one career-related program with 40 hours or more of instructional time, and tuition costing at least $4000.

The sector is regulated by the Private Training Institutions Branch (PTIB), which is responsible for:

  • Ensuring institutions meet the requirements and standards for certification; and,
  • Providing student protection and overseeing the Student Tuition Protection Fund.

PTIB also maintains a Private Training Institution Directory of all certified institutions and the programs they provide, along with formerly certified institutions.

Distance and online learning

You may also choose to earn your BC qualification without leaving home through online distance and supported open learning (also called distributed learning). This is a great option if you can’t afford to take time out of work for full-time study.