What I Wish I Had Known Notes on Financing Graduate Studies in Arts – courtesy of Ana Vivaldi

What I Wish I Had Known: Notes on Financing Graduate Studies in Arts

Based on the personal experience of a PhD student in the Social Sciences

Your own situation may differ, depending on your discipline and other circumstances, so not all of these recommendations may apply, but in general, I recommend that you:

Be aware that financial support after the fourth year is virtually non-existent for Arts students, so plan accordingly:

  • Make a financial plan along with your academic plan

Get both the department and your committee involved in that plan. Discuss with your committee a budget to cover your studies from start to finish, including at least one additional year to completion (over what you project in your academic plan). Project worst-case scenarios, look at your sources of funding (bank, family, etc.) and how much each can provide, consider how much debt you are willing to take on, and where you would turn in a financial emergency. Plan for inflation, and increases in cost of living (at least 2% a year) and tuition, and bear in mind that salary and fellowships may not increase with inflation. Plan how you will support yourself during summers. Go back to this plan, just as you go back to your grad program record.

  • Maximize your funding applications

Use the support your department provides in funding applications in the first two years. Prioritize these applications over being an overly obsessive student. (To be blunt, good grades won’t pay your research or living expenses. Which is not to suggest that you neglect your coursework, but only that you set priorities.) Work on your applications with other students; read and edit your work together. Research what type of projects are getting funding, plan a strategy to match those criteria (taking into account your own interests, of course). Do your own research for funding opportunities (ask for help at the library); there are many funding sources that most students do not know about (IDRC, Soros Foundation, and others).

  • Save money in the early years of your program for later years

Do not expect that your financial situation will improve throughout your program; it is actually the opposite–funding after the 4th year is almost non-existent. Any time you have funding or other income, prioritize and make a monthly budget that allows you to save as much as you can for when your funding runs out.

  • Consider the following income-generating options
    • a) Teaching Assistant-ships: You will be eligible for 5 years (6 if you take fieldwork or other types of leave; read the union agreement carefully).
    • b) Sessional work: If there is an opening in your area of expertise, this is great experience, and worth doing at least once during your program, but take this work knowing that it will likely leave you no time to work on your thesis, and progress will be nearly stopped during that time. (Teaching the same course twice is very good because you have all the preparation done, but this is not usually possible).
    • c) Teaching work outside the department or university: Consider teaching or TA-ing in a related department, or at other universities and colleges (SFU, Capilano, Langara, etc.)   For this you will need: to find out about the calls for sessionals and TAs, to get permission from the department to teach, and to show your teaching evaluations from any TA position(s) you have held, so keep those (they are all on-line now). (International students do not need an off campus work permit anymore but are limited to part-time work)
    • d) Research Assistant-ships: It may be difficult to find an RA-ship with anyone other than your supervisor or committee members, but occasionally RA-ships may be available, even if not advertised. Contact professors and ask them if they need an RA.
    • e) Jobs at UBC: As well as decent wages and benefits, any administration position over 50% time provides a tuition waiver. This option is much unexplored among students and gives you work experience, connections and much more financial stability.
    • f) GSS jobs.
    • g) Staff-finders
    • h) Other jobs. Ask Oralia about job listservs. UBC Career Services
    • i) Loans: If you need to take on debt, plan ahead for it as much as possible. Do not wait until you are in financial difficulties, but find out in advance what types of loans you are eligible for, and the maximum amounts.
    • j) GSS Emergency Fund: This is a one-time emergency hardship fund for students in financial distress. There are specific conditions to be met, and the maximum is normally not more than $2,000 so it is never going to save your semester, but it may help if you are truly facing an emergency.
    • k) Take a leave, work intensively outside UBC and then come back. (if you are an international student you need your visa *not* to expire while on leave, otherwise you are unable to renew it and become illegal – this is the type of things International house will not discuss much with you-).

Finally, take leaves of absence if there is any particularly difficult moment. You can take up to 1 year in different portions (a semester each time or several semesters together). You can take a leave for personal reasons with no further explanation (ie no need to show doctors notes or any other document just a written letter and a form). There are also medical leaves. Do not try to hold to the program if you need and can take time off. Academic considerations: Streamline your program and prepare to the job market

1) Make your academic program tight in time, not overly ambitious and try to use time wisely as much as you can: use summers, try finishing the course-work in one year (take summer courses, if they are not available in Anth look outside the department), make the comps as short as you can, plan for shorter rather than longer fieldwork (ie 10 months vs 12). Already at proposal – comps stage you can plan to leave a portion of work for the post doc (or the doc if you are MA), for example leave archival work for latter if it is not central. Start writing drafts of your thesis as soon as you can. Use courses for the purpose of your research as much as you can, make final papers be small, draft lit reviews fro your dissertation or Comps project proposal.

2) Bear in mind the program, but also all professors and mentors prepare you to follow an academic path, but only a few of us will get that work. Try developing other skills (this can be software expertise as ATLAS TI, to statistics (SSPS), geographic information systems, health research tools, find out what you may need in your area). Get a job outside the department, get teaching experience. Consider taking any course you need to develop these skills.

3) Try to get to know people in your sub-field as much as you can, search outside the department, consider applying for the Liu institute (if you fit in it) and – or any other network (RAGA, migration) that is suitable for your work. Search professional organizations and conferences in applied social sciences in your areas of interest. Build your professional as well as an academic profile, as much as you can.

If you are international student:

1) Bear in mind tuition is already much expensive than for local students and may continue to raise. The gap between local and international tuition gets bigger after the 2nd year. There is an international tuition fellowship that attempts to match international tuition with local tuition for grad students, but that fellowship has not risen in many years, what means that you get even more inflation on your tuition each time it rises. Project this raises. Also while domestic tuition gets reduced after 3 semesters, international tuition keeps the same until the end (and you pay tuition even after defense, until the day your final version of the thesis is submitted).

2) Bear in mind you depend on your full time student status to renew your visa. This may be a problem at the end of your program and if you need to take time off.

3) Bear in mind that off campus work-permit you have limitations to work, you can only work a number of hours a week (20?), and you are not in the hiring priority for jobs.

4) Consider you are not eligible to any state help (ie disability, family, other), you can’t apply for loans and bursaries in UBC. You can’t apply to bank loans in Canada.

So it is a good idea as international student you:

1) Consider applying for Permanent Resident as soon as you can (second year), even if you are not planning to stay in Canada. This will make you eligible to more fellowships, much cheaper tuition after your second year, give you possibilities to work full-time and be more eligible to work, be eligible to UBC bursaries and UBC loans, and the specific bank loans for students, you will also be eligible to more post docs.

2) Know your rights and the resources available

Read the TA agreement, read FOGPGS policies, navigate the GSS website. You may also find it helpful to consult the GSS Advocacy Office, the UBC Ombuds Office, UBC Equity, or International House if you experience issues related to finances, leave, visas, supervision, (or any other aspect of your relationship with UBC). Bear in mind they are pretty dis-articulated, you will have to connect and process the information (ie International house knows about visas but will not know about what happens if you get a debt with UBC as international student).


AGSA Meeting Notes: April 17, 2014

Thursday April 17th, 2014 @ 4pm

In attendance: Daniela Oliverio-Lauderdale, Daria Boltokova, Sarah Fessenden, Bryn Letham (total attendance: 9)


  1. Elections-

Positions to fill:

AGSA Pres/Vice Pres or Co-Presidents: Steffan, Martina



AGSA talks organizers (2):

Department Rep. (2): Cordelia, Danielle as MA rep (need to confirm)

AGSC Rep. (2):

Social Chair(s): Bryn (maybe also Lab Rep)

GSS Rep:

TA Union Rep: Lindsay (need to confirm)


Daria here until end of September. President and Vice president positions need to be filled but also good to have space for incoming cohort. Bryn shows interest in president position but hesitant and prefers social committee. Possibly turning AGSA into official club. Bryn in the field until September. Steffan on speaker phone. If AGSA becomes a registered club how much funding is available for graduate clubs? Look into this issue- starting next year. Establishing better relations between undergraduate and graduate students. Forward description of presidential position to Martina and Steffan. Bryn (jokingly) suggests more meetings. Fundraising for treasurer. Polaroid pictures of MA and PhD students on bulletin board during first term? Martina as co-president. Bryn suggests Committee of Personality for Steffan and Martina.

Cordelia: regarding letter: need to take a vote about how GSI (graduate support initiative) money gets allocated. Equally or by national vs. international students. Poll via email.


Next meeting: September

AGSA Meeting Notes: February 6, 2014

Thursday February 6th, 2014 @ 2pm

In attendance: Daniela Oliverio-Lauderdale, Daria Boltokova, Sarah Fessenden, Bryn Letham (total attendance: 7)


1. Electing a student representative for the Headship Search Committee. Please email me if you would like to propose your candidacy! As a student rep you will attend meetings at the dean’s office, participate in confidential discussions, solicit students’ opinions. It’s probably not a huge time commitment but something that definitely takes some “dedication and careful thought” (as described by former representative Clayton Whitt who is currently doing his fieldwork);

2. Call for volunteers to help Cordelia to edit the letter to the Department. We are probably looking for 1-2 volunteers. Eventually the letter will be in google docs so that everyone can edit too.

3. Updates from representatives


1.     Grad student rep for director for MOA: Rachel

2.     Grad student rep for Headship: Martina

3.     First Tuesday of March 4th next departmental meeting. Number of students admitted every year (18). Raise the issue of cohort number. Sarah volunteers to help Cordelia with letter writing. But Sarah is gone for the presentation of the letter on March 4th so need someone else to be there to support Cordelia.

Next meeting: Feb. 27th @2pm

AGSA Meeting Notes: January 23, 2014

Thursday January 23rd, 2014 @ 1:30pm

In attendance: Daniela Oliverio-Lauderdale, Daria Boltokova, Sarah Fessenden, Bryn Letham


1. Discuss the departmental letter, Cordelia will give a brief summary of your responses

2. Updates from the representatives/committees

3. AGSA talks

4. Bryn will talk about Archaeology Day

5. Call for volunteers for the Grad Student Info Night organized by Anthropology undergraduates.

Meeting Minutes

1)    Department Response to Letter from Grad Students

Cordelia: Happy department sent a response. Thanks for the recommendations etc. Key issues: funding, allocations of TAships, possibility of TAship in 5th year, coursework changes (omitting one or both or have them be more useful- more flexible), credits required for PhD students, possibility of reducing credits to get students finished faster, comps reduction, poor offering of coursework, issues about transparency about finishing time etc, grad workshops- a forum where we can present drafts. Good response- they are on our side. Focus on beneficial structural changes at a departmental level (funding and tuition reduction are not up to them). Prioritizing structural changes- transparency first, encouraging part of comps list to be a directed studies (process change/structural) non-monetary changes, put specific pressure on faculty to be accountable to students about certain things (turn-around times for things and example: directed studies that includes comps list) Issue: Approached as AGSA or via individuals? (decision: as AGSA) Options communicated to students form adviser to advisee.

Cordelia go to faculty department meeting?-Maybe, Yes (Cordelia puts letter together for in two weeks time- start google doc on behalf of AGSA). Convince AGSC first and call meeting for in a week (citing broad themes or particulars)? But this is not a recent issue but an on-going issue, years past. Transparency listed on the website.

2)    Updates:  This point was skipped for today

3)     AGSA Talks

Volunteer to lead ASGA talks to help Madeline. Set up dates for talks and send emails. Prof and students or just students. Bryn volunteers.

4)     Archaeology Day

Bryn: we need speakers and on March 15th. (Theme: Digital Archeology) Low key and fun but it is put on entirely by LOA committee. Day of need half day volunteers. Located in the anthropology building with catered lunch. Pub event afterwards.

5)     Grad Student Info Night organized by Anthropology undergraduates

Need one Canadian and one international student. Bryn volunteers and need an international student. Mascha volunteers.

AGSA Meeting Notes: Nov. 14, 2013

Thursday November 14th, 2013 @ 1:30pm

In attendance: Daniela Oliverio-Lauderdale, Daria Boltokova, Bryn Letham


1. Christmas party planning

2. Updates from the reps

3. What we can do to help those affected by the typhoon in the Philippines. It would be nice if we could brainstorm?

Christmas party planning:

Promote as end of the term party. Figure out how to involve the faculty. Christmas formal? Ale can get the liquor license? Payment for alcohol? Doodle about the dates? Archeology party on Dec. 6th….? Last 500 class is December the 3rd. Either the 4th or the 6th…. Tentatively December 4th. Either in the grad lounge or Bryn’s house.

Updates from the reps:

Cordelia: AGSC meeting about the letter to the faculty. Will be and are supportive of us- they are not trying ot make things difficult on us. Will respond to the letter formally and address things such as communication, how the budget is used, expectations, long-term- securing fellowship for write-up period. What we need to decide: departmental systemic changes to make. Transfer of classes, comps… They would advocate for a writing fellowship- competitive and reduced fees for after the 4th years.  And the faculty will canvas their colleagues for ideas of how to acquire more money. FOGS isn’t going to get involved and money managed at departmental level.  Equal distribution of money or two large sums (writing fellowships)? Unwilling to commit to things that can’t uphold. Continue the conversation each month? Create a poll about division equally or a few large ones? International students pay more for tuition- so maybe standard of money given based on residency? Acceptance of students should be based on funding? Send questions to be polled to Cordelia deadline by end of January (assuming they respond to the letter formally in time for us to get organized). No travel funds. Need explanation for this.

Ale: No AGSA talks in December. Will resume in January.

Fundraising: coffee or bake sale? Event? Soup day? Please send fundraising ideas to Bryn.

Typhoon in the Philippines: Nothing to report.

Next meeting: Thursday Jan. 16th 1:30-2:30pm

AGSA Meeting Notes: October 10, 2013

Thursday October 10th, 2013 @ 1:30pm

In attendance: Daria Boltokova, Alejandra Diaz, Daniela Oliverio-Lauderdale, Sarah Fessenden


  1. Announcement from the REX representative Erick Carreras   
  2. Discuss a letter to the AGSC that Rafael and thirteen PhD students initiated, about monetary and non-monetary changes at the Department
  3. Nominate a grad student representative on the LOA (Laboratory of Archeology) Committee for this academic year
  4. Updates from representatives/committees


Announcement from Eric (REX):

Background info: Undergraduate Research Opportunities (URO). Graduate students and undergraduates are matched up (program has been expanded to arts and engineering) proposal research project writing practice; grad students write a bio and then select undergrads and vice versa (two way dialogue)

Project: question, literature review, how to design experiment/research, hypothetical results; then in March how to design a poster at a undergrad conference; intended to help undergrads look for research positions/work; URO offers the basics through workshops about how to get into research etc. and then grad students take over with specific project and questions.

Questions? Q: Research assistant or propose research project? A: Proposal of a research project primarily but can be a sort of RA relationship. Q: Human subjects research ethical issues? A: Doesn’t require that they collect data, so it is the pre-data collection process. Q: Time commitment? A: 4-6 hours per month; Nov-Jan/Feb

Deadline: Oct. 16th next Wednesday; 3 sentence bio is sufficient

(Emails direct to: Erickcarreras@gmail.com)

Letter to the AGSC:

-Rafael started the conversation; no one can finish in 4 years- Tends to be 5-6 years. Funding never covers full time you are doing your studies. Lack of support in general. Originally asking for $6,000 for one term to finish during last 3 months. For the next generation especially. Department needs to find ways to get the money.

Questions or discussion? Q: How realistic is it to ask department to find money so where is the money being re-directed from? A: Not coming from TAships or taken away from other students in later years. FOGS gives money and new students are expected to bring in money from outside department. GSI ($160,000) Depends on success of cohort each year. Maybe not sustainable to bring in so many students each year. Possible solution: enrollment and management of funding. Example: sociology accepts only 6 each year; TA undergrads in sociology. Q: In what ways could the program be streamlined? A: It is difficult but maybe less required coursework for PhD if they have done the courses previously. Also, more guidelines for committees and turning around revisions-2 week suggestion turn around on website for comps and need something similar for other steps of process. Expectations coming from Department Head. Policy within Department that has set scholarship money but it is not that way now. Note: Travel fund issues that occurred last year. Grad students want to be kept updated on budget issues. Letter as a precedent and documentation of history of instances and for future changes. Suggestion: “Continuing education” program at other university- paying less tuition when in writing up phase at university level.  Research assistantships outside UBC. Leave (parental or otherwise/personal).

Nominate representative for lab of archeology (LOA):

Alejandra was rep last year; Bryn volunteered and now nominated

Updates from committees/ representatives:

Bryn- pub nights are going well. Working on joint SFU and UBC Halloween party. Christmas party suggestions can be sent to Bryn. Liquor and license!

AGSC (Cordelia and Eva): will be contacted when appropriate to go

Department meeting liaison (Lindsay and Rachel): What kind of information is needed to be reported? Budget information? Example: 3% reduction across the board.

AGSA talks (Ale and Maddy): Four people have volunteered- Nov 7th and 21st (Rm 134).  Baked goods, sweets are welcome.

Union meeting (Sarah): Other departments allocated TAships differently. Example: Natural Sciences- students get admitted with money – same amount given whether or not get TAship.  Q: Does fieldwork count against a year of preference? A: Seems that no it doesn’t count.

If you have issues contact Sarah to get in contact with a rep. Next meeting tentatively next Wednesday at 5pm, which can be attended by any TA (location TBA).

Next meeting: Thursday Nov. 14th 1:30-2:30pm in Rm 141 (Not grad lounge)


Thursday, October 10

1:30-2:30 AnSo Grad Lounge

Provisional Agenda

1. Announcement from the REX representative Erick Carreras
2. Discuss a letter to the AGSC that Rafael and thirteen PhD students initiated, about monetary and non-monetray changes at the Department
3. Nominate a grad student representative on the LOA (Laboratory of Archeology) Committee for this academic year
4. Updates from representatives/committees