Financial Support of Students
3.2. Teaching Assistantships. The Biology Department is committed to employment equity. TAships are allocated without discrimination to eligible women and men, including visible minorities, aboriginal people, persons with disabilities and persons of diverse sexual orientations. TAships are allocated to eligible students (see below) for specific courses based on several factors including:
- the request by the student as outlined in the application form,
- the student’s prior academic or teaching experience either in the course concerned or as assessed from the student’s transcripts,
- the requests of the course coordinators.
Application forms are made available to all current and incoming students in May/June, and the positions are allocated by the Graduate Studies Assistant and the Graduate Coordinator and then posted at the end of July. A TAship cannot be allocated to a student if an application form has not been submitted. The responsibility for submission of applications for students that have not yet registered for the first time lies with the supervisor. The supervisor may have to bear the cost of making up the minimum stipend if the student fails to apply and thus is not allocated a TAship.
There are four main Categories of graduate students with respect to TAships and the makeup of the Biology Graduate Minimum Guaranteed Stipend (this does not pertain to the PSAC Preference Groups A-D) :
Category 1: Students within time limits (first 4 years of a PhD; first 2 years of an MSc), whose funding from other sources is less than that guaranteed as the minimum level of support. This category does not distinguish between incoming and continuing students. Eligible for 3 TAships, each typically involving 65 hours work in a single term.
Category 2: Students on scholarships valued between $15,000 to 17,500. Eligible for 1 TAship per year.
Category 3: Students whose program extends beyond the time limit (first 4 years of a PhD; first 2 years of an MSc). When available, 1, 2 or more TAships may be expected (although not guaranteed), contingent on satisfactory performance in the degree program, availability of TA funds, and financial need of the student.
Category 4: Students on scholarships valued over $21,000 no TA is guaranteed. Normally, students on major scholarships who have not held a TAship during their graduate student career will have higher priority.
We recommended that every graduate student do at least one TAship during their degree program because of its value as a teaching experience. Each TAship requires up to five hours of work per week, on average. Normally no full-time graduate student is permitted to be employed in excess of ten hours per week on average over the full year (12 months) on TAships (see Appendix) and other duties unrelated to their research. Major awards have their own limitations with respect to hours worked for extra salary and total remuneration, and award holders should consult their terms of award for this information. For example, NSERC expects award holders to devote the majority of their time to the expeditious completion of their degree program, and strongly suggests that award holders limit the total number of hours of employment per 12-month period to 450 hours.
Students who do not carry out their TAship duties in a fashion satisfactory to the Department may have their TAship(s) withdrawn. Unsatisfactory performance includes: not preparing adequately for laboratories, not giving the students adequate attention, failing to mark assignments promptly (usually within a week of their completion) or failing to attend TA meetings. The relationship between the TA and both the undergraduate students and the professor must be professional and TAs must avoid situations placing them in conflict of interest or favouritism. TAs whose performance is considered unsatisfactory will receive a verbal and then a written warning and subsequently will be required to resign the position if their performance does not improve. If a student is removed from a TA position the Department may assign other duties for which the student is better suited. Even if alternative duties are unavailable the student will continue to receive the remainder of the pay provided for in their contracts (see information here from the Graduate School). It is however important to stress that poor performance may result in the student receiving no further TA contracts. In such a situation neither the Department nor the supervisor has any obligation to replace the lost income and thus the guaranteed minimum support no longer applies.
Inability to teach effectively because of a lack of fluency in English constitutes a special case. Removal from a TAship on these grounds in any one term will not by itself preclude any offer of a teaching position in subsequent terms. However, the Department may require the student to demonstrate that the deficiency in English fluency has been made up before offering further teaching contracts to the student. In this case the supervisor will bear the responsibility for supplementing the student’s income to meet the guaranteed minimum (Senate Policies for TA's).
3.3. Waiving Support. The Biology Department prefers to accept students who can be assured of the minimum guaranteed level of financial support by the Department. In special cases academically qualified students having adequate personal financial resources may be admitted to graduate studies without the Department being committed to the minimum guaranteed level of support. In these cases, the potential supervisor and student must assure the Graduate Studies Committee, in writing, of the availability of adequate financing for the duration of the student's degree program.
3.4. Financial and Supervisory Statement. By the end of September, each student MUST submit a Graduate Student-Supervisor Agreement form to the Biology Graduate Office outlining (i) all sources of financial support (salary) for that year, (ii) the research to be performed during the year, (iii) expected progress to and date of thesis completion, (iv) date of most recent committee meeting, (v) list of committee members, and (vi) availability of financial support for research (non-salary) for completion of the degree. This form is signed by both the student and the supervisor and copies should also be retained by each signatory. This form is a binding commitment between the professor and the student.
3.5. Vacation. Each graduate student receiving a stipend from the supervisor is allowed to take two weeks of paid vacation per year (in accordance with NSERC regulations). The supervisor and graduate student should agree upon a mutually suitable period for this vacation. When the University is closed for statutory holidays, and the period between Christmas and New Year's Day, does not count toward this vacation time. See also School of Graduate Studies Vacation Policies and Procedures.