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.
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, (http://www.tssu.ca/resources/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. Doctoral students may also apply for sessional instructorships; salary depends on contact hours.
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 $17,000 in the first year, while Doctoral student support averages $19,500 (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, at http://www.sfu.ca/dean-gradstudies/awards.html.
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 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.
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 (http://www.sfu.ca/dean-gradstudies/awards/graduate-fellowships/graduate-fellowships.html), 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 (http://www.sfu.ca/dean-gradstudies/awards/presidents-scholarship.html), a one semester merit-based research award worth $6,250. They 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. Currently for four contact hours per week for a four month term (a common undergraduate course arrangement) the salary is $7,497. For details, see the TSSU Collective Agreement (http://www.tssu.ca/resources/collective-agreement/).
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 TMRA application is available for download. Please submit directly to the Graduate Secretary.
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.
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.
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 http://www.sfu.ca/dean-gradstudies/future/tuition-and-fees.html