To: All Campus
From: Daniel Diermeier, Provost
Subject: New Funding and Programs for PhD Students
Date: October 8, 2019
I am writing to announce a new framework for doctoral education that includes a new funding model for units currently funded through the Graduate Aid Initiative (GAI) and new resources and programs for all doctoral students and faculty across campus. This new framework builds on the recommendations by the faculty and graduate student Committee on Graduate Education and ongoing work by deans, faculty, and students across campus.
The first component of this framework is a new model of financial support for doctoral students in the Divinity School, Division of the Humanities, Division of Social Sciences (SSD), and the School of Social Service Administration (SSA). The new funding model will replace the GAI. Once the new approach is fully implemented, doctoral students in these units will be funded for the duration of their program. The new model will be phased in over two academic years, beginning in 2020-21.
The new approach to funding is built on three principles:
  1. All Enrolled PhD Students Will Be Funded For the Duration of Their Program at the Guaranteed Stipend Level. Financial support is essential to allow our students to fully focus on their research. Once fully implemented, Divinity, Humanities, SSD, and SSA, will ensure that every enrolled PhD student in good academic standing has full tuition coverage, paid health insurance premiums, and funding for the duration of their program at least at the guaranteed stipend level (subject to applicable taxes). The guaranteed stipend level for the current year (2019-20) is $31,000. Students who began their PhD program in Summer 2016 or later will be guaranteed funding for the duration of their program; students who began before Summer 2016 may be eligible for additional funding from their school or division, e.g., through dissertation completion fellowships (DCFs).
  2. Teaching by PhD Students Will Be Structured as Mentored Teaching Experiences and Separate from Funding. Doctoral education at the University of Chicago should not only prepare PhD students to engage in original research of significance but also help them learn how to teach and communicate the approaches, theories, results, and methods of their field. Faculty in each program will determine the type and number of mentored teaching experiences necessary for students in their discipline, with tailored pedagogical training plans and active faculty engagement. Regardless of whether a student is teaching in a particular quarter or year, gross stipends will not vary.
  3. Total Program Size. The Committee on Graduate Education noted that while the previous funding model, GAI, provided critical funding, it did not succeed in shortening time to degree or reducing late attrition. The committee suggested one way to address this would be to “fix the overall size of a program’s graduate population” (p. 83). Moving forward, Humanities, SSD, SSA, and Divinity will have total program size; that is, the total number of PhD students across a particular school or division will be a fixed number, and new students will not be admitted until currently enrolled students graduate or leave their program. The model allows for variation across fields in time to degree and provides autonomy for departments to weigh the trade-off between entering cohort size and years in the program. While each program can have varying average or maximal times to degree, divisions and schools are required to meet the total size target each year.
The University will also launch new resources to benefit PhD students and faculty across all schools and divisions, including:
  1. Career Support for Students. UChicago Launch, a new initiative housed in UChicagoGRAD, will provide resources for students exiting PhD programs or graduated students who wish to pursue careers outside of higher education. Programs will include general career education sessions, including overviews of multiple job sectors, one-on-one advising, and skill-building workshops on job materials and interviewing, along with funded summer internship placements.
  2. Postgraduate Teaching Fellows Program Expansion. The University will expand existing Teaching Fellows programs to provide additional opportunities for PhD graduates who have earned their degrees to teach, continue their research, and prepare for the academic job market.
  3. Faculty-Student Mentoring Support. The Office of the Provost, in collaboration with the deans and departments, will develop programs and resources to help faculty become more effective mentors and enhance their ability to provide meaningful and timely feedback to students, especially during crucial points in their academic progression. We will also develop programs and resources to help students in their role as mentees.
  4. Investment in Recruiting a Diverse Student Body. UChicagoGRAD is launching several new initiatives to help programs recruit and retain the best students from all backgrounds. These efforts include pilot programs to reduce out-of-pocket costs associated with campus visits and need-based funding for students relocating to Chicago. UChicagoGRAD will also hire current graduate students to develop and implement customized departmental outreach and communications plans, and in the spring of 2020, will begin accepting proposals for a new innovation fund to encourage the development of new recruitment and yield initiatives. 
For more information, a list of frequently asked questions can be found on the Office of the Provost website.
Much work has gone into developing this framework, and much work remains to be done. While the model specifies overarching guidelines, departments and schools will determine how to most effectively implement the model within their particular programs. We are grateful for the tremendous work by faculty, students, and staff dedicated to improving the support of doctoral education at the University of Chicago and advancing its eminence and distinction.
Academic values
Graduate Education