Funding & Financial Information

SFU Department of Geography Graduate Student Funding Policy

The Department of Geography offers funding for new and continuing graduate students in its Master’s and Doctoral programs. All funded incoming students can expect support in the form of some combination of Teaching Assistantships, Research Assistantships and/or scholarship funding in their first year, and interested applicants should contact potential supervisors directly to ascertain the level of support available.

The exact amount of student support varies with the funding package arranged in consultation with the supervisor. First-year funding for Master's students averages approximately $18,800 in the first year, while Doctoral student support averages $20,900 (amounts include TAships). This funding includes a combination of teaching positions, research assistantships, and graduate fellowships, and usually continues throughout the student's program. SFU also has a range of internal awards open to both entering and continuing students. For information on these funds, please see the information available from the Dean of Graduate Studies.

External scholarships can significantly augment graduate funding, and we encourage and work with all qualified students to apply for external scholarships and travel support. For example, every year some of our students win Tri-Council Canadian Graduate Scholarships awarded by NSERC, SSHRC, and CIHR. These are worth $17,500 per year at the Master's level, and $20,000 for Doctoral students (open to Canadian citizens and permanent residents). Normally, external funding does not disqualify students from Graduate Fellowships, but in some cases may lower their priority for TAships. In addition, qualified applicants may be nominated for SFU entrance scholarships.

Teaching Assistantships

Teaching Assistantships commonly make up a significant portion of graduate student funding, and normally, students work two semesters as a Teaching Assistant (TA), and hold a Research Assistantship (RA) during the third semester. A full TAship is currently (2017) valued at $5,932 per semester for Master’s students and $6,997 for Doctoral students.

TAships are available subject to satisfactory performance of teaching or research duties and satisfactory progress towards the degree. The availability and size of TA appointments are contingent on undergraduate enrolment and budgetary approval, but in Geography, students interested in teaching almost always find a position. The TA hiring process is governed by the Teaching Support Staff Union (TSSU) Collective Agreement, with priority given to registered graduate students with expertise specific to the course and competence in oral and written English. Some restrictions apply to holders of graduate fellowships and scholarships.

Graduate students may also apply to teach a course as a Sessional Instructor. Sessionals are the lead instructors for an undergraduate class, and the salary depends on weekly contact hours. The most current salary information can be found on the Human Resources website under ‘Pay Scales’, Sessional Instructors. For details, see the TSSU Collective Agreement.

Graduate Fellowships and President’s PhD Scholarship

Students registered in the program may also apply for a Graduate Fellowship (GF) during the course of their degree program.  These are one-time, one-semester awards worth $6,500. Eligibility for a GF requires a minimum SFU CGPA of 3.5. Master’s students are eligible to secure one GF, and normally do so during their second year in the program, after completion of their research proposal. PhD students can apply for two GFs (usually, first upon completion of their qualifying exams, and second after defending their proposal).

In addition to the University Terms of Reference for Graduate Fellowships, the Geography Department’s Graduate Studies Committee also considers the following when allocating GFs: degree progress, GPA and publications/conference presentations/other relevant scholarly activity. Financial need may also be a factor in the allocation of GFs.

In addition to GFs, Doctoral students have access to the President's Ph.D. Scholarship, a one time merit-based research award worth $6,500.

Travel and Minor Research Awards (TMRA)

Each year the department sets aside a limited fund to support Graduate student travel for minor research undertakings and research dissemination. Funds are distributed to support short trips for conference presentations and data gathering during the current academic year. The funds are distributed until they are exhausted, and have two maximum values, smaller awards for travel in BC, Alberta and the US Pacific Northwest, larger for travel beyond these confines. The competition usually runs in the Spring and covers all travel during that academic year (September – August). Students may apply using the GA3 online system. Further information is available on the Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies website.


The most important major scholarships for graduate students in the Department are Canada Graduate Scholarships, awarded by one of the Tri-Council granting agencies of the Canadian government: the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC), and the Canadian Institutes for Health Research (CIHR). Many of our students support their studies with these scholarships, won in national competitions, and available for Canadian citizens and landed immigrants studying in Masters or Doctoral programs. Masters scholarships are one-year awards, valued at $17,500. Doctoral scholarships are one- to four-year awards, valued at $20,000 per year; and a few students have won the top CGS Doctoral Scholarship, valued at $35,000 per year for three years (the application is the same for both competitions). Students can apply before they enter the graduate program, or during their first year in the program. Our students have been very successful in these competitions in the past, and we strongly encourage all those eligible to apply. The applications are due each fall, and demand significant time and effort, so start preparing early. All relevant information, including deadlines, is available on the Dean of Graduate Studies website.

DGS award listings

In addition to Tri-Council awards, students can participate in several private scholarship competitions for graduate students, and for other major external awards. The Dean of Graduate Studies website offers additional information on various graduate awards and scholarships.

External Geography-Specific Awards

AAG Marcus Fund for Physical Geography

Grants from the Mel Marcus Fund for Physical Geography will foster participation by students collaborating with faculty in field-based physical geography research in challenging outdoor environments. Marcus Fund grants of up to $2,000 will be awarded to faculty applicants to support travel and logistical costs of including students in field research in physical geography.

Full details:

AAG Dissertation Research Grants

The AAG provides support for doctoral dissertation research in the form of small grants of up to $1000 to PhD candidates of any geographic specialty.

Full details:

AAG Research Grant Applications

The AAG provides small grants of $500 to support research and fieldwork. 

Full details:

Robin P. Armstrong Memorial Prize for Excellence in Indigenous Studies

The Robin P. Armstrong Memorial Prize for Excellence in Indigenous Studies is awarded to a graduate student in Geography or First Nations/Indigenous Studies for the best Master's or Ph.D. thesis on a research topic related to First Nations/Aboriginal/Indigenous peoples and issues in Canada. 

The prize includes: a cash prize of $500, based on the funds available in the Robin P. Armstrong Memorial Fund; nation-wide publication of the winner's name on the CAG Web site

Full details on the Canadian Association of Geographers website:

W. Garfield Weston Awards

The W. Garfield Weston Awards for Northern Research and Northern Archaeological Research

 Awards are available to postdoctoral fellows and graduate students (PhD and Masters) in northern science and northern archaeology whose research includes a fieldwork component.

These scholarships are valued at $15,000 each for students currently enrolled in a master’s program, $50,000 each for students currently enrolled in the second or third year of a doctoral program. 

Full details on their website.


This award is presented to the author(s) of a single significant contribution to the published research literature in geomorphology during the past three years. Only a book, refereed journal article, or monograph will be considered with an emphasis on refereed research articles. 

Full details on the Association of American Geographers website:


GSG awards two graduate student research grants to help cover the costs of data acquisition, fieldwork, and laboratory analysis required to complete thesis or dissertation research. Awards are $400 for Masters students and $600 for Ph.D. students. To be eligible for the award, students must be members of the AAG and the GSG.

Full details on the Association of American Geographers website:


The GSG Awards Committee invites graduate students presenting in any GSG-sponsored session at the AAG Annual Meeting to participate in the GSG's Student Paper Award competition. Graduate students from all branches of geomorphology are encouraged to submit an application for consideration. Separate awards of $250 can be given for Masters and Ph.D. students.
To be eligible for the award, students must be members of the AAG and the GSG and registered to give a first-authored presentation in a GSG-sponsored session. 

Full details on the Association of American Geographers website:

William L. Garrison Award for Best Dissertation in Computational Geography

The William L. Garrison Award for Best Dissertation in Computational Geography supports innovative research into the computational aspects of geographic science. The award is intended to arouse a more general and deeper understanding of the important role that advanced computation can play in resolving the complex problems of space–time analysis that are at the core of geographic science. 

The Garrison award consists of a cash prize in the amount of $3,500 and a formal certificate of merit. 

Full details on the Garrison Award webpage:

The Starkey-Robinson Award for Graduate Research on Canada

The Starkey-Robinson Award gives recognition to high quality graduate research that furthers understanding of the geography of Canada. The Award is a cash prize, currently a single award of $500.  

Click here for complete details.

Pruitt graduate fellowships

The Society of Women Geographers is inviting applications from women doctoral students in the US and Canada for doctoral dissertation fellowship research awards of up to $12,000 and for fellowships for minority women in masters programs up to $4,000 each.

Full details about this program and many other student opportunities are available on the AAG Student Internship, Graduate Assistantship, and Postdoc Opportunities page on the AAG website.  

Canadian Foundation for Geotechnique Michael Bozozuk National Graduate Scholarship

This scholarship, valued at $5,000, was established by the Canadian Foundation for Geotechnique in 2007, on the occasion of the 60th Canadian Geotechnical Conference in Ottawa.

Any Canadian or permanent resident, entering or registered in a Canadian university Masters or PhD program that is directly related to an identified field of geotechnique, is eligible. 

For further information, refer to the Foundation’s website

 J. Ross Mackay Award

This award is presented annually by the Canadian Geomorphology Research Group (CGRG) in recognition of a significant research achievement by a young geomorphologist within Canada. The purpose of the award is to foster the development of geomorphology in Canada and to provide recognition of young scientists in this field. The award will be a plaque and, in the spirit of J. Ross Mackay, a bottle of single malt whisky. The award winner will be invited to give the J. Ross Mackay Lecture at a CGRG-sponsored meeting or special session. 

The nomination requirements are outlined on the CGRG website:


SFU operates on a tri-semester system. All students must pay tuition and fees every semester. International students pay the same rate as domestic students. The cost of tuition for Master’s students drops by 50% after six semesters, and after eight semesters for Doctoral students. Applicants interested in the exact tuition rates can obtain up-to-date rates from the Dean of Graduate Studies office, at