Graduate Student Funding

Graduate students in the Department may receive financial support from a variety of sources an in a variety of forms. Standard funding models do not exist and multiple arrangements are possible, often contain a mix from several sources. This page outlines the various forms of funding support that may be available.

Funding Sources

Most MASc and PhD students receive financial support from a primary source, and may do so from one or more supplementary sources. In general MEng students do not receive financial support, except that a very few MEng students may receive supplementary funding from Teaching Assistantships and Marker positions. The most common primary and supplementary sources are as follows:

Primary Sources

  • Graduate Research Assistantships (GRA)
  • Four-Year Doctoral Fellowships (4YF)
  • NSERC Scholarships
  • Affiliated Fellowships
  • Other Awards

Supplementary Sources

  • Top-Ups
  • GSI Merit Awards
  • International Student Tuition Fee Awards
  • Teaching Assistantships & Marker Positions (TA)
  • Other Opportunities

These are outlined in turn below.  Additional information about scholarships, awards, and funding is available at this page maintained by the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies and this page at UBC Student Services.  Finally, employment opportunities relating to a student's status in the Department are mentioned below.

Graduate Research Assistantships (GRA)

A GRA provides monthly support, effectively a salary, for an MASc or PhD student through a research grant or contract held by the Research Supervisor.  The level of support and the start and end dates are specified at the time of appointment, and the appointment may be renewed.  There are no specified minimum or maximum levels of support and no specified duration of support.  However, students who do not obtain other forms of support typically receive about $20,000 per year.  GRA's may be combined with other forms of student support, and are awarded at the discretion of the Research Supervisor holding the grant / contract.

Four-Year Doctoral Fellowships (4YF)

The Four-Year Doctoral Fellowship (4YF) Program, which is administered by the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies, provides primary support for exceptional PhD students.

Eligibility.  All PhD students, as well as PhD applicants offered admission – both domestic and international students – are automatically considered for 4YF funding.

Level of Support.  4YF's provide $18,200 per year plus full tuition coverage; and in addition the Research Supervisor provides a top-up of $5,800 per year.  If awarded, the support commences in September, typically one year after entry to the program, and may be provided for up to 4 years, subject to satisfactory academic progress.

Selection Process. In February/March, all faculty members are invited to nominate exceptional incoming PhD students during their review of graduate applications.   In April, an Academic Progress Form is distributed to students and research supervisors – the form includes information about coursework, grades, publications and presentations, as well as other relevant academic contributions within the last 12 months.  In May, the Graduate Awards Advisor chairs a committee to review the completed forms in order to assess the performance of all PhD students whose start date in the program falls between May of the previous year and January of the current year, as well as any incoming students that have been nominated.  The Associate Head endorses the recommendations that are made, and forwards the selected candidates to G+PS, for issuing the awards that commence in September.  The committee may decide to forward fewer nominees to G+PS; awards not allocated will roll over to the next year.

Criteria.  The two most important selection criteria are academic excellence and research productivity. Peer-reviewed journal papers normally carry greater weight than conference papers; and grades at UBC normally carry greater weight than grades from elsewhere (even though GPA's are normalized to account for varying class averages and different grading systems).

NSERC Scholarships

The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) offer awards to exceptional students or who are Canadian citizens or permanent residents.  Applications are initiated by the student, usually prior to admission, and may be submitted via UBC or directly to NSERC, depending on the circumstances.  There are three types of NSERC awards for graduate students:

  • Canada Graduate Scholarships-Master’s Program (CGS-M)
  • Canada Graduate Scholarships-Doctoral Program (CGS-D)
  • Postgraduate Scholarships-Doctoral Program (CGS-D)

Complete details are at NSERC's Postgraduate Programs webpage.

The three scholarships have values and durations as follows:

  • NSERC CGS M Scholarships – for MASc students at $17,500 for one year, non-renewable
  • NSERC PGS D Scholarship – for PhD students at $21,000 per year for two or three years
  • NSERC CGS D Scholarship – for PhD students at $35,000 per year for two or three years

The Department provides top-ups to these scholarships as described below.

Affiliated Fellowships Program

International MASc and PhD students, who are unable to apply for NSERC Scholarships, may apply instead for Affiliated Fellowships administered by G+PS.  The application deadlines coincide with those of the NSERC awards.  These Fellowships are awarded at various levels, typically at about $16,000 per year, but up to $35,000 in the case of PhD students.  See Affiliated Fellowship Master's Program and Affiliated Fellowship Doctoral Program for further information.

Other Awards

The Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies Award Opportunities webpage provides information on a wide range of other awards (including most of those mentioned herein).  Of particular note are the Vanier scholarships for doctoral students that provide $50,000 per year over three years.

Top-Up Awards

The Department provides Top-Up Awards to holders of Four-Year Fellowships and NSRC Scholarships as follows:

Four Year Doctoral Fellowship Top-Ups

As mentioned previously, the Research Supervisor provides a top-up to 4YF holders such that the component and total amounts are as follows:

4-Year Fellowships:  $18,200 (4FY) + $5,800 (Research Supervisor) = $24,000 total

NSERC Scholarship Top-Ups

Both the GSI and the Research Supervisor provide top-ups to the NSERC scholarship holders, such that the component and total amounts are as follows:

NSERC PGS-M: $17,500 (NSERC) + $4,000 (GSI) + $2,000 (Research Supervisor)
= $23,500 total
NSERC PGS-D: $21,000 (NSERC) + $4,000 (GSI) + $2,000 (Research Supervisor)
= $27,000 total
NSERC CGS-D: $35,000 (NSERC) + $8,000 (GSI) + $2,000 (Research Supervisor)
= $45,000 total

In the above, GSI refers to the Graduate Support Initiative, which is a UBC program for funding graduate students through entrance scholarships, multi-year funding packages, tuition awards and scholarship top-ups.  The GSI allocation to the Department is used in part for NSERC top-ups as described above, and in part for GSI Merit Awards as described below.

GSI Merit Awards

The Department uses a portion of its GSI allocation to provide GSI Merit Awards to MASc and PhD students.

Eligibility.  All MASc students in the first two years of the program and all PhD students in the first four years of the program are considered for GSI Merit Awards.

Level of Support.  A GSI Merit Award provides $4,500 per year, which is typically in addition to a GRA provided by the Research Supervisor.  If awarded, the support commences in September, typically one year after entry to the program, and continues for one year.

Selection Process.  An Academic Progress Form is distributed to students and research supervisors – the form includes information about coursework, grades, publications and presentations, as well as other relevant academic contributions within the last 12 months.  In May, the Graduate Advisor Awards chairs a committee that reviews the academic performance of all MASc and PhD students whose start date in the program falls between May of the previous year and January of the current year.  The Associate Head normally approves the Committee's recommendations for awards that commence in September.

CriteriaThe two most important selection criteria are academic excellence and research productivity. Peer-reviewed journal papers normally carry greater weight than conference papers; and grades at UBC normally carry greater weight than grades from elsewhere (even though GPA's are normalized to account for varying class averages and different grading systems).  Other criteria are that priority is given to PhD students over MASc students, and to students who have completed other degrees at UBC.

International Student Tuition Fee Award

International Tuition Awards are available to full-time international MASc and PhD students to support tuition fees.  Students do not need to apply, as all international students who are eligible are automatically considered for this award.  This award is not provided to students who received tuition support external to UBC (or these awards are reduced by the level of external tuition support).

Graduate Teaching Assistantships (TA) and Marker Positions

The Department of Civil Engineering offers opportunities for many of its graduate students to support undergraduate and graduate course delivery through Teaching Assistantships and Marker positions.

Eligibility and Applications.  All graduate students are eligible to apply, although an extremely small number of TA's and Marker Positions are typically provided to MEng students.  Students apply through submission of a completed TA/marker on-line application form that is available through the link below (during the period that applications are being solicited).  There is an application limit of 6 courses per term.    Applications should be submitted by a specified deadline in April.

Level of Support.  Payments are made at established hourly rates (see the CUPE 2278 webpage on pay rates), which correspond to about $14 per hour for Markers, and $30 per hour for TA's.  Any one student may be assigned no more than 100 hours per term.  Additional information about rates of pay and conditions of employment for Teaching Assistant and Marker positions is described in the collective agreement between UBC and CUPE 2278. 

Selection Process. These are awarded at the discretion of the instructor, except that an incumbent in a particular course have first call on an appointment for that course.  All appointees who have not held a previous TA position are required to attend the TA workshop presented by the Faculty of Applied Science and The Centre for Teaching, Learning and Technology.

To apply for a TA/Marker assignment, please go here prior to the April 30 deadline.  [Applications for 2017-18 are now closed.]

Employment Opportunities

Beyond the funding sources identified above, students may also earn a salary and gain work experience through paid employment opportunities – subject to being able to secure suitable employment, having sufficient time available, and assuring the necessary documentation / approvals.  Two such opportunities that relate to student status in the Department are the Co-op Program and the Work Learn Program, as summarized below.

Co-op Program.  MEng & MASc students have the opportunity to apply to the Co-op Program in order to gain paid work experience during their program at UBC.  Typically, the program starts with a mandatory pre-employment training workshop in the Fall; then, after completing two terms of study, the students proceed with two four-month work terms (in the summer and fall), and then return to campus to complete their programs as necessary. MASc students should consult their Research Supervisor prior to applying to the co-op program.  MEng students may apply here and MASc students may apply here.

Work Learn Program.  The Work Learn Program supports and subsidizes work experiences on campus so as to offer students the opportunity to develop their professional skills and learn in a work environment.