Canadian PhD Students Demand Fair Pay: Nationwide Walkout Planned for May 1st

Canadian Ph.D. students and postgraduates are planning a nationwide walkout on May 1st to demand a significant boost to government-sponsored fellowships and scholarships, which have remained unchanged for almost two decades. The salaries for graduate students and postdoctoral researchers have not increased since 2003, leaving many researchers in a precarious financial position. The federal government provides an annual stipend of Can$17,500 (US$12,800) for master’s degree students, $23,000 or $35,000 for Ph.D. students, and $45,000 for postdoctoral fellowships. This low pay has resulted in a survey finding that almost half of Canadian graduate students frequently struggled to make ends meet or had to make sacrifices to afford necessities. Furthermore, 30% of them had considered leaving their studies due to financial hardship.

Support Our Science, a student-led campaign group is organizing the nationwide walkout. The group has three main demands: a rise of 48% for master’s scholarships to $25,900, an increase in postdoctoral fellowships to $59,200, equalizing the two levels of Ph.D. scholarships at $35,000, a 50% increase in the number of scholarships funded each year, a doubling in the number of fellowships, and a 50% increase in the size of federal research grants to allow professors to increase pay for students and postdocs who do not have a federal scholarship. These demands are in line with recommendations from the government’s own advisory panel on the research-support system, published in March.

Walkouts are planned at 46 universities and research institutes across the country, and thousands of people are expected to take part. The protests aim to generate momentum for pay rises across the entire system, as federal scholarship levels serve as an unofficial benchmark for what students should be paid by the provinces, universities, and other organizations that fund students and postdocs. The hope is that an increase in federal funding will prompt pay rises across the entire system.


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