Graduate Funding Transparency

From: Cheryl Regehr, Vice-President & Provost
Date: October 2, 2015
Re: Graduate Funding Transparency

In the spring of 2014, following a Review of Graduate Studies at the University of Toronto, Professor Locke Rowe was appointed as Vice-Provost Graduate Research and Education and Dean of the School of Graduate Studies. His mandate is to develop a vision and implementation plans that respond to the Report’s recommendations. Professor Sandy Welsh was also appointed as the Provostial Advisor on Graduate Student Funding.

Overall goals identified in the Report and through consultations held by Professors Welsh and Rowe include:

  • Revitalizing the School of Graduate Studies as a hub of graduate student activities and services;
  • Consolidating services for graduate students, including professional development, mental health services, and financial services;
  • Establishing and adhering to best practices with respect to communicating with graduate students about their programs and funding;
  • Enhancing transparency concerning graduate student funding and time to completion.

As a key step in revitalizating the role of SGS as a service provider, renovations to its student-serving facilities have recently been approved by the Academic Board and Business Board and are expected to be completed by the spring of 2016. Mental health counsellors have been moved to the School of Graduate Studies and services for graduate students will increase as necessary. Graduate professional development activities are being expanded and consolidated. In the new year SGS will be piloting a conflict resolution support centre for graduate students.

As an important first step towards increasing transparency in graduate student funding, I released an update on graduate student funding at the University of Toronto in July 2015. This has already sparked productive conversations at the level of divisions and programs. Students and faculty should understand funding packages, average time to completion, and graduation rates associated with their programs. Funding information should include the value and composition of funding packages, as well as how that funding is expected to change over the course of a program. This information should be available to students before entering a program.

Data for the four graduate divisions at the University of Toronto are available online. In the next short while, we will make program-level data available to all current and prospective PhD students. I encourage you to discuss these data with the faculty members and graduate students in your programs. Understanding average time to completion and year-to-year changes in funding for graduate students can inform and contribute to the review of graduate program requirements at the level of individual graduate units, helping us ensure that students are able to complete their programs in a timely manner.

Graduate student experience and graduate funding are a shared responsibility. More complete and timely information allows for informed conversations and decisions. I look forward to continued discussion of these issues during the course of this year.