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Supporting graduate student success

A new report from the School of Graduate Studies provides recommendations to enhance graduate education. 

Graduate convocation
Graduate students processing during fall convocation in 2018.

Queen’s offers over 140 graduate programs and currently enrolls 5,339 graduate students. These students come to Queen’s from around the world in order to further their education, help teach undergraduate students, and conduct cutting-edge research. 

To help ensure that they all receive an incomparable education at Queen’s, the university recently assembled the Working Group on Graduate Student Success. After months of research, consultation, and planning, the working group has released its report, which outlines strategies for promoting excellence in graduate education across the entire university. As part of its mandate, the working group consulted with faculty, students, and staff and reviewed graduate education across major institutions in Canada, especially schools in the U15 Group of Canadian Research Universities. 

Report on Graduate Student Success

Read the report from the Working Group on Graduate Student Success.
 

“Graduate education is a priority at Queen’s, and I am confident that this new report will guide us to strategic improvements that will strengthen the graduate experience,” says Principal and Vice-Chancellor Patrick Deane.  

Laying out goals for the short, medium, and long terms, the report makes 35 recommendations on how to improve six strategically important areas: student-supervisor relationships, financial support, professional and academic development, wellness and community, research excellence, and communication. One of the largest aspirations that the working group puts forward is the goal to establish a graduate college at Queen’s similar to those found at the University of Toronto and the University of British Columbia. As envisioned in the report, this college would “showcase the best in the Queen’s graduate student experience and include housing and dining and be a hub of intellectual ideas. It would be a place for graduate students to think and grow.” 

The student-supervisor relationship is one of the defining aspects of graduate education, so the report offers several recommendations that would help both faculty and students to make the most of these interactions. Other U15 institutions have developed policies on graduate supervision in order to set expectations for both parties. The report recommends that Queen’s develop a similar policy based on current SGS guidelines that could help guide the student-supervisor relationship. The report also advises that SGS offer workshops on effective supervision and develop supplementary materials that would facilitate communication and planning between students and faculty. 

While Queen’s provides competitive funding packages for its graduate students, the report has identified areas where these practices could be updated. For instance, the report recommends restructuring the international tuition award as well as considering an increase in the minimum funding for PhD students.  

“Many people at Queen’s worked hard to make this report possible, and I am excited to be sharing it with the broader campus community. Our School of Graduate Studies has many strengths, and the recommendations in this report show how we can build on them to make Queen’s an international leader in graduate education,” says Fahim Quadir, Vice-Provost and Dean, School of Graduate Studies. 

Committed to the vision laid out in the report, SGS has already begun taking concrete steps to implement the recommendations. The school has set up a working group on graduate student funding and has undertaken a number of new initiatives to strengthen Queen’s culture of positive graduate supervision. SGS is also actively exploring starting special events that would bring attention to the work of graduate students. This programming is expected to be implemented within the following academic year. 

“The Graduate Student Success Working Group is an incredible initiative that really focuses on the contemporary and future issues graduate students will face at Queen’s. The committee took the time to hear the multiple student voices involved in the consultation and committee process, and when reading the report you can see these concerns addressed with concrete action plans,” says Leo Erlikhman, Vice President Graduate, Society of Graduate and Professional Students and member of the working group.

As SGS works to carry out the recommendations from the report, Dr. Quadir will be meeting with various departments and stakeholder groups from the university to discuss next steps. To learn more about the Working Group on Graduate Student Success or to share your thoughts on the report, please contact Heather Merla at sgscomms@queensu.ca.