Just a few days before the House of Commons adjourned for its six-week winter break in December, the Standing Committee on Science and Research tabled its report on the Government of Canada’s Graduate Scholarship and Post-Doctoral Fellowship Programs.
The report includes six recommendations covering the state of Canada’s graduate scholarship and postdoctoral fellowship programs, highlighting frozen funding, stagnant scholarship values, and their repercussions on students’ financial hardships and mental health. It emphasizes the need for federal reinvestment in higher education, proposing increased scholarship amounts and support for granting councils to enhance research grants through which most research trainees receive funding.
HealthCareCAN‘s four recommendations submitted to the Standing Committee on Science and Research for its Study on the Government of Canada’s Graduate Scholarship and Post-Doctoral Fellowship Programs align with a recommendation put forth by the Committee advocating for more comprehensive funding:
- The Government of Canada, through the granting councils—the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research:
- Increase the value of Tri-Agency graduate scholarships and postdoctoral fellowships by 50%, and index them to inflation moving forward;
- Increase the number of Tri-Agency graduate student scholarships by 50%;
- Increase the number of Tri-Agency postdoctoral fellowships by 100%; and
- Increase the Tri-Agency research grant budget provided to faculty by at least 10% per year for the next five years, to allow for increased graduate student and postdoctoral pay.
In our submission, HealthCareCAN advocated for a 50% increase in the overall number of scholarships and fellowships available, adjusting annually based on graduate and postdoctoral program enrolment. In contrast, the Committee proposes specific increments: a 50% increase in graduate student scholarships and a 100% increase in postdoctoral fellowships.
Although the Committee recommends a 10% annual increase in Tri-Agency budgets to, among other things, increase funding for graduate students and postdoctoral researchers, HealthCareCAN continues to call for a doubling of the Tri-Agency budgets. The 10% increase put forward by the Committee echoes the recommendations outlined in the Report of the Advisory Panel on the Federal Research Support System (also known as the Bouchard Report).
“While HealthCareCAN supports the Committee’s call for increased funding, an increase of 10% to Tri-Agency budgets barely covers the cost of inflation,” said Paul-Émile Cloutier, president and CEO of HealthCareCAN. “The federal government must show its commitment to strengthening the future of health research and meaningfully nurture the next generation of innovators in healthcare by doubling Tri-Agency budgets or Canada’s health research community will founder.”
The Committee further recommends:
- Extending federal scholarships from 12 to 24 months for master’s programs, and from 36 to 48 months for doctoral programs;
- That the Government of Canada, via the granting councils, reassess the criteria for allocating graduate scholarships and contemplate designing tailored assistance for underrepresented groups in graduate education;
- That the Government of Canada, through the granting councils, reassess the quota system for Canada Graduate Scholarships and Vanier Doctoral Scholarships, aiming to prevent potential disadvantages faced by smaller institutions;
- That the Government of Canada amend the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council Act, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council Act, and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research Act to include student representatives on the governing councils of these three institutions.
“The current level of support falls significantly short of meeting the escalating demands of health research,” said Dr. David Hill, co-chair of HealthCareCAN’s Vice President of Health Research Committee and Integrated Vice President of Research & Scientific Director at Lawson Health Research Institute. “Doubling these budgets is not just a financial necessity; it’s a crucial lifeline for fostering innovation, supporting research trainees, and securing the future of healthcare advancements in Canada.”
HealthCareCAN is following up with members of Parliament and government officials to push for the implementation of the Committee’s recommendations and we eagerly await the federal government’s response to the Committee report. We continue to advocate on the urgent need for the federal government to increase funding for graduate scholarships and post-doctoral fellowships programs and Tri-Agency funding.
HealthCareCAN remains attentive to our members – if your organization has any questions, concerns, or feedback in connection with these developments we encourage you to contact us.
Research and Policy Analyst
Government Relations and Policy Analyst
Vice-President, Research and Policy