Understanding the Quebec school system and levels

Understanding the Quebec school system helps you choose the best level of education, program and institution based on your background and interests. It’s a way to ensure your future lives up to your expectations. Let’s explore it together!

Understanding the Quebec school system and levels

College: First level of higher education

The first level of higher education in Quebec is college, which is not the same as France’s collège. Quebec college has no equivalent anywhere else in the world, as it is open to both youth (after the French baccalauréat or bac) and adults, regardless of age. For some, this level of education bridges the gap between mandatory education in Quebec (primary and secondary school) and university and, for others, it’s a springboard into the job market.

College education is provided by public institutions known as CEGEPs and by private colleges. There are four CEGEPs and two private colleges in Québec City.

College-level institutions offer:

  • Two-year pre-university education programs that ready students for university studies and lead to the Diploma of College Studies (DEC).
  • Three-year technical training programs that ready students for the job market and lead to the Diploma of College Studies (DEC). These programs are comparable to a brevet de technicien supérieur (BTS) or diplôme universitaire de technologie (DUT) in France.
  • Technical training programs of about one year for adults. These programs ready students for the job market by providing them with specialized training in a technical field and lead to an Attestation of College Studies (ACS).


Diploma           Type of program Length Next step
Diploma of College Studies (DEC) Pre-university2 yearsUniversity
Technical3 yearsJob market
Attestation of College Studies (ACS) 1 yearsJob market
See college programs


University-level education is provided by universities and follows graduation from a pre-university education program at the college level. It is also open to students who have completed an equivalent number of years of schooling in another country. The structure of university education in Québec is similar to that found elsewhere in North America. Québec City has four universities that offer a variety of programs and specializations. The choice is yours to make!

There are three levels of university studies:

  • Bachelor’s degree (cycle 1), which takes 3 or 4 years, depending on the subject
  • Master’s degree (cycle 2), which takes 1 or 2 years
  • Doctorate (cycle 3), which takes 3 years or more

Most universities also offer short programs of various lengths, such as those leading to certificates or specialized graduate studies diplomas (DESS). 

Source : Ministère de l'Éducation

Cycle 1Certificate1 year
Bachelor’s degree3 to 4 years
Cycle 2Specialized graduate studies diplomas (DESS)1 year
Master’s degree2 years
Professional master’s degree2 years
Cycle 3Doctorate4 to 5 years
See university programs

Institutions and levels of education

Québec City has 10 higher education institutions that span both levels of education.

Campus Notre-Dame-de-FoyCollege (private)
Champlain. St-LawrenceCollege (CEGEP)
GarneauCollege (CEGEP)
LimoilouCollege (CEGEP)
Sainte-FoyCollege (CEGEP)
MériciCollege (private)
École nationale d'administration publique (ENAP)University (cycles 2 and 3)
Institut national de la recherche scientifique (INRS)University (cycles 2 and 3)
TÉLUQUniversity (entirely online)
Learn more about our institutions
Click here to see the full list of programs offered in Québec City.

What level of education is right for me?

Higher Learning Paths in Quebec