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College in Scotland & Canada -The Differences

The University of Edinburgh, founded in 1583, is now surrounded by the city of Edinburgh, one of the largest cities in Scotland.

Friday night

← Edinburgh

Vancouver →

Simon Fraser University in Vancouver - one of the homes of Canadian college football.



Like The US & Canada, Scotland's great universities operate on a four-year model in which undergraduate students are admitted to the University, not directly into a specific department, as in the British system. Scotland's universities are also funded directly by the government for educating UK nationals and free to set their own tuition for international students.

The University of St. Andrews, founded in 1410, & The University of Edinburgh, founded in 1583, are older than any college in North or South America and are among the oldest and most distinguished universities in the world. As such, they are, in certain areas, very competitive for American and other international students. These universities have important advantages in that both:

  • Allow North American students until June 30 to apply for that fall's entering class.

  • Guarantee on-campus housing to first-year students that apply by June 30.

  • Have clear, appealing cultures that are very similar to many US universities with a distinctly Scottish flavor that includes academic and social traditions that date back nearly to the Middle Ages.
    • Many St. Andrews students wear bright red academic robes with black trim (that look like American graduation gowns) to class every day.
    • The University of Edinburgh offers students a mixture of traditional college dorms and university-owned apartment-type housing throughout the ancient city of Edinburgh.
    • Few people realize that our American universities all run on the Scottish model of a college education. That is, four years in total with one to two years of general education available before a student has to declare a major field of study.

  • Are accredited by US accreditation agencies and can, therefore, offer US citizen and US permanent-resident students FFELP, Stafford and PLUS loans, many of which are subsidized by the federal government.

  • Are considered to be Scotland's finest universities and only a notch below the academic quality of the three-year, more intensely paced Oxford & Cambridge universities. (Oxford, Cambridge and a number of British universities only admit students directly to their major fields of study. As a result, there are practically no elective courses available to British students.)


Compared to the 4,000 US colleges and universities, Canada's 50 universities are:

  • On the same spectrum of academic quality as American colleges and universities.  McGill University, the University of Toronto and the University of British Columbia are recognized worldwide as the academic equivalent of leading US research universities.

  • Democratic, in the broadest sense. There are no fraternities, sororities, athletic scholarships, honors-only classes or dorms and very few merit scholarships.

  • Less invested in intercollegiate sports.  As a result, varsity athletes are not treated differently than other students.  And expect lots of winter sports. There are more figure skating teams than golf or baseball teams.

  • Attended by a more economically diverse student body than US or UK undergraduate programs and at least as international as large US urban universities. 

  • Not far. 90% of Canada's population lives with in 200 miles of the US border. There are three universities in southern Ontario south of the US-Canadian border in the Midwest.

  • A more humane admissions process.  Most Canadian universities do not require SAT or ACT test scores. Applicants are evaluated on their most recent high school grades and their personal qualities, as expressed in their extra-curricular activities and application essays.

  • Supported largely by direct Canadian government grants (not by loans or grants to students).

  • Available for tuition and other costs denominated in Canadian dollars, which, while varying widely in recent months, are near parity. 

College in Scotland & Canada - The Differences

College in Scotland & Canada - The Benefits

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