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Arts & Science doctoral-stream students on all three campuses to receive funding boost

Additional supports to be provided to help students complete their PhDs and prepare for careers

The Faculty of Arts & Science at the University of Toronto is planning significant improvements to graduate funding that will see students in the funded cohort receive at least $2,000 more in 2018-19 than they do today. The initiative affects Arts & Science students on all three campuses.

“This is part of an overall effort to improve graduate student education at U of T,” said Joshua Barker, vice dean of graduate education and program reviews in the Faculty of Arts & Science.  “We have heard students’ concerns. We are very focused on helping our students complete their degrees in a timely fashion and ensuring they are well-prepared for academic and non-academic careers when they do.”

“This funding increase is an excellent step in the right direction and I particularly appreciate Dr. Barker’s emphasis on consulting student representatives while designing this policy change,” said doctoral student Baxter Robinson, co-president of the Graduate Economics Course Union.

“An excellent step in the right direction”

Students eligible for the increase are domestic and international students in the funded cohort in Arts & Science programs on all three U of T campuses. As part of the funded cohort, students receive funding for up to five years of doctoral-stream study: some units direct this funding toward one year of master’s and four years of PhD study; others focus funding on five years of PhD study. All of the increase will be in the form of fellowship income.

In addition to the increases going directly to students, the Faculty of Arts & Science expects to provide $1.12 million in 2017-18, rising to $2.24 million annually in 2018 to create Program-Level Fellowship Pools in its departments, centres and institutes (“academic units”). These Pools will enable the academic units to address their own priorities for graduate education. Over the coming year, the units will, in consultation with their graduate students, establish a process for allocating funding from their Pools and share this process in a transparent fashion.

“This is a very exciting development for our graduate students,” said Virginia Maclaren, graduate chair of geography & planning. “I am particularly pleased about the flexibility offered to individual departments by the Fellowship Pools.”  Markus Stock, graduate chair of Germanic languages and literatures, said “The Program-Level Fellowship Pools will not only enable us to distribute additional fellowship funding to graduate students, but they will also give our unit some flexibility in deciding, in consultation with our graduate students, how these funds will be best spent to ensure their progress and success.”

A major investment on the part of the Faculty of Arts & Science

These improvements to graduate funding represent a major investment on the part of the Faculty of Arts & Science, starting at $3.35 million in 2016-17 and rising to an ongoing annual investment of $6.7 million by 2018-19.  The Faculty’s investment results in a 27 per cent increase in the U of T fellowships that will be provided to Arts & Science students.

Approximately 64 per cent of the 3,540 doctoral-stream students enrolled in Arts & Science programs are in the funded cohort. The first increase of $1,500 takes effect September 2016 and will be reflected in the funding letters sent to students over the summer. Additional planned increases of $250 per year will take effect in September 2017 and September 2018.

Under the Faculty of Arts & Science plan, by 2018-19, Arts & Science students in the funded cohort on all three campuses would receive at least $2,000 more fellowship support than they do today. That means that a student who currently receives $15,000 plus tuition and fees, can expect to receive tuition and fees plus $16,500 in 2016-17, $16,750 in 2017-18 and $17,000 in 2018-19.

New programs: Milestones and Pathways

In addition to these funding improvements, two new programs Milestones and Pathways will bolster support to students moving through their studies and help them to better prepare for their future careers. Both programs will focus on discipline-specific initiatives.

Milestones will provide workshops and retreats to help students reach key markers in their graduate training: advancing to candidacy, writing their dissertation and publishing an academic article. Pathways will provide the knowledge and skills that students need to succeed in their future academic or non-academic careers. A number of initiatives are currently underway in Arts & Science – from writing retreats in geography to industry internships in computer science and academic career placement counselling in English and the Faculty hopes to scale these up so that more students can benefit.

The Faculty of Arts & Science’s initiatives align with a broader set of efforts to improve graduate education across the University of Toronto.

Barker has been vice dean of graduate education and program reviews in the Faculty of Arts & Science since July 2015 and has spent much of his first year in consultation with graduate student representatives of course unions, as well as the Arts & Science graduate chairs, principals and directors.

In 2001, the University of Toronto was the first university in Canada to introduce a base level of funding to graduate students enrolled in doctoral-stream programs. Under the University of Toronto’s new budget model, introduced in 2007, authority for revenue and spending has been devolved to the divisions which means that the funding sources for increases to graduate funding must be identified within each division.

Many Arts & Science students receive significantly more than the base level of funding, with individual amounts depending on factors such as the individual program in which they are enrolled, and on their own capacity to generate support through external funding agencies.

For more information on graduate funding in Arts &Science, visit the Arts & Science Graduate Studies website.