MBA Guide
by Maclean's
November 15, 2022

Three reasons Canadian MBA programs appeal to international students

Canada’s universities offer an array of benefits that attract top minds from around the globe.

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Consistently ranked among the world’s best, Canadian universities have a global reputation for academic excellence. According to analytics firm QS Quacquarelli Symonds, three of 2022’s Top 50 universities in the world are in Canada. It’s not surprising, then, that many of Canada’s MBA programs attract international students. But it’s more than just a high-quality education drawing some of the best and brightest from around the globe to Canadian schools.

Multiculturalism and acceptance

According to Gallup’s Migrant Acceptance Index, Canada is the most welcoming country in the world when it comes to immigrants, and Canadian universities often boast incredibly diverse student and faculty populations. “[When] international students join our community, they have an opportunity to network with a diverse cohort of exceptional students with unique perspectives and experiences to broaden their world views,” says Rima Vasudevan, director of recruitment and admissions at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, B.C.

The structure of some Canadian MBA programs can also lend itself to helping international students feel welcome. “Our programs are incredibly interactive and foster relationships between students despite varying time zones, locations, and nationalities,” says Dr. Sheri McKillop, vice-president of academics at the University of Fredericton, where the MBA program is fully online. “There’s also a high degree of group work in each course, providing students with the opportunity to learn and grow with peers across Canada and around the world.”

Affordability and accessibility

Pursuing an MBA can be expensive and, generally speaking, Canadian universities boast lower tuition and a more affordable cost of living than the United States. The Government of Canada has a number of scholarships available to international students, and many Canadian universities have financial-aid initiatives geared specifically towards students from abroad.

As well, some schools, such as Brock University in St. Catharines, Ont., offer programs to help international students adjust to living, studying and working in Canada. “[We run] an intensive four-week Business English and Skills Transition program to help international students thrive in a North American learning environment,” says Narongsak Thongpapanl, associate dean of research and graduate studies at Brock’s Goodman School of Business.

Post-grad opportunities

Once they’ve completed their MBA, eligible international students can remain—and work—in Canada for up to three years through the post graduate work permit (PGWP) program, affording them invaluable professional experience. Some Canadian universities offer specialized support to help graduates stay here and excel. “This [school] year, we launched an International Graduate Internship program,” says Liz Lemon-Mitchell, director of advancement and operations at the University of New Brunswick’s faculty of management, “which provides salary subsidies to employers in the high-growth tech sector who are looking for top talent.”

Ultimately, international students choosing Canadian MBA programs set themselves up for success in the global marketplace. “Diversity in the classroom and workplace contributes to a higher level of cultural intelligence,” Thongpapanl says. “This will help grads going forward in their careers, be it working for themselves or someone else, as diverse workplaces are proven to perform better in attaining financial, social and environmental outcomes.”