Montréal: City of knowledge

published on December 12, 2023
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When one thinks of Montréal, it’s easy to get distracted by the mosaic of cutting-edge culture and old-world grandeur. But the city is much more than style and entertainment — with world-renowned higher education institutions all active in research and innovation, Montréal is also a global city of knowledge.

The proof is in the numbers

Over 46,000 degrees are awarded to students in Montréal each year, equalling nearly 20% of new graduates in Canada and the highest number of graduates of any city in the country. There are 194,000 students who call the city home, and Montréal is Canada’s heart of research with the highest number of research centres and amount of money invested in university research.

This focus on knowledge and innovation has put Montréal at the forefront of areas like neuroscienceartificial intelligence, the life sciences and the ICT sector, with new hires from each year’s graduating class maintaining the city’s leading edge. But there’s more to it than just end results. In Quacquarelli Symonds’ 2022 worldwide poll, students themselves ranked Montréal as the number one city in Canada in which to study, for the seventh year in a row! And that’s something worth shouting from the rooftops.

World-class universities

Home to four major universities, Montréal has higher education woven into its very fabric. Where other cities push their campuses to the sidelines, Montréal’s city centre is one punctuated by centres of learning with McGill University, the Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM), Concordia University and the Université de Montréal (UdeM) all taking their place at the heart of the city. Each makes their own important and distinct contributions to research, development and international exchanges (and they’re also perfect locations for meetings and events).

McGill University

Ranked as the 30th best university in the world on the 2024 QS World University list, McGill is responsible for more than 200 years of ground-breaking discoveries and is a leading light in the “Canadian Ivy League” — even dubbed “The Harvard of Canada” in an episode of The Simpsons. Of its numerous achievements, one of McGill’s most important contributions was the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, drafted by John Humphrey (BCom’25, BA’27, BCL’29, PhD’45) who was then a Professor of Law at the school. The picture-pretty campus in the Golden Square Mile is an iconic blend of Hogwarts and Yale.

Last year 15 McGill researchers received $3.9 million from the Canada Foundation for Innovation’s John R. Evans Leaders Fund (CFI JELF), funds that were matched by the Québec government. This investment is allowing McGill to remain internationally competitive in areas of research and technology development that align with the university’s strategic priorities.


The Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM) is known both for its creativity and cutting-edge finance education. The university also excels in communication, tourism management and environmental sciences. UQAM is ranked 1st in Québec and 8th in Canada in terms of research funding for comprehensive universities. The university’s researchers, working in more than 100 research and creative units, are awarded numerous prizes and distinctions each year.

Among the research projects of this school, researchers from the chemistry department are currently working on a promising preclinical study that provides the first evidence of targeting human cancer stem-like cells (CSCs) of breast and ovarian cancers by TH1902 in vitro and in vivo.

Concordia University 

Concordia University boasts a renowned fine arts school, with alumni making waves in film, dance and theatre. Other areas of expertise include cybersecurity, journalism, digital media and the Centre for Studies in Behavioral Neurology.

In 2022 Concordia entered into a sustainability-linked financing deal with BMO Financial Group, a first for a higher education institution in Canada, underpinning Concordia’s commitment to advancing sustainability in its operations, management, research and curriculum.

Université de Montréal

With its affiliated schools, HEC Montréal and Polytechnique Montréal, Université de Montréal is the leading hub of higher education in Québec. The Université de Montréal’s stately campus dominates the northern side of Mount Royal — in particular the iconic Roger-Gaudry Building’s gorgeous art-deco tower.

Inaugurated in 2019, the science complex of UdeM showcases an impressive 60,000 m2 for multiple faculties as well as two green rooftops. Recent research from a Professor of UdeM and a French researcher shed new light on the ability of cells to contribute more effectively to the body's immune response through internal communication.

Specialized studies

Montréal has an additional seven institutions of higher learning, all noted for their contributions.

HEC Montréal is Canada’s oldest management school, and in affiliation with UdeM is one of only four schools in North America to hold a triple accreditation in management education (AACSB, EQUIS and AMBA). Associated with UQAM, the Institut national de la recherché scientifique (INRS) is a post-graduate university conducting research in four broad sectors: water, earth and the environment; energy, materials and telecommunication; human, animal and environmental health; and urbanization, culture and society.

And there’s more! The École national d’administration publiqueÉcole Polytechnique MontréalÉcole de technologies supérieuresUniversité Téluq and the University of Sherbrooke in Longueuil are also involved in moulding the minds of today into the leaders of tomorrow — in the process marking Montréal as a true world leader in education.


Read this next: Montréal named the best student city in Canada (even the world!) 

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