Health Minister visits UW following federal budget release Budget includes increased investments in postgraduate scholarships, research funding


The federal health minister Mark Holland visited UW yesterday afternoon, following Tuesday’s release of the 2024 federal budget. Also present at the event were Waterloo Liberal MP Bardish Chagger and former Burlington Liberal MP Eleanor McMahon, who now holds the role of vice-president, university relations at UW. The event, which included a meet-and-greet for UW postgraduate scholars, aimed to highlight how the new federal budget will impact students.

Regarding student finances, the budget proposed several investment areas:

  • A new talent program to be implemented starting in 2024-25. This includes an investment of $825 million over five years (with $199.8 million per year ongoing), towards master’s and doctoral student scholarships. These scholarships will increase to $27,000 and $40,000, respectively, with post-doctoral fellowships being increased to $70,000.
  • $30 million over three years (starting in 2024-25) to support Indigenous participation in research, with First Nation, Métis, and Inuit partners each receiving $10 million.
  • $1.8 billion over five years (starting in 2024-25) to increase core research grant funding and support Canadian researchers. $748.3 million per year ongoing will go towards the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.
  • Relaxed eligibility conditions for the removal of GST on new student residences, which will apply to not-for-profit universities, public colleges, and school authorities. Private institutions, however, are not included.

As health minister, Holland spoke to UW students and faculty about how the 2024 budget would affect health sciences, explaining that the $1.8 billion would include “its fair share of health innovation and health research” in order for the health system to change and provide “more equitable outcomes.” 

He also underlined the importance of financial accessibility within healthcare studies, noting that many students have likely been unable to pursue graduate-level education due to funding concerns: “It makes you wonder how many were left at the wayside, how many incredible scientists [have] we lost? How many incredible discoveries [are never] going to happen five or 10 or 15 years later because we weren’t there for those students [and] they weren’t able to capture their passion?”

Nushrat Nazia, who completed a PhD at UW last year, was able to speak first-hand about the impact of finances on postgraduate students, citing concerns she’d faced in the past about covering costs: “I could have picked up extra jobs, but then I wouldn’t graduate on time because it impacts the quality of work.” She explained the pressure students often feel to graduate on time, because they wouldn’t have enough money to continue studying any longer. Though Nazia was able to complete her studies, she knew of other students that either had to drop out or weren’t able to begin programs due to their financial situation. 

“For the future generation, [for] my daughter, it makes so much difference because [finances] take a toll on mental health as well,” she added.

Holland believes that the budget offers a step in the right direction, as it shows students that their research and academic contributions are being valued: “We need to do a better job as leaders communicating the value of research, connecting Canadians to why we need to invest in it [and] why we need to continue to sustain it,” he said.

“This is a wonderful relationship that we need to continue between universities, the private sector, and the government to [have] each of us play our role in creating the incredible science that we know is possible when we work together.”

With files from Alicia Wang.