COVID-19 has caused major upheaval across academia, and the virus has resulted in unique challenges for graduate students at Canadian universities. To examine this issue, the Toronto Science Policy Network (TSPN) conducted a national bilingual survey in April and May of 2020
As a result of COVID-19, many graduate students remain trapped in a limbo, facing an uncertain future. — Farah Qaiser, Toronto Science Policy Network
The results present a snapshot of current challenges, which include:
From institutional closures to depleted financial resources and restrictions on international travel, graduate students report increased difficulty conducting necessary research.
2. Health and wellness
Graduate students reported increased feelings of anxiety, depression, loneliness and helplessness, and 26 percent of respondents are considering taking a long-term leave of absence from their studies.
3. International students
International graduate students studying in Canada reported challenges with the expirations of their visas, as well as the ability to travel home. More than 50 percent were concerned that they wouldn’t be able to complete their degree before their study permits expired.
4. Degree completion
Half of those surveyed — who were previously on track to graduate in August 2020 — expressed concerns that they would not be able to complete their degree requirements in time.
“Graduate students are the life force of discovery and innovation, providing the critical ideas, talent, and labour necessary for the majority of research being conducted in Canada,” says TSPN representative Farah Qaiser. “As a result of COVID-19, many graduate students remain trapped in a limbo, facing an uncertain future.”
The TSPN team also provides recommendations for decision-makers to help graduate students overcome these difficulties. These include: reducing the financial burden faced by graduate students; increasing flexibility in degree completion times; and improving universities’ health and wellness systems.