Western tracking well against grad
Four and a half years ago, in November 2003, the Council of Ontario Universities released a report prepared by a Task Force which I chaired. Entitled Advancing Ontario’s Future Through Advanced Degrees: Report of the COU Task Force on Future Requirements for Graduate Education in Ontario, the report documented the fact that as a percentage of the population, doctoral degrees granted in Ontario were some two decades behind a similar ratio in the US. Among its recommendations, the report called for a doubling of doctoral degrees over the decade after 2003.
The findings of the COU report have been confirmed with a new Statistics Canada report, released in April, that finds our country continues to lag behind many other developed nations in terms of the number of PhD graduates produced each year. Reflecting a survey of students graduating from Canadian doctoral programs in 2004-05, the StatsCan report shows PhD grads account for 0.4 per cent of Canada’s population, compared to 0.7 per cent in the US.
However, crediting an increased range of graduate programs and better government funding for grad students and research, the StatsCan report also documents rapid growth in graduate studies after 2000. Between 2000 and 2004, Canadian PhD program enrolments have risen 7 per cent per year, and Western is working hard to ensure that positive trend continues.
In fact, Western’s 2006 Strategic Plan, Engaging the Future, includes ambitious goals to double PhD enrolment and significantly increase the number of Masters-level students on our campus. The table below, taken from Western’s 2007 Campus Master Plan, shows that over the decade from 1996 to 2006, Masters enrolment increased by 41 per cent and doctoral enrolment by 107 per cent. Looking ahead to the next decade, from 2006 to 2016, the table shows that we are forecasting Masters enrolment to grow by 50 per cent and doctoral enrolment by 100 per cent.
Growth in Full-Time Graduate Enrolment
'96-'97 to '06-'07 '06-07 to '16-'17
Masters 41% 50%
Doctoral 107% 100%
Looking at graduate expansion results for the past two years, it appears we are on track to meet our ambitious goals. From 2005-06 to 2007-08, Masters enrolment has increased by 10.8 per cent, from 2,299 to 2,547, while doctoral enrolment has increased by 22.8 per cent, from 1,235 to 1,516. In both cases, these increases are above those required to meet our ten-year forecast. In Western’s 2008-09 Budget (p. 78), we forecast enrolments in 2010-11 of 2,934 Masters students and 1,924 doctoral students.
To meet our goals for graduate expansion, we need to provide Deans and Departments with funds to recruit additional faculty and pay the other costs of graduate students. Through the ECF, GEF, and GEF+ funding programs, we are distributing millions of dollars to Faculties in support of the graduate expansion. The Provost is currently discussing with Deans additional funding for graduate expansion in what has become a highly competitive environment in Ontario.
Besides the range and high quality of the programs Western has to offer, part of our success in attracting more graduate students can be attributed to the level of funding we provide to students. For example, Western guarantees a minimum annual level of funding for doctoral students, from all sources, of $12,000 plus tuition. In fact, the average annual funding for PhD candidates in 2006 came close to $27,000. During the same year, our Masters students in fundable programs were receiving average annual funding of $20,625.
While funding for graduate students has, indeed, improved in recent years, there is more that could be done, particularly with regard to government support for both Canadian and foreign students. The Vanier Scholarships announced in the recent federal budget are an excellent first step in this direction. Western is working through the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada and the Council of Ontario Universities to advocate for increased federal and provincial scholarships for graduate students. Given the strong demand for graduate students in our economy, increased support is clearly in the public interest.