Graduate scholarships Larger training, decrease earnings

They collect diplomas and live below the poverty line. Sometimes for less than $ 20,000 a year. Postgraduate students, supported by leading researchers, are asking governments for better financial support.

Published on May 24

Lea Carrier

Lea Carrier

“Seventeen thousand five hundred dollars a year is not enough for a living. It is impossible not to fall into the negative, “says Raphaël Bouchard, a doctoral student in biology at Laval University.

The value of Canada Graduate Scholarships, funded by the federal government, has not increased since 2003.

At the master’s level, they pay $ 17,500 a year. At the doctoral level, $ 21,000 per year. They pay less than a full-time job for a minimum wage, which is from $ 14.25 per hourehm may.

The result: thousands of students are doomed to live near or below the poverty line.

“This is one of the biggest research funding aberrations I’ve seen,” says Louis Bernatchez, a professor of biology and researcher at Laval University.

In a letter to Ottawa, more than 5,500 students and prominent researchers – including two Nobel laureates – are calling for an annual increase in scholarships from the Canadian Science and Engineering Council (NSERC) to index themselves to inflation in the future. The signatories are also calling for an increase in the number of postdoctoral fellowships awarded each year – 150 fellowships in 2021.

Otherwise, “some of Canada’s smartest brains [seront forcés] live in poverty and look for better funded positions abroad, “the letter said.

The same applies to scholarship recipients from other scholarship sectors, in particular the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council and the Canadian Health Research Institutes.

“We are aware of the fact that students are struggling with growing financial difficulties,” the NSERC replied by e-mail.

The government “intends” to work with other councils and the research community to “find ways to improve traineeship support” without giving further details.

In a laconic response, Minister for Innovation, Science and Industry François-Philippe Champagne argued for the government’s “unwavering” support for “all scientists and researchers.”

“It wasn’t to pay the mortgage”

Raphaël Bouchard would like to emphasize this: a doctorate is hard work.

We are called students, but we are really researchers. We work on our research projects for 35 to 40 hours.

Raphaël Bouchard, PhD student in biology at Laval University

He counts himself among the lucky ones. He received one of the most prestigious NSERC scholarships. And paid extra: $ 35,000 a year. Raphaël Bouchard can still sympathize with his uncertain comrades, as he lived on $ 17,500 a year during his master’s degree. (His salary was funded by Quebec Research Funds, which pay slightly better than the federal program.)

“It was not enough to pay the rent, food, transport or just clothes,” he recalls.

The fight continues for the postdoctoral student. Karine is set to end her research career in the humanities by refusing a $ 45,000 grant a year without any social benefits.

“When I looked at the numbers on the calculator, it didn’t come down to pay the mortgage,” said the 34-year-old, who spoke on condition of anonymity because her research leader did not know about her decision.

Postdoctoral students are not 20 years old. They have thirties, a family, financial obligations.

Karine, who is about to end her research career

“Finally, we send a message that research is not worth it,” he continues.


Getting a grant is still a privilege. Most students have to do without it.

For a master’s degree in neurology, Alice receives a salary of $ 10,000 per year paid by her research leader. She works in a restaurant to make a living.

“I’m at the point where I’m hesitant to go to a doctorate. After two years of master’s studies, I am completely finished, “says the young woman, who demanded anonymity for fear of reprisals at her university.

“The fact that scholarships [fédérales] because the best ones are at such a low level, it does not send the right signal about what is or is not acceptable, ”regrets Louis Bernatchez.

No students, no science

“Without postgraduate students and postdoctoral fellows, there is no science in the laboratories of Canadian universities,” emphasizes Mr Bernatchez.

The U15 Canadian Research Universities Group has been campaigning for years to increase the value of federal scholarships as well as their number. To meet tomorrow’s challenges, Canada needs a strong and diversified scientific process, says spokeswoman Dylan Hanley.

“Students need to be attracted to study in Canada, and that includes ensuring that they do not live in poverty. »

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  • $ 25,935
    Annual earnings for full-time work for a minimum wage of $ 14.25 per hour

    Source: QUEBEC Ministry of Finance

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