Graduate Facilitators

What are Graduate Facilitators?

Graduate Facilitators (GFs) work in the Student Learning Commons (SLC) and assist students in a variety of disciplines, individually or in groups, to help them develop and improve their academic skills and strategies. Graduate Facilitators are graduate students when they are hired, but often work for one or two semesters beyond their graduation. They work on one of four different teams: 

  • Graduate English as an Additional Language (EAL) Facilitator: Works with EAL students with the goal of helping them develop and improve their spoken and written academic English proficiency 
  • Graduate Learning Facilitator: Works primarily with undergraduate students with the goal of helping them develop and improve their academic learning strategies, such as study techniques, academic reading, note‐taking, and time management. A key part of the role is working with students in academic difficulty who are enrolled in the Back on Track program to develop learning plans.
  • Graduate Writing Facilitator (undergraduate writing): Works primarily with undergraduate students to help them develop and strengthen their writing.  
  • Graduate Writing Facilitator (graduate writing): Works with graduate students to help them develop and strengthen their writing. This may involve substantial review and work with students


Prior to 2019, Graduate Facilitators were not unionized which meant they were denied many of the benefits and rights that other teaching support staff at SFU enjoy. From MSP coverage, to sick days, to extended health benefits, to just getting paid a salary on time; these workers needed to take some control of their working lives. In June 2019, Graduate Facilitators signed cards and unionized with TSSU. Bargaining for the first collective agreement should be completed by the end of October 2020, or it will go to binding arbitration for a final decision by an independent third party.

How do you get Graduate Facilitator work?

Graduated Facilitator positions hiring is different from Teaching Assistant positions. There is a regular hiring process where vacant positions get posted, applicants interviewed and then a successful applicant hired. These current Graduate Facilitators are then renewed each semester, conditional upon the availability of work, and many continue to work for the duration of their graduate degrees. When vacant positions are available, they are typically sent out via the Dean of Graduate Studies office and by departments to their graduate students. A posting system for GFs jobs still needs to be resolved as part of bargaining.

How much work do graduate facilitators receive?

Each semester graduate facilitators have a conversation with their direct supervisor, referred to as their Coordinator, and agree on an average number of hours, most commonly 5-15 hours per week, of duties for the upcoming semester. For an individual, this amount may vary semester to semester, depending on the employee’s availability and the quantity of work available.

Know Your Rights

In the first round of bargaining for Graduate Facilitators, we won some key clauses to protect Graduate Facilitators from issues that predated becoming unionized workers. These include:

  • Maintain the ability to personally set weekly hours and days of work (in conversation with department coordinator at the beginning of the semester)
  • Automatic renewal of contracts for current Graduate Facilitators
  • Bi-weekly payment in replacement of time-sheets
  • 3 days notice of cancellation with the option to assign alternate duties with no loss of pay 
  • 1 week notice for scheduling
  • Ensuring Hours of work are paid within the semester of employment
  • Whenever possible, at least 3 weeks notice for the next semester’s contract

What benefits do GFs have?

Graduate Facilitators receive the same benefits package as Teaching Assistants which includes:

  • Tuition deferment, so you can pay your tuition off your paycheque even $1 at at time without incurring late fees, as long as you pay the entire bill by the end of your appointment;
  • BC Medical Services Plan (MSP) / International Student Health Fee (ISHF), 100% paid by employer ($75/month per person on study permit, otherwise free).
  • Pacific Blue Cross Extended Health Plan 75% paid by employer, 25% by employee during appointment. (Cost to you is about $8/month for single coverage, or $22/month for two or more).
  • TSSU Dental Plan: Premiums 50% paid by employer, 50% by employee; Reimbursement for 80% up to $700/year for basic services (cleanings, fillings, root canals), 60% for major restoratives (i.e. dentures, crowns, bridges)
  • out-of-province or international students can have part of the MSP replacement premiums (e.g. or similar plan) reimbursed during that period

These benefits are not automatic. You must enroll. For more info:

What leaves do GFs have access to:

Graduate Facilitators receive the same leaves package as Teaching Assistants. You are entitled to the following leaves per appointment, except as noted:

  • One week of short-term leave through exchange of duties (with approval of supervisor)
  • Five days of paid compassionate leave
  • Five days of unpaid family care leave
  • One month paid sick leave
  • Paid leave for court appearance
  • Up to a year of maternity/parental leave (unpaid)
  • Time off around thesis defenses: wherever possible, 48 hours around thesis defense with no employment duties (through exchange of duties), need notify Department within 1 week of defense being scheduled 
  • Time off work on the day of a degree-qualifying exam when requested

For more info: