Best English Programs in Canada

Are you in high school and want to get into one of the very best English programs in Canada?

Or are you already in university and looking to transfer into an English program, whether it’s language, creative writing, or literature?

Or are you an undergraduate student in English who’s hoping to do their Masters at the best Canadian university possible?

Whatever you’re looking for, the team has created the most comprehensive analysis on the web of the best universities for English programs in Canada

To see our student-driven ratings on Canadian colleges and universities, visit our rankings page.

And don’t forget, if you want to find personalized university rankings for YOU, complete our MatchU quiz—it takes 3 mins and is 100% free. Do the quiz here!


We evaluate each school based on four criteria: (1) quality of undergraduate education, (2) quality of graduate education, (3) reputation, and (4) university life. With that in mind, the top five best schools to study English programs in Canada are as follows (in no particular order):

– McGill University
– University of British Columbia
– University of Toronto
– Queen’s University
– University of Alberta

Since we couldn’t include all the great schools in Canada, we also included a couple of Honourable Mentions at the bottom of this blog. We hope you enjoy!

Best English Programs in Canada – #1 McGill University

mcgill english


Undergraduate degree options: 9/10

At McGill, undergraduates studying English have the chance to choose one of three streams: Literature, Drama & Theatre, or Cultural Studies, in which students focus on rhetoric and the analysis of various forms of media. No matter which stream you choose to concentrate on, you’re encouraged to take courses in all three disciplines to get a broad range of education in every section. The focus on drama also appears fairly unique compared to other schools, and could interest students who are also interested in theatrical performance, but who don’t just want to study theatre.

According to CampusRankings’ survey results, McGill has some of the most academic students in the country, meaning that you’ll be surrounded by your scholarly, focused peers if you choose to go there. It’s also in the top ten for best overall value, meaning that students who attend McGill feel like the experience was worth it.

Graduate degree options: 9/10

Graduate studies in English follow the same three streams as their undergraduate program. McGill’s Masters program for English students only admits 25 students per year, making it one of the more exclusive English programs in the country. They were also ranked #1 for academic research in CampusRankings’ 2017 rankings, meaning that you’ll have the chance to participate in some of the country’s top rated academic experiences.

Reputation: 9/10

Although it may seem counterintuitive to study English Literature in Montréal, a primarily Francophone city, McGill’s reputation makes it worth it. Ranked 19th for English Literature and Language on the QS World University Rankings, they’re a well-recognized school on the international scene. This means that whether you’re considering further studies there or just want to get your undergrad, you’ll easily be able to explore other alternatives following your schooling. McGill was also ranked #1 in CampusRankings’ 2016 survey for most reputable universities, meaning that students and academics alike consider it a trustworthy institution.

University life: 9/10

Good news for students who like to explore: McGill was ranked #1 for most stuff to do in CampusRankings’ 2017 survey, as well as for best restaurants and nightlife, meaning that as a student there, you’ll never get bored. Montreal is a highly diverse city, whether you speak French or not, and given McGill’s downtown location, it’s easy to access all sorts of fun activities in the area. Plus, McGill’s size means that it has a good variety of clubs and committees to join. No matter your interests, you’re sure to find something you’ll enjoy.

Best English Programs in Canada – #2 University of British Columbia

best english programs in canada - university of british columbia

Undergraduate degree options: 9/10

English students at UBC have the chance to pick one of three major streams: English Literature, in which they’ll cover literary studies as well as critical theory; English Language, in which they’ll study the history of the English language, linguistics, and rhetorical techniques; and a combination of both, which allows them to choose courses from both streams. Studying English at UBC also gives you the chance to apply for their Arts co-op program, and get work experience during your degree. If you’re planning on applying to grad school, you might also want to look into UBC’s Honours English program, which gives a more in-depth amount of courses and gives students the chance to participate in seminars and write a culminating essay.

On a more general level, despite being a large university, it was ranked #3 in our 2016 rankings for smallest class sizes, meaning that you’ll have the chance to build close relationships with your professors and ask lots of questions. Plus, it has some of the best on-campus wifi according to our rankings –  an important factor when you have lots of essays to research!

Graduate degree options: 9/10

Similarly to its undergraduate options, UBC offers both a English Language and an English Literature stream for its Masters students – and is one of the few Canadian universities to offer the English Language program. Their M.A. can be completed in one or two years, depending on whether or not you want to complete a thesis or not. Given the variety within their English graduate programs, UBC is a strong contender if you want to continue your studies in English Literature or Language.

Reputation: 8/10

Much like the University of Toronto, UBC is seen as one of the top Canadian universities for English both at home and internationally. It’s tied for 10th place with U of T in the QS World University Rankings for English Language and Literature, meaning that taking a graduate or undergraduate degree there means that you’ll be well placed for whatever you hope to do next. According to Times Higher Education, it’s also one of the most globally focused universities, meaning that it’s well viewed internationally for the perspective that students get there.

University life: 8/10

As a very large university, UBC has a lot of opportunities available to students–but like most large universities, you’ll have to look for the opportunities yourself, and not expect to immediately be part of a community. However, being in BC means that you’ll have some of the best weather in Canada – and be able to visit Vancouver whenever you’re in the mood to escape campus, whether you’re at their downtown campus or their more relaxed location in Okanagan. However, if you feel like sticking around, you won’t go hungry: UBC is in CampusRankings’ top ten for best on-campus food and dining.

Best English Programs in Canada – #3 University of Toronto

best english programs in canada - university of toronto


Undergraduate degree options: 7,5/10

U of T is well recognized as an academically rigorous school, and their English program reflects this as well. According to our rankings, it’s one of the hardest schools to get into in the country, but it’s worth it due to its quality. They offer a variety of English courses, as well as a selection of fourth-year seminars and discussion groups. If you’re looking for a slightly more unique experience, you should look into their Scarborough campus. Students there can also choose to minor in creative writing or literature and film, as well as participate in a co-op program to get work experience before they graduate.

Graduate degree options: 9/10

U of T is well known for the quality of their Masters and Ph.D. programs in English. Their M.A. program is 12 months long, during which students will complete several courses of their choice in English as well as a Literary Studies and Theory course. U of T also offers a Masters of Creative Writing, in which students get the chance to study with the poet laureate of Toronto or other well-known Canadian writers, and a variety of cross-departmental programs such as Book History & Print Culture and Women’s Health that other schools don’t offer.

Reputation: 10/10

The University of Toronto is well recognized as one of the top universities in Canada, if not the top, particularly when it comes to its English program. Tied for 10th place in the QS World University Rankings (the only Canadian university, along with UBC, to crack the top ten for English Language and Literature), it’s a solid choice if you’re hoping to go on to further studies or find employment in the field. These rankings also place U of T as Canada’s top university overall, making it a strong contender if you’re planning to study English at either the undergraduate or graduate level. Plus, Times Higher Education ranks it 15th in the world for Arts and Humanities – meaning that it’s well regarded in the more general field as well.

University life: 7/10

Many students at U of T commute from the surrounding areas of the GTA (Greater Toronto Area), meaning that it might not have as much of a university scene as other schools do. However, living in Toronto can also have its advantages in terms of the food, bars and activities available to discover, even if it isn’t as tight-knit a university community. Plus, being at such a large university can have its advantages: no matter what you’re interested in, you’re sure to be able to discover a club or society that interests you.

Best English Programs in Canada – #4 Queen’s University

queens english

Undergraduate degree options: 7/10

Queen’s English program has only one major stream, in which students can pick and choose the courses they want to focus on. This makes it a little less specialized than some of the other schools on this list, but can be good if you aren’t sure which domain of English you’d like to specialize in right away.

However, first-year students (in any program) have the option to go to Herstmonceux Castle, meaning that they can study in English and get first-hand experience in – no wonder it’s ranked #3 by CampusRankings survey respondents in the Best Study Abroad category. It’s also ranked second for having the best extracurricular experiences and networking opportunities, meaning that even if you don’t want to go on to do further education you’ll feel more prepared for the real world.

Graduate degree options: 9/10

Masters students in English at Queens will pursue a 12-month program, in which they can either pursue a course-based schedule or a thesis-based one, although students applying for the thesis-based program are recommended to have a good idea of what they’d like to write about at the time of applying. They also have the option to apply for a literary internship, which gives them practical experience in the field.

English students can also apply for a Masters of Philosophy, which is a two-year program in which students can get a guaranteed acceptance into Queens’ doctoral program or simply more practical literary experience if they want to move into the workforce. This focus on real-world learning is also present in their Ph.D program, in which students can take part in a publishing practicum designed to get them ready to publish papers as quickly as possible.

Kingston also boasts the highest number of PhDs per capita in Canada, meaning that graduate students at Queen’s have the chance to get closely involved with the greater research community. It’s also in our top ten for best libraries, meaning that you’ll have the chance to study and do research in relative peace and comfort no matter what you need to find.

Reputation: 8/10

Although Queen’s English program isn’t as well known as some of the other schools on this list, its overall reputation makes up for it. Queen’s was also ranked #2 for most reputable universities in CampusRankings’ 2016 survey, and is well recognized at home and abroad as one of Canada’s best universities.

University life: 9/10

If you’re looking for the most fun university experience possible – on one of the most beautiful campuses – you’d be well advised to choose Queen’s. It’s well recognized as one of the rowdier schools out there. Homecoming is a major event every year, with students dressing up in blue, red and gold to celebrate (and drink) the day away. Plus, Kingston, where it’s located, is recognized as a very student-friendly city: Queen’s is in the middle of this mid-sized city, meaning that it’s easy to get out of the campus bubble and explore shops and restaurants in the area. Queen’s itself is also ranked second in CampusRankings’ 2017 survey for having the most clubs and committees, meaning that no matter your interests, you’ll always be able to find something to get involved in.

Best English Programs in Canada – #5 University of Alberta

best english programs in canada - university of alberta

Undergraduate degree options: 8/10

At the University of Alberta, English and Film Studies are contained under the same umbrella. (This combination could be one of the reasons it was in CampusRankings’ top ten for most diverse curriculum.) You can choose to take Film Studies, English Literature, or Creative Writing–the last of which is unusual as an undergraduate English program. Plus, despite the university’s relatively large size, it’s in our top five for smallest classes, meaning that you have a good chance to connect with professors as well as with other students.

Graduate degree options: 8/10

As a graduate student in English, you can choose to take a thesis-based program or a course-based program. The University of Alberta is in CampusRankings’ top ten for best academic research–and is known as such in Canada–meaning that as a graduate student there, you’ll have the chance to get involved in a variety of diverse research opportunities.

The format is the same for their Creative Writing graduate program, except in that case the course-based final project is a shorter collection of creative work and the thesis-based one is a longer piece (such as a novel). Given that they have a writer in residence and a vibrant writing community, this program is a good choice if you want to become more serious about your literary career and abilities.

Reputation: 7/10

The University of Alberta, while less of a household name than other programs on this list, is still a strong contender when it comes to the reputation of its English program within the university community. Plus, MacLean’s 2018 University Rankings ranked the University of Alberta as #5 overall in Canada in terms of reputation, meaning that studying there is well recognized if you decide to do graduate education somewhere else or just want to get a job.

University life: 8/10

The University of Alberta’s main campus is in Edmonton, near the downtown core, which means there’s a lot of cool restaurants and cafés to explore nearby. Students report that the campus has a friendly, approachable vibe, and that there’s a lot of ways to get involved. However, the cold Prairie winters may make it a less appealing choice for some. (However, it’s in our top ten for best health services–meaning that if you do catch a cold, they’re sure to take good care of you!)

Best English Programs in Canada – Honourable mentions

There are many schools in Canada that are great options for studying English. Although we couldn’t fit all of them on this list, here are two schools we thought still deserved a mention.

University of Calgary

This university provides another top-ranked choice in the Prairies. It’s recognized for the pride students take in their athletics, and the wide variety of activities you can join. They have one general English stream for undergraduate students, and masters students can pick from a thesis-based route or a course-based one.

York University

This university, situated on the outskirts of Toronto, is also a great option for students who are interested in English, particularly if you’re commuting in the GTA. You can choose a general English degree or Creative Writing in your undergrad, and courses, a research paper, or thesis base for your Masters.


Although these rankings may differ based on what you’re looking for out of your English studies, here are our overall rankings of the best Canadian universities for English Literature and Language programs.

McGill: 9

UBC: 8.5

U of T: 8.4

Queen’s: 8.3

U of A: 7.8

If you’re still unsure where to go to university, make sure to take our MatchU quiz. It’s free and takes just 3 minutes!


Tatiana Morand

Tatiana is Head of Content at CampusRankings. You can usually find her drinking coffee and exploring the streets of Toronto.