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Understanding the Québec university system

The Québec university system is based on the North American model: bachelor’s degree, master’s degree, and doctorate. It is similar to the European LMD system, but offers more of a mix of professional programs and research-based programs, particularly at the master’s level.

Levels and diplomas

The Québec university system is divided into three academic levels, with five diplomas. The duration of studies varies depending on your chosen level and program. To earn a degree, you must complete an undergraduate, master’s, or doctoral program. Other types of programs are also offered to improve your knowledge of a specific field or advance your research expertise.

Undergraduate diplomas


The certificate is a short program in a specific field of studies. It may be complementary to a degree program or serve as supplementary training for professionals.

Duration of full-time studies: 1 year

Bachelor’s degree

There are different types of bachelor’s degrees: A specialized degree lets you focus on a specific field of knowledge, while integrated or multidisciplinary degrees let you focus on at least two complementary fields of knowledge.

Duration of full-time studies: 3 to 4 years

Master’s diplomas

Advanced graduate diploma

The advanced graduate diploma (DESS) allows you to gain experience in a specific field of knowledge and prepares you for the workplace.

Duration of full-time studies: 1 year


Master’s degree programs may either be practical in nature, allowing you to acquire a professional specialization, or built around a research project that is the subject of a thesis.

Duration of full-time studies: 2 years

Doctoral diplomas


There are two types of doctoral programs: one leading to a Philosophæ Doctor (PhD) and one leading to a doctoral degree in a field of knowledge.

Duration of full-time studies: 4 years

Other programs

Short program

Undergraduate or master’s level short programs provide training in a particular field and lead to an attestation of studies. These programs are usually part time and can be completed on a distance-learning basis anywhere in Québec or around the world.

Postdoctoral fellowship

A postdoctoral fellowship gives PhD holders the opportunity to acquire additional or more specialized expertise in a specific field of research.


The academic year consists of three semesters, each usually lasting 15 weeks:

Fall semester: September to December
Winter semester: January to April
Summer semester: May to August

You can apply for admission to most programs for the fall semester. Many programs are also open to admission for the winter and summer semesters.


A credit is a unit used to assign a numerical value to the workload required for students to meet the objectives of a given course. One university course usually corresponds to three credits and one credit represents approximately 45 hours of work. Hours of work could take the form of individual study, presence in a class, lab, workshop, or an internship.

Number of credits generally required to obtain a diploma: 

  • Certificate: 30 credits
  • Bachelor’s degree: 90–120 credits
  • Advanced graduate diploma (DESS): 30 credits
  • Master’s: 45 credits
  • Doctorate: 90 credits

Consult the official program descriptions to find out how many credits are required.

Full-time student status

You are considered a full-time student if you are enrolled in 12 credits or more per semester, generally the equivalent of four courses.

Most courses are worth three credits, but some may be worth two or four. Consult the official course descriptions to find out how many credits each course is worth. 

Admission restrictions for specific programs

Limited enrolment programs

A program where the number of admission applications received exceeds the number of available places.

Limited space programs

A program where the number of admission applications received may exceed the number of available places. This is determined based on the staff and material required or on internship opportunities.

Knowledge of French

Most programs are taught in French. If your language proficiency level is not sufficient, you could consider the French Immersion Pathway option and begin the program of your choice with qualifying coursework focused on language learning.