2021-22 Decanal Memoranda

Sept 1: Graduate Education Innovation Fund

Date: Sept 1, 2021
To: Graduate Chairs; Graduate Coordinators and Graduate Administrators

I am pleased to introduce a new three-year pilot fund to support teaching innovation for graduate education. The goal of the Graduate Education Innovation Fund (GEIF) is to advance excellence in graduate education through greater exposure to innovative educational practices within and across programs and curricula, including both the classroom and field settings, and in the student-faculty member mentorship relationship. This fund will contribute to the mission of SGS, namely to foster excellence in graduate education by supporting and promoting outstanding graduate learning and research in an environment that encourages an exceptional student experience.

Proposal topics can include strengthening programs through: professional development; experiential learning; interdisciplinary learning; Indigenous ways of knowing and other diverse cultural perspectives; decolonization, anti-oppression and anti-racism pedagogies; global perspectives; effective mentorship; and public scholarship. 

University of Toronto faculty members with continuing appointments are eligible to apply. Ten seed grants of a maximum of $5,000 each will be available on an annual basis.

More information regarding this fund, including the application process, is available on the GEIF website.

The deadline for applications is October 18th, 2021 & April 1, 2022.

This initiative is coordinated by Prof. Vina Goghari, Vice-Dean Research and Program Innovation. Please do not hesitate to contact her with any questions or feedback (sgs.vdeanprograms@utoronto.ca).

Professor Joshua Barker,
Dean, School of Graduate Studies and Vice-Provost, Graduate Research & Education
Division of the Vice-President and Provost, University of Toronto

August 11: Annual Funding Letters for Graduate Students

Date: August 11, 2021
To: Graduate Chairs; Graduate Coordinators and Graduate Administrators

With the recent renewal of the CUPE 3902 Unit 1 Collective Agreement which is now in effect until December 31, 2023, I am writing to share with you an update on the preparation and review of annual funding letters for graduate students, and associated publication of departmental funding practices.

As you will recall, through the 2018 Collective Agreement with CUPE 3902, Unit 1, the University agreed that every student in the funded cohort who is also a bargaining unit employee would receive a funding letter from their graduate unit annually. This requirement is still in place; however, in addition to other funding specific revisions, the required content of these letters has changed slightly.

While the commitment in the Collective Agreement only applies to those students in the funded cohort who are also employees under the Collective Agreement, the School of Graduate Studies nevertheless encourages graduate units to provide the same transparency and funding information to all of their graduate students in the funded cohort. 

  1. Annual Funding Letters: Graduate Units that include income from Teaching Assistant/Course Instructor positions in their base funding packages, must continue to issue annual funding letters that include specific information required by the Collective Agreement (please refer to section on Funding Letter Structure below for information on new and existing letter requirements). Graduate students must still receive this letter between August 15th and September 30th of each academic year. If a student in the funded cohort becomes a bargaining unit employee after September 30th of that academic year, the graduate unit will provide a funding letter no later than 30 calendar days after the start of their appointment. In the event that your 2021-2022 annual funding letters have already been issued based on the previous requirements, a new revised letter should be issued prior to September 30th.
  1. Publishing of Departmental Funding Practices: Under the revised Article 16:02 of the CUPE 3902 Unit 1 Collective Agreement, Departments are no longer required to create and post Departmental Hiring Policies. Each Department is however required to continue publishing “Departmental funding practices” (which were previously required as part of the now deleted Departmental Hiring Policies). These practices must reflect the normal funding practice of the graduate unit, including the amount of bargaining unit work that forms part of the base funding package and/or the planned variation in the amount of bargaining unit work according to year in programme. This is consistent with SGS principles around improving funding transparency, wherein we recommend that graduate units inform students about their funding practices so that students better understand the terms and conditions under which their funding is provided.

This requirement can be fulfilled by publishing your local funding information and practices on your departmental website and including the relevant link(s) in your annual funding letter to students.

Funding Letter Structure

Information in red indicates the minimum required information to be compliant with the Letter of Intent: Information to Employees in the CUPE 3902 Unit 1 collective agreement. Information that is not in red is not required but highly recommended. The new requirements are also highlighted in yellow.

Student Information

  • Name
  • Address
  • Graduate Unit
  • Program of Study
  • Years of Funding/Current Year of Study
  • Portion of the year covered by funding
  • Supervisor/Advisor of Record
  • Student ID

Funding Package Information

  • Funding amount, source and composition (in a table)
    • University of Toronto Fellowship (UTF) funding
    • Other internal awards, specified by name, where practicable
    • Research Assistantships and/or Stipends (T4A income)
    • Research Assistantships (T4 income) counted towards base funding
    • Teaching Assistant and/ or Course Instructor positions (accepted or declined)
    • Other T4 income counted towards base funding
    • External Scholarships, specified by name, where practicable (e.g. NSERC, SSHRC, CIHR, OGS)
  • Tuition and fees for the funded period
  • Amount of stipend
  • How students are paid
  • Who pays tuition (student or grad unit)
    • You are responsible for paying your tuition and fees to the University
    • Your tuition will be paid directly by the Department of ——–
  • Projected schedule of payments
  • A statement that “this letter may be used in support of an application(s) for funds available to employees from the Union, including the Trans Fund, Survivors Fund, International Workers’ Fund, Childcare Fund, Healthcare Plan Funds, Research Assistants’ Fund, Tuition Assistance and Funding Top-Up Funds.”

Please email a copy of your revised 2021-2022 annual funding letter to Laura Stathopoulos, Director, Graduate Awards and Financial Aid at laura.stathopoulos@utoronto.ca. Ms. Stathopoulos is also able to serve as a resource for faculties and graduate units regarding the funding letter templates. Do not hesitate to reach out to her. 

Should you have any questions about publishing departmental funding practices requirement and/or changes to the Collective Agreement, please contact your Labour Relations Consultant or labour.relations@utoronto.ca.


Joshua Barker, PhD
Dean, School of Graduate Studies and
Vice-Provost, Graduate Research and Education

August 3: SGS “Conversations Series” for Graduate Faculty Leaders

Date: August 3, 2021
To: Graduate Chairs; Graduate Coordinators and Graduate Administrators

The School of Graduate Studies (SGS) is pleased to launch our new “Conversation Series” consisting of two initiatives this Fall: Conversations with the Dean and Conversations with SGS.

Conversations with the Dean is a series of informal and small group meetings with leaders of graduate units from various divisions to share experiences and discuss strategies for the advancement of graduate education, research and professional training at the University of Toronto. If you are interested in participating in a session, please complete the following electronic form to document your interest. I look forward to seeing many of you during the Conversations with the Dean series. If the proposed times do not work for your schedule, please do reach out to sgs.dean@utoronto.ca and I am happy to find an alternative time to meet.

Conversations with SGS is a series of monthly sessions for faculty in administrative roles in graduate education to come together to share experiences and incorporate best practices into our work. The goals of this initiative are to:

  1. Further foster tri-campus graduate collaboration
  2. Learn from and amplify the current exceptional work in graduate education in our programs
  3. Anticipate and respond to large scale changes in the graduate education landscape 
  4. Facilitate the reciprocal flow of information between graduate units and SGS

Programming for the Fall will be online, on Tuesdays, from 9:00 to 10:30 am. Please mark your calendars and share with other graduate faculty leadership in your departments, including, Graduate Chairs; Associate Chairs, Graduate; Graduate Directors; Graduate or Program Coordinators, are all welcome.

September 21, 2021 – Re-imagining Graduate Education – Joshua Barker, Dean, SGS and Vice-Provost, Graduate Research and Education

October 19, 2021 – Inclusive Pathways: Spotlight on Graduate Admissions – Panel

November 16, 2021 – Ask your SGS Team & Updates – Decanal Team and Staff 

December 7, 2021– Program Innovation: Fostering Interdisciplinary Work – Panel

Winter programming will be announced in late Fall. In the Fall, you can also expect a survey that will allow SGS to better determine future programming, learn about the innovative work you are doing that we can amplify, and identify potential working groups you would like SGS to spearhead. 

The programming for the Conversations with SGS initiative will be coordinated by Professor Vina Goghari, Vice-Dean Research and Program Innovation. Please do not hesitate to contact her with any questions or feedback (vina.goghari@utoronto.ca).

I would also like to take this opportunity, to express my sincerest gratitude for the efforts and energy of this dedicated graduate community. We, at SGS, are very much looking forward to working with you more closely.


Joshua Barker
Dean, School of Graduate Studies &
Vice-Provost, Graduate Research and Education