GSA Annual Survey 2022 Results

A total of 1,122 responses were collected, accounted for 14% of the approximately 7,800 graduate students fully registered with the University of Calgary in April 2022. This is the highest number of GSA Annual Survey respondents comparing to those of the past 5 years’ annual surveys. The quality of responses is 97% according to Qualtrics, indicating high quality of data collected from the survey’s responses. Of those that completed the survey, the demographic is more diverse compared to previous years with more respondents indicating they identified with the 2SLGTBQ+, Indigenous students, or person with a disability.

It’s important to note that the respondents of the survey are more likely to be involved with the GSA through its programs and services, and are more likely to cast their votes in the GSA General Election.

Below are some key takeaways from the survey’s results:

Demographics:

A high percentage of respondents are from the Schulich School of Engineering and Faculty of Science; however, we have representation from all faculties in the survey’s responses.

94% of respondents come from PhD and master’s programs. 89% of respondents are from a full-time program. This year, 38% of respondents attended class in-person (25% in 2021), 46% in hybrid setting (24% in 2021), and only 14% attending courses online (46% in 2021). Most respondents are in their first, second and third year of their programs.

36% of respondents didn’t have any dependents while 22% have dependents as spouses, 12% have children, 22% have parents that they are responsible for.

60% of respondents live in rented housing, 8% live in campus residence, and 16% own their own home.

62% of respondents would have graduate-student related debt upon graduation, with around 30% would have less than $14,999 in debt and 18% would have more than $15,000 in debt.

58% of respondents indicated that they earned more than $20,000 in their employment income including academic funding and scholarship for 2021. However, 42% earned less than $20,000; 17% earned less than $10,000. [1]

Mental health

Over the past year, respondents indicated they felt the most stressed, anxious, and overwhelmed. Only half of respondents indicated they felt positive. The top 3 sources of stress for them are: academic progress and grades, finances, COVID-19 and its impact.

Affordability of PSE

63% of respondents indicated that it had been more difficult to afford post-secondary education. 26% thought it was no more difficult than usual. Top 3 reasons that impacted PSE affordability include: Increase in inflation (69%), increase in tuition and fees (51%), and decrease in academic funding or income (~34%). 66% agreed that the change in PSE affordability had negatively impacted their academic studies and wellness.

Accessibility of PSE

53% of respondents had challenges accessing university facilities and resources over the last academic year, and 53% had challenges finding support from supervisors, faculty members.

Financial Support

56% accessed tuition scholarships and waivers within the last 12 months. Top 3 financial supports respondents accessed include: graduate teaching/research assistantship; loans, savings, and family assistance; and off campus employment.

While all respondents wanted to see an increase in funding in various categories, the top 3 categories respondents would like to see more funding include: Tuition scholarships or waivers, university-funded bursary, provincial government scholarship and fellowship.

Work-Life Balance

The demographics of respondents are diverse. 41% of respondents indicated they were international students. 29% indicated they were working students, 18% had mental health concerns; 14% with dependent(s)[2]; 11% identified as a member of the 2SLGTBQA+ community; 10% identified as students with disability, 8% were distant learners, and 5% were Indigenous.

The imminent issues that survey respondents were most concerned about by ranking are: academic quality and student experience, employment upon graduation, and financial health. Skill and professional development for future employment and mental health and well-being come at 4th and 5th place.

GSA Programs and Services

Value from the GSA

When asked about how much value the respondents received from the GSA programs and services over the past 12 months: 9% said a great deal, 22% said a lot, 35% said a moderate amount, 23% said a little and 11% said none at all.

Cross tabulation between GSA value rating and faculty reveals that respondents from Haskayne School of Business, Werklund School of Education, and Nursing are the top three groups with the most respondents indicating that they saw no value from the GSA. Cross tabulation between GSA value rating and demographic groups indicates that respondents with dependents or working students are more likely to see no value from the GSA.

General rating

Rating the GSA programs and services other than advocacy and financial support, 35% of respondents indicated they did not use, 52% rated good to excellent, 8% said fair, 7% said poor.

For GSA Financial support services, 30% rated good to excellent, 4% rated fair and 6% rated poor, 60% indicated they did not use these services.

The Health and Dental Plan was the most used service; and 51% of respondents rated the service as good and up, 7% of respondents rated the service as poor.

Communication

Respondents heard about GSA events, programs, and services through direct email and the GSA news and views (59% and 42% respectively). 24% of respondents heard news about the GSA programs through social media, and 23% through the GSA website.

Respondents rated on average GSA communication effort as highly inclusive, transparent, reliable, and responsive. In general, 81% of respondents rated the GSA communication effort as good to excellent.

Advocacy

77% of the respondents indicated they used the advocacy to the UCalgary administration service; 61% of the total respondents rated the GSA advocacy effort to the UCalgary admin as good to excellent.

70% of the respondents indicated they used the GSA advocacy to the governments service; 58% of the total respondents rated the advocacy effort as good to excellent.

Elections

38% of respondents indicated they voted in the elections. It is inferred that survey respondents were more likely to engage with the GSA and vote in the elections as the voter turnout rate in past elections is around 8% of the total graduate student population. 7% of respondents didn’t know there were elections.

Top 3 reasons that respondents didn’t vote in the election are: I forgot to, I don’t think it was necessary to vote, and Other.

Most respondents wanted to hear about the election via direct email and News and Views.

Inclusion

31% of respondents think that the GSA is inclusive as an organization based on the GSA programs, services, and communication. 40% think it’s fair, and 29% think it’s poor. (This is based on a rating scale of 1 to 10).

Labour Relations

49% of respondents indicated they were employed academically by the University of Calgary over the past 12 months. 36% were hired as teaching assistant, 9% as research assistant, and the rest were hired as both or other.

Out of 487 academically employed graduate student (AEGS) respondents, 39% experienced problems. 28% of those experienced problems sought help from the GSA, 33% didn’t seek help, and 28% sought help from the University support other than the GSA.

Out of 330 AEGS respondents indicating they used the GSA’s labour support, 88% rated the service as good to excellent.

Recommendations to the GSA:

The following themes were analyzed and summarized from the responses to two open-ended questions in the survey.

Suggestions for better inclusion:

  • More social events on campus, while maintaining some online events for distance or online students
  • Representation on different campuses and from different backgrounds
  • More transparency in bursaries and grants program, more inclusivity and funding accessibility for international students and part-time students, more bursaries over all
  • More program/department targeted communication
  • More representation on executive team and SLT, transparency in volunteer selection process
  • More communication around rights and guidelines for grad students, student grievance process, clear guideline for student representation on academic issues
  • Engagement through departments and in-person engagement
  • More job opportunities and career developments

Improvements to the GSA programs and services:

  • Advocate for affordability for education including increased funding, lower tuition
  • Advocate for more academically employed or other job opportunities, better support for Academically Employed Graduate Students (AEGSs)
  • Advocate for cheaper parking, mental health, online accessibility for programs
  • More career development, industry engagement
  • More engagement opportunities between the GSA and students, interdepartmental/program, more engagement for advocacy feedback
  • Improved health and dental coverage, Student Care support, mental health support
  • More social events
  • Clear guidelines and transparency in decision-making process for financial support, more financial support for graduate students; course-based, international, distance students should be eligible for financial support
  • More support for international students, parents, newcomers; support for student supervisor relationships

[1] There could have been more responses for the $20,000 to $30,000 income category due to the omission of the category when the survey was first released.

[2] Please note: This percentage is inconsistent with the percentage collected in an earlier question about dependents where 64% of respondents indicated they had dependents.