Canada offers cash to beat lure of US

December 5, 2003

An increasing number of Canadian universities are offering postgraduates guaranteed funding to remain competitive with the US.

The University of Alberta has joined a handful of other Canadian universities, including the University of Toronto, that pay stipends to doctoral students.

The universities give several reasons for these payments, which average between C$12,000-C$22,000 (£5,400-£9,900). These include the need for students to have the financial means to finish their doctorates without having to interrupt their studies to earn money, and the positive faculty recruitment message that a full cadre of doctoral students sends.

The most important reason, university administrators said, was that the heated environment in the US, where colleges offered stipends and tuition waivers, left them with no choice but to pay up or lose more Canadian students to the south.

Alberta provost Carl Amrhein said that the university was losing potential doctoral recruits to US universities, a situation he had seen at Toronto, his former institution. Alberta estimated that the stipends would cost C$1.6 million a year.

A third of the money will be taken from an area of the budget reserved for research funding, while the remainder will probably come from fundraising.

Andrea Rounce, chair of the Canadian Federation of Students' National Graduate Caucus, said: "We're happy to see universities moving to acknowledge that students need this kind of sup-port during their postgraduate work."

But Ms Rounce said that universities were showing that their priorities lay with doctoral students, and that if masters students were not given better funding and if bachelor-degree tuition fees continued to rise unabated, the supply of PhD students would continue to decline. "Students are self-selecting themselves out of graduate work," she said.

A Statistics Canada study found that out of the respondents who had dropped out of higher education, 71.4 per cent cited financial barriers as the primary reason.

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