The University of British Columbia offers and administers many programs that provide financial help to graduate students.

 

Types of Funding

The Graduate Awards department at the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies is responsible for administering merit-based (also known as competition-based) graduate awards at the Vancouver campus of the University of British Columbia, as well as a limited number of non-merit-based awards such as the International Tuition Award, President's Academic Excellence Initiative PhD Award, and Graduate Student Travel and Research Dissemination Fund. Graduate Awards manages a number of award competitions each year and administers payment of both internally- and externally-funded awards.

 

Sources of Funding

 

Merit-based awards from UBC
Program funding packages

Students should check their degree program listing on our website at Graduate Degree Programs.  Depending on the degree program, there may be program funding packages offered by the UBC department.  The degree program listing may also include statistics on average funding in the program.

Awards organized through the UBC Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies

Graduate students can view the awards opportunities that are available for students to apply to on our website at Award Opportunities.

  • Using the filters at the top of the link, students can update the results to the awards that are relevant to their specific academic profile
Awards offered by UBC programs or departments

Each department/program may have awards that they can offer to their students.  Ask specifically about GSI and department recommended awards. 

PhD students should also inquire about the Four Year Fellowship and the minimum funding policy for PhD students.

Merit-based awards from Canadian organizations

There are many awards offered by external agencies that students can apply for.  However, the key external funding that students should be aware of is Tri-Agency (CIHR, NSERC, and SSHRC) funding.

Applicants should review the Tri-Agency award databases:

Agency award competition application deadlines are typically in the Fall each year. Interested applicants should check our database for UBC-specific essential guidance for applying for Tri-Agency funding.

Merit-based awards from foreign organizations and governments

Many foreign governments provide support to their citizens in pursuing education abroad. International applicants should check the various governmental resources in their home country, such as the Department of Education, for available scholarships.

Need-based funding from UBC

UBC, through the support of its many donors and through funding provided by the provincial and federal governments, offers a wide range of programs to provide financial assistance to eligible students who cannot meet basic educational costs.

In-depth information about needs-based graduate awards such as loans, bursaries and other types of financial aid is available from Enrolment Services.

Please contact an Enrolment Services Advisor if you’d like to discuss your situation.

Research / Teaching Assistant positions

Important note: The below content is provided for informational purposes only.  The Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies is not involved with student service appointments (student employees).  Student service appointments are managed by individual graduate programs.  Graduate students who are interested in Research Assistant or Teaching Assistant opportunities should contact their UBC program or department.

Student service appointments are intended to help properly qualified students of UBC meet the cost of their studies at the university, as well as to assist the University in meeting its educational and research objectives. Such appointments may involve part-time duties in teaching, research, or other academic activities.

Appointments: general

Normally, only those students registered as full-time in the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies are eligible for Graduate Teaching Assistant, Graduate Research Assistant and Graduate Academic Assistant appointments. Appointments offered to students prior to their admission to the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies are contingent upon admission. Student service appointments are co-ordinated and administered at the graduate program level.

Categories of appointment

There are five categories under which graduate students may be appointed:

  • Graduate Teaching Assistant I
  • Graduate Teaching Assistant II
  • Marker
  • Graduate Research Assistant
  • Graduate Academic Assistant.

For descriptions please see the Academic Calendar.

Taxation

Different types of student funding are treated differently with regard to taxation:

  • Awards and Graduate Research Assistantships (GRA) are coded as fellowship earnings and tax is not withheld by UBC against those earnings
  • Graduate Teaching Assistantships (GTA) are coded as 20% fellowship earnings (no tax withheld) and 80% regular earnings (tax is withheld by UBC)
  • Markers and Graduate Academic Assistants (GAA) are coded as 100% regular earnings (tax is withheld by UBC)

In February of each year, UBC will provide students with a T4A form for all fellowship earnings and a T4 form for all regular earnings received during the previous calendar year (January to December). Students are responsible for filing income tax returns on these earnings.

Awards and Other Sources of Funding

Most external funding agencies have clearly defined policies regarding additional funding for award recipients. Funding agencies might restrict the amount students are eligible to receive from other awards, number of hours they can spend on work unrelated to their research, the type of research grants used to pay any additional Research or Teaching Assistantships, etc. It is the award recipients' responsibility to comply with the rules and regulations of their award.

Effective March 2018, G+PS no longer limits the number of employment hours for any award holders.

Additional Resources

UBC Calendar - Teaching and Research Assistantships

UBC Payroll - Scholarship & Fellowship Taxation

UBC Payroll - T4/T4A FAQ

Working while Studying, e.g. Work Learn, Co-Op

The possibility to pursue work to supplement income may depend on the demands the program has on students. It should be carefully weighed if work leads to prolonged program durations or whether work placements can be meaningfully embedded into a program.

International students enrolled as full-time students with a valid study permit can work on campus for unlimited hours and work off-campus for no more than 20 hours a week.

A good starting point to explore student jobs is the UBC Work Learn program or a Co-Op placement.

Tax credits and RRSP withdrawals

Students with taxable income in Canada may be able to claim federal or provincial tax credits.

Canadian residents with RRSP accounts may be able to use the Lifelong Learning Plan (LLP) which allows students to withdraw amounts from their registered retirement savings plan (RRSPs) to finance full-time training or education for themselves or their partner.

Additional funding information

Financial support options – resource from Enrollment Services

  • Covers some of the other funding options, such as bursaries, loans, Work Learn placements, co-op placements, and emergency funding
 

Applying for an award

Below is information about how to apply for awards offered by the Faculty of Graduate & Postdoctoral Studies.

What awards am I eligible to apply for?

There are hundreds of awards that UBC graduate students can apply for, so it’s not possible to list all the specific awards each category of student is eligible for.  Each award has its own unique eligibility requirements that will not be applicable to all students.  For example, an award may be limited to only Canadian citizens, or to students in a specific field of research.

However, the filters on the Award Opportunities page allow students to narrow down which awards they might be eligible for.  Click on each award result and view the “Eligibility Requirements” to confirm eligibility for the specific award.

Coursework only degree programs: Almost all of the awards listed on the Award Opportunities webpage have research as part of their eligibility requirements.  Graduate students in “coursework only” degree programs (such as MPT) are recommended to contact their UBC department to find out what award funding their department may have for “coursework only” degree program students.

Degree programs that are not administered by the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies: Degree programs that are not administered by the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies (such as MEng and MEL programs) are not eligible for any award funding listed on the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies website.  Graduate students in this type of degree program are recommended to contact their UBC department to find out what award funding their department may have for their degree program.

Scholarship databases

Listed below are some internal and external award and scholarship databases that may be of use to current and prospective students.

When can I apply for awards?

Graduate students are encouraged to apply for awards once they have submitted their admission application to UBC.  Students do not need to wait until they start their graduate degree program to start applying for awards.

There are award application deadlines throughout the year.  However, the major award competitions tend to have application deadlines from September to December of each year.

For example:

However, there are also a number of notable scholarships that have application deadlines at other times in the year.  For example:

How do I apply for awards?

The awards listed on the Award Opportunities webpage typically include a sub-section for application procedures, or a link to where you can locate that information.

Refer to the individual award entries on the Award Opportunities webpage for information on the application deadlines for individual awards.

Common documents required for award applications are:

  • Official and up-to-date transcripts
  • Curriculum vitae (CV)
  • Research proposal
  • One or more reference letters

Refer to the application procedures for requirements for individual awards; document requirements vary.

Tips and best practices for award applicants

Be sure to turn to the many resources available to support you in crafting applications in your programs, at UBC, from funders, and beyond.

Peer-Review and External Funding in Graduate Formation

As you progress from a consumer to a producer of knowledge through your graduate training, you will be incorporated into scientific institutions more and more. Some of the most fundamental precepts of scientific endeavours are the notion that we are building on the work of others in a cumulative fashion and that peer review is the most realistic but also consistent way to evaluate scholarship. The degree to which these precepts are applied vary significantly from discipline to discipline, but the structures that have been built around these principles are broadly in place with funders and funding applications reflect these structures.

Applications for funding are an important mechanism by which you receive feedback on (proposed) research. This feedback and similar selection processes will accompany you throughout your research career, it is thus important to begin to understand funding mechanisms early on to give yourself to benefit from them, but also to learn more about the scientific enterprise.

All fellowship applications can be thought of as an opportunity to apply and refine skills that you have learned elsewhere in your graduate formation. The specifics of a given fellowship are simply an attempt by a funding agency to turn its expectations of research and people that are to be funded into a format that can be handled by academic adjudication processes.

Defining Excellence: Your Past Achievements and your Future Promise

Almost all fellowship applications are built around two main aspects of excellence: your record of past achievement and the promise of your future research. Sometimes, additional criteria are specified.

Note that competition formats are fundamentally built around the desire to be able to select excellent applications. Materials submitted or forms to be filled out are thus designed to elicit information that adjudicators can use in determining the fundability of one application over another. Funders invest in descriptions of the criteria of excellence that are to be applied in order to provide guidance to applicants as well as adjudicators. You can assume that there are no secret instructions to prefer one kind of applicant or proposal over another.

Note that almost all competitions are looking for excellence, not mere eligibility. Fundamentally, it is your task to communicate the enthusiasm you feel about your research in such a way that adjudicators and committees are convinced that your proposed research will make important contributions to the collective academic project and that you are the best/best-prepared person to conduct this research.

Planning Ahead

Given the centrality of peer review processes to academic activities, you should be thinking about some elements of applications at all times. For example, there will be many occasions when you will want to be able to persuade an audience of the importance of the contribution that your research will be making, whether that is a supervisor with whom you’re discussing next steps, a conference audience, or a job interview panel.

  • Always scan for funding opportunities. Some of these will be sent to your by your program or by professional associations or funders directly, many of them are listed on the Graduate + Postdoctoral Studies website but you should also constantly and actively look for them.
  • When you identify opportunities, work backwards from deadlines. Allow generous time for referees to respond to requests, to circulate drafts of materials to peers and colleagues, to turn away from applications for some time, and to be able to submit to competitions early rather than at the last minute.
  • Read instructions very carefully to understand the intent behind competitions and how it might be relevant to you. Recall that instructions may change from one application cycle to the next, so always base your planning on the most recent version. Re-read the instructions regularly.
  • Plan for applications in close conversation with your supervisor, but also with program advisors and staff.
  • Build relationships with potential writers of reference letters. Ongoing conversations with a professor in your program, including but not limited to your supervisor, are a much stronger basis for a request for a letter of support than a sudden request. If you feel comfortable doing so, have conversations with letter writers about their contribution to your application. Remind them of evidence that they might cite in a letter to substantiate their assessment. Especially for letter writers from outside of North America, explain the importance of these letters to them and the expectation that they speak to the specifics of a competition and offer evidence of excellence in somewhat enthusiastic fashion. Review Tips for Soliciting Great Reference Letters
  • Planning ahead can be an important element in preserving your (mental) health and enthusiasm for research.

Put Yourself in an Adjudicator’s Position

Adjudicators are typically volunteering their time on committees and are dedicated to the fairness and consistency of adjudication processes. They are also often under time pressure.

  • You have to be enthusiastic about your research to have a chance at eliciting a reviewer’s enthusiasm. Keep crafting descriptions of your proposed research until your enthusiasm shines through.
  • Many competitions will exclude reviewers from your discipline/department from discussions (to avoid conflict of interest), so adjudicators will often not be experts on the specifics of your research and will only be familiar with your topic at a broad level. Write to a general audience in your broad area of research, not to subject experts.
  • Adjudicators rotate on and off committees, so don’t try to second guess committees. Be true to your research rather than targeting some imputed preferences among adjudicators.
  • Offer adjudicators formatting and terminology that allows them to remember your application in a pile of dozens of files.
  • Be clear and concise in your prose.
  • What questions does your application raise? Answer them in a meaningful way. If you are switching disciplines for the next step in your research career, that’s great and will be obvious to reviewers, so explain why you’ve made that decision and what it means for your research. Often, it might be your background in areas of expertise or experience outside of your immediate field of study that will make you the best person to pursue a certain kind of research, let adjudicators see that!
  • Think about questions that adjudicators might ask specifically of CVs and other formal elements in an application. If you are listing a paper as “submitted” to a journal, why not add a date to give an adjudicator a chance to guestimate whether you might have a reply to a submission already? If you are listing co-authored work, offer a percentage of contributions, etc.
  • Adjudicators will increasingly search for elements of applications online. Don’t count on someone finding you, but consider what an adjudicator might find when they do search for you. Is your institutional webpage up-to-date? Does an online CV offer additional information that you cannot include in an application?

Write, Edit, Submit, Repeat

  • Don’t be discouraged if you are not selected in a competition. Most competitions are highly competitive so you cannot expect to win them all. Adjudicators often have to make very fine-grained distinctions between applications, especially those that are just above or below a cut off. Such distinctions are only a judgement of relative merit in a pool, not of the absolute merit of your plans.
  • Funding applications are a learned skill for almost all of us and practice helps.
  • Research is a social activity. Engage colleagues, coursemates, campus resources in crafting your applications, we can all benefit from support from those around us.

Good luck!

Written by Julian Dierkes, PhD, Associate Dean, Funding, Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies. 
Updated April 2020