Undergraduate Research Explorer
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Funding Opportunities

At the University of Toronto, the participation of undergraduate students in faculty-led research is an important part of our research goals: it helps to increase access and participation in our research community, enhance classroom learnings and support the training and development of a new generation of researchers. 

Providing undergraduate (and graduate) students with meaningful and impactful training opportunities is also an evaluation criterion for many research and pedagogical grant opportunities. In a grant proposal, it is essential to justify all student positions in relation to the work that will be undertaken and emphasize the importance of students’ contributions to achieving the project’s research objectives. In addition, you must also describe the benefits students will derive from the research training opportunity. 

In writing your grant application, the description of the research training experience should encompass the following details: 

  • the specific tasks a student will undertake in relation to the research described in the proposal; 
  • the skills acquired by accomplishing these tasks (in addition to research skills, include essential skills such as critical reading and writing, professional communication, project or event management);
  • how these skills are transferable to other disciplines or outside academia; and 
  • how these skills will help a student achieve their educational and career aspirations.

Funding Opportunities

Connaught Fund

The Connaught Fund is the largest internal university funding program in Canada. There are multiple funding opportunities under the Connaught program, but generally the program aligns with the policies of the Tri-Agencies and place emphasis on providing meaningful opportunities to involve undergraduate and graduate students in research. Review details in specific calls for applications. 

Work Study Research Experience Stream

The Work Study Research Experience Stream supports students in locating and participating in faculty-led research opportunities. These positions provide students the opportunity to undertake or support a research project under the direction of a faculty member. 

  • The Work Study Research Experience Stream also provides funding for your opportunity. The Work Study program pays 70% of the $15.90 / hr pay rate plus 10% benefits and the hiring unit pays the remaining 30% of the $15.90 / hr pay rate plus 10% benefits. 
  • You may choose to provide a wage top-up and pay students at a higher rate. Note the hiring unit is responsible for this pay increase.
  • You can use the Work Study Research Experience Stream to hire both U of T undergraduate and graduate students. 

How do I apply? When the launch of Work Study cycle is announced (Fall / Winter cycle announced in mid-June; Spring / Summer cycle announced in early February), you will be invited to submit your Work Study Research Experience Stream for approval through the Career Learning Network (CLNx). Learn more here, and contact workstudy@utoronto.ca for more information. 

Teaching and Learning Grants

You might also apply for funds from an institutional teaching and learning grant. You could use these funds to hire undergraduate student research assistants to support your pedagogical work and/or create initiatives to provide new research opportunities for undergraduate students. 

  • Use the Teaching Awards & Grants Database to better understand available funding opportunities. As you review funding opportunities, note that undergraduate research is considered a form of experiential learning!

Many divisions offer funds to support paid, co-curricular undergraduate research opportunities. These are typically for student-led research projects. To help identify these funding opportunities, you might consider using the Undergraduate Research Explorer. A few examples include:

Divisions also offer teaching and learning grants that you could use to engage with undergraduate research. Filter by your division, and use the Teaching Awards & Grants Database to better understand available funding opportunities.

You might have a discussion with your academic unit to understand if there are available funds for the hiring of undergraduate students to support research and/or pedagogical initiatives. 

Models to Engage Undergraduate Students in Grants

There are multiple programs at the University of Toronto that can be leveraged to engage undergraduate student researchers in your grant such as the University of Toronto Excellence Awards and the Work Study Research Experience Stream. We encourage you to use the Undergraduate Research Explorer and filter by “faculty-led research” to learn more.

Consider the approach of Professor David Roberts, Director Urban Studies Program, and Associate Professor, Department of Geography & Planning, Faculty of Arts & Science. As part of an international research team on a Transatlantic Partnership Grant, Professor Roberts is exploring how the Covid-19 pandemic strengthened community-based actions within black neighbourhoods in Toronto. To engage undergraduate students and provide them with the research training required, Professor Roberts supported the creation of a course URB438: Advanced Urban Research Project. Through this course, students gained training in qualitative case study and community-based research methodologies and, ultimately, used their training to develop a case study on a local neighbourhood and contribute to the findings of the international research team. This not only provided undergraduate students with meaningful training in different research methodologies, but also helped to build capacity for this research team.

Consider the approach of Professor Laura Risk, Department of Arts, Culture and Media, University of Toronto Scarborough. In recently applying for a SSHRC Connections Grant, Professor Risk leveraged the Work Study Research Experience Stream— a program designed to support student participation in faculty-led research. With the Work Study program, the University contributes 70 per cent of the base pay rate and the hiring unit contributes the other 30 per cent. In addition, faculty may choose to provide a top-up and pay students at a higher rate. Professor Risk used this pay sharing equation to outline a significant portion of the University’s in-kind support for her research project in her application to the SSHRC Connections Grant.

Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and Indigenous Perspectives 

In seeking funding opportunities, consider how you will address equity, diversity, inclusion and Indigenous perspectives in your recruitment practices as well as the training and supports that you will provide to undergraduate students. The Office of the Vice-President, Research and Innovation and Strategic Initiatives has shared a series of recommendations:

  • Avoid broad or generic statements about equity, diversity, inclusion and Indigenous perspectives.
  • Go beyond institutional policies or describing how you will address equity, diversity, inclusion and Indigenous perspectives in very general terms.
  • Do not include identifying personal information or demographic data about team members or trainees. How an individual self-identifies is personal and confidential and should not be disclosed in a research funding application.

Instead, it is suggested that you:

  • Provide specific, concrete examples of practices and plans that you will carry out over the life of the grant. Ensure you tailor these practices to the context and needs of your research team. For example, if student researchers will be engaging in research with Indigenous communities you might consider providing students with training through the Ownership, Control, Access and Possession (OCAP) program to address vital issues about data sovereignty.
  • Address how equity, diversity, inclusion and Indigenous perspectives will inform your approach to engaging with undergraduate student researchers, making sure to describe equitable processes to engage and recruit diverse researchers and to create an inclusive environment.
  • Describe the specific implementation of these practices including how and when you will put them into practice and describe the expected outcomes. For example, you might describe how you will develop training and mentorship for each undergraduate student who will be a member of your research team including identifying clear roles and responsibilities, clarifying expectations about supervision style and outlining a confidential process for disclosing accommodations. 

When engaging undergraduate students in research opportunities that are not curricular, it is important to ensure they are compensated for their time. Financial considerations and a lack of compensation can create barriers for many students who would otherwise benefit from engaging in undergraduate research opportunities including students in financial need, those with family responsibilities and first-generation students. Learn more at EDI in Research & Innovation.