The Department of Geography & Planning provides a financial support package to all PhD students for 4 years and all students in the Geography Master’s program for 1 year – students who are eligible to receive this package are in the “funded cohort”. (Professional program students, such as MSc Planning, are not eligible for inclusion in the funded cohort.)

In 2016-17, the annual base financial support package is $16,500 plus tuition costs (in 2016 tuition amounts were $8,492 domestic and $22,899 international). This represents the base support provided; students have opportunities to secure funding in addition to the base amount (see below under ‘Additional Funding’).

The funding package typically consists of a combination of external scholarships, University of Toronto fellowships or other internal awards, teaching assistant positions (at any of our tri-campus locations) and a research assistant position with the student’s supervisor. Students in the funded cohort will receive a funding letter at the start of the academic year which outlines the specific components of their funding package as well as payment details.

Students are expected to pursue their degree program as their full-time occupation (limit of employment to 10 hrs/week on average, including RA and TA) and must maintain good academic standing and make satisfactory progress toward completion of degree requirements to remain eligible for funding.

Funding for Students with External Scholarships

External scholarships (such as SSHRC, NSERC, OGS, etc.) are an important source of financial support for graduate students. Our students have been highly successful in obtaining these competitive and prestigious awards.

External scholarships are counted towards the base funding amount. If the scholarship is less than the base funding amount, the department will provide funds to bring total funding up to the base amount. For example, for a student receiving a SSHRC Master’s award receives $17,500 from the scholarship, the department provides $7,500 to bring the package to the base amount of $16,500 plus tuition.

Students with an external scholarship generally don’t have to do as much teaching assistant work (e.g. a 50 hour position compared to the normal 150 hours) and are not required to do a research assistant position as part of their funding package.

Most students who hold an external scholarship that does not cover the full base amount will receive a ‘top-up’ in addition to the base package. This top-up amount varies from year to year depending on available funds. Students who have a scholarship which exceeds the base funding amount (e.g. SSHRC CGS of $35,000 or Vanier of $50,000) do not usually receive a top-up.

Teaching Assistant Positions

Students holding teaching assistant (TA) positions provide a variety of services to undergraduate courses including marking assignments and running tutorials and laboratory sessions. These positions are considered both a source of funding and a form of professional training. Students may be expected to TA at any of our three campus locations (St. George/downtown, UTM/Mississauga and UTSC/Scarborough).

The department typically includes 150 hours of TA work (paid at $45.39/hourly as of May 2017, including vacation pay) over the fall and/or winter sessions towards the base funding package. The maximum amount of teaching assistant work that can be included in the funding package is 190 hours in 2016-17.

PhD students are guaranteed five subsequent appointments, one each year for the same number of hours as their first or second appointment (whichever is greater). The department assigns subsequent appointments in May/June for the following academic year.

The department will circulate TA job postings and application instructions to incoming students in July. Students who do not apply for TA positions, or who decline positions they are offered are considered to have forfeited this funding and will have their funding package reduced accordingly. Students may apply for TA positions in addition to the hours assigned for their base package, however additional appointments are not guaranteed. Positions are posted throughout the year and are circulated to students as they become available.

Research Assistant Positions

Research assistant (RA) positions allow students to work on an externally funded research project. This provides an important opportunity for students to acquire first-hand experience that will be helpful in their academic careers. These positions make a positive contribution to graduate education and the graduate student experience. Sometimes the subject of their own research may differ from that of the project they are working on as an RA, but students will nevertheless benefit by having the opportunity to learn about new methods and literatures in geography.

The department typically includes a maximum of $1,500 in RA work toward the base funding package. These positions are funded through a supervisor’s research grants and the specific tasks and terms/conditions (including hourly rate of pay, if applicable) for the position will be determined by the supervisor in September.


Different components of the funding package are paid via different methods according to varying schedules.

Students must be registered and maintain a current mailing address in the student web service/Acorn for award payments to be issued. Students are encouraged to also record their banking information in Acorn – otherwise cheques will be issued by mail or for pick-up.

Students must also provide their hiring unit with signed contracts/payroll forms/banking information for TA and RA for payroll to be set up.

External Scholarships

Most external scholarships are paid through Acorn by the School of Graduate Studies (SGS), in equal instalments at the start of each session. E.g. a $15,000 OGS award is paid in $5,000 instalments at the start of September, January and May. September payments are issued directly to the student; January and May instalments are usually directed toward outstanding tuition and fees. See the SGS Managing Your Award page for further details.

U of T Fellowship

Students without major scholarships normally receive U of T Fellowship (UTF) Tuition Awards which are paid directly to their fees in two equal instalments at the start of the fall (September) and winter (January) sessions.

Most students will receive UTF Stipend Awards which are paid through Acorn in equal instalments at the start of each session. E.g. a $6,000 UTF Stipend award is paid in $2,000 instalments at the start of the fall (September), winter (January) and summer (May) sessions.

Teaching Assistant Positions

Teaching assistant salary is paid in equal instalments monthly for the duration of the position through the HRIS/payroll system on the 28th of the month (or the preceding Friday if the 28th falls on a weekend). E.g. a student who has a 150 hour TA position ($6,808.50) from September – December will be paid for 37.5 hours ($1,702.12) at the end of September, October, November, and December. Students will receive a contract for each position they are assigned and can access payroll statements using the Employee Self-Service (ESS).

Research Assistant Positions

Research assistant positions can be paid as lump sum, monthly in equal instalments, or monthly based on the hours worked during each pay period. Payments are paid through the HRIS/payroll system on the 28th of the month. The student should request a contract from their supervisor in September specifying the work required and payment details.

Additional Funding

Some students are successful in securing additional TA work, Course Instructor positions (usually after achieving PhD candidacy), and extra RA work to supplement their income, though additional funding is not guaranteed. Students can also apply for internal awards and scholarships through the department, Arts & Science and SGS (information on such opportunities will forwarded to students as they are announced throughout the year).

Funding for travel and conference attendance and some research expenses is also available through the department and from SGS (information and application instructions are forwarded to students in the fall or spring of each year). This funding varies depending on the number of applications and the pool of funds available each year. In some cases, a supervisor may also be able to provide funding for such expenses.

Funding Beyond the Funded Cohort

Students who are beyond the funded cohort (Masters students year 2+ and PhD students years 5+) are expected to pay full tuition fees.

Master’s students who are expecting to register beyond 1 year are strongly encouraged to apply for external scholarships such as CGS-Masters and OGS scholarships to fund their second year in the program.

PhD students who do not hold major scholarships are eligible to receive the Doctoral Completion Award (DCA) in years 5 and 6. The value of the DCA varies each year but typically covers up to half the cost of tuition. PhD students are also guaranteed TA positions in years 5 and 6 at the same number of hours as their 1st or 2nd appointment (subsequent appointments).

All students beyond the funded cohort are encouraged to apply for and accept TA positions in geography (at all three campuses) and in cognate units (School for the Environment, City Studies, etc.). In some cases, RA positions may also be available either with their supervisor or with other faculty members. RA positions are not normally posted; students are generally able to find such positions through word-of-mouth from their supervisor, committee members or course instructors.

Both Masters and PhD students who are members of CUPE 3902 Unit 1 (bargaining unit representing TAs) may be eligible for other bursaries and funds through their union.

Average Income and Time to Completion

SGS publishes information on the average income for graduate students after tuition. This information was collected in 2014 at a time when the base funding level was at a lower level ($15,000 plus tuition).

For the period 2010 – 2015, the average time to completion for each program was as follows:

PhD programs = 5.4 years
Master’s programs = 1.7 years


Please contact the Graduate Advisor at for further information or specific questions about the information on this page.