This year, UBC graduate students will receive $2.175 million in funding for graduate scholarships from the provincial government.
On August 22, the Ministry of Post-Secondary Education and Future Skills announced that the province will be investing $15 million in graduate scholarships over the next three years as part of the Stronger BC: Future Ready Action Plan.
First introduced in 2018, the province began rolling out the B.C. Graduate Scholarships program in order to “break down barriers to post-secondary education” and encourage the pursuit of “research and skills training to find solutions to pressing real-world challenges,” states the website.
“The addition of over $2 million of scholarship funding for UBC’s graduate students will enable UBC to better support our graduate students over the next two years, during a time of increasing challenges in meeting the costs of living,” wrote Dr. Susan Porter, dean and vice-provost of graduate and postdoctoral studies, in a statement to The Ubyssey.
She also wrote that the extra funding will “allow some students to start a graduate degree who otherwise would not have been able to do so.”
According to Porter, this announcement recognizes how essential graduate students are to the province’s social and economic prosperity, and she hopes for a continuation of the program into the future.
In an interview with The Ubyssey, Graduate Student Society (GSS) President Sam Kenston shared his optimism about the province’s decision to increase funding.
“This is a very good initiative considering most of the challenges that students face, someway, somehow can be linked to affordability,” said Kenston.
However, Kenston also said that further steps need to be taken to ensure the continued success of graduate students nationwide.
“This initiative by the province does not replace our request for the federal government to put in or to increase the funding for research … afew months ago, students and faculty across Canada went on a reminder notice to inform the federal government that the funding allocation to research is woefully inadequate, that request remains in place,” said Kenston.
While Kenston maintains that “this recent initiative by StrongerBC: Future Ready Action Plan is laudable,” he noted that the increase in funding will only benefit a small number of graduate students.
“UBC receives $2 million and UBC has over 10,000 graduate students, of which 40% are in the PhD program ... and master’s students don’t have any form of guaranteed funding,” he mentioned.
Kenston also acknowledged that for progress to be made it would be “a very collaborative effort.”
He said he had recently met with both the province and UBC to provide input and recommendations.
Going forward, Kenston hopes to see an increase in UBC's minimum funding policy for PhD students.
The policy, introduced in 2018, provides graduate students a guaranteed minimum funding package in the first four years of their PhD research. However, with the disruption of COVID and the cost of living being at an all-time high, Kenston hopes that “UBC will take action and increase the stipend for graduate students.”
“UBC, I believe, has students at heart … we want the best for the university and we can only get the best for the university with satisfied graduate students who can focus on their research.”