Background

The CGPS currently administers over $8M in institutional and strategic funds derived from the college’s operating budget in addition to managing various scholarship programs and administering a large number of endowed scholarships as described in  CGPS Policy and Program Manual Section 10. The complexity and highly constrained features of the College of Graduate & Postdoctoral Studies (CGPS) funding for graduate students is a hot button item from all college stakeholders groups.  Through exploration, it was revealed that a large number of small programs had evolved organically over the years to respond directly to specific initiatives and opportunities which has led to the very administratively heavy system and a lack of transparency in the management of the CGPS' scholarships and awards.

Current scholarship programs were predominantly developed prior to the change to the resource-centred budget allocation method and the implementation of the 2018 collective agreement for graduate students.  Additionally, concerns with the adjudication criteria for the Dean’s Scholarship continue to be raised. 

There is an opportunity to rethink the funding streams to make them more flexible, transparent and to consider the benefits of a policy on minimum funding guarantees for students.   

As a first step, Dean Debby Burshtyn has collected t feedback from the graduate community on a set of guiding principles and considerations which is now guiding a working group to develop an implementation plan to reimagine CGPS administered funding programs and a process for change.  

 

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 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

Summer 2020 Dean’s onboarding conversations with Deans, Associate Deans Grad/Research and Grad Chairs 
Nov 3, 2020 Dean's Council
Nov 19, 2020 AD Grad Forum
Jan 20, 2021 Grad Chair Forum
Jan 21, 2021 AD Grad Forum
Jan 21, 2021 CGPS Executive Committee Endorsement
Feb 9, 2021 CGPS Council
Call for expressions of interest to join the working group
Working group meeting