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US vs. Canadian Universities


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I'm a US citizen looking to get a masters in public policy/social policy or non profit management. Is it worth looking into going to a university in Canada if I intend to work in the US after graduation? Are US and Canadian programs very different? I am most interested in the Toronto/Montreal area. Thanks in advance for your advice!

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HI there,

I'm in a similar situation. I'm also looking to apply to both US and Canadian schools (in addition to European ones) but don't intend to pursue a career in Canada.

Where universities in Canada are different than the US per se is that most universities in Canada would equate to top-tier American schools. Proportionally, Canada doesn't have as many third-rate schools as the US (please note - this is not a criticism of the American system; I'm just describing what I see as the status quo. I think it's just an economic-driven result).

The programs I'd imagine you might want to consider staying away from in Canada would be Master of Public Administrations (MPA). It is my understanding that these programs are usually very Canadian-focused, intending to groom future Canadian government bureaucrats.

So, to answer your question, I think it is very program dependent. In Toronto, University of Toronto is the more prestigious school but York University has some interesting offerings. IMHO, in Montreal, McGill is the only English-speaking university worth attending and they don't really have any grad programs in what you're describing.

I'm interested to hear what others have to say also!

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  • 2 weeks later...

I agree with Decaf. Probably this link will give you a better perspective about the programs @Canada.


However, I was wondering,if there exists a universal resource of Ranking for Global Universities for MPA and MPP programs.That will most definitely help the purpose of short listing schools,as I am doing it for myself right now.

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Many of the strong MPP/MPA/Political Science (Social Policy) programs in Canada are not housed in strong internationally recognized powerhouse research institutions, but rather in specialty institutions. Carleton University (Ottawa), for instance, has an excellent public policy school with a lot of social policy and voluntary sector research going on. The institution as a whole wont pop up on the radar as an internationally competitive institution, but the aforementioned programs and its IR school have superb marketability to the foreign service and public service domestically alike. Likewise Queen's has an excellent MPA program with a reputation to match. University of Ottawa is also okay.

I've taken public policy courses at the graduate level at Carleton and many of the courses study both north american and Canadian regulatory practices. Lots of comparative stuff, but frequently (though not as a rule) you will find much Canadian content. My understanding is this is fairly standard.

Studying public policy and social policy in Canada can't be done effectively without the U.S. comparative context, and most Canada centric courses take this into consideration.

All this said... if you're going to need to sell yourself in a different market (U.S.), it may be more worthwhile to do something at U of T and McGill instead, which have altogether excellent programs in the social sciences, housed in arguably the best (overall) institutions Canada has to offer(and as a result are infinitely more marketable). Its right to point out McGill doesn't have a public policy program or focus, and the other institutions in Montreal are less than superb, but it does have great social science research that delves into the realm of public and social policy. York is also quite a decent school (known for one of the most competitive business programs in the country), but it has the lesser reputation of the two (UofT vs. York). Ryerson, with a very poor reputation as a result of its recent transition from college to university (5/4ish year's ago?) has quite a good MAPP, but its more of a professional focus.

In summary, Queen's, Carleton will give you an excellent education in PP and marketability domestically, UofT, McGill might be more marketable internationally and also have great programs. However the niche schools may have the edge on getting you educational value for money. Carleton and UofOttawa also generously funds. Wilfred Laurier is a newly emerging but also excellent niche school for policy studies in Canada.

My two cents are based on my perspective as a former undergraduate student of public policy in Canada, and a current grad student of the same, who intends to be a grad student for a long time yet. I've also worked in the public service, which is where the domestic marketability insights come from.

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