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Photo: Spencer Murdock.

‘10-hour rule’ for working grad students is absurd

The University of Ottawa is one of 21 universities that are members of the Ontario Council on Graduate Studies (OCGS) and, according to an OCGS bylaw, graduate students can’t work an average of 10 hours at an on- or off-campus job.

This rule doesn’t address the reality of what studying at an Ontario post-secondary institution is really like.

The OCGS bylaws are currently under review, but according to Danielle Bennett, interim associate registrar for the U of O’s Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies, the 10-hour rule will not be subject to amendments. However, due to its implications on the financial stability of U of O students, this rule is clearly in need of an update.

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Photo: Spencer Murdock.

Tuition for two semesters at the U of O for a master’s in engineering, the postgraduate program with the highest enrolment rate, costs $6,931. That number is before you count textbooks, rent, bills food, or trips home.

Limiting grad students’ right to work hampers the ability of many to pursue graduate degrees as a whole. The policy may be intended to ensure that students focus on their academics, but it also nearly guarantees that more students take on higher levels of student debt, as they are hamstrung in their ability to fund their own education.

There are grants and other forms of aid available for those in school to help handle expenses, but not all students receive or are eligible for aid or scholarships.

Furthermore how is this policy even enforced? Presumably if you’re a student working directly for the university, your information will be easily available for them to access. Otherwise, supervisors at most jobs generally only evaluate your completed qualifications.

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Photo: Spencer Murdock.

If you have your bachelor’s completed, employers likely wouldn’t need to know that the student is in graduate studies, and would have no way of confirming any answer given.

In fact, in an interview with the Fulcrum, Bennett said the university doesn’t generally police students, and the only consequence would be to the students themselves, such as their education, work or health suffering. This means that despite the advertised high price to pay, consequences may not be concrete.

With such an ambiguous rule, what exactly can the long-term purpose or benefit be? To intimidate students into graduating with massive loan debt?

According to Shawn Philip Hunsdale, advocacy and communications coordinator at GSAÉD, in the event a student is not making enough progress in their studies while working 10 hours a week or more, this could be viewed as a reason for removal from the program.

There’s no reason for graduate students to be restricted in their working capabilities, and when they are, it can leave a huge dent in student finances, therefore decreasing students’ quality of life. The answer seems simple—either change the bylaw, or leave the OCGS.