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Graduate Student Precarity in Perspective

5. (coming soon!) Department and Faculty Data

1. Graduate Student Funding

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...How did we get here?

1.1 Doctoral funding

...Net funding, International PhD Students

...Net Funding, Canadian PhD Students

1.2 Master's Funding

...Net Funding, International Master's Students

...Net Funding, Out-of-province Master's Students

...Net Funding, Quebec Resident Master's Students

1.3 Aggregate Funding in Decline

...McGill Graduate Funding Per Capita

1.4 Funding Packages

2. The Graduate Student Body

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2.1 Graduate Students by Residency, Tuition, and Fees

...Tuition and Fees

...Tuition Deregulation

...Visa Restrictions 

...All McGill Master's Students by Fee Status (Fall 2018)

...McGill Doctoral Students by Fee Status (Fall 2018)

...All McGill Graduate Students by Fee Status (Fall 2018)

2.2 Graduate Funding and Health Outcomes

2.3 Graduate Funding and Academic Outcomes

...Graduate Program Completion Rates at McGill

...Doctoral Graduation Rates

...Master's Graduation Rates

3. Teaching Assistants 

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...TA Wages Per Capita

...TA Hours Per Capita

3.1 Teaching Assistant Workload

3.2 Ratios: Course Enrolment : TA Hours

...TA Hours : Enrolment Ratio, by Faculty (Fall 2018)

...TA Hours : Enrolment Ratio, Highest and Lowest by Faculty (Fall 2018)

...TA Hours : Enrolment Ratio, by Department (Fall 2018)

...Total TA Hours vs. Total Enrolment in TA Courses, by Department (Fall 2018)

3.3 Teaching Assistant Wages

...TA Wage Comparison, Maclean's 2020 University Rankings

...TA Wage Comparison, U15 (2019)

3.4 Cost of Living

...Hourly TA Wage at U15 Universities vs. Cost of Living in University City (2019) 

4. McGill's Finances

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4.1 Academic Staff Salaries

...Changes in Average Academic Staff Salaries, Comparing McGill to U15/Maclean's 

4.2 Senior Administration Salaries, Bonuses, and Expenses

...McGill Senior Administration Compensation (base salary + bonus), Rate of Increase

...Gross Salaries and Bonuses of University Administration, Comparison, Quebec (2019)

4.3 Deregulation of Tuition

1. Graduate Funding

1. Graduate Funding

McGill's current funding model does not guarantee funding for graduate students at the Masters' or Doctoral level. Even when funding is offered to individual students in an admissions letter, the package is subject to change at the department or supervisor's discretion (see 1.4). Responsibility is not clearly vested in the department, supervisor, faculty, or any other office at the University to follow through on funding offers. 

McGill's graduate funding philosophy is "competitive" rather than needs-

based. The University relies to a significant degree on individual graduate

students to secure external funding, while maintaining a policy that external

funding cancels out any internal awards or bursaries. Graduate students who

secure external awards through their own hard work and merit typically do

not see any of their internal funding retained. 


[McGill made] a clear commitment ​to increase graduate student funding levels equal to or greater than those of our major peer competitors.

- Final Report of the Principal's Task Force

Since 2011, funding packages offered to individual graduate students have increasingly combined

various forms of employment with stipends and internal awards. This employment most frequently

includes Teaching Assistant and Research Assistant positions, but may also include Course Lecturer 

positions and even minimum wage grading  positions. Although multiple collective agreements

stipulate that funding should not be reduced arbitrarily when a graduate student is

also employed, these provisions are widely violated. 

This state of affairs is not the result of entrenched

practices over the University's long history, but a

policy approach of the current senior administration.

Significant commitments were made to improving

graduate funding in 2005, moving toward models of centralised distribution and guarantee, rather than competition among fellow McGill graduate students. By 2011, major pieces of this model began to be dismantled, which has accelerated since then. Although the volume of graduate students and the gross amount of money budgeted for graduate funding have both increased over this period, the net and per capita funding for both Masters' and Doctoral students has not only failed to keep pace with inflation and cost of living increases, but has  decreased in current dollars. 

McGill is only as great as what it can offer its students...the life and learning that each of our students experiences while at the University is a measure of its success.

- Final Report of the Principal's Task Force

How did we get here? 

2005: Principal Heather Munro-Blum creates the Principal's Task Force on Student Life and Learning at McGill. The goal was to examine whether McGill's commitment to its students kept pace with its commitment to research. 

2006: Provost Anthony Masi's White Paper: Strengths and Aspirations elaborates on the goals of the Principal's Task Force. 

2007: Provost Masi outlined the administration's plan to implement changes based on the recommendations of the Task Force Final Report. 

1.1 Doctoral Funing

2006 recommendation

ensure availability of funding specific to graduate student needs

engage in fund-raising






reduce bureaucracy, coordinate across units, improve administrative structure, coordinate information

identify areas of financial support that can be enhanced and clearly articulate the types of support offered

2007 goals

guarantee tuition support to international PhDs through the McGill International Doctoral Award (MIDA)

collect self-assessments from students applying for financial aid to analyze the amount of unmet financial need, including periodic reviews of the cost of living and caps on student funding

lobby the government to create a program of matching donations for graduate funding 

make graduate funding a major priority of the Comprehensive Campaign fundraiser

set aside 30% of net increases in tuition revenue for student aid

guarantee differential fee waivers across faculties and work toward guaranteed funding across the university

2020 outcome



MIDA was phased out in 2011. It was replaced by the Graduate Enrolment and Retention Initiative (GERI), which allocates Faculties $5,000 per incoming PhD to distribute at their discretion.

Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies signalled that it had abandoned this goal by

2010, stating that "funds are not allocated on the basis of needs assessment" 


McGill lobbied the provincial government to increase tuition through deregulation for international students

the 30% set aside for need-based bursaries are for undergraduates, who are the "primary clientele" of Scholarships and Student



by 2013, only 11.9% of revenue from graduate tuition was allocated to "graduate student support" 

in 2011, McGill rolled out a "flexible" system that decentralised funding, eliminated guarantees, and gave Faculties control over distribution


graduate funding is now provided on the basis of a Faculty's needs rather than a student's needs, and the goal is not institutional support as a policy but "competitive" advantage.  

1.1 Doctoral Funding

It is important to look at the overall funding situation of graduate students because McGill has developed policies which treat TA compensation as a fixed package rather than an hourly wage and integrate the total value of wages earned into a larger package of graduate funding. The total compensation of a TA position is determined by the amount of hours offered in an employment contract, which is typically treated as a cap when initially offered. Therefore, in order to determine the adequacy of TA income, we must consider it in the context of overall funding.

1.1 The current funding

model and how we got here

1.2 Doctoral Funding

1.3 Master's Funding

1.4 Aggregate Funding in Decline

1.5 Funding Packages

The first chart is for doctoral students paying the international fee supplement at the regulated rate set by the province. The second chart is for doctoral students paying the Quebec rate, which includes all Canadian students and international students from countries with a reciprocal fee agreement with Quebec. The average funding reflected here is calculated by McGill and reported in the Key Performance Indicators reports. It is calculated based funding for doctoral students in their first through third years, not the total funding earned in a given year or the average funding earned over the entire course of the degree program. This amount includes funding from all internal and external sources, including employment income from McGill, government grants, loans, and need-based bursaries. McGill does not offer a functional distinction between “tuition support” and “other support.”

Net Funding, Canadian PhD Students

graph - net income phd canadian.png

Net Funding, International PhD Students

graph - net income phd visa.png

The tuition rates are set by the province. The fees are set by McGill and include mandatory healthcare coverage. For students with RAMQ, this reflects the fee for the PGSS health and dental plan. For students without RAMQ, this reflects the fees for the Student Care dental plan and for Blue Cross health insurance.

The KPI report averages funding in “other” and “tuition support” categories, but does not describe what those mean. We could interpret that as the basis of the calculation rather than the source, i.e. “other” based on living costs, research costs, merit; “tuition” based on tuition. This represents the average per international, non-fee-exempt doctoral student over years 1-3 (PhD 2 - PhD 4). 

It is standard practice at peer institutions to waive all tuition fees for doctoral students. Instead, McGill offers “tuition support” and factors this into the aggregate amount of funding. This is misleading. Not only does the average “tuition support” offered to doctoral students in years 1-3 fall below the actual fee amount, but this is not an actual component of funding. Once the tuition is cancelled out, McGill’s actual PhD funding is far below the U15 average. It is important to note that this is an average that is not reflective of most actual funding packages and that this is only for the first 3 years.

KPI is a set of standard measures of quality higher education. In its own KPI reports, McGill sets targets for itself. McGill has failed to meet any of the targets set for graduate students. For funding, these targets include an average funding for years 1-3 of $38,000 per year for international doctoral students and $28,000 per year for doctoral students paying in-province tuition. For KPI targets for graduate student completion, see 2.4.  

1.2 doctoral funding


Reports, Key Performance Indicators, McGill University 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018

Fee Schedules, Student Services, McGill University

1.2 Master's Funding

1.2 Master's Funding

The average funding is derived from McGill’s Key Performance Indicators reports and only reflects funding received by students enrolled in a Master’s Thesis program during their first and second years. Students from foreign countries without a reciprocal fee agreement with Quebec are subject to an international fee supplement during their Master’s program. International students in Non-Thesis Master’s will be subject to deregulated tuition from 2018 onward, which the University has promised to raise by 7%. See 4.3 for more on deregulation.

Net Income, Master's Thesis (Years 1-2), International Students

graph - net income masters visa.png

Net Income, Master's Thesis (Years 1-2), Out-of-province Residency

graph - masters net income oop.png


For international Master's students, the net average faced a precipitous decline, reduced by over half from 2011/12 - 2014/15. From the last available data, it is nowhere near the level it was at the beginning of the decade. 


















For Canadian Master's, both out-of-province and Quebec students, the net funding faced a decline over the last decade and by 2015-2016 was only slightly more than the net average four years prior. This is in current dollars and does not reflect inflation because McGill has never offered a cost-of-living adjustment to graduate students. 

Net Income, Master's Thesis (years 1-2), Quebec Residency

graph - net income masters quebec.png


Reports, Key Performance Indicators, McGill University 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018

Fee Schedules, Student Services, McGill University

1.3 Aggregate Funding in Decline

1.3 Aggregate Funding in Decline

McGill Graduate Funding per capita

graph - grad funding per capita.png

When McGill reports on total graduate funding offered, they include many sources of income, some of which are not "offered" but earned, and some of which have no actual cash value. This includes: actual funding like internal awards, bursaries, fee waivers, and stipends; employment income from TA, RA, Course Lecturer, low-wage teaching support work, non-academic casual work, and even off-campus employment; and services that McGill uses to make money off of graduate students, including interest-bearing loans, fee deferrals, and external awards that offset internal funding. The aggregate amount below has been divided by the total enrolment of Master’s and Doctoral students for the given year, based on Enrolment Reports, which only report the enrolment for the Fall semester.

The average amount of

funding reported by the University

in 1.2 removes the lowest portions

of the data set. Viewed in light of

the overall budget, graduate

funding per capita has

declined over twelve years and

was $15,832 in the last year for which

data were available from Graduate

and Postdoctoral Studies. 

Like the net funding in 1.1-1.2, this

amount is not adjusted for inflation.

Components of this aggregate, like

TA wages, have been subject to a

raise over the period indicated,

although not matching inflation.


When looking at any of these measures

of graduate funding, it is important

to remember that at McGill the

number of graduate students on a

foreign study visa is almost equivalent

to the number of graduate students from Quebec. This proportion is significantly larger than the proportion of international students at peer universities in both Quebec and other provinces. This proportion has risen significantly over the previous five years (see 2.1). During this time, financial support for international students was eliminated. 

1.4 Funding Packages

1.4 Funding Packages

McGill's move away from internal funding and toward internal awards negatively impacts graduate students.

  • Limits McGill's long-term obligations toward grad students

  • Reduces the global amount of money disbursed to grad students

  • Rewards only the "best" or "top" students (however arbitrarily defined)

  • Rewards graduate students with research that fits the medium of the competition - researchers with interdisciplinary approaches or under-researched topics have difficulty finding awards for which they are a "fit"

  • Inhibits the ability of grad students to plan their finances

As McGill accepts more and more international students, the university does not allocate resources to balance out the limitations that international students face for both internal and external awards. For example:

  • Tri-council awards (SSHRC, NSERC, CIHR) are not available to international students

  • In 2019, McGill stopped forwarding applications for the PBEEE, one of the few external awards for which international students are eligible. 

  • Changes in provincial law no longer allow McGill's internal Graduate Mobility Award to be used for international students conducting research in their home country, despite the fact that many international students were offered admission on the basis of research proposals in these regions. 

So what exactly does McGill offer graduate students? AGSEM is collecting feedback on department-specific funding packages. Check back soon for more information and get in touch if you want to share yours!

2. The Graduate Student Body

2. The Graduate Student Body

2.1 Graduate Students by Residency

2.1 Graduate Students by Residency, Tuition, and Fees 

McGill recruits international students at rates that far exceed other Quebec universities and peer universities across Canada. In line with the University's stated goal to "be open to the world," this is not a negative thing, as long as McGill has the resources to support international students. Changes to provincial law in 2019 will require a minimum of 55% of newly admitted students to McGill to be Quebec residents. Since this requirement applies to all admitted students and not to admits at each degree level, McGill has already determined that they will satisfy this requirement by admitting more Quebec residents at the undergraduate level. Student groups have voiced concerns that McGill will continue reliance on international students as sources of revenue and this new admissions policy will have the effect of reducing admission of out-of-province Canadian students. 


Tuition and Fees

A small portion of international students at McGill come from francophone countries with reciprocal agreements with the province of Quebec, allowing those students access to RAMQ and in-province tuition fees. The large majority of international students do not have this arrangement and must pay international tuition supplements (see 1.2-1.3) and health insurance fees that are significantly higher. 

All McGill Master's Students by Fee Status (Fall 2018)

graph - masters residency status.png

McGill reports enrolment data only for Fall semesters and this is the most recent period for which data is available. For Master’s students, provincial residence is relevant because Canadian students who are residents of other provinces outside of Quebec pay a fee supplement. This is not the case for doctoral students, where the only distinction in the amount of tuition and fees is whether or not one is a Canadian citizen or Permanent Resident. All charts represent full-time and part-time enrolled students. Total graduate students includes Master’s and doctoral students but not those enrolled in non-degree programs. The number of graduate students on a visa includes both those who pay international tuition supplements and pay for Blue Cross insurance, and those from countries with reciprocal agreements with Quebec, who do not pay international supplements and who are enrolled in RAMQ. This is a small percentage of international students overall. 

McGill Doctoral Students by Fee Status (Fall 2018)

graph - phd residency status.png

In Fall 2018, there were 5,130 Master’s students, of which 998 were Canadian citizens or residents from other provinces and 2,423 were residents of Quebec. 1,709 were international students on a study visa. International students accounted for only 24.5% of all Master’s students in 2013. The enrolment in Fall 2018 represents a 62.6% increase in recruitment of international Master’s students over five years.   

During the same term, there were 3,590 doctoral students, of whom 1,895 were Canadian citizens or Permanent Residents and 1,695 were international students. In 2013, only 37.3% of doctoral students were international, representing a 30.9% increase in recruitment of international doctoral students over five years.

All McGill Graduate Students by Fee Status (Fall 2018)

graph - grad residency status.png

Of the 8,720 graduate students enrolled at McGill in Fall 2018, 3,652 were residents of Quebec and 1,664 were residents of other Canadian provinces. Overall, 5,316 students, or 61% of the graduate student body, were Canadian citizens or residents. 3,404 graduate students were international students, an increase of 45.1% over five years. In comparison, the overall size of the graduate student body increased only 12.2% during this time period. This indicates a deliberate effort to recruit international students to McGill, coupled with a declining initiative to support those students.


The above data is consistent with AGSEM’s data on our membership. The membership survey conducted in 2017 indicated that 40% of TAs were international students. 






Enrolment Reports, McGill Enrolment Services, 2018. 

2.2 Graduate Funding and Health Outcomes

2.2 Graduate Funding and Health Outcomes

AGSEM's survey's of our membership

returned worrisome results when it came to the health and wellbeing of our members. Over ⅓ of us forgo healthcare because we can't afford it. An even higher number reported that they cannot afford healthy food. This tracks with the results of the 2013 National College Health Assessment for McGill, which found that 40% of McGill students did not maintain a healthy diet of fruits and vegetables and only 48% of McGill students were able to get the recommended exercise.


McGill graduate students reported that their significant stressors were overwhelmingly due to academics but roughly one quarter also reported that finances, sleep difficulties, and career-related issues had very negative impacts on their wellbeing. 

McGill students overall are more likely than our peers at other Canadian universities to experience stress and anxiety. Of the students who reported negative mental health outcomes, 89% reported that they “felt overwhelmed by all [they] had to do” and 88% “felt exhausted (not from physical activity).” Alarmingly, 67% reported feeling “very sad,” 66% “felt very lonely,” 56% “felt things were hopeless,” and 53% “felt overwhelming anxiety.” 38% reported that they were “so depressed that it was difficult to function.”

Overwork is one of the most common issues that members raise. A “full” TA position of 180 hours for the semester averages to 13 hours of work per week, although almost half of TAs report working more hours without pay (see 3.1). Overwork within the TA context is compounded by the lack of funding and the increasing use of different forms of employment as a funding component. 29% of TAs work at least 11 hours per week at another job, in addition to full-time graduate studies. 

In the 2018 proposal for the restructuring of the Rossy Wellness Hub, Provost Christopher Manfredi noted that Canadian university employees experience twice the rate of psychological distress (40%) as non-university employees and that work overload, low participation in decision-making, and poor work/life balance were among the top risk factors for employee health at McGill. 


See 2.4

2.3 Graduate Funding and Academic Outcomes

2.3 Graduate Funding and Academic Outcomes

Other data make it clear that financial concerns, employment income, and workload are significant contributors to delayed or incomplete graduation. Here we compare AGSEM's membership data to the Canadian Graduate and Professional Survey of McGill graduate students. This survey is conducted by an external organisation for Canadian graduate programs every three years. Data collected by AGSEM membership surveys shows that the conditions reported by TAs align with data on the wider graduate student body, but that those who work as TAs are more likely to face financial pressures and report that this negatively impacts their academic progress. Roughly two-thirds of both doctoral and Master’s students find financial pressures to be a minor or major hindrance to academic progress. For those students who are funded, when they failed to graduate, McGill’s investment is lost. Looking at doctoral graduation rates, McGill abandons more than 50% of its investments in doctoral funding (see below). 


¹ Canadian Graduate and Professional Survey, McGill, 2019 (Master's Non-Thesis, Master's Thesis, Doctoral)

² AGSEM TA Bargaining Preferences Survey, 2017

³ National College Health Assessment, Report, McGill, 2013

4  Bilun Naz Böke and Nancy L. Heath, "Surprising findings on student stress and coping," Department of Educational & Counselling Psychology, McGill University, DAIR, uCope, 2018


Graduate Program Completion Rates at McGill

Here, again, we look at McGill's Key Performance Indicators and the target completion rate that McGill sets for itself. When it comes to the rate at which graduate students actually complete their academic program and earn a degree, some explanation is in order because this target moves around as McGill's performance toward its initial target gets worse.  

The bottom (red) line of data represents graduation within five years of initial enrolment, for all entering cohorts between 2005 and 2011. The orange line of data represents graduation within six years of initial enrolment, for all entering cohorts between 2006-2011. The green line of data represents McGill’s target doctoral graduation rate reflected in the KPI. From 2009-2011, this target measured doctoral graduation within five years, relevant for comparison to the bottom line of data. After 2011, the target was changed to reflect graduation rates within six years. This change in the calculation of the target is reflected by the blue data point. From 2012 onward, the target was 60% graduation within six years. This is the most recent data available.

No matter how you tweak the formula in hopes of a better result, McGill's doctoral completion rate has declined and has never met its target. 

McGill Doctoral Graduation Rates

graph - phd grad rate.png

McGill Master's Graduation Rates

graph - master's grad rate.png

This represents the percentage of all Master’s students (both Thesis and Non-Thesis) who graduate within three years of initial enrolment. The target set by McGill's KPI measurement changes from year to year. This represents the most recently available data. These reports only track Master’s graduation rates in three-year and six-year increments, the latter of which is not reflected here. 

The Master’s graduation rate is more favourable, 82% within two years according to the last available data. This is still below the target set by McGill, 84%, which was reduced from 85% in 2012. 


Reports, Key Performance Indicators, McGill University 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018

3. Teaching Assistants

3. Teaching Assistants

Jump to:

3.1 Teaching Assistant Workload

3.2 Ratios: Course Enrolment and TA Hours

3.3 Teaching Assistant Wages

3.4 Cost of Living

Next: 4. McGill's Finances


TA Wages per capita

graph - ta wages per capita.png

These two graphs represent the gross amount of TA wages budgeted by McGill according to senior administration reports, and does not necessarily reflect the actual wages paid. Since the negotiated wage increase occurs on January 01 for a given year, the TA hours per capita is calculated based on the median of wage rates for the academic year. The distribution is based on full-time enrolled Master’s and Doctoral students listed on Enrolment Services reports, which reflect the enrolment for the Fall semester of a given academic year.

TA Hours per capita

graph - ta hours per capita.png
3.1 Teaching Assistant Workload

3.1 Teaching Assistant Workload

Feeling that their paid workload does not correspond to their active workload is the most significant problem that AGSEM members seek to address in this round of negotiations. 62.8% of respondents had 50 or more students, while 52.7% were allocated 90 hours or less for the semester. When determining the workload with their course supervisor, 57% of TAs felt that the workload decided by the course supervisor did not or may not have aligned with the actual amount of work they had to perform. 

Do you feel you have too many students for the number of hours you are paid to work?

graph - too many students.png


48% of TAs worked more than the number of hours stipulated in their contract. For almost half of those respondents, this has happened more than once. 86% of TAs have not been paid for additional work that they have performed.

In almost every case, TAs report that they work without compensation because they are overtly pressured to or because they want to preserve their professional relationship with course supervisors, who are also academic supervisors and collaborators. The distinction between employee and student is difficult to make in many cases. Where the Collective Agreement cannot govern conditions under which TAs study as graduate students, it must still take account of the particular pressures which exist in our workplace as a result of our academic programs. 

When you have worked over your TA hours, how many extra hours would you estimate you worked?

graph - extra hours worked.png


AGSEM Membership Survey 2017

3.2 Ratios : Course Enrolment to TA Hours

3.2 Ratios: Course Enrolment to TA Hours

TA Hours : Enrolment Ratio, by Faculty (Fall 2018)

graph - faculty ratio vs median.png

The above two measures of Faculty resources (TA hours per graduate student and TA hours per undergraduate) give us a sense of how the University views these academic units when allocating resources. This graph shows the actual ratio of TA hours to students enrolled in courses where TAs are working. In many cases, the average (represented by the blue bars) varies greatly from the median (represented by the orange line). The workloads behind these figures include grading multiple assignments, teaching multiple discussion or lab sections, preparing assignments and problem sets, holding office hours, correspondence and online course management, and attending lectures. Most of these tasks involve direct engagement with students, meaning that the actual workload is directly dependent on the student enrollment. It is not so for the amount of paid work, however. 

TA Hours : Enrolment Ratio, Highest and Lowest by Faculty (Fall 2018)

graph - faculty highest and lowest ratio

The allocation of TA resources across Faculties varies significantly. The same holds true within Faculties. The above graph represents the departmental median TA hours:course enrollment ratio that is the highest in each Faculty and the ratio that is the lowest. In most Faculties, the difference is far more than double. The mechanism for allocating hours is not clear. 

TA Hours : Enrolment Ratio, by Department (Fall 2018)

graph - department and faculty ratios vs

This is true when we look at the average (blue bar) and median (orange line) ratios for each department across the University. Significant variation within departments, within Faculties, and across all academic units is the only salient feature of this data set. One could expect some variation due to the use of different pedagogical methods in different disciplines, but it defies credibility to say that this sort of variation is due to the actual needs of the curricula. The only causal mechanism evident is a lack of centralized planning and equitable distribution. 

3.3 Teaching Assistant Wages

3.3 Teaching Assistant Wages

McGill is a member of the U15 group of top research universities in Canada. This group is nearly synonymous with the most recent ranking released by Maclean’s, which differs only by the inclusion of the Université de Sherbrooke and the exclusion of the University of Waterloo. McGill leads the Maclean’s list as the top-rated graduate institution. 


Collective Agreements

TA wage comparison, Maclean's 2020 University Rankings

graph - comparison macleans - ta wages.p

TA Wage Comparison, 2019 U15 Universities

graph - comparison u15 - ta wages.png

3.4 Cost of Living

McGill commonly acknowledges that Montreal is a relatively affordable place to live. The most conservative estimate of a graduate student worker’s living expenses, based on rent for a one-bedroom apartment outside of the city centre, is $1,807.89 in 2019. A number of other university towns have a comparable cost of living, within $100-$250, but pay a significantly higher TA wage. This includes the university paying the highest TA wage, Western University, where TAs make $47.66 per hour and where the cost of living is $1,827.58, only $20 more than the cost of living in Montreal.  

At $1,807.89 per month, Montreal’s cost of living adds up to $21,694.68 per year. According to McGill’s reported average, doctoral students are left with a remainder of -$605.68 for Canadian PhDs and -$8,148.68 for international PhDs after tuition and fees. As McGill accepts more and more international students and students from other Canadian provinces, it has a duty to its students, employees, and to the city and province to ensure that those who come here with the promise of adequate compensation actually receive it. 

In these table and charts, we use data from Numbeo, a crowd-sourced global online database of reported consumer prices. TA wages at institutions in the U15 Research University Ranking are compared to costs of living in the cities that each respective university is located in. The monthly cost represented here is a sum of the monthly living cost estimator and the estimate of monthly rent for a single-person apartment outside of the city centre. 





Collective Agreements

3.4 Cost of Living

Hourly TA Wage at U15 Universities vs. Cost of Living in University City, including rent (2019)

Single person monthly costs, inclu. rent (C$))

graph - comparison u15 - wage vs cost of


TA Hourly Wage (C$)

chart - comparison u15 - cost of living

4. McGill's Finances

4. McGill's Finances

Jump to:

4.1 Academic Staff Salaries

4.2 Senior Administration Salaries, Bonuses, and Expenses

4.3 Tuition Deregulation

Next: 5. (coming soon!) Department and Faculty Data


How does McGill’s compensation for academic staff compare with universities in other provinces?

University of Calgary: McGill compensates professors at comparable rates but McGill TAs are paid 48.6% less than Calgary TAs
McMaster University: Professor salaries are between 5.5% and 19.2% higher than McGill’s, but the TA wage is 48.7% higher than McGill’s 
University of Ottawa: Professor salaries are between 3.36% and 12.7% higher than McGill’s but the TA wage is 49.9% higher than McGill’s 
Queen’s University: Full Professor salaries are almost the same, while Queen’s compensates Associate and Assistant Professors 16.8% and 24.7% more than McGill does, but the TA wage at Queen’s is 43.12% higher than McGill’s 
University of Toronto: Professor salaries are between 15.5% and 20.8% higher than McGill’s, but the TA wage is 54.46% higher than McGill’s
Western University: Professor salaries are between 0.33% LESS and 11.8% higher than McGills, but the TA wage is 62.44% higher than McGill’s 

If the province’s funding model for universities determines the wages McGill can pay to graduate students, then why isn’t it the same for other academic staff, whose mass salary and benefits represent a much bigger budgetary footprint? In other words, why isn’t a McGill professor paid 62% less than a professor at Western? McGill pays full professors MORE than Western does, but is not willing to pay TAs 47.7% LESS than Western TAs instead of 62% LESS?

4.1 Academic Staff Salaries

4.1 Academic Staff Salaries

chart - comparison u15 - academic salari

Every University with a higher wage than McGill's has a smaller differential between Full Professor salaries (FPS) than the differential between TA wages except for UBC. UBC's FPS differential is not that much larger than the TA wage differential. For instance, University of Calgary TAs make 48.6% more than McGill TAs but their FPS is relatively comparable. Calgary's is only 1.68% more than McGill's, meaning that McGill can actually afford to offer comparable compensation, especially for employees with a much larger budget line.

The University of Waterloo is the only University with a higher wage where the TA wage differential is relatively close to the FPS differential. Still, Waterloo TAs make 13.02% more than McGill TAs while their Professors only make 8.75% more than McGill Professors. For the other Universities with higher TA wages, the differential is significant, in the range of 30-50 percentage points. 

There are six Universities on this list where the TA wage differential is larger than the FPS differential, in favour of McGill TAs. In two of these cases (Alberta and Saskatchewan), the FPS is higher than McGill's and their TA wage is more significantly out of line with peer Universities, suggesting that the comparably higher wage differential for McGill TAs is not due to us being overpaid, but prairie TAs being underpaid.      


When looking at the other Quebec schools, McGill's TA wage differential is higher than the FPS differential but only slightly. More significantly, McGill's FPS are 14-20% higher than their Quebec peers', so they are already are compensating academic staff well above what is normal in Quebec, which constitutes a much larger portion of the operating budget. 

McGill’s rate of increase for academic salaries over four years is higher than the average increase among peer institutions. This further holds true when McGill’s rate of increase is compared only to those peer institutions which pay higher TA wages than McGill, all of which are in Alberta, British Columbia, or Ontario. 

All figures are based on StatsCan data for 2018/2019 unless otherwise indicated. Figures marked * are based on 2017/2018 data, the most recent data available. In those cases, comparisons have likewise been calculated based on McGill’s 2017/2018 salary for Full Professors, $174,400. 




Changes in Average Academic Salaries

Comparing McGill to U15/Maclean's Rankings Institutions (excluding McGill)

graph - comparison u15 - rate of increas

All average salaries for ranked professors are supplied by StatsCan. The rate of increase represents the increase over the average salary four years prior. In some cases, average salary data were not available for an individual institution in a given year, and the calculations exclude those cases. The peer institutions comprise the U15 research universities and the Maclean’s 2019 Top 15 Ranking. These lists largely comprise the same institutions, with the exception of the University of Waterloo (U15 but not ranked by Maclean’s) and Université de Sherbrooke (ranked by Maclean’s but not part of the U15). All peer institutions excluding McGill are represented by the green lines. All peer institutions which pay higher TA wages, excluding McGill, are represented by the orange lines. McGill’s TA wage increases over 4 years are represented by the blue line. Negotiated wage increases occur on January 01 and in the above graph, the rate of increase is based on the rate of pay as of January for the latter half of the academic year. The AGSEM Collective Agreement expired in 2018 and negotiations are ongoing so the TA wage did not increase on January 01, 2019. 





4.2 Senior Administration Salaries, Bonuses, and Expenses

4.2 Senior Admin Salaries

McGill Senior Administration Compensation (Base Salary + Bonus), Rate of Increase 

graph - mcgill senior admin salary incre

McGill must report audits of senior administration salary, bonuses, expenses, and other compensation to the National Assembly each year. In the graph above, each data point is an individual member of the senior administration and the trend line associated with each data point shows the average rate of increase for that individual's title. In some cases, the title may have changed names or multiple people may have occupied that position over time. In other cases, a single administrator held the position for ten years.


For instance: From 2006-2016, the Executive Vice Principal was Anthony Masi. His total compensation rose from $296,020 in 2005/06 to $382,789 in 2015/16. VP Masi managed to get himself a raise of almost $100,000 in only 10 years!  

This data set includes the Principal, Vice-Principal, Provosts, Assistant Provosts, Deans, and staff of the Secretary-General’s office. The total compensation includes base salary and additional compensation, bonuses, etc., excluding expenses. You can find this information on the National Assembly's website or get in touch with AGSEM if you'd like to see the data sorted.



Annual Reports, McGill, National Assembly of Quebec

Each column represents the combined salaries of all senior administrative staff as reported annually to the Quebec National Assembly. Each band represents a single administrator’s pay, combining the base salary adjusted to the number of months served in the position, and any bonuses, severance, or other compensation. This figure does not include expenses. Some are larger than others. For a list of exact salaries and benefits, see Appendix.

Gross Salaries + Bonuses of University Senior Administration, Comparison, Quebec (2019)

graph - gross salary and bonus - quebec.

Comparing Average and Gross Salary, Expenses for University Senior Admin in Quebec

chart - comparison quebec - admin salary

In addition to salaries and bonuses, universities must report expenses for their senior administration to the National Assembly. In 2018-2019, McGill's average salary for senior administrators was $258,312. This is 36% higher than Concordia and 93% higher than UQAM. The gross senior admin compensation at McGill was $9,557,540. This is 74% higher than Concordia and 239% higher than UQAM. As seen in the graph above, this huge disparity is accounted for by the fact that McGill senior administrators are overpaid as well as the fact that the senior administrative bureaucracy is bloated. McGill's senior admin take advantage of the university's budget far more than their peers at other Quebec universities. Combined, their expenses were 21% higher than Concordia's and 431% higher than UQAM's. Only the total amount of expenses claimed by each administrator is reported to the Quebec National Assembly, but itemized reports for each administrator are available via Quebec’s Public Information Act. These include items like hotels, dinners, taxis and flights, personal items like home internet and cell phones, and conference fees. 

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Annual Reports, McGill, National Assembly of Quebec

Collective Agreements (AGSEM, TRAC, SETUE, etc)

4.3 Deregulation of Tuition

4.3 deregulation

What is tuition regulation?

In regulated academic programs, the tuition rates for in-province, out-of-province, and international students are set by the government. The amount that the rates may increase each year are also regulated by the province. Fees are collected by the government from the university and then redistributed across post-secondary institutions in Quebec, based on enrolment. 


What is deregulation?

In 2008, deregulation began under the Minister of Education, Recreation, and

Sports, Michelle Courchesne. Initially, international tuition supplements for 

programs in Business Law, Engineering, Computer Science, Mathematics, and

Pure Sciences were deregulated. This means that all international tuition collected

in these programs is kept by the university and none goes to the province. The

trade-off is that the university does not receive provincial grants for those students.

Deregulation also means that the amount charged for international tuition in these

programs is no longer capped by the government. Universities are free to set their

own rates.

What does this mean for graduate students?

For the first decade, only designated undergraduate programs were deregulated. In 2018, the province made drastic changes. Now,  international tuition is deregulated for all undergraduate programs as well as for all Non-Thesis Master's programs.


Universities with more international students, those located near urban centres, will see the greatest impact. A 2017 estimate projected that McGill would gain $23.3 million per year, while UQAT would gain $122,400 per year. Although McGill has by far the largest number of international students in the province, the university does sees this as an opportunity to squeeze as much revenue out of these students as possible, charging double the rate charged by peers in Quebec. 

The Ministry’s decision to implement this deregulation was based on a desire to encourage universities to recruit more international students, in the interests of reaping greater financial benefits.

Union Étudiante, Brief

...all of these students, who are also ‘clients,’ deserve better treatment even in the context of a ‘market for education.’ These ‘clients’ will undoubtedly remember the way in which they were treated and will share that with other students who may consider studying in Quebec.


- CCAFE 2008

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Union Étudiante, Brief on the deregulation of tuition fees for international students


Comité consultatif sur l'accessibilité financière aux études (CCAFE), Modifications aux programmes d’aide financière aux études

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5. (coming soon!) Department and Faculty Data

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