Background

CGPS administers $8,150,000 in funds allocated from the central operating budget and $850,000 of the Provincial Saskatchewan Innovation and Opportunity as student funding.  The current suite of scholarships was approved over years through requests to the Provost and the Provost’s Advisory Committee (or its predecessors) for strategic investment including periodic requests for more funding to increase the value of scholarships to keep pace with the times. 

Preliminary consultations in summer and fall 2020 by the Dean with Grad Chairs, Associate Deans Grad, and Deans Council revealed the view that currently there a relatively large number of funding streams each with a separate goal that is complicated for programs, students, and faculty to understand, and onerous for programs and CGPS to administer.  One fund is allocated to units (department/school/non-departmentalized college) and others to Colleges and Schools.  The picture of the student funding landscape was further informed by tuition consultation meetings with students where concerns over rising costs without increases in scholarship values were raised as well as the perception that a large proportion of thesis-based students were not funded at all or well enough.

The question arose as to if there was a way to divide the pie in a simpler, more effective, and equitable manner to achieve the goals of the institution.

SCOPE: To assess the scholarship and student employment and support funds derived from institutional funds administered through CGPS (operating grant & SIOS).  Scholarship and Bursaries from endowed funds administered through CPGS and funds administered by Schools and Colleges are not in scope of this project.

The Dean developed a set of guiding principles for central student support funds that were vetted by Associate Deans Graduate, Graduate Chair Forum and CGPS Council in winter 2021.

 

Working Group Composition

CGPS Dean Chair
4 Faculty Members  Includes a representative body of graduate chairs from the sciences, humanities, professional programs and CGPS awards committee
Project Support Heather Lukey (Director of Scholarships and Awards, CGPS
Lori Lisitza (Executive Officer and Assistant to the Dean, CGPS)
Resources

Institutional Planning and Assessment

 

Considerations for developing funding policy

  • Student support is a combination of teaching assistantships, research assistantships, stipends, scholarships, bursaries, and sometimes other types of employment. 
  • The scholarship landscape is complex and includes funds with varying degrees of restrictions from external, central, and local sources. 
  • Many of our programs have existing funding policies that guarantee minimum levels of funding. We are pulling together the information on existing funding policies. 
  • Comparators with minimum funding guarantees for PhD students are ~$20,000/yr for 4 years (e.g. UofC, UBC as of January 2021). 
  • International Students have limited access to external scholarship programs and employment outside of campus and many of our programs are highly internationalized. 
  • 2019 analysis suggests we pay less out of grants to students on a per student basis than comparators and it is uneven across colleges. IPA is working on a fresh analysis to determine student funding from all sources focused on years 1-4 of PhD and 1-2 of masters. 
  • Current funding guarantees provided through policies within units are in tension with growth targets and tuition increases.
  • There are disciplinary differences in the expectation by granting agencies to support students in part or in full from grants to individual faculty members.  Broadly speaking student stipends for research toward a thesis, can be fully covered by CIHR grants and related biomedical research agencies, NSERC funding levels align with partial stipends (e.g. stipend for Spring/Summer with TA-ships for fall and winter) while research assistantships offered through SSHRC grants typically are not integral to the thesis work. 
  • There are disciplinary differences in the way scholarship funding impacts faculty research outputs.
  • There is a lot of criticism of the Dean’s Scholarship in terms the rubric, if it favors certain STEM fields and whether grades form certain countries are assessed correctly.
  • We have many matching criteria for CGPS allocated funds that may prevent CGPS and units from spending dollars.
  • PhD Students are more likely to have accumulated debt from prior education. 
  • The CGPS administered scholarships and funding streams are numerous, complicated and carry a heavy administrative burden for CGPS and the onus for matching requirements, and niche programs some of which appear currently overfunded.  The constraints have led to difficulty in the past of spending down funding under both unit and CGPS control.  However, the funds have been used to provide matching funds for training programs such as NSERC-CREATE and SSHRC-Talent and other investigator grants (e.g. CIHR Foundation). 
  • A lot of time and energy is currently put into the devolved funding plan approvals.

 

Guiding Principles

  • Student Funding includes Scholarships (performance-based) and Bursaries (need-based) and Employment. 
  • Competitive funding packages are pivotal to recruiting doctoral students and thesis-based master’s students. 
  • Competitive funding packages require multi-year commitments that align with minimum times to completion. 
  • Scholarships are important to recruit students to course-based master's programs. 
  • Student funding provides access to programs. 
  • Student funding is meant to allow students to focus on their program (less outside work, extend childcare etc.).   
  • Scholarships should reward excellence; there are various ways to define excellence.
  • Scholarships and awards need to keep pace with rising costs, especially tuition. 
  • Competitive funding requires top-ups to external scholarships that track with tuition increases. 
  • Nimble funds are required for recruitment that is offered at the time of admission 
  • Centrally adjudicated scholarships should be more prestigious and therefore competitive, than those allocated to units. 
  • Eligibility for scholarships or funding packages must be transparent. For example, if scholarships and/or Assistantships exclude those working full-time outside the university or in alignment with TriAgency awards categories of university employees (e.g. faculty members) it must be clear for all applicants. 
  • A minimum funding guarantee provides predictability for students which supports mental wellbeing.
  • There is a responsibility of supervisors to financially support students where students provide an intellectual contribution to the research program of their supervisor.
  • Incenting college/department/faculty behaviour through matching schemes must be counterbalanced by the overhead to administer for the unit and CGPS and not asking the same funds to incent too many different things.

Consultation

Dialogue 2020-21

Summer 2020 Dean’s onboarding conversations with Deans, Associate Deans Grad/Research and Grad Chairs 
Nov 3 Dean's Council
Nov 19 AD Grad Forum
Jan 20 Grad Chair Forum
Jan 21 AD Grad Forum
Jan 21 CGPS Executive Committee Endorsement
Feb 9 CGPS Council
Mar 30 Call for expressions of interest to join the working group
June 2021 Working group meetings
Summer 2021 Proposal development
Sept 23 CGPS Executive Committee
Oct 28 AD Grad Forum
Nov 9 Dean's Council
Nov 16 Grad Council
Jan 11 Grad Council

Findings Summary

  • The system seems very complex and fragmented.
  • Devolved Scholarship name does not have a cache for recipients or recognition outside USask.
  • Matching requirements are a significant administrative burden, and it is difficult to measure the impact or success of the matching requirements and it is a significant barrier for programs where faculty do not have access to funds that can support students.
  • Widespread unhappiness with the rubric used to adjudicate the Dean’s Scholarship.
  • New Faculty Support Fund is biased toward sciences given those researchers would have grants to support students and provide the match.
  • Lack of scholarships for students in course-based programs that lead to doctoral programs/qualify for Tri-Agency funds.
  • Limited scholarships to address equity priorities due to mismatch between student demand for course-based/professional programs over project/thesis-based programs.
  • Students perceive that they are not supported enough.
  • Faculty perception that other institutions provide more central funding to programs for students.
  • Limited funding to support students that fall short of the GPA criteria for scholarship programs.
  • There are diverse views on what the priorities should be for funding students.