Graduate Students

Joe Teodoro teodoro at medcor.mcgill.ca
Tue Nov 21 04:16:49 EST 1995


> What is the MAIN EVIL of the American/Canadian
> Graduate Student system ? 
> 
> The following is a copy of comments from the graduate 
> student from India (now in N. American university).
> My additional comments are below.  
> 
> ---------------------------------------------------
> Dear Sir,
> 
> I read an article forwarded by you, regarding 
> funding to grad students etc.
> 
> In India, at the Indian Institute of Science as 
> well as the Indian Institute of Technologies, this is 
> how funding is done:
> 
> Admission to these places is very tough and is based 
> on an entrance exam (for eg. to get into the Masters 
> program I wrote a 6 hour entrance exam!) and usually 
> for the PhD programs there is also an interview.
>      
> So only the top students get in there and it is not
> "admission-for-all". Once a student gets in there, 
> everything is taken care of: a monthly stipend, 
> ridiculously low tuition fees, heavily subsidised food 
> within the campus, hostels within the campus, so much 
> so that after one spends for all this, we still have 
> money left over from the stipend to save!
> 
> And when a student gets in, they have the choice of 
> which professor to join under: in other words, the 
> stipend is directly to them and not to the professors. 
> 
> After being in this too-good-to-be-true place 
> for 5 years, its difficult to get used to the funding 
> situation in North America!
> 
> ------------------------------------------
> BEREZIN ADDS:
> 
> All the above advantages are unimplementable in
> the present American/Canadian system. And the main
> reason is clear from the above G-student's letter:
> 
> "... stipend goes directly to them and not to the
> professors.....  (and): ... students have choice
> of what professor to join ... " (meaning to 
> work WITH a professor X, not "FOR professor X", as 
> people used to say here : small [ but implicative ! ]
> difference in adjectives).
> 
> Why did it happen that in America G-students (and
> Postdocs) are almost unexceptionally paid THROUGH the 
> specific professor (and hence slaveowners attitudes 
> on the part of the latter are encouraged to 
> flourish) ? 
> 
> I don't pretend to give an exhaustive answer how
> this effect came into being at first place, but 
> suggest that one reason may be that it is a leftover 
> of pre-Lincolnian mentality, which after been defeated 
> in social and political sphere, somehow (curiously) 
> survived in Academia (!) and is presently endorsed 
> and cemented by the entire NSF/NIH/NSERC-plus funding 
> machinery of "proposal peer evaluations". 
> 
> Interests of G-students (except as pegs) are not 
> natuarally accomodatable by such perverted system,
> and only exceptionally good and fair professors
> can make it bearable to their students. 
> 
> Any other explanations/hypotheses ?
> 

I must say that for once I agree with you Alexander.  The current trend of
paying grad students through the operating grants is a very dubious.  In
Canada both the Medical Research Council (MRC) and the National Cancer
Institute have just this year eliminated their programs for DIRECT funding
of grad students and moved to a system where professors apply for the
funds instead.  It should be noted that with MRC only professors holding
MRC operating grants can apply for MRC studentship money.  The motive for
having such a system becomes apparent here.  When students apply for
grants directly and recieve them on merit, they are free to take these
grants where they wish and work with whom they wish.  In a system where
grantsmen apply for studentships, the money is guaranteed to stay within
the sphere of the granting agency's annointed few. 

What is the cause of this trend?
The explanation probably has more to do with shrinking budgets than you
slavery hyperbole Alex.  With cuts across the board in almost all
government funded (and private) reseach even the richest grantsman is
feeling the pinch.
Paying the professor and not the student is just another desperate measure
for desperate times.  Granting agencies are protecting thier own.

The solution?
More money of course.

Who will pay?
No one.  Better get used to the system.



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