Postsecondary education in Nova Scotia

Postsecondary education in Nova Scotia is delivered through 10 publicly supported degree-granting institutions and one province-wide community college — the Nova Scotia Community College.

Some of the province's degree-granting institutions are highly specialized; others offer a broader range of undergraduate and graduate programs. The latter include six English-language universities - Acadia University, Cape Breton University, Dalhousie University, Mount Saint Vincent University, Saint Mary's University, and St. Francis Xavier University and one French-language university college, Université Sainte-Anne, which provides a comprehensive range of educational opportunities in French at both the college and university levels.

The province's oldest university, the University of King's College, is affiliated with Dalhousie and holds most of its degree-granting powers in abeyance, the exception being the degree in journalism not available at Dalhousie. The Atlantic School of Theology (AST) is an ecumenical graduate school that prepares women and men for a variety of ministries, both lay and ordained. The Nova Scotia College of Art and Design prepares students to enter professional life as artists, communication designers, and art educators. Since its foundation in 1905 as a small, regional school of agriculture, the Nova Scotia Agricultural College has evolved to become Atlantic Canada's agricultural teaching and research institution. In September 2012, the Agricultural College merged with Dalhousie University to become the Dalhousie Agricultural Campus.

Nova Scotia Community College (NSCC) is a province-wide system of 14 campuses, including an online eCampus. NSCC offers over 130 certificate, diploma and post-diploma programs through five academic schools that serve key sectors of the economy: creative industries, technology, business, education, health, human services, trades, transportation, technology and environment. NSCC also offers apprenticeship courses, customized training and continuing education.

Both Nova Scotia Community College and the Université Sainte-Anne provide customized college-level programming to meet the human resources development needs of a variety of businesses, organizations, and government departments.

The Department of Labour and Advanced Education is responsible for the province's postsecondary system.

The number and diversity of Nova Scotia's postsecondary institutions reflect the cultural, linguistic, and religious diversity of the province's early European settlers. The University of King's College was established in 1789 by United Empire Loyalists who settled in Nova Scotia after fleeing the rebelling colonies to the south. King's was modeled on Oxford University in England and was designed to reinforce British and Anglican traditions and values. In 1818, Lieutenant Governor Lord Dalhousie created a new institution, the future Dalhousie University, along the lines of the University of Edinburgh, to counter the religious restrictions and elitism he found at King's.

Other universities, most with denominational affiliations, were created throughout the nineteenth century. Acadia University was established by the Baptists in 1838. The province's Irish, Scottish, and French Roman Catholic communities founded Saint Mary's University, St. Francis Xavier University, and Université Sainte-Anne in 1841, 1853, and 1890 respectively.

Mount Saint Vincent was started as an academy by the Sisters of Charity in 1873. The original purpose was to train novices and sisters as teachers, but the Mount soon evolved into an independent women's university providing higher education for other women. In 1966 a new charter changed the Mount's name from Mount Saint Vincent College to Mount Saint Vincent University. Male students were first admitted in 1967, and today women still represent the majority of the enrolment. Almost half of the students attend part-time.

The Atlantic School of Theology (AST) was founded in 1971 and is the result of the amalgamation of three faculties (Anglican, Roman Catholic, and United Church of Canada) into one ecumenical school to serve the Atlantic Region. Other Christian denominations are also represented. In March 2002, AST and Saint Mary's University signed a memorandum of agreement affiliating the two institutions.

The Nova Scotia College of Art and Design was founded in 1887 by Anna Leonowens as an artistic enterprise to commemorate Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee. The university did not receive degree-granting status until 1969.

The Nova Scotia Agricultural College was established in 1905 as a small, regional school of agriculture and has evolved to become Atlantic Canada's agricultural teaching and research institution.

The Technical University of Nova Scotia, which traced its history to 1907, was amalgamated with Dalhousie University in April 1997.

Nova Scotia Community College was established in 1996 as a result of merging the existing vocational and technical institutions in the province. Collège de l'Acadie was also established in 1988 to provide training in the French language for Nova Scotia's Acadian/French population. In 2002, Collège de l'Acadie merged with Université Sainte-Anne and is now one university college institution — Université Sainte-Anne.

Programs and credentials offered by degree-granting institutions

General undergraduate degrees at most universities in Nova Scotia require four years of full-time study. Honours degrees, involving a higher level of concentration in the honours discipline and a higher level of academic performance, may require an extra year of full-time study. Most universities also offer diploma and certificate programs in various specialized fields. These vary in length depending on the program and the institution. University calendars are the best sources of information about specific program requirements.

Dalhousie University is the province's largest degree-granting institution and the largest university in Maritime Canada. It offers a full range of graduate and professional programs, including medicine, dentistry, pharmacy, engineering, computer science, and law. Graduate programs, especially at the master's level, are also available at other universities in the province, although most institutions tend to specialize.

Most universities in the province offer part-time and summer session programs and a number are actively involved in distance education.

Programs and credentials offered by non-degree-granting institutions

Nova Scotia Community College (NSCC) offers a comprehensive suite of credentialed programs ranging from one to three years of study in career-oriented fields such as health sciences, creative industries, skilled trades, information technology, geosciences, business and much more. A range of deliveries are offered, including a number of fully online programs. For the latest information about programs, courses and ways to learn, visit

Université Sainte-Anne is a recognized postsecondary collegial institution, which uses technology to deliver training programs developed to meet the needs of the Acadian/Francophone population in Nova Scotia. The university college's learning centres are equipped with distance education/video conference systems. Course delivery is also available through the Internet. The institution offers numerous types of courses and programs, full-time and part-time postsecondary education programs, customized and professional training programs, academic upgrading, evening and weekend courses, and correspondence courses. It also offers academic upgrading, which allows mature students to obtain their high school diploma equivalency.

Generally speaking, universities require high school completion from a university preparatory program. Most universities have minimum grade point average requirements, and some have specific course requirements, depending on the university program to which the student is seeking admission. Most universities are willing to make special provisions for mature applicants over the age of 25 who have not completed high school. Additional information on admission requirements for universities and colleges in Nova Scotia is available on the Web site.

Nova Scotia Community College (NSCC) admission requirements are outlined by program. For more information about programs and admission requirements visit

In 2020-2115-16, full-time undergraduate arts tuition fees at Nova Scotia universities for Canadian students ranged from about $8,020 to $9,201, whereas full-time undergraduate science tuition ranged from $8,280 to $9,209, depending on the institution and program of study. Undergraduate arts tuition for international students at the university level ranged from $10,970 to $21,180 and for undergraduate science it ranged from $12,158 to $22,269, depending on the institution and program of study. Students should consult the campus of their choice for details on tuition for specific programs, residence, and other fees charged for student-related services.

In the 2020-21 academic year, tuition for core programs at NSCC was $3,515.

The provincial government operates a student assistance program for residents of the province to supplement the Canada Student Loans Program. A number of scholarships and bursaries are available through the universities and private agencies.

Students should consult the campus of their choice for details on fees and financial assistance.

Comprehensive review of this information: January 2021