The 10 Best Ivy League Schools in Canada

If you ask anyone to describe the world’s most impressive, most academically rigorous universities, two words leap to mind: “Ivy League.” 

Students who want to join the highest learning communities in history make plans to attend Harvard University in Boston, Princeton University in New Jersey, and Brown University in Rhode Island. 

But what about students in Canada? 

First, the bad news: there are no Ivy League schools in Canada. 

The eight members of the Ivy League are all in the United States, many of which date back to before the country’s founding. 

However, there’s good news, too. The Ivy League schools aren’t important because of their location, or even because they belong to the Ivy League. Rather, they matter because they offer excellent teaching and have a strong record of world-changing research. 

By that metric, Canada has many schools that are as good, if not better, than those found in any part of the United States. Each of the ten schools found on this list is part of the U15, a group of Canadian universities renowned for their scholarly research. 

Anyone who goes to one of these ten schools will experience the same support – and the same challenges! – that they would get at Yale or Northwestern, all without having to leave Canada. 

Here are 10 amazing Ivy League quality schools in Canada.

University of Toronto (Toronto, ON)

University of Toronto
Maksim Sokolov (Maxergon), University of Toronto, CC BY-SA 4.0

Since its founding in 1827, the University of Toronto has been associated with five Prime Ministers of Canada, seventeen Supreme Court Justices, twelve Nobel laureates, 94 Rhodes Scholars, six recipients of the Turing Award, and winners of too many honors to list here. 

U Toronto is especially renowned for its contributions to literary criticism and communications theory. The Toronto School, a well-respected group of scholars, has revolutionized our understanding of storytelling and communication. 

In addition, U Toronto has been at the center of numerous STEM achievements. Insulin was discovered by Frederick Banting and Charles Herbert Best at U Toronto in 1921. The earliest stabs at stem cell research occurred at the university, as did the world’s first lung transplant. 

As these examples demonstrate, U Toronto is among the most important institutions in the world, advancing our knowledge of several fields. 

University of Waterloo (Waterloo, ON)

University of Waterloo
Victor Vucicevich, University of Waterloo Physics Building Fountains, CC BY-SA 3.0

Home to the world’s largest post-secondary co-operative education program, the University of Waterloo is one of the U15, Canada’s premier research-intensive institutions. 

The main campus sits on over 998 acres of land located in Waterloo, Ontario. Several historically significant structures can be found on campus, including the Douglas Wright Engineering Building, constructed in 1958. 

Additionally, the campus features a largely undeveloped area, which serves as farm fields for agriculture students and an environmental reserve. 

To augment its research focus, U Waterloo operates 41 research centers and institutions. The Centre for Applied Cryptographic Research is one of the world leaders in the study of cryptography. 

Since its opening in 1998, the institute has brought together experts in computer science, mathematics, engineering, and more. 

Taking advantage of its 285,000 sq. ft. facility, the Waterloo Institute for Nanotechnology strives to develop new smart and functional materials, as well as next-generation energy systems. 

University of Ottawa (Ottawa, ON)

University of Ottawa
Jeangagnon, Advanced Research Complex – University of Ottawa, CC BY-SA 4.0

With over 35,000 undergraduate and more than 6,000 post-graduate students in its body, the University of Ottawa is the largest bilingual university globally. 

But despite the fine work it does for the citizens of Ottawa and Canada, it is not limited only to its home country. Nearly 17% of the student population consists of international students, with representatives from 150 other nations. 

Founded in 1848 as the College of Bytown, the University of Ottawa has grown to become a leading research institution. The school brings in more than $324 million in research income and is one of the U15. 

Many impressive alumni have graduated from U Ottawa, from all types of fields. Political leaders who studied at U Ottawa include former Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin and former Newfoundland Prime Minister Sir Edward Morris

University of Calgary (Calgary, AB)

University of Calgary
Public domain photo by Daderot via Wikimedia Commons

With an endowment exceeding $380.4 million and with research revenues of over $1.2 billion, the University of Calgary is one of the wealthiest institutions on this list. 

At the center of both U Calgary’s success and research is its work in the petroleum and geoscience industries. 

But the school also enjoys a reputation for advancement across all STEM fields, as well as work in public policy and the arts. 

One of the most important aspects of U Calgary is the Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning

Housed in a 4,000 m2 building that prioritizes environmental sustainability, the Taylor Institute features mock classrooms, a simulation center, and other state-of-the-art technologies to train the next generation of teachers. 

The Taylor Institute is part of the Innovate Calgary initiative, a tech incubator based on the university. Taking advantage of the school’s workspaces and laboratories, Innovate Calgary works to make technology more accessible. 

Dalhousie University (Halifax, NS)

Dalhousie University
Citobun, Dalhousie University Medjuck Building, CC BY-SA 4.0

Established in 1818, Dalhousie University is the oldest institution of higher learning in Nova Scotia and one of the oldest in Canada. 

Since that beginning, DU has graduated over 130,000 from all over the world, some of whom have gone on to win major awards and become leaders in business and government. 

The main campus of DU combines respect for the past with an eye toward the future. 

Its oldest still standing structure is the Hart House, which was constructed in 1864, while its newest addition is the Collaborative Health Education Building, completed in 2015.  

Part of this future-first emphasis is the school’s sustainability efforts. Since 2008, the school has worked to reduce the carbon footprint of its buildings, eventually earning a GOLD rating from AASHE STARS.

University of Alberta (Edmonton, AB)

University of Alberta
Public domain photo by WinterforceMedia via Wikimedia Commons

Established in 1906 through the University Act, the University of Alberta brings first-class academics and research to the Edmonton area. 

The school currently enrolls approximately 39.300 students, including 7,800 students from over 151 countries. 

The U of Alberta prides itself on the quality of its faculty. The school has been awarded 41 3M Teaching Fellowships to recognize excellence in undergraduate teaching, more than any other Canadian Institution.  

The U of Alberta features several respected research programs, which earn the school placement among the top 100 schools in the world for scholarly activity. 

One such program is the Canadian Obesity Network, which aids the study and treatment of health problems across the country. 

The program connects those suffering from obesity with researchers and experts, allowing them to work together for the country’s good. 

University of Montreal (Montreal, QC)

The first of two Quebec-based schools on this list, the University of Montreal, is Canada’s top-ranked Francophone school. 

Thirteen faculties make up the school, including a highly regarded law school.

In addition to training some of the country’s finest legal minds, the U of Montreal Faculty of law features initiatives such as the Centre de recherche en droit public (the Public Law Research Centre). 

This interdisciplinary centre provides practical experience for law students as they address the needs of people in Montreal. 

The Centre is just one of the school’s many initiatives to serve the local indigenous populations. From law centers to economic support to arts programs, the school remains committed to working with First Nations peoples. 

Over the years, the school has been affiliated with some of the most influential figures in Canada, including former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau and computer scientist Gilles Brassard. 

McMaster University (Hamilton, ON)

McMaster University
Mcmasterp123, McMaster Museum of Art, CC BY-SA 4.0

Located on a 300-acre campus in Hamilton, Ontario, McMaster University owes its existence to its namesake, Canadian Senator William McMaster. The Senator’s $900,000 gift allowed for the founding of the school in 1887.

Although now a publicly funded public institution, McMaster University continues to honor the legacy of its founder. 

In addition to a current student body of more than 27,000 undergraduate and 4,000 graduate students, the school boasts alumni throughout Canada and in 139 countries. 

McMaster graduates have gone on to become leaders in politics, business, and the arts, earning recognition as Rhodes Scholars and Nobel laureates. 

The school is famous for its student-focused interdisciplinary approach to teaching, known as the McMaster Model. The Model has become known for its success in creating innovative scholars and creative thinkers. 

University of British Columbia (Vancouver, BC)

University of British Columbia
Dllu, New Student Union Building of the University of British Columbia, CC BY-SA 4.0

The University of British Columbia is not only the oldest institution of higher learning in the province, having been founded in 1908, but it is also one of the most respected in the country. 

The school has built its reputation on its outstanding research. U of BC sponsors more than 8,000 every year, thanks to its annual research budget of $600 million. 

Some of the school’s most notable research centres include the Peter Wall Institute for Advanced Studies, the University of British Columbia Farm, and TRIUMF.

The Wall Institute supports collaborative, interdisciplinary research by bringing together visiting scholars and experts in fields ranging from biochemistry to anthropology to computer science. 

The 59-acre UCB Farm features a wide variety of crops and several animals, providing resources for scholars and students. 

The TRIUMF consortium provides laboratory space and interdisciplinary support for studies in particle and nuclear physics.

McGill University (Montreal, QC)

McGill University
LLarose-McGillU, Old Chancellor Day Hall, Faculty of Law, McGill University, CC BY-SA 4.0

Montreal’s McGill University is not just the top school on this list and the best school in Canada. It’s largely considered to be one of the world’s best institutions. 

McGill has been associated with some of the world’s most influential figures, including Nobel laureates such as nuclear physicist Ernest Rutherford and scientist Jack W. Szostak. 

These and other researchers at the school are supported by McGill’s extensive resources. 

The school enjoys affiliations with over 75 major research networks and centres and brings in more than $547 million in income from sponsored research projects. 

In addition to this highly touted scholarly activity, McGill also has established a reputation for supporting non-traditional students. 

Since 1989, the school has operated the McGill Community for Lifelong Learning, an educational community to encourage academic pursuits for senior learners.

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