Where do U of T PhDs end up? Research shows preference for staying in academia

Survey of 10,886 U of T grads conducted

Where do U of T PhDs end up? Research shows preference for staying in academia


A study released by the School of Graduate Studies revealed that PhD graduates are more likely to end up employed at post-secondary institutions than in all other sectors combined.

The study analyzed the employment status of 88 per cent of the 10,886 PhDs who graduated from U of T from 2000–2015, across all academic divisions. Of those analyzed, 59 per cent attained positions in post-secondary institutions after graduation, while the rest found employment in the private and public sectors, non-profit organizations, or in independent businesses. Only four PhD graduates were unemployed.

However, this trend was not uniform across the board. While close to eight in 10 Humanities PhDs ended up in academia, just less than half of Physical Sciences PhDs chose this path; 40 per cent were employed in the private sector. Of those PhDs who were employed in post-secondary education, about half were in tenure-track positions. Fourteen per cent of graduates were postdoctoral fellows, and approximately four per cent ended up in teaching-stream positions. Many ended up doing research and teaching at U of T, York University, Ryerson University, and McMaster University.

PhDs in the private sector either established their own enterprises or found jobs at Google, Intel, or the Royal Bank of Canada, among others. In the public sector, they mostly worked in hospitals or in the government, and in the charitable sector, they tended to work at health-related non-profits, such as the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research and the Ontario Brain Institute.

The data also revealed significant changes in the composition of the PhD student body. Between 2000 and 2015, the number of U of T PhD graduates per year almost doubled, from 494 to 901, and the amount of non-citizen PhD graduates also doubled. On the other hand, gender composition of the PhD student body over that time has been stable, varying slightly from a 50-50 split. The majority of PhD students — 85 per cent on average — were Canadian citizens and permanent residents.

Canadian universities take a step toward inclusion

Re: “Canadian universities pledge to release demographic data”

Canadian universities take a step toward inclusion

The recent move by Canadian universities towards releasing demographic data is an encouraging sign and will hopefully promote inclusion on campuses.  

When walking around the University of Toronto, one of the first things a person might notice is the level of diversity. I originally come from Ottawa and I moved to London for my undergraduate degree at Western University. Although my personal experiences in both cities have allowed me to interact with a wide diversity of people and groups, U of T stands apart due to an even more visible, rich multiculturalism.

Diversity sets U of T apart, and it is a quality that most students and staff are likely proud of. Accordingly, it is encouraging that the promise of demographic data being released over the next five years gives us the opportunity to quantify that strength.

The release of this information will also help us identify whether there are certain demographics in particular that are not getting the same level of postgraduate opportunities. This will give us the knowledge needed to determine whether university admissions are claiming diversity for diversity’s sake, or whether the university community accurately represent an inclusive cross-section of Canadian society. Administrations and campus organizations can then adjust their recruitment strategies accordingly.

The fact that this step has been taken by universities across Canada is additionally encouraging. Minority populations in less diverse areas than Toronto will now be empowered with the information needed to point out any inequality they perceive or experience in admission and hiring practices.


Vidhant Pal is a graduate student at the Institute of Biomaterials and Biomedical Engineering. 

The Breakdown: Road accidents around campus

Examining a decade of road safety data

The Breakdown: Road accidents around campus

Between 2006 and 2016, there have been 26 Killed or Seriously Injured (KSI) incidents inside or on the periphery of U of T’s St. George campus, according to Toronto Police Service data. Of the injuries sustained in these incidents, one was a fatality, two were minimal injuries, and the rest were major injuries. The one fatality occurred at Harbord Street and Spadina Avenue when a bus struck a pedestrian on November 7, 2013.

The most recent incident in the police dataset occurred in October 2016, when a pedestrian was hit by a vehicle on St. George Street.

While four of the incidents involved someone who had been drinking, a plurality of the incidents involved an inattentive individual, often because a pedestrian or driver failed to yield the right of way. A TTC bus was involved in one incident in 2008 when it struck a pedestrian who was crossing without the right of way.

In the age breakdown of those who were injured, 15 of the 28 people who sustained injuries were between the ages of 15 and 29. Seven people were aged 30–49, and six were 50 or older.

Pedestrians were involved in 12 of the incidents, and cyclists were involved in nine others. Of the 26 KSI incidents, two took place on St. George and four took place around the Queen’s Park area.

of T road safety plans for the future

According to Christine Burke, Director of Campus & Facilities Planning at U of T, the university understands students are concerned about road safety around Queen’s Park and St. George, and it is trying to improve road safety in both of these areas.

“We’ve brought that to the city’s attention and hopefully we can see what kind of recommendations come up to try to improve safety,” said Burke.

Anne Boucher, Vice-President External at the University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU) said that “road safety is definitely on the radar” of the UTSU.

“I’ve voiced concerns about a lack of pedestrian crossways and will continue to do so,” said Boucher. “They’ve been quite open to feedback, so I’m confident they’d be open to making some changes if it involves the safety of students.”

U of T is working with the city to implement safety changes in the proposed UTSG Secondary Plan. The proposals in the plan include improving crossings at Queen’s Park as well as making “the whole area between Harbord, St. George, Spadina, and College… much more pedestrian focused and more bike friendly,” according to Burke.

The university also hopes to increase road safety through the Landmark Project, which would pedestrianize the entirety of King’s College Circle.

Strength in numbers

Race-related data collection is a step in the right direction

Strength in numbers

This November, students on campuses across North America protested in solidarity with Black students who had been targets of racism at universities in the United States. These students presented a set of demands to their respective schools in order to address systemic racism. At U of T, the Black Liberation Collective asked the administration to commit to increasing Black faculty and student representation in order to better reflect Toronto’s population. 

Commendably, our administration has made a small stride in education equity by deciding to collect race-related data on campus. While the exact commitments are unclear at this moment, the broader policy of tracking quantitative information about racial representation in our faculty and student populace is a very welcome step in achieving educational equity.   

As a person of colour, I am acutely aware of the underrepresentation of racialized faculty and students. Some have the privilege of not seeing this reality. It can take less than a semester of classes for someone to note that we have a low number of Black and other racialized students in leadership positions. Without statistical data, however, students have long had trouble proving the problem exists. The collection of race-related data can help bolster causes for equity by simply providing evidence of an issue that students know anecdotally to be true.

It is not hard to find instances in which similar initiatives provided an impetus for positive social change. Back in 2004, for instance, the Toronto District School Board  — the largest school board in Canada — acknowledged the benefits of a census similar to the one our university may implement. They accounted for the race and socio-economic backgrounds of their students in order to  “identify and eliminate systemic barriers to student achievement.” With the data collected, the TDSB was able to quantify a considerable gap between economically marginalized and racialized students. With this information, a problem was identified and a solution more easily and meaningfully created. The TDSB was able to establish the Model Schools for Inner Cities initiative, which seeks to close “the opportunity gap to support equitable outcomes for all students.” 

For those who question the necessity of increasing diversity in university classrooms, it is important to remember several things. First, our society defines itself by principles of equality — as a subset of this, it is important for all persons to have the equal opportunity to attend post-secondary institutions, and it is thus our responsibility to actively investigate barriers that unfairly prevent certain students from succeeding.

Second, while the call to begin this type of census was brought on by students in the Black community, there are universal benefits to solving the problem of underrepresentation. From an equity perspective, diversity means there will be challenges to mainstream narratives, and thus a more wholesome understanding of society. In fact, in 2015, The Atlantic published an article that argued non-white educators “can help disrupt what are often one-sided portrayals of the world and offer invaluable insight to students from different backgrounds.” Comparably, a 2014 Scientific American article extensively traced how “[d]ecades of research by organizational scientists, psychologists, sociologists, economists and demographers” have shown how socially diverse groups enhance innovation and creativity. 

Lastly, race-related data collection at U of T is also an important symbol of administrative accountability. While the university has not yet released the specifics of this initiative, it is clear they are listening to students and engaging in dialogue with them. In doing so, our school is recognizing the legitimacy of student voices — significantly, those that have been historically marginalized by educational institutions — and reaffirming the importance of diversity. We should thus be cautiously optimistic about how this data will serve as a catalyst to create programming that works towards increasing the participation of all visible minorities, in faculty and within undergraduate and graduate student populations.

Milen Melles is a first-year student at Victoria College studying humanities.