Here Are the 10 Best Colleges in Ontario

Ontario – Canada’s second-largest province – borders several of the great lakes and serves as the home to some of Canada’s most distinguished institutions of higher learning. 

Most Ontarians live in the western “Golden Horseshoe” area – one of the most rapidly growing regions in North America that edges alongside Lake Ontario and includes cities like Toronto and Hamilton. 

On the eastern side, Ottawa and Kingston are the major urban centers. All cities mentioned house some of the best Canadian universities. 

The following list of the 10 best colleges in Ontario is based on where each school places on the US News ranking of Global Universities

Whether coming from within Ontario, another Canadian province, or international cities and countries, students who attend colleges in Ontario can expect to gain access to state-of-the-art research facilities, diverse socio-cultural landscapes, thriving metropolitan amenities, and world-renowned faculty.

10. Ryerson University (Toronto, ON)

Ryerson University
SimonP, Ryerson Centre for Computing and Engineering, CC BY-SA 3.0

Seamlessly entwined with the Toronto city, few boundaries demarcate the publicly-funded Ryerson University campus from the urban center. 

Originally named after Egerton Ryerson, a major contributor to the current Canadian public school system design, Ryerson will soon adopt a new name in the year 2022.

Ryerson is home to various remarkable faculty members and guest lecturers, including former Canadian Secretary of State David Crombie and eminent academic/historian Margaret MacMillan.

One of the most attractive features of the school is its Digital Media Zone – known as the DMZ – a university-managed business incubator for initial-phase tech startups. The institution helps connect innovators with researchers, investors, and mentors. 

As of 2019, the DMZ has facilitated 400 startups and, since 2010, raised over $625 million. 

In 2018, UBI Global named the DMZ the world’s best university-based business incubator. Entrepreneurial-minded students will find a thriving and supportive environment at Ryerson.

9. University of Guelph (Guelph, ON)

University of Guelph
Hgadgil91, University of Guelph Engineering building, CC BY-SA 4.0

More and more students are flocking to the University of Guelph – in fact, applications increased by 22% in the 2021-2022 academic year. 

This increase is not surprising, as The University of Guelph is featured at the top of numerous college rankings lists. 

According to the 2021 Maclean’s Canadian Comprehensive Rankings, Guelph is one of the best. 

Past Maclean’s surveys have named them #1 for Best University Food in Canada, #1 in Residence in Living, #1 in Total Research Dollars, #1 for Veterinary Sciences, and #1 for Food Science and Technology.

Guelph is a pioneer in many realms – the Canadian federal government recently granted them $76.6 million to commence a digital food and agriculture revolution. 

Current and recent research studies include the anticipation of Bitcoin’s progress, treatment of pet maladies with cannabis, and analysis of carnivorous plants. The school is also behind the creation of the Yukon gold potato!

The facilities at Guelph are top-notch. Their Summerlee Science Complex is North America’s largest integrated teaching and research facility; they recently expanded the School of Engineering to host more laboratory and shop space, design studios, and a rooftop sustainability research area.

Other than being situated in one of the top 10 places to live in Canada, students may also be attracted to Guelph due to the 1000+ experiential learning and work-based opportunities that all students receive. 

Through the mandatory, one-semester COOP 1100 course, students gain experience in job searching and employability skills. 

Students can expect to work for 3-5 terms throughout their degree program, and the experience certainly pays off – all positions are full-time, paid opportunities.

8. Carleton University (Ottawa, ON)

Carleton University
Groundhog007, Carleton University’s Richcraft Hall, CC BY-SA 4.0

Situated along the Rideau Canal and in close proximity to downtown Ottawa, Carleton University was originally founded in 1942 to meet the needs of veterans returning home from World War II. 

Fun fact: all buildings are linked by 5 km of underground tunnels!

Currently, its reputation is founded upon its expertise in journalism, architecture, and international and public affairs. 

In the last few years, Charleston has opened several new facilities, including the Advanced Research and Innovation in Smart Environments building, the Book Arts Lab in MacOdrum Library, and the Dominion-Chalmers Center, a renovated performing arts and community space.

Basketball enthusiasts will find themselves at home at Carleton, where the Ravens mens’ basketball team has recently claimed 14 of the last 16 national championships. 

Other school champions include a number of prime ministers, mayors, government leaders, and Peter Grunberg, winner of the 2007 Nobel Prize in physics.

Carleton’s Strategic Plan was approved by the Carleton Senate and Board of Governors in the spring of 2020 — the plan prioritizes sharing knowledge and shaping the future, serving Ottawa and the world, and striving for wellness and sustainability. 

7. York University (Toronto, ON)

York University
Raysonho @ Open Grid Scheduler / Grid Engine, Founders College York U2, CC0 1.0

York University is perhaps best known for its film, law, and business programs. 

York houses Canada’s oldest film school, which is also regarded as one of the nation’s best. Its acceptance rate is similar to that of other prestigious institutions like the USC School of Cinematic Arts and Tisch School of the Arts.

The Osgoode Law School is ranked 4th best in Canada, while the Schulich School of Business is ranked 1st in Canada and 9th globally. Other achievements include developing the first Canadian undergraduate program in dance and the first Canadian Ph.D. program in women’s studies. 

York is also home to the oldest and largest environmental studies faculty in Canada and Ontario’s first and largest graphic design program. 

Students looking to specialize in any of the aforementioned fields will find themselves surrounded by experts and like-minded peers

6. Queen’s University (Kingston, ON)

Queen's University
everettjsj2, Douglas Library at Dusk, Queen’s University, Kingston, Canada, CC BY-SA 3.0

Named by BBC as one of the top 5 university towns in the world, Kingston is known for being a fun, expansive city that maintains a close-knit, community-centric feel. 

In fact, 95% of the Queen’s University student population originates from outside of Kingston.

Queen’s maintains several top rankings, according to the 2021 Times Higher Education Impact Rankings: #1 for Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions; #1 for No Poverty, and #2 in Zero Hunger. 

Those with a hunger for knowledge will never go hungry for literal food, as the city boasts more restaurants per capita than any other Canadian city! 

The 2021 Maclean’s rankings have additional accolades for Queen’s: #2 in Residential Living, #1 in Extracurricular Activities, #2 in Experiential Learning, #3 in Overall Student Satisfaction, and #2 in Endowed Funds per Student.

Notable alumni include Arthur B McDonald, Nobel Laureate in physics; Fraser Stoddart, Nobel Laureate in chemistry; Kathleen Wynne, the 25th premier of Ontario and first LGBT premier in Canada; and, most notably, Elon Musk, founder/CEO of PayPal, SpaceX, Tesla, and other highly successful companies.

5. Western University (London, ON)

University of Western Ontario
R.schneider101, UWO Physics and Astronomy building, CC BY-SA 4.0

Western University is located in London – one of the fastest-growing cities in Canada. Known as Forest City, the city of London manages over 200 parks. Nature enthusiasts will thrive in this green, sustainable city.

The commitment to research at Western is nearly unprecedented. As the founding member of the U15 – a group of Canada’s most distinguished academic research institutions – Western regularly takes the lead with regard to breakthrough research. 

Currently, researchers are seeking to develop PANX3 pharmaceutical blockers that can suppress the gene’s function to cause obesity in humans.

Western faculty are committed to boosting student achievement – the school boasts one of Canada’s highest first-to-second year retention rates at 93.6%. 

Western University students have access to over $25 million in financial assistance and can expect to gain valuable work experience, as 100% of WU degree programs offer co-ops, practicums, or internships with an average salary of a paid internship ranging from $33,150 to $49,134.

Many of Western’s alumni go on to be successful in their respective fields. 

The institution has matriculated 24 Rhodes Scholars, 26 faculty recipients of the 3M National Teaching fellowship, Nobel Prize Laureate Sir Frederick Banting, and Margaret Chan, Director-General of the World Health Organization.

4. University of Waterloo (Waterloo, ON)

University of Waterloo
Tleydxdy, Dana Porter Library, CC BY-SA 4.0

The University of Waterloo is yet another top Canadian university that regularly earns high rankings and maintains a credible reputation for research and innovation. 

Maclean’s 2021 ranked them #1 for computer science, engineering, and mathematics and #1 for experiential learning amongst comprehensive universities, while the 2020 University Impact Rankings ranked them #2 in Canada for social and economic impact.

The school provides over 7,100 co-op employment placements and its entrepreneurial spirit has created 5000+ jobs through Velocity, an early-stage business incubator program. 

The facilities at Waterloo naturally match the achievements of their faculty and alumni – Waterloo maintains 30+ Senate-approved research centers and institutes with expertise in AI, nanotechnology, cybertechnology, and other STEM fields.

Research achievements at Waterloo are quite broad. 

In 2018, astronomy and physics professor Donna Strickland won the Nobel Prize in physics for her work, which paved the way for current technology that enables laser eye surgery, laser printing, and retail store scanning capabilities.  

3. University of Ottawa (Ottawa, ON)

University of Ottawa
JustSomePics, 100 Laurier Avenue East University of Ottawa, CC BY-SA 4.0

The University of Ottawa is the largest bilingual (English-French) university globally and is ranked as the #1 French immersion program among Canadian universities.

The school maintains an impressive 97% employment rate for graduates and offers $60 million in student scholarships and bursaries annually. 

The school has graduated multiple presidents and prime ministers of Canadian and various foreign countries, as well as the beloved Alex Trebek — host of Jeopardy!

Through the Transformation 2030 initiative, the University of Ottawa is seeking to become more agile, connected, impactful, and sustainable. 

Six core aspirations guide the movement: transformative learning, cutting-edge research, vibrant Franco-Ontarian and Franco-Canadian culture, outstanding leadership and management, effective governance, and sustained commitment to their community. 

2. McMaster University (Hamilton, ON)

McMaster University
Captain108, McMaster University Medical School Downtown Building, CC BY-SA 4.0

Recently named as Canada’s most research-intensive university for the fourth consecutive year, McMaster University has also been voted best in Canada for Good Health and Wellbeing, Decent Work and Economic Growth, and Partnerships by the 2021 Times Higher Education University Impact Rankings.

Located in Hamilton (the waterfall capital of the world), McMaster University was named for founder William McMaster, who developed the McMaster Model – a problem-based, student-centered approach to learning that institutions have adopted across the globe.

McMaster continues to innovate new programs for its student body. The Connection is a new program offered by the Office of Community Engagement and is designed to foster online, symbiotic partnerships between the campus and local Hamilton organizations. 

The school recently opened the Indigenous Health Learning Lodge for indigenous faculty, staff, and students who seek to learn about indigenizing health science education and indigenous culture.

Notable alumni and faculty include sociologist Henry Giroux and four Nobel Prize laureates: Donna Strickland in physics, Bertram Brockhouse in physics, Myron Scholes in economics, and James Orbinski for the peace prize. Orbinski was the president of Doctors Without Borders and assisted during several foreign genocides, refugee crises, and civil wars.

1. University of Toronto (Toronto, ON)

University of Toronto
Public domain photo via Wikimedia Commons

Rounding out this list of esteemed schools is the University of Toronto – the top university in Canada. It is the institution that receives the most annual scientific research funding and endowment of any Canadian university.

UT is noted for influential movements in curriculum development, literary criticism, and communication theory movements. Additionally, they are the origin of the discovery of insulin, stem cell research, and the first artificial cardiac pacemaker.

Other medical innovations include credit for isolating the genes that cause Fanconi anemia, cystic fibrosis, early-onset Alzheimer’s, and other diseases.

In September of 2020, the University of Toronto received a $250 million gift to the Faculty of Medicine, the largest single philanthropic donation in Canadian history, allowing researchers to continue making strides in medical and science fields.

The school has produced three Canadian Governors-General, five Canadian Prime Ministers, nine foreign leaders, 17 justices of the Supreme Court of Canada, 12 Nobel Laureates, 6 Turing Awards winners, 94 Rhodes scholars, and one Fields Medalist (to name a few).

Of course, such an accomplished university will take pride in equally spectacular ratings. The 2022 QS World University Rankings named them 1st in Canada and 26th in the world, overall. 

In 2018, the University of Toronto Entrepreneurship program was ranked as the 4th best university-based incubator by UBI Global.

Like several other institutions on this list, the University of Toronto is ideal for creators, inventors, and entrepreneurs to test out their ideas, network with experts, and achieve success globally.

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