McGill Fights Brain Drain

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture

The continuing exodus of trained and talented individuals from Canada to the United States and elsewhere has concerned Canadian social policy analysts for the past two decades. With $12 million in new and redesigned graduate funding initiatives, McGill University is doing its part to turn the so-called brain drain into a brain gain.

"The unique ability of universities to attract intellectual resources and high quality personnel from around the world is a key element in fostering a competitive economic climate in Quebec and Canada," said Martin Kreiswirth, Associate Provost (Graduate Education) and Dean of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies, at McGill.

Supported, in part, by Campaign McGill and a strategic realignment of resources, McGill has recently introduced three new Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies (GPS) funding initiatives, worth about $12 million in total. These initiatives will help McGill to achieve its goal of increasing the numbers of high-quality research Master’s and Doctoral students by providing more competitive financial support packages.

The first phase involved establishing the McGill International Doctoral Awards, which doubled the amount of financial support made available to international Doctoral students. This group is traditionally underfunded because they pay considerably higher tuition than domestic Doctoral students and are not eligible for national and provincial research council awards. Introduced in September 2007, approximately $2 million in new funding has been made available to make sure that all international Doctoral students whose fees are not already being paid directly by an external government agency or corporate sponsor pay the same tuition as Canadian and Quebec Doctoral students.


Existing endowed awards plus the new McGill Principal’s Graduate Fellowships bring another $5.3-million funding envelope to the departments for disbursement in variable amounts to aid in attracting and keeping the very best research Master’s and Doctoral students, both domestic and international.

Moreover, for 2008-2009, McGill is investing an additional $4.5 million a year towards the new Provost’s Graduate Fellowships, which will allow departments to provide competitive funding packages to recruit the very best graduate applicants.

Ian Whittington, a British Columbia resident and newly accepted PhD student in the Department of English at McGill and recipient of a prestigious CGS-SSHRC scholarship in addition to McGill’s graduate fellowship, said the new funding initiatives helped him decide to study at McGill instead of in the United States.

"I was always keen to come back to McGill, but had assumed that the most competitive funding packages would be from U.S. schools," Whittington said. "I wasn’t at all sure that I could afford to come here without substantial support, so for McGill to come through with the funding necessary to keep me here was a pleasant surprise."

"New federal investment in graduate student support, such as the Vanier Canada Scholarships Program introduced in the recent budget, is a welcome partner program at the federal level that will leverage McGill's capacity, and that of other Canadian universities, to attract and retain the best and brightest graduate students. McGill’s commitment to improving graduate student support, for both Canadian and international graduate students, ensures that we will not lose our edge over the competition, particularly amongst our institutional peers," said Kreiswirth. "The ideal 'fit' for a graduate student in any program depends on a host of factors, ranging from supervisory match to a comfortable standard of living, and by enhancing the quality of its graduate funding capabilities, McGill has taken another crucial step in fuelling the Canadian brain gain."