Minimum Funding Policy for PhD Students

The Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies is proposing that UBC establish a university-wide minimum funding level for all PhD students. Specifically, the proposal is that all full-time UBC students (domestic and international) admitted to a PhD program of the Vancouver campus that starts in September 2018 or later will be provided with a minimum funding package equal to $18,000 for each of the first four years of their PhD. The funding package may consist of internal or external awards, scholarships, teaching-related work, research assistantships, graduate academic assistantships, or any combination of the above.The policy has been approved Graduate Council and will be presented to the UBC Senate for approval in spring 2017.

 

background

It is recognized that PhD students are highly educated individuals who contribute significantly to the research enterprise of the University, as well as to the education of undergraduate students.  Although the average annual funding from all sources for UBC PhD students in years 1-4 is about $30,000, approximately 15% of these students receive less than $18,000.  Five of the six Ontario U15 universities provide a minimum funding package for doctoral students, as do many top universities around the world.  It is expected that most PhD students will receive more than the minimum level of funding, as they do currently.  It should be noted that a part-time doctoral studies policy is in the approval process, and that such students would be exempt from the minimum funding policy.

A minimum funding package will help attract outstanding PhD students to UBC, support them appropriately, and enhance UBC’s research enterprise and educational goals.  The funding package will recognize the important contributions that PhD students make to the University, and provide much needed resources for the students to cope with living in the most expensive city in Canada.  Funding has substantial impact: PhD students with insufficient funding have longer completion times, greater likelihood of attrition, and lower satisfaction regarding their graduate student experience.  In the 2016 Canadian Graduate and Professional Student Survey, 34% of UBC PhD students considered work or financial commitments to be a major obstacle to academic progress.  Those who considered them a major obstacle rated their academic experience more poorly relative to those who did not consider them an obstacle.

The proposed policy will take effect for students starting their PhD program in September 2018 or later. Students who begin their PhD program before September 2018 will not fall under the proposed policy. However, all graduate programs have been encouraged to voluntarily adopt part or all of the policy for January 2017 admissions in preparation for a 2018 implementation

Proposed Policy

All full-time UBC students (domestic and international) newly admitted to a PhD program of the Vancouver campus will be provided with a Minimum Funding Package equal to $18,000 for each of the first four years of a PhD.  This funding can be used to pay for university-related expenses (e.g., tuition, books) as well as general living expenses.  The funding package may consist of internal or external awards, scholarships, teaching-related work, research assistantships, graduate academic assistantships, or any combination of the above.  In some circumstances, part-time employment or paid internships in the field of the student’s research may be considered part of the funding package, whether the work occurs on or off campus (e.g., a PhD student continues part-time nursing practice to maintain professional skills and to understand current research needs in that setting). If a student receives additional funding (e.g., a scholarship) or other income that elevates his/her package above the minimum funding package, his/her support from on-campus funding sources may be reduced.  In many cases, PhD students will receive more than the Minimum Funding Package.

The Minimum Funding Package is inclusive of vacation pay and benefits, as well as external awards or sponsorships, if applicable.  It does not include the International Partial Tuition Scholarship.  Students must apply for major scholarships as required by their graduate program to continue to qualify for the Minimum Funding Package. Students may be required to disclose their sources of university or scholarship funding, as well as other income sources to the Graduate Program and must inform the Program immediately of new funding sources.

The Minimum Funding Package does not apply to students enrolled in a Part-time PhD Program or those enrolled in EdD or DMA programs.  The Minimum Funding Package is contingent on satisfactory academic progress (see UBC calendar for definition of satisfactory progress).

When the student completes his/her program (or withdraws without completing) while receiving financial support through the Minimum Funding Package, this support may be subject to repayment or pro-rating for the remainder of the term.

Students transferring from a UBC master’s to a PhD program without completing the master’s will be eligible for the Minimum Funding Package once they are PhD students.  In line with UBC policies, the start of the PhD program for these transfer students will be the date of first registration in the master’s program.  Hence, a student who transfers to a PhD after one year of master’s study will be provided with a Minimum Funding Package for the next 3 years.

The student may decline all or part of the package after acceptance of an offer admission without any prejudice to his/her admission. The student should not feel pressured in any way to decline the package. Where the student declines all or part of the minimum funding package on admission, the program must submit a written statement to G+PS, signed by the student, and acknowledging the University has met its obligations.  If the student requires a funding package in the future due to a change in situation, the Department and Supervisor will make their best effort to assemble a Funding Package, but this might not be possible as funding sources may be fully committed.

The Minimum Funding Policy will be reviewed annually by the Graduate Council.  Any annual increases will apply to both new and current eligible doctoral students.

Timeline

Steps in the development, consultation and approval of the policy are as follows:

  • Prior to spring 2016 - discussions and research into the feasability of a minimum funding policy for PhD students
  • Spring 2016 - each academic unit was provided with data on the current amount of funding received by their PhD students
  • Summer and fall 2016 - individual consultations with academic units
  • November 2016 - forums for faculty and graduate program staff
  • February 2017 - review and approval by Graduate Council
  • March 2017 - forum for current and prospective PhD students
  • April 2017 - review by Senate Admissions Committee
  • May 2017 - review by UBC-V Senate