Graduate Student Life

Graduate Student Life

Graduate Student Life

Becoming a graduate student will require adjustments to your lifestyle. Make sure to develop a healthy school-life balance that includes research and studying, as well as socializing and recreation.  

The Department of Political Science

The graduate student community in political science at SFU typically consists of 40 to 50 students who are taking classes or working on their program requirements. Graduate classes are small, allowing all students to participate fully and to receive time and attention from their instructors. All of our PhD students and TAs have access to shared offices in the Department of Political Science, a feature that contributes to a high level of interaction among students and with faculty. We have also established a graduate student computer lab and lounge that is available to all graduate students.

The Department of Political Science sponsors a Speakers Series in which scholars from outside and inside SFU present their research and discuss contemporary academic issues. It also hosts regular professional development workshops for graduate students. Our graduate students are encouraged to attend these seminars and to participate in the discussions that follow. Students are also encouraged to take part in the graduate caucus, the decision-making body for our grad students. Graduate student representatives participate in faculty meetings and the administrative committees of the department.

Most of our graduate students also have the opportunity to be teaching assistants. As teaching assistants, they conduct weekly tutorials with two to three different groups. TAs help their students with essays, as well as grade essays, exams and presentations. They also help students prepare for midterms and finals. Our graduates are highly enthusiastic about their work as teaching assistants which, they say, provides them with an excellent learning experience. They not only learn about the teaching enterprise and working with post-secondary students, but they also gain a greater understanding of their discipline.

In addition to having a broad range of intellectual and disciplinary interests, multiple academic links and strong research and publication records, our faculty have notable success in securing major research grants. Our faculty have been involved in funded projects, such as the Canadian Election Study, Canadian Social Democracy, Climate Change Adaptation, Deliberative Democracy in Canadian Public Policy, Economic Security in B.C., Engaging Diasporas in Development, Government Responsiveness, International Forestry Policy, Transportation Policy and Wine Genomics. Such major external grants provide considerable funding and diverse research opportunities for our graduate students. Our faculty also give a high priority to effective and challenging teaching. This combination makes our department an exciting place for academic study.


The Department of Political Science is part of a vibrant and complex university community comprising some 20,000 full- and part-time students, and nearly 1000 instructors offering more than 100 programs in five different faculties. First opened in 1965, SFU prides itself on innovation, its record of world-class research and its reputation as an excellent teaching university. With a trimester system that allows students to take courses year-round, or to take semesters off other than the usual summer term, SFU puts its students first.

The library facilities at SFU are kept up-to-date with strong new acquisitions policies and extensive online services. The library was one of the first Canadian research libraries to provide an online catalogue for its entire collection. The book and journal collections are augmented by a variety of online full-text sources and an easy-to-use online request system for materials from western Canadian university libraries.

Computer facilities, including email accounts, on-campus and home access to all library-based services and a number of micro-computer labs are available to students. As well, consultants are on hand to help graduate students with a wide variety of topics including statistics, numerical analysis, database usage and computer purchases.

Burnaby campus

Positioned on the top of Burnaby Mountain at the northern end of the suburb of Burnaby, the university overlooks Burrard Inlet. With spectacular views in all directions, the campus is situated in a picture postcard location. To the north, the ski hills of Seymour, Grouse and Cypress Mountains are situated just across Burrard Inlet. To the west, the Gulf Islands and the mountains of Vancouver Island are visible, and to the south and east the San Juan Islands, the Olympic Peninsula range and Mount Baker can be seen.

Outdoor enthusiasts can enjoy biking, hiking and running on the forest trails that surround the university buildings. The university also provides a track, tennis courts and a sports field, as well as indoor facilities for activities like aerobics, judo, squash and weight training. In addition, there is an Olympic-sized swimming pool with a separate dive pool, and numerous competitive sports teams and leagues are available for students to join. For those who appreciate urban attractions, Burnaby campus is only a short drive from Harbour Center campus, located in the heart of downtown Vancouver.

Vancouver and the Lower Mainland

Burnaby is a fast-growing city to the immediate east of Vancouver proper. Metro Vancouver has stunning natural beauty. Situated on the Pacific Ocean, surrounded by the West Coast mountains, it offers a physical environment with everything from sandy beaches to rugged mountains, from rainforest to the densely urban jungle of Vancouver. Just two hours north of the city is the town of Whistler, a world-famous destination ski resort.

Metro Vancouver contains a richly diverse and growing group of communities, composed of people from many different cultural and linguistic backgrounds. With an excellent array of public festivals, performing arts activities, theatres, cinemas, concerts, restaurants and sporting events, Metro Vancouver offers students a wide range of choices for extra-curricular activities and cultural enrichment. Metro Vancouver also houses a number of other post-secondary education institutions with facilities SFU graduate students can access.

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To take the next step toward your graduate degree in political science, apply now.