Understanding my McGill graduate funding letter

All PhD students at McGill get a funding package from their department with their offer of admission. This comes as a separate letter, through the admissions system.  While funding letters may vary by academic unit, Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies (GPS) aims to standardize the language used in graduate funding and funding offers made to prospective PhD students.  

Depending on your Academic Unit, there may be a few variations in the funding table in your funding letter. However, a standard funding table is similar to the one below. An explanation of the components and other FAQs is provided below. 

PhD Funding Table


Term Definition
Total Expected Funding This is the total value of funding you can expect to receive in a year. It is a sum of Guaranteed Award Funding and Expected Employment Salary (where applicable). The duration of funding varies by the academic unit. 
Guaranteed Award Funding

You will get this amount of funding for the duration of your funding package. The amounts are indicated in Tuition, Base and Supplement.

Some letters may not include Base. 


This is the amount guaranteed towards tuition (the charge on the first line of the Graduate Fees table). Tuition amounts are approximate. Annual increases to tuition are calculated at a rate of 4%. The amounts received will be the confirmed amount of tuition during the applicable year.

Receiving an external award will not affect the amount you are offered for tuition.


Some programs use this amount to provide additional funding to potentially cover some fees like health insurance, or to provide a base amount for living expenses.

Receiving an external award will not affect the amount you are offered as a base.


This is the amount offered to you if you do not hold an external award. The amount could be reduced up to $0 if you hold an external award. Supplement amount varies by program and may decrease over time as you are expected to obtain additional support through external awards and salary through employment. 

External awards include funding from sources external to McGill i.e provincial or federal agencies.

Expected Employment Salary 

Opportunities for employment through TA-ship or RA-ship are limited and vary from department to department. As an award holder, you are expected to devote a majority of your time to the completion of your degree program. Your number of hours of employment cannot therefore exceed 180 hours per term. Please see the Award Holder's Guide for more information. You can also consult this website to find out the average PhD financial support in your Faculty.

  • TA - Teaching Assistant
  • RA - Research Assistant 
  • CL - Course Lecturer 

If employment is not typically available for all students in your department, your letter will not include Expected Employment Salary. Please contact your department directly if you have any questions about employment.


What is the difference between Tuition and Total Fees?

Tuition refers solely to the tuition line (first line in the Graduate Fees table). Total fees refers to the sum of tuition, ancillary fees, dental insurance and health insurance.  An example of how these charges appear on the Graduate Fees table is provided below. 

PhD fees example

  • Tuition - The charges in the first line only.
  • Ancillary fees - The charges in lines 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6. Ancillary fees vary by program. There may be additional fees depending on your program, please refer to the Graduate Fees table for more information.
  • Dental and health insurance - The charges in lines 7 and 8 respectively. Note that health insurance is at single-rate.  You may opt-out of PGSS dental insurance under certain conditions. 
  • Total fees - The sum of all the charges.

Are there sources of funding that could affect my guaranteed award funding?

If you receive a major internal fellowship (e.g Tomlinson Doctoral Fellowship or Stavros Niarchos) or are receiving funding from foreign agencies to pay for tuition, fees and/or living expenses, you may have a different guaranteed tuition, base or supplement amounts. However, the overall total funding levels per year will not be less than the ones in your funding table.

Am I required to apply for external funding if I am an international student?

Yes. International students are eligible for Quebec Province funding from FRQ. You can also apply for External DFWs if your country holds an agreement with the Government of Quebec.

Do I have to keep applying for external funding every year?

You are required to apply for at least one federal and at least one provincial award each year you are eligible in order to receive supplement funding. If you are no longer eligible for the external award or cannot hold the award for at least a year, then you are not required to apply.

Why are employment salaries not guaranteed?

Student employment opportunities at McGill cannot be guaranteed because opportunities are governed by the respective union’s collective agreement (see links below). Speak to your department about requirements and employment opportunities to learn more.

Who can I contact if I have more questions about my funding letter?

Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial 4.0 International LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial 4.0 International License.
Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies, McGill University.

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