With its beautiful scenery, Canada has always been a popular, multicultural society, owing to its friendly immigration rules. Canadians are widely considered to be amiable, well educated, interesting and polite. The country showcases great standards of living, with a variety of theatres, art centres, museums, restaurants and shopping venues in all major urban areas. As per UN surveys, Canada is one of the best places to live in the world, and has been ranked as the number one country for the past 9 years. Some factors that make Canada the world’s most popular destination are its universal health care system, high levels of education, low violence and low crime. Additionally, Fortune Magazine has named Toronto as the best international city to live in. In summary, Canada is a safe and peace-loving nation.
CANADA – A POPULAR RESEARCH DESTINATION
The reasons Canada has become one of the most sought-after research destinations for international students are numerous:
• Availability of scholarships for PhD students is far higher than many other destinations.
• World-class research quality.
• Highly dynamic and hands-on academic environments.
• Curricula designed to encourage analytical and communication skills, demonstrative ability and self-confidence.
• Professors are available and always eager to share expertise and academic excellence through interaction and collaboration.
• GRE not (often) mandatory.
• A Canadian PhD degree is recognized worldwide.
• A Canadian PhD is supported by government and industrial sector collaborations.
• The University sector is the 2nd largest research driver in the country after the private sector.
It generally takes 3-4 years to complete a PhD in Canada. Occasionally, it might take longer, however, funding beyond 6 years becomes limited.
The process of PhD candidacy selection in Canada is quite competitive, owing to a highly selective evaluation process. The admission requirements also vary from one university to the next. While there are general admission criteria, which more or less apply to all programmes, there are other requirements that are completely program specific. To sum up a few:
• Master’s degree in relevant field with minimum grades required.
• Completion of specific prerequisite courses.
• Proof of English language proficiency (Clearance of TOEFL).
• GRE requirements (though not in all cases).
• Some research programmes require portfolio/work experience.
ENGLISH LANGUAGE PROFICIENCY TEST
International students who belong to non-English speaking countries need to take English language proficiency tests like TOEFL or IELTS as part of the application process.
Networking is extremely essential to pursue a Canadian PhD. Applicants are advised to get in touch with a potential supervisor from the institution where he/she wishes to pursue research, contacting a professor whose research interests align with theirs. Often the student has to attach a letter of support from the chosen supervisor as a part of their application documents. Further, proof of academic credentials are also required, including:
• diploma(s) or degree certificate(s)
• transcript(s)/mark sheets/index
• detailed course outline(s)
If the documents are not in French or English, there may be a requirement for official/certified translation. The other documents required while the students are in their home country consist of:
• Statement of Purpose
• Letter of Recommendation (2 to 3 depending on the university)
• Research proposals (Programme Specific)
Canadian PhDs follow a 3 semester deadline system
• Fall (September to December)
• Winter (January to April)
• Summer (May to August)
The funding availability is maximized for autumn, so it is preferred over the other two-semester intakes. The deadlines are different for all universities; nonetheless, the commencement dates for applications are more or less in September.
Generally, financial aid is available from universities as part of acceptance to PhD programmes. This financial aid can come as graduate assistantships in varied forms, including teaching and research assistantships, fellowships, and/or tuition waivers. They come with the main application; there is no separate application to be submitted for these scholarships. The competition associated with financial aid is significantly steep and depends on factors like test scores, especially English test scores. Stipends however, are quite lucrative. The Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship award for example, comes in at CA$50,000 (~US$37,210) per year for highly-qualified international and local PhD students in the fields of social sciences and/or humanities, natural sciences and/or engineering and health. On the other hand, the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation doctoral scholarships awards $40,000 (~US$29,770) per year for three years to Canadian citizens and foreign students -with applications particularly welcomed from students from developing countries. The University of British Columbia Four Year Doctoral Fellowship meanwhile, provides a stipend of at least CA$18,200 (~US$13,545) per year plus full tuition for outstanding international/home doctoral students for all four years of their studies.
POPULAR RESEARCH DESTINATIONS IN CANADA
• The University of British Columbia
• The University of Waterloo
• The University of Toronto
• The University of Alberta
STUDENT VISA AND WORK PERMITS
International students need study permits to pursue their PhD in Canada. You must submit a visa application online, and submit relevant documents to the VFS office. Additionally, an acceptance letter from the specific department of your university, proof of adequate funds, and a cover letter to the Canadian High Commission, are also required.
Usually, students need to commit to specific hours of teaching or research as part of their assistantships and are generally not allowed to preoccupy themselves with any other form of employment on or off campus. Post-degree, a work permit must be applied for within 90 days and the student must carry a valid study permit to acquire this work permit.
Mostly, PhD aspirants have well defined long-term research goals; hence they opt for postdoctoral programmes after which they enter academia as faculty. Degree holders in applied domains like engineering may move to their domain-specific industry or development sector. Students with PhD degrees in Business Studies can take on consulting work as well.