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Annual Funding Policy for PhD Students in the
Graduate Department of Public Health Sciences

2020-2021

Consistent with the U of T Policy on Student Financial Support, the Graduate Department of Public Health Sciences (PHS) in the Dalla Lana School of Public Health (DLSPH) aims to ensure excellent doctoral students can pursue higher education in public health. For this purpose, PHS has identified a minimum funding threshold of $18,000 plus tuition and incidental fees to support the doctoral studies of students in the funded cohort (defined below). For 2020-2021, this minimum funding threshold is $25,858.65.

Doctoral students are expected to seek funds to support themselves during their studies, through U of T and external academic sources, such as scholarships, awards, stipends, teaching and research assistantships.

Demonstrating the ability to secure competitive funding is important for academic career development and students are encouraged to explore a variety of sources for funding up to or above the minimum funding threshold. However, if these sources prove insufficient to reach the minimum funding threshold level, PHS will supplement the funding to this level through the U of T Fellowship (UTF). The minimum funding threshold is set to support full-time study.

Each year, students will be sent a letter summarizing their individualized funding situation (sometimes referred to as the Funding Package).

This policy, described in more detail below, is in effect for all PHS PhD students for the 2020-2021 academic year. This policy is reviewed, and may be revised, on an annual basis.

1. Funded Cohort Definition

Funded Cohort: The funded cohort includes full-time students, both domestic and international, registered in years 1-4 of the PhD program. Students are required to be registered in the full-time PhD program and to be in good academic standing, as described in the Graduate Department of Public Health Sciences Statement on Good Academic Standing and Satisfactory Progress, completing the degree requirements and achieving the milestones as defined by the program. PHS doctoral programs have been designed to be completed in four years and so students are expected to complete their doctoral studies in 4 years. Some students may require a fifth year to complete their program. A fifth year of funding is available to those fifth-year students who are in good academic standing and progressing well towards completion (demonstrated through submission of a timeline to completion).

Full-time Status: Students who are registered as full-time in the School of Graduate Studies must be engaged in their studies on a full-time basis, as required by government regulations for full-time studies (see the SGS Calendar).

Students registered for full-time study should not also be committed to full-time employment (35-hours per week or more or contract that states full-time employment) as this creates a conflict of commitment. Students engaging in full-time employment are ineligible for the minimum funding threshold. Full-time doctoral students should limit their part-time employment, including TA-ing, to ensure sufficient time can be devoted to the academic requirements of their program.

PHS also endeavours to provide financial assistance to full-time students in good standing who fall outside the funded cohort (i.e. beyond year 5), though the minimum funding threshold no longer applies. Support is usually through teaching and research assistantships, as well as through the Doctoral Completion Award (DCA) offered through the School of Graduate Studies.

Flexible-Time Status: In PHS, the PhD is also offered as a flexible-time program. This option is for practicing professionals, who continue to be engaged in work activities (see the SGS calendar). Flexible-time students are not included in the funded cohort since they are not pursuing their studies on a full-time basis.

2. Eligibility for Funded Cohort

In order to maintain eligibility for minimum funding, students must:

  • Be in academic years 1-4; a fifth year of funding is available to those fifth-year students who are in good academic standing and progressing well towards completion (demonstrated through submission of a timeline to completion)
  • Maintain good standing
  • Not be employed full time
  • Apply for external awards for which they are eligible
  • Apply for and accept TA and/or RA positions. If the student does not apply for TA/RA positions or declines TA and/or RA appointments, the minimum funding threshold for that year is reduced by the amount of the TA or RA contribution
  • Complete a Funding Declaration and attest to minimum funding eligibility on a yearly basis.

3. Sources of Funding

Every student’s funding situation will look different because the minimum funding threshold is derived from many sources and includes any one or combination of the following:

  • External competitive awards (e.g. SSHRC, CIHR, OGS, QEII, Connaught, or any other major grants/scholarships/fellowships)
  • University of Toronto or Public Health Sciences awards (e.g. SGS University-wide Awards, Andrea Sass-Kortsak Award)
  • Research or Training Stipend
  • Teaching Assistant or Research Assistant income
  • University of Toronto Fellowship (UTF)

The balance of these funding sources may vary from year to year throughout the student’s progress through the program.

External Competitive Awards

Applying for scholarships and awards is a key part of scholarly activity. Honing this skill set prepares PHS students for the future and provides them a track record of scholarship and award success for their C.V.  These awards are generally prestigious, bring recognition and honour to both the student and the School, and provide evidence of excellence to future employers.  Students are required to apply annually for major awards (e.g. CIHR, SSHRC, OGS). Both the student and their supervisor will make every reasonable effort to obtain funding from external award sources, and report those efforts on the annual Funding Declaration. The principal awards, offered by bodies outside DLSPH, that are commonly awarded to PHS students include, but are not limited to:

Government Agencies

    • The Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) provides funding in all areas of health research. The CIHR Canada Graduate Scholarship (CGS) is valued at $30,000 per year (plus $5,000 research stipend) for up to 3 years, and the CIHR Doctoral Research Award is worth $21,000 per year for up to 3 years.
    • The Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) awards Canada Graduate Scholarships (CGS) at $35,000 per year for 3 years and doctoral fellowships at $20,000 per year for 1 to 4 years, to outstanding candidates pursing studies in the social sciences and humanities.
    • The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) awards Canada Graduate Scholarships (CGS) at $35,000 per year for 3 years and doctoral fellowships at $21,000 per year for 2 or 3 years, to high caliber scholars who are engaged in a doctoral program in natural sciences or engineering.
    • The Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarships (CIHR, NSERC and SSHRC) support students who demonstrate leadership skills and excellent scholarly achievement. Award value is $50,000 per year for up to 3 years. International (Visa) students are eligible for a Vanier Scholarships.
    • The Ontario Graduate Scholarship (OGS) program recognizes academic excellence in graduate studies in all disciplines of academic study. Full-time PhD students in Years 1 to 5 may receive the scholarship, valued at $15,000, for up to four years. All students who are eligible to do so, including those who intend to apply for entry to a PHS degree program, are strongly urged to apply to OGS. International (Visa) students are eligible for Ontario Graduate Scholarships.
    • The Queen Elizabeth II Graduate Scholarships in Science and Technology (QEII-GSST) program is designed to encourage excellence in doctoral studies in science and technology. Four QEII-GSST awards, valued at $15,000, are available in PHS, each with specific eligibility criteria.

Independent Foundations

  • The Trudeau Foundation Doctoral Scholarships aim to support doctoral candidates who are pursuing research of compelling present-day concern, touching upon one or more of the Foundation’s four founding themes: Human Rights and Dignity, Responsible Citizenship, Canada in the World, and People and their Natural Environment. Scholarships are available for international (Visa) students (preference for candidates from developing countries). Trudeau Foundation Doctoral Scholarships are valued at $40,000/year for up to 3 years.
  • The Ontario Women’s Health Scholars Award provides assistance to outstanding researchers at Ontario universities who have been improving the health of women through their research. The doctoral award is valued at $35,000
  • Restracomp is the SickKids Research Institute’s graduate scholarship and post-doctoral fellowship program, and it funds exceptional researchers working under the supervision of a SickKids scientist. Restracomp PhD scholarships are valued at $26,000 for up to 4 years.
  • Other common foundations include the Ontario institute for Cancer Research (OICR), CanHepC, Canadian HIV Observational Cohort (CANOC), Canadian Immunization Research Network, and the Wilson Centre.

International Agencies

  • The Delta Kappa Gamma World Fellowship Fund was established to provide opportunities for women from foreign countries to pursue graduate studies in Canada and the United States. Eligible applicants must be female, international registered, full-time students. Applicants cannot be a citizen or landed immigrant of Canada or the United States. The award value is $4,000 USD.
  • The International Development Research Centre (IDRC) offers a range of fellowships and awards for students to fund innovative work that will address development challenges. Citizens of developing countries pursuing a doctoral degree at a Canadian university and who, prior to applying, have a student visa with a work permit valid in Canada are eligible.
  • The Margaret McNamara Education Grants is a nonprofit, public charity founded in 1981, which awards education grants to exceptional women from developing countries, who are at least 25 years old, and enrolled at universities in the US, Canada and select universities in South Africa and Latin America. Grants of up to US$15,000 have been awarded in the US/Canada program.

University of Toronto Awards

  • The Adel S. Sedra Distinguished Graduate Award is a fellowship of up to $25,000 awarded annually to a doctoral student who demonstrates outstanding academic and extracurricular leadership. International students are eligible to apply.
  • A number of University-Wide awards have been established at the School of Graduate Studies through the generous support of donors. Approximately 16 awards with individual eligibility criteria and values are available. Need-based funds awarded in excess of $5,000 will contribute towards the PhD Funding Package.
  • The Connaught International Scholarships assist graduate units in recruiting and supporting top international scholars by providing a $10,000 top-up scholarship, to be paid in addition to the normal PhD funding package. Students do not apply directly, but must be nominated by their graduate unit at the time of admission.

These and other major external awards can be discovered by consulting the School of Graduate Studies’ Scholarships & Awards information.

Public Health Sciences Awards

  • The Dr. Andrea Sass-Kortsak Award is a merit-based award available to a PhD student engaged in research related to management, evaluation or policy related to occupational health, or secondly, to a PhD student in the Occupational and Environmental Health program.  The award is valued at approximately $4,000.
  • The Ontario Student Opportunity Trust Fund (OSOTF) is a category of awards that have been developed through a matching program with the Ontario government. Eligibility includes demonstrated financial need. The value of these awards is based on the annual income earned.

Research or Training Stipend

Faculty are expected to contribute to the financial well-being of our community of doctoral students by providing  stipends (T4A non-taxable income) to support dissertation research. Faculty may also support doctoral students in the funded cohort through research assistantships (T4 income) for work on grant funded research or, for instance, by covering student participation in conferences and manuscript publication costs. Faculty can prioritize the students they supervise, but are not limited to these students.

Teaching or Research Assistant Income

Doctoral students who do not hold major external awards or scholarships, or research stipends equivalent to, or greater than, the minimum funding threshold, are expected to secure either a teaching assistantship or a research assistantship or both, earning $2,500 or more. Note that the maximum TA/RA income contribution for the minimum funding threshold calculation is $2,500, meaning that any TA/RA income over $2,500 is not included in the minimum funding threshold calculation and can be considered in addition to the threshold for the student.

Teaching Assistant Positions

Doctoral students securing less than the minimum funding threshold must accept a TA position to which they applied or “take up” a subsequent TA appointment. Students who decline a TA position or decline / defer a subsequent appointment, or if no TA applications were submitted, will have their minimum funding threshold reduced by $2,500, unless they take on a research assistant position for $2,500 (or more) instead.

TA positions administered by PHS are posted on the TA Opportunities page of the DLSPH website, the Human Resources & Equity/CUPE Local 3902 website, on the 5th floor CUPE bulletin board, and emailed to students via the PhD student mailing list.

Research Assistant Positions

Doctoral students securing less than the minimum funding threshold must accept an RA position, if offered. RA positions can be secured with the student’s supervisor or elsewhere. Students who decline an RA position, or if no RA applications were submitted, will have their minimum funding threshold reduced by $2,500, unless they take on a TA position for $2,500 (or more) instead.

University of Toronto Fellowship (UTF)

Doctoral students in the funded cohort who do not reach the minimum funding threshold will be eligible for UTF funds to reach the minimum funding threshold.

Example funding scenarios are depicted here. 

4. Funding Details

  1. The minimum funding threshold in the Graduate Department of Public Health Sciences, for PhD students in the funded cohort, for 2020-2021 is $25,858.65.
  2. UTF will be dispersed to ensure all students meet the minimum funding threshold.
  3. Students in the funded cohort who hold major external awards or scholarships, or stipends equivalent to, or greater than, the minimum funding threshold are not expected to hold a TA or RA position. Any income earned through TA or RA employment will be in addition to the award/scholarship or stipend.
  4. Students in the funded cohort who hold external competitive awards with a total value of at least $15,000, but less than $30,000, will receive a bonus of up to $2,000, to a maximum funding threshold of $30,000.
  5. Students who hold competitive awards with a total value greater than $30,000 are not eligible for further funding.
  6. Students in the funded cohort who are receiving a research or training stipend (from their supervisor(s) or committee member(s)) will receive a bonus of up to 10% of the stipend, to a maximum funding threshold of $30,000.
  7. The Graduate Department of PHS is committed to funding students in as predictable a fashion as possible. Students whose funding sources change during the year are required to notify the Graduate Department immediately, and provide supporting documentation. In addition, students may be required to return or decline funds in order to comply with the policies of the funding sources and PHS. The student will, of course, still receive at least the minimum funding threshold.
  8. Students must be registered in PHS as full-time degree students for a minimum of 14 weeks in each term. Repayment of UTF funds is required if a student is registered in PHS for fewer than 14 weeks in any term or otherwise fails to maintain full-time status.
  9. Students must remain in good academic standing, as described in the Graduate Department of Public Health Sciences Statement on Good Academic Standing and Satisfactory Progress, completing the degree requirements and demonstrating progress by achieving milestones defined by the program.
  10. Students are required to complete annually the Funding Declaration and the PhD Activity report. Students entering year 5 should include a timeline to completion.
  11. Students are responsible for ensuring that all tuition and incidental fees are paid by April 30th of each year.