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Letter from the CHA to the Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences regarding funding for graduate studies in history

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25 October 2022


Dr. Mike DeGagné
Chairperson Federation of the Humanities and Social Sciences
200 – 141 Laurier Avenue West
Ottawa, ON
K1P 5J3

Dear Dr. DeGagné,

I am writing on behalf of the Canadian Historical Association (CHA) to strongly encourage the Federation of the Humanities and Social Sciences in Canada to prioritize its advocacy work on issues of academic precarity and graduate student/postdoctoral funding. The Federation’s leadership on these twin issues is urgently needed – especially in terms of prioritizing student and postdoctoral funding from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council.

As you might be aware, the Canadian Historical Association established a Task Force last year to inquire into the future of the History PhD at Canadian universities. Over the past year, the members of the task force have undertaken an enormous amount of research.  Its recently issued report, attached here, points to major structural problems that need urgent action. Funding levels, everywhere, fall far below the poverty line. Unfortunately, the success rate for SSHRC doctoral and postdoctoral scholarships has been abysmal over the past two decades.

Our association therefore calls on the Federation to join us in urging SSHRC to immediately redirect substantial existing funding to doctoral students and postdoctoral fellows. More specifically, we call on the Federation to support our demand that SSHRC:

  • immediately raise the funding levels for the standard PhD fellowship by at least 50%.
  • redirect substantial funding to its standard PhD fellowships in order to offer more substantially more every year.
  • immediately double its funding envelope for postdoctoral funding.
  • Undertake (with the Federation) a survey of existing graduate students in the SSHRC-funded disciplines to determine whether students in these fields reflect the diversity of the Canadian population.
  • to widen its eligibility criteria for grants to often precarious community-based researchers.

We realize that these action items, if implemented without additional overall funding, represent a substantial redirection of SSHRC funding from faculty to students and postdoctoral fellows, but we feel that this a tangible way to begin to tackle the issue of precarity within our disciplines.

We also believe that the Federation of the Humanities and Social Sciences can do more to reduce the financial barriers to precarious researchers and students wishing to attend Congress.

Yours Sincerely,

Steven High, President
Canadian Historical Association