The Canadian Federation of Students’ National Graduate Caucus represents over 90 000 graduate students from coast to coast. The National Graduate Caucus conducts research, develops campaigns to fight against the growing inaccessibility of graduate school today, lobbies federally on behalf of graduate students and provides services to help graduate students’ unions better serve their membership.
The issues facing graduate students in Canada are both unique from and intertwined with those facing college and undergraduate students. It is through the Caucus that graduate students are able to discuss the details of issues unique to graduate students and it is through the Federation that we gain the power in numbers to effectively lobby the government and the solidarity to provide services to our members. As a Federation, students have successfully lobbied for the creation of Canada Graduate Scholarships, a national needs-based grants program and the adoption of the Copyright Modernization Act.
The National Graduate Caucus has created a network for knowledge sharing between graduate students, as well as an opportunity to provide feedback and input on the broader work of the Federation. The Caucus helps to ensure that the campaigns, services and advocacy work of the Federation adequately addresses the unique experiences and concerns of graduate students.
In addition to the Federation’s extensive campaigns work, members of the National Graduate Caucus have worked together to develop several campaigns that address the experiences of graduate students across the country.
Graduate students from coast to coast are facing a variety of challenges in pursuing their studies. In most provinces, graduate tuition fees are deregulated or rising by the legal maximum amount each year, with some programs now being as much as $60,000 per year. As a result of rising tuition fees and the Canada Graduate Scholarships program failing to keep pace with enrolment increases, graduate students are forced to take on large amounts of both public and private debt. In recent years, the federal government has shirked its duty to support curiosity-based, peer-review driven research in favour of a political agenda, resulting in fewer and fewer graduate students receiving research funding. Consequently, it has fallen onto graduate students, and our coalition partners, to fight for a system of public post-secondary education that is accessible to all.
The campaigns of the National Graduate Caucus seek to educate students on the diverse barriers many experience in accessing and pursuing their education, as well as the shifting priorities of our institutions that negatively impact graduate students’ experiences on campus everyday. Through this education, these campaigns aim to organize students
Stop the Corporatization of Post-Secondary Education
Students and Workers United
The chronic underfunding of post-secondary education and the shifting priorities of colleges and universities affect workers and students on campus in very similar ways. Administrations cite this chronic underfunding to both workers about why they must freeze wages and to students about why they cannot freeze tuition fees. At the same time, administrations will not work with students and workers to call for more public funding for post-secondary education.
University and college administrations also know that there is strength in numbers and, therefore, continually attempt to create a false division between students and workers. Often when speaking to students about tuition fees, they will argue that they would need to fire x number of faculty and staff if they do not increase tuition fees. Similarly, when a union goes on strike as a last resort to defend their working conditions or fight for necessary gains, administrations will often apologize to students for the “inconvenience” that undermines their access to campus.
The Student and Workers United campaign challenges this false division in order to build and strengthen solidarity on our campuses.
Support Student Parents
Student parents face many barriers when attending post-secondary education, such as finding safe and affordable childcare that can accommodate their academic schedule, receiving academic accommodations and accessing child-friendly study spaces on campus.
The Support Student Parents campaign calls on university and college administrations to make our campuses more accommodating for student parents by implementing low-cost and easily realized changes, such as installing more baby change tables, creating child-friendly study spaces and opening breastfeeding rooms on campus.
The Caucus works closely with a range of coalition partners, including the Canadian Association of University Teachers and the Canadian Consortium for Research, to ensure that the concerns of graduate students, both while in school and upon entering the workforce, are addressed in federal and provincial budgets and policies.
Every year, the National Graduate Caucus submits a federal pre-budget submission, as well as develops recommendations for graduate students for the Federation’s lobby document, which is presented to over 150 Members of Parliament and Senators during Lobby Week.
The National Graduate Caucus’ lobbying efforts currently focus on advocating for increased funding to the tri-council agencies, including increasing the number of Canada Graduate Scholarships, and the inclusion of graduate students in the Canada Student Grants Program.
The Federation conducts high quality research to support the advocacy and campaigns work of the National Graduate Caucus. Research conducted by the Federation can be found here.
The National Graduate Caucus’ executive and Federation staff also conduct research to support students’ unions and campus groups. To support the work of graduate students on the ground, the Federation has conducted research for members on rates of compensation for teaching assistants across the country to help students fight for higher wages, the allocation of space for graduate students at different universities to make the case for more dedicated student space and fees for mandatory work placements and practicums in different programs to pushback on the requirement to pay full tuition while in a placement.
The Federation offers a number of services designed to help individual students and students’ unions and campus groups save money.
Some highlights for graduate students:
Ethical Purchasing Network: By combining students’ unions’ promotional material orders from across the country, the Federation is able to provide high quality, fair trade and union-made products ranging from pens to t-shirts at low prices. Often graduate students’ unions have smaller memberships so this service can help them afford promotional materials for their members.
International Student Identity Card: The ISIC card provides over 1000 discounts across Canada for students. The ISIC is also the only internationally recognized form of student identification, which is great for graduate students who are travelling for conferences or their research hoping to get student discounts on travel and accommodations.
A full overview of Federation services is available here