The 10 Best Colleges in British Columbia

British Columbia is home to some of Canada’s best universities.

British Columbia was the first province in Canada to provide students with a globally recognized metric for academic excellence in higher education via its Education Quality Assurance designation

If the province of British Columbia has assigned this designation to an institution, students can be assured that it provides the highest quality of instruction a student can find anywhere in the world. 

This designation is no accident—British Columbia has an incredibly impressive array of educational affordances under its belt, which draws roughly 500,000 students to study in the province each year.

One such affordance of higher education in the region is its world-renowned transfer system, whereby students can transfer from one post-secondary institution to the next with relatively little extra paperwork or applications required on the part of the transferring student. 

This transfer system is one of the world’s most robust and enables both domestic and international students to transfer between institutions with ease.

When one considers the unique structure of British Columbia’s higher education and the conscious effort the province makes to provide the highest quality of education possible to students studying in the region, it’s no wonder one might consider studying in British Columbia.

This article breaks down the province’s best colleges and information that might aid students in deciding which of these institutions is best for them. 

Whether one wants to spend each year in college at one of these universities or take advantage of the one-of-a-kind transfer system in British Columbia to experience the breadth of educational institutions in the region, this article will highlight what the best universities in the area have to offer. 

Here are 10 of the best colleges in British Columbia.

Simon Fraser University (Burnaby, BC)

Simon Fraser University
JeanFrankso, Simon Fraser University, CC BY-SA 4.0

The first university on the list ranked first in Maclean’s Comprehensive University ranking. 

Universities in this ranking are judged by Maclean’s to have a wide range of faculty and student interests and a diversity of pathways of study, demonstrating Simon Fraser’s ability to provide excellent education to a wide range of students regardless of the student’s specific program. 

For those interested in conducting research, Simon Fraser has the highest degree of impact for its research publications, and the highest success rate per faculty member for successful attainment of research funding, of any university in Canada. 

As such, research-oriented students can be assured that they’ll be working with the nation’s best while at Simon Fraser. 

Located near the foot of the Burnaby Mountain, Simon Fraser was also the first Canadian university to join the NCAA, making it an ideal location for those hoping to experience a wonderful college athletics experience.

University of British Columbia (Vancouver, BC)

University of British Columbia
Public domain photo by Daderot via Wikimedia Commons

The University of British Columbia has an incredibly accomplished history. With 8 Nobel Laureates, 74 Rhodes scholars, 65 medal-winning Olympians, and 3 Canadian Prime ministers, the University of British Columbia has earned its reputation for excellence. 

UBC ranked as the 42nd top university in the world, and the 2nd university in Canada, in the Shanghai Ranking of universities across the globe. 

For students interested in studying sustainability, The Centre for Interactive Research on Sustainability is considered the most sustainable building in North America, and a model for sustainable planning across the world. 

Furthermore, in all areas of research, the University of British Columbia boasts the 2nd largest research income of any university in Canada, which funds its dozens of research centers. 

One such institute was North America’s first Max Planck Institute, a consortium of institutes that specialize in the study of quantum physics.

Thompson Rivers University (Kamloops, BC)

Thompson Rivers University
Acmacaulay, Thompson Rivers University Brown Family House of Learning, CC BY-SA 4.0

Located at the convergence of two rivers, the North Thompson River and the South Thompson River, Thompson River University arose through the combination of the former Cariboo College and the BC Open University. 

Due to its previous status as British Columbia’s open university, Thompson Rivers has maintained its tradition of open learning, which seeks to make educational opportunities accessible to any student in the region wishing to study there. 

In maintaining its Open Learning tradition, Thompson Rivers assures all students have the chance to take courses online or in a variety of class structures to assure the needs of any student hoping to enroll in the college are met.

With a “university village” design, in which the campus operates as a close-knit community of students reminiscent of a village, students can be assured that a sense of belonging and accessibility is a top priority of Thompson Rivers University.

Capilano University (North Vancouver, BC)

Capilano University was the first in Canada to receive accreditation from the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities, an organization based in Washington, USA, meaning that degrees from this institution are recognized by the United States Department of Education, as well as Canada’s.

Capilano designs its coursework under the BC Skills for Jobs Blueprint, meaning that students with an education from Capilano meet the highest standards or career readiness. 

As a consequence, graduates from Capilano are highly sought out by employers, with graduated students experiencing a 96% post-graduation placement rate. 

This focus on career readiness does not only apply to STEM and vocational coursework, but to the arts as well, exemplified by their robust student media which features the literary magazines, student news, and a new project launched in 2020 dedicated to storytelling across disciplines, Capsule

All of these represent invaluable opportunities for creatives to gain career-preparatory experience.

Emily Carr University of Art and Design (Vancouver, BC)

Emily Carr University of Art and Design is British Columbia’s only school focusing on professional education in the arts, media, and design. 

Named after renowned Canadian artist and writer, Emily Carr, the school provides degrees in fields related to communications, design, media, and the arts. 

Due to Emily Carr’s focus on sustainable design, artists and creatives with a focus on environmental issues will find a home on this campus, as Emily Carr University was the founding member of the Partnership for Academic Leadership on Sustainability and they are home to the first Design for Social Innovation and Sustainability Lab in Canada. 

With famous artists such as Stan Douglas and author Douglas Copeland graduating from Emily Carr, this institution has a long tradition of training some of the best artistically-minded students in the nation.

Royal Roads University (Colwood, BC)

Royal Roads University
Worldneedpeace, Royal Roads University, CC BY 3.0

Alongside providing excellent education to full-time, pre-career undergraduate students, Royal Roads university puts a concerted effort into providing fantastic education for learners at any stage in their life

Courses at Royal Roads follow a cohort model, where a group of students on a particular path of study have the opportunity to combine periodic on-campus, residential, face-to-face intensive courses with online courses at other times in the academic year. 

This schedule design is crafted to support working professionals so that they can maintain full-time employment while pursuing their studies.

That being said, there are still plenty of opportunities for students hoping to experience a more traditional course schedule, as well. With three modes of study, on-site, blended, and online, Royal Roads accommodates a wide range of learners. 

Royal Roads has particularly strong graduate-level coursework, as a large portion of their student base are career professionals.

British Columbia Institute of Technology (Burnaby, BC)

The British Columbia Institute of Technology is a vocational and technical school that offers its students a variety of apprenticeships and vocational education in subjects ranging from the skilled trades, to law, to medicine. 

Its Civil Engineering and Electrical Engineering programs are standouts in the country, as BCIT was the first non-university school to be awarded accreditation for its excellent engineering degrees. 

All education at BCIT is organized around its hands-on learning philosophy, which in turn has led BCIT to build world-renowned centers where students can gain hands-on experience in their field, such as a 300,000 square foot Aerospace Technology Campus or Western Canada’s only Prosthetics and Orthotics training program. 

With 5 separate campuses, and its main campus located in Burnaby, students work with industry experts throughout their time at BCIT, in part resulting in an incredibly impressive 98% placement rate for graduates of the institute. 

University of Victoria (Victoria, BC)

University of Victoria
Tloren5, UVic Clearihue Building, CC BY-SA 4.0

This university tied with Simon Fraser for Maclean’s first place spot in their ranking of Comprehensive Universities in Canada.

Using its proximity to the ocean, the University of Victoria is home to some of the world’s best facilities for oceanic studies. Some of these facilities include sea-floor ocean observatories at Ocean Network Canada and the Canadian Center for Climate Modelling and Analysis.

The University of Victoria has a world-renowned library system. In particular, for the past 10 years, the University of Victoria’s libraries has operated The Transgender Archives, an initiative dedicated to recording the history of those who have made significant contributions to advancing human rights for trans, non-binary, and two-spirit people.

When one arrives at the UVictoria, they’ll find a close-knit campus community filled with old-standing traditions, such as the myth of the Cadborosaurus living in the nearby ocean or the tradition of building Finnerty Gardens across campus.

University of the Fraser Valley (Multiple Locations – British Columbia)

The University of the Fraser Valley has it all, earning the most A-grade rankings of any university in The Globe and Mail Canadian University report, which measures metrics of university quality such as quality of education and student-faculty interaction. 

With campuses in Abbotsford, Chilliwack, Mission and Hope, British Columbia, and a campus in Chandigarh, India, The University of the Fraser Valley has particularly excellent Computing Science, Agricultural Science, and Indigenous Studies departments.

Hugh Brody, world renowned anthropologist, filmmaker, writer, and researcher, is the Canada Research Chair in Aboriginal Studies, and Trevor Carolan, the author of over 20 books, is a professor of English at the University of the Fraser Valley.

Kwantlen Polytechnic University (Multiple Locations – British Columbia)

Kwantlen Polytechnic University
Ddryden87, Kwantlen Polytechnic University, Surrey Campus, Main building (exterior), CC BY-SA 3.0

With campuses in Surrey, Richmond, Cloverdale, Whalley, and Langley, the Kwantlen Polytechnic University is one of the largest universities by enrollment in all of Canada, and truly one of Canada’s best.

Focusing on methods of instruction that involve experiential learning, Kwantlen Polytechnic offers over 170 degree-conferring programs, with almost all of these programs offering students the chance to experience Kwantlen’s distinctive cooperative learning approach. 

Through its co-ops, students at Kwantlen alternate between semesters spent in rigorous, experiential academic study and others spent in placement with program-relevant employment opportunities. As such, Kwantlen assures that when students leave its campus, they leave as career-ready as possible.

Kwantlen scored higher than any other school on this list in Maclean’s National Survey of Student Engagement in the areas of higher-order learning, quantitative reasoning, collaborative learning, and was only behind Thompson Rivers in Student-Faculty interaction, and Fraser Valley for senior-year student satisfaction.