The Worst Universities in Canada To Attend in 2023

Posted on September 21, 2023 by Dan Kent
Worst Universities in Canada

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Choosing where to go to school is one of the most important decisions a young person can make.

Unfortunately, it's not an easy decision. There are a million factors to consider, from tuition cost to distance from home to the quality of the post-secondary institution and even the safety of the city. And then there are personal matters that factor into the decision. Do you like the campus? Where are your friends going?

There are a million things to consider. Choosing the right university is a big deal that would be hard for a 40-year-old adult to make, never mind a 17-year-old high school senior. Yet we often put these kids into the almost impossible situation of choosing their desired school.

The worst universities in Canada is often personal

Another thing that makes a choice even more challenging is often, a school can be a solid choice for one major but a poor choice for another. A school with good degree programs can struggle with graduate programs, and vice versa. Or the campus experience can be excellent while the classroom experience stinks. Even a rouge professor or two can derail one's academic career. 

A poor choice has consequences. Picking the wrong school can put a new graduate needlessly into massive amounts of debt or unable to find a job in their field. And that's assuming they even get that far. After all, thousands of students drop out each year for countless reasons. 

Many resources tell students the finest schools in Canada, saying they should attend institutions like McGill University, the University of British Columbia, or the University of Toronto. These prestigious institutions are already well-known for being excellent, and there isn't much value in regurgitating that fact.

Instead, let's look at some of Canada's worst-ranked universities. Remember, rankings like this one are subjective. These schools have thousands of happy graduates. They're not bad schools. They're worse than the competition.

What are the worst ranked universities in Canada?

  • University of Lethbridge
  • University of New Brunswick
  • University of Regina
  • University of Northern B.C.
  • St. Mary's University
  • Nipissing University
  • Cape Breton University
  • Brandon University
  • Universite de Moncton
  • University of Winnipeg

10. University of Lethbridge

Like every school on this list of worst Canadian universities, the University of Lethbridge is a solid school with good education opportunities. It's well-known for its strength in programs like medicine and education. It has quietly become one of Alberta's most prominent schools, with more than 8,000 students on campus. 

But it also has significant issues. Although Lethbridge is a significantly cheaper place to live than Montreal or Toronto, it's still a small city, a long way from home for most attendees. Lethbridge has fewer amenities than larger cities, meaning many students need a car -- a significant expense. 

The school's relatively small size also means it doesn't have as many options as larger schools. Combine that with a 73.9% graduation rate -- lower than other top Alberta universities --, and it combines to make Lethbridge a relatively worse place to attend. Many Alberta students choose the University of Calgary instead.

9. University of New Brunswick

The University of New Brunswick is the province's largest university, with campuses in both Fredericton and St John, which combine to host nearly 10,000 students. It is Canada's oldest university and one of the oldest in North America, tracing its history back to 1785.

University of New Brunswick

UNB is known for offering solid engineering and forestry programs but struggles in many other areas. Other student complaints include a too quiet campus, which is exasperated by splitting the school between St John and Fredericton. It also has a low graduation rate, with only 63% of students completing their studies. 

The school's age doesn't translate into recognition, either. The university gets solid grades across Canada as a decent place to go to school, but it won't impress many prospective employers.

8. University of Regina

The University of Regina is located in Saskatchewan's capital city, hosting more than 16,000 students annually. It is noted for its nursing, business, and agricultural programs. It also has one of the most significant proportions of international students in any university in Canada.

Many students who went to both schools much prefer the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon. Regina's issues include a lacklustre campus, below-average educational experience, outdated and broken lab equipment, and many aren't happy with the school's lack of food options. 

U of R also has one of the highest tuition rates in Canada, a strategy some say is in place so the school can continue to focus on wealthy international students at the expense of locals. And it also has a low graduation ratio, with just 58.5% of students graduating. The University of Saskatchewan, meanwhile, boasts a graduation ratio of 67.1%. 

7. University of Northern B.C.

The University of Northern B.C. is located in Prince George, British Columbia. It has a current enrolment of a little over 4,000 students. It is one of Canada's newest universities, only offering courses since 1992. It is renowned for its medical program, a rarity for a school UNBC's size.

Most students like the school's campus, which is located on a hill overlooking the city. But many complain that there isn't much to do there, and meal options are too basic. The school also doesn't offer too many different programs, meaning it isn't a fit for many. And it also struggles with a low graduation rate. Only 61.1% of students graduate, one of the lowest ratios in the nation.

UNBC might be a solid choice for folks in the area. Still, it likely isn't a good choice for students looking for a more traditional university experience. 

6. St. Mary's University

St. Mary's University is located in the south end of Halifax, Nova Scotia. It is one of Canada's oldest universities, tracing its history to the early 1800s. Despite its age, St. Mary's has stayed a small school; current enrolment is around 6,000 students. Prominent programs offered by the school include chemistry and business. 

St Maries University

While St. Mary's is a decent school and quietly earns respectable marks in the top university rankings, it also has several downfalls. It is a small campus and doesn't offer a huge variety of undergrad programs, at least compared to larger schools in the area. It also has a reputation for inflating grades, although that negative is a positive attribute to some. It has a high acceptance rate and suffers from a low graduation rate as well. Just 54.2% of students end up graduating. 

St. Mary's is a good university overall. Still, many suggest the issues above have contributed to keeping St. Mary's a smaller school. 

5. Nipissing University

Nipissing University is a small public university located in North Bay, Ontario. It features small classes, accessible professors, and an intimate campus with just 3,800 full-time undergraduates. You'll get to know your classmates here. Although North Bay is one of the cheapest places to live in Ontario, the school isn't much to write home about.

The school is an integral part of the area, allowing thousands of Northern Ontario undergrads to attend a school much closer to home than Toronto-based schools like Ryerson University. Having an option close to home can save a student thousands in housing and transportation costs.

But there are a few problems, and they're relatively big ones. Nipissing struggles with issues like it only offers limited courses, with graduate-level courses even rarer. It has high admission and low graduation rates, with the latter at just 71%. North Bay is a small city, meaning it has limited amenities. It has only been a university since 1992, meaning it doesn't have the prestige of an older school. 

Putting those together makes Nipissing a solid choice for a small number of Northern Ontario students. Most others should look for another school. 

4. Cape Breton University

Cape Breton University is located on Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia, in Sydney. Many choose the school because of its low tuition and inexpensive housing. 

But, as the adage goes, you get what you pay for. The campus is somewhat remote, with poor public transit options, making it a poor choice for many students. It's primarily an undergraduate school, meaning there are virtually zero graduate programs once students earn their undergrad degrees. The local economy is also somewhat poor, meaning more competition for part-time jobs while studying or full-time work once graduation.

Finally, CBU suffers from poor graduation rates. 58.9% of students graduate, suggesting both admission requirements are too lax and the school's student services could be improved.

3. Brandon University

Brandon University is an intimate school in the medium-sized city of Brandon, Manitoba. Despite its small size -- it has less than 3,000 full and part-time students -- the school is well known for its undergrad liberal arts programs, especially music. It also traces back to 1899, founded as a small Baptist college.

Brandon University

Like many other universities on this list, Brandon's small size is good and bad. The city of Brandon has around 50,000 people, meaning students who move there won't get much in the way of other amenities. It also means most graduates will be forced to leave to find a job.

Facilities such as the campus, library, and living conditions are consistently rated as rather basic. Students will find the faculty accessible -- small class sizes are a plus here -- but you'll have to head to a larger school to be taught by the best in your chosen field. And worst of all is the school's low graduation rate. Only 46% of attendees end up graduating.

Students looking for anything besides music may be better off heading to the University of Saskatchewan or the University of Manitoba. 

2. Universite de Moncton

The Université de Moncton is a French-language school with campuses in several cities in New Brunswick but primarily located in Moncton, the province's second-largest city. Like many other schools in the maritime provinces, it features cheap tuition and inexpensive housing, significant advantages for students looking to minimize post-graduation debt.

Unfortunately, this French school comes with several disadvantages. The first is the mass appeal of the school. English-speaking students can't attend, and there's little demand for French employees outside Quebec. This limits job opportunities for grads. Moncton is also a small city with little to do outside campus.

Université de Moncton also suffers from a low graduation rate. Only 58.4% of students graduate, one of the lowest rates in Canada.

1. University of Winnipeg

The University of Winnipeg is a large, primarily undergraduate university in Manitoba's largest city. It has some 340 academic staff and more than 10,000 undergraduate students. 

No one thing gives the University of Winnipeg the lowest ranking, but there are many little things. Some more apparent reasons the school is at the bottom of this list include low graduation rates (under 50% of undergrads earn their degrees), a campus and student housing many say is in an unsafe area and a real lack of graduate level courses. Less than 300 graduate-level students are attending the school today. Many report parking at the downtown Winnipeg campus is continually an issue, too. 

University of Winnipeg

This all translates into the U of W having a somewhat poor reputation. This issue often rears its ugly head when graduates seek a job. Finally, the weather is a struggle, especially in the winter. Winnipeg can quickly dip below -40, including the wind chill. The weather is especially an issue for international students. Most are used to a far warmer climate.

Many current and former students prefer the University of Manitoba. It ranks much better.

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Dan Kent

About the author

An active dividend and growth investor, Dan has been involved with the website since its inception. He is primarily a researcher and writer here at Stocktrades.ca, and his pieces have numerous mentions on the Globe and Mail, Forbes, Winnipeg Free Press, and other high authority financial websites. He has become an authority figure in the Canadian finance niche, primarily due to his attention to detail and overall dedication to achieving the highest returns on his investments. Investing on his own since he was 19 years old, Dan has compiled the experience and knowledge needed to be successful in the world of self-directed investing, and is always happy to bring that knowledge to Stocktrades.ca readers and any other publications that give him the opportunity to write. He has completed the Canadian Securities Course, manages his TFSA, RRSPs and a LIRA at Qtrade, and has compiled a real estate portfolio of his primary residence and 2 rental properties, all before his 30th birthday.