Under a research-heavy federal budget, graduate student scholarships will rise for the first time in 20 years.

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Posted on April 18, 2024


4 min read

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The government will invest $3.5 billion in research and innovation, which is good news for Canadian universities and researchers. The announcement coincided with the release of the most recent federal budget. The federal granting agencies will get their first sizable investment since 2019, and graduate student scholarships will rise for the first time in over 20 years.

Postdoctoral fellowships will reach $70,000, while master’s and doctoral student grants will rise to $27,000 and $40,000, respectively, starting in 2024–2025. With roughly $750 million in ongoing assistance, the Liberal government is expanding the Tri-Councils’ core financing to the tune of $1.8 billion over five years. Additionally, $2 billion has been set aside in the budget for funding AI innovation and research, along with large investments in research infrastructure.

The president of the U15 network of research universities, Chad Gaffield, stated, “I think this budget is going to be very significant. It is very comprehensive, broad, and deep.” He continued, “The government’s investments will help Canadian universities retain outstanding research talent in the nation.” “Our ability to retain and attract students is going to replace the fear of brain drain.”

The budget added 1,720 more graduate student scholarships overall. A major victory, according to Marc Johnson, head of the board of the grassroots advocacy group Support Our Science, has been the rise in funding for young scientists. Every one of the 300,000 postdocs and graduate students in the nation will be impacted by this. But more significantly, it will truly help all Canadians,” Dr. Johnson stated.

In addition to retaining talent, these investments have the potential to advance Canada as a global center of research excellence that can expedite “pioneering ideas aimed at effecting positive socio-economic change,” according to Fahim Quadir, vice-president and president-elect of the Canadian Association for Graduate Studies.

Additionally, the government has declared that it would establish a new financing agency for capstone research with the goal of fostering cross-border, mission-driven, and interdisciplinary research. The three granting agencies—the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council—will remain operational and continue to support investigator-led research, but they will now fall under the purview of this new, unidentified entity. The new governance framework will be set up to improve the impact of federal investments in research and manage the allocation of financing for research. The action is akin to that of research governing organizations in the Netherlands and the United Kingdom.

Along with streamlining current fellowships and scholarships for graduate students and postdoctoral fellows, the government intends to sponsor the creation of a single application and financing portal by the Tri-Councils. In place of the current patchwork of awards, an annual award with the new amounts of $27,000, $40,000, and $70,000 will be given out. For instance, the CIHR postdoctoral overseas study award (now valued at $35,000) and the SSHRC doctoral fellowships (currently valued at $20,000) will both be distributed by the same organization through the same portal, with a combined value of $40,000. The $50,000 Vanier Graduate Scholarships will no longer be offered.

Budgetary priorities include funding Indigenous engagement in research, with the government allocating $30 million over three years, with $10 million going to partners that are First Nations, Métis, and Inuit. Although the specifics of the announcement are still unknown, Peter Stoicheff, president of the University of Saskatchewan, stated that this is a significant step towards research equity.

The budget allots $30 million to the completion of the University of Saskatchewan’s center for pandemic research, $45.5 million to the Queen’s University-based astroparticle physics research institute, and nearly $400 million to the University of British Columbia’s TRIUMF physics laboratory, as part of its investments in research infrastructure. Additionally, starting next year, the government will provide the nonprofit CANARIE $176 million to oversee the nation’s ultra-high-speed network, which links researchers nationwide.

The news of the infrastructure spending is quite good, according to Dr. Stoicheff. “This federal government isn’t really under political pressure to take these kinds of actions,” he remarked. “They’re doing it because they recognize the importance of universities to their prosperity, growth, and innovation, as well as the value we bring to ensuring Canada’s competitiveness.”

The government claimed that after consulting with various university stakeholders, including the Advisory Panel on the Federal Research Support System, which issued recommendations in March 2023, it made its budgetary decisions.