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PHD Studies in Canada: A Dilemma For International Students

Canadian society and the Canadian academy are proud of their openness and diversity. Every year, thousands of international students are encouraged to embark upon undergraduate and graduates studies at Canadian Institutes of higher education. Indeed, the drive amongst Canadian universities to attract top quality International students in greater numbers is intensifying. And yet, there is a significant systemic problem of those International students in the arts and humanities who undertake doctoral studies In Canada.

These PhD candidates are encouraged to complete their degree in four years and, with but few exceptions, funding generally isn't provided beyond this period. But looking at students on PhD completion time at Canadian universities, it is clear that that the vast majority of students don't finish in four years:the average post-master's completion time is about five years, according to a 2003 report by Frank Elgar(PDF).

This is a worrying statistic. It shows a misalignment between the expectations of university authorities and the lived reality of PhD students. It is worrying for Canadian PhD candidates, and certainly causes hardship to those Canadians who do not complete their degrees before their funding expires. But for international students, the situation is dramatic.