Policies and Requirements
Note: For reasons of brevity, the Alexander Graham Bell Canada Graduate Scholarship will be referred to as “CGS” and the NSERC Postgraduate Scholarship will be referred to as “PGS”.
To hold an award, you must:
- accept the terms and conditions of the award, as set out in this Guide, in the Notice of Award (including attachments) and in the program description found in the NSERC Program Guide for Students and Fellows;
- have been unconditionally admitted and registered in a recognized and eligible doctoral degree program in a field supported by NSERC;
- be registered full-time or part-time* and progressing satisfactorily in a doctoral program at an eligible university;
- not hold or accept full-time employment while holding the award; and
- agree to have your university administer your award.
CGS awards may be held only at a Canadian university.
Awards may be cancelled without notice if the conditions under which they are granted are violated. Any payment made for a period during which you were not eligible to hold the award must be reimbursed.
It is your responsibility to ensure that NSERC has your up-to-date contact information and that you respond promptly to any communications from NSERC during tenure of your award. NSERC will use the email on your file for all correspondence. Updates should be sent to email@example.com.
* Part-time registration only for those who are restricted to part-time studies for reasons of disability or family responsibilities.
Acceptance or Refusal of Award
- You must notify NSERC by the deadline date indicated in your Notice of Award of your decision to accept or decline the award by completing an Acceptance or Refusal of Award (Form 1A).
- You must also include proof of citizenship with Form 1A. Canadian citizens must provide a copy of an official document indicating their citizenship (e.g., birth certificate, citizenship card, or passport). Permanent residents must provide a copy of an official document indicating their landing date in Canada (e.g., IMM 1442, IMM 5292, IMM 1000, Permanent Resident card). If the landing date was after the application deadline, NSERC will cancel the offer of award.
- If you have been offered a CGS doctorate (CGS D), but intend to take your award at an eligible foreign university and are eligible to do so, you may decline your CGS D and accept a PGS doctorate (PGS D) award in its place.
- NSERC will cancel any award not accepted by the deadline date indicated in your Notice of Award.
- Notification by telephone is not acceptable.
- NSERC must receive your Acceptance or Refusal of Award (Form 1A) even if you plan to request a deferment of your award (see Deferment of Award).
Activation of Payment (for new awards and awards transferred to another university)
- You will be required to provide some information to your university and to NSERC in order to receive payment of your award. You must complete a Payment Activation (Form 1B) and submit Part I to your university and Part II to NSERC at least six weeks before your start date; otherwise, your payment will be delayed. Send a copy of your letter of award, along with the duly completed Payment Activation (Form 1B), to the Faculty of Graduate Studies (or its equivalent) of the university where you are taking up the award.
- If NSERC does not receive your duly completed Payment Activation (Form 1B), your award may be cancelled.
- Your award payment will be activated based on the information included in your Payment Activation form, provided you have met all general award conditions applicable to all recipients, as well as any specific conditions that were indicated in your Notice of Award.
- If any of the information that you provided to NSERC changes prior to your start date, contact NSERC and your university immediately; this will reduce the likelihood of a delay in the payment of your award.
- Your university will verify that you have met all the conditions of your award before activating it.
- If you are uncertain whether all conditions have been met, contact your university.
- If you wish to transfer to a different university, see Change of University.
Payment of Award
You will receive payment of your award from your university. The payment schedule will be based on your university's schedule, and acceptance of this schedule is a condition of your award.
Your start date is determined by your registration status in the program of studies for which funding was awarded at the time you receive notification of your award. Scholarship support will not extend beyond the 52nd month of your doctoral program (64th month if you were admitted to the doctoral program directly from your bachelor’s program).
- If you have already begun the program of studies, you may activate your award on either the first day of the May or September academic term of the year in which the results were announced, except in the following cases:
- You may activate your award on the first day of January if your prior CGS Master’s or IPS 1 award ends in December following the announcement of the results.
- If you had completed 24 months of studies in the doctoral program for which support was requested (36 months if you were admitted to the doctoral program directly from your bachelor’s program) as of December 31 of the year of application, you must activate the award in May following the announcement of the results.
- If you have been offered a three-year award and have completed 12 months of studies in the doctoral program for which support was requested (24 months if you were admitted to the doctoral program directly from your bachelor’s program) as of December 31 of the year of application, you must activate the award in May following the announcement of the results.
- If you have not yet begun the program of studies, you may activate the award on either the first day of the May, September or January academic term following the announcement of the results.
- If you anticipate that you will not be able to complete the requirements of your previous degree by December 31, you must decline the award. However, you may apply again in the following competition as long as you remain eligible.
Change in Start Date
- If you change your start date after you have sent your Payment Activation form, you must immediately notify the university.
- Award holders who have already submitted a Payment Activation form must send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org informing NSERC of any such changes.
- See also Value and Duration of Award and Start Date for additional information on the change of your start date.
Value and Duration of Award
The value and duration of your award are detailed in your Notice of Award and may be adjusted to take into account a change in your registration status (e.g., early completion of your degree or termination of your doctoral studies). NSERC will contact you to reclaim any overpayment of your award.
Part-time PGS D/CGS D Support
Doctoral level (PGS D/CGS D) support is available to those who are restricted to part-time studies for reasons of disability or family responsibilities.
- No employment is permitted during tenure of the award without NSERC's prior authorization.
- NSERC will notify you of the decision on your request to hold your award part-time.
- If your request for part-time status is approved by NSERC, the stipend will be the equivalent of a full-time award spread over a longer period of time.
- All other policies and requirements will apply.
For purposes of holding an award part-time, disability is defined as "a functional limitation resulting from a physical, sensory or mental impairment which, for an indefinite period, affects the ability of the student to perform the activities necessary to participate fully in his or her learning."
If you intend to pursue part-time doctoral studies because a disability prevents you from pursuing full-time studies, you must:
- send an email to NSERC justifying your need to hold your award part-time;
- request that the qualified health professional most familiar with your situation complete the Medical Certification to Hold an NSERC PGS/CGS/PDF on a Part-time Basis for Reasons of Disability (Form 4). He or she must either mail the form directly to NSERC or return it to you in a sealed envelope to be forwarded to NSERC. This form will be treated as a confidential document to be used only by NSERC staff when considering your eligibility to hold your award on a part-time basis; and
- request that your university send a letter to NSERC supporting your request to pursue part-time doctoral studies.
For purposes of holding an award part-time, family responsibility is defined as "the primary responsibility for providing the personal care to a dependent family member (e.g., pre-school children, infirm spouse or parent), which affects the ability of the student to perform the activities necessary to participate fully in his or her learning."
If you intend to pursue part-time doctoral studies because family responsibilities prevent you from pursuing full-time studies, you must:
- send an email to NSERC justifying your need to hold your award part-time; and
- arrange for a letter supporting your request to be sent to NSERC by your university.
Deferment of Award
Before commencing your award, you may request permission to defer it for up to three years, but only for reasons of maternity, child rearing, illness or health-related family responsibilities. You may not defer your award in order to take up another award, accept or hold employment, or pursue studies other than those for which you received funding.
- You must complete a Request for Deferment or Interruption of Award (Form 3) and send it to NSERC for approval as soon as possible. Supporting documentation (e.g., birth, adoption or medical certificate) confirming the reason for deferment must also be included with the request. If you have to extend an existing deferral, you must provide a new Form 3 and supporting documentation.
- During your deferral, you must be devoted to the activity for which the deferment was requested. You may not accept full-time employment.
- If you are currently registered in the program for which funding was awarded, you must obtain approval from your university to defer your award. Deferments will not be approved if they are in conflict with your university's policies.
- Even if you intend to defer your award, you must submit confirmation to NSERC that you have completed, by December 31 of the year of the original award, all requirements of your previous degree (if not already submitted with your application), or your award will be cancelled.
Interruption of Award
You may interrupt your award only for the reasons described in the following sections: Unpaid Leave for Reasons of Maternity, Child Rearing, Illness or Health-Related Family Responsibilities; Paid Parental Leave; and Leave for Relevant Work Experience. You may not interrupt your award in order to take up another award, to pursue studies other than those for which you received funding, or to accept or hold employment (other than described in Leave for Relevant Work Experience). If you have to extend an existing interruption, you must provide new documentation.
- You may only interrupt an award that is currently active.
- You may also interrupt a PGS D or CGS D award to take up a four-month industrial research and development internship (e.g., MITACS-Accelerate internship award). Only one such interruption is permitted.
- You must obtain approval from your university prior to any interruption of your award.
- Interruption of less than 12 months:
- submit the appropriate documentation to the Faculty of Graduate Studies (or its equivalent) at your university for evaluation and approval (or refusal).
- Interruption of 12 months or more:
- submit the appropriate documentation, including support of the request from the Faculty of Graduate Studies (or its equivalent) to NSERC for evaluation and approval (or refusal).
- For approved interruptions, your university will suspend payment of your award for the duration of the interruption and will resume payment when all the conditions of your award are met, generally, on your return to full-time studies. The interruption will not reduce the total amount of support available to you.
- For the purpose of determining eligibility for future NSERC scholarships, approved interruptions will not count when the number of months spent in doctoral studies is being calculated, regardless of your registration status.
- During your interruption, you must be devoted to the activity for which the interruption was requested.
Unpaid Leave for Reasons of Maternity, Child Rearing, Illness or Health-Related Family Responsibilities
- You are eligible for a leave of absence of up to three years, in accordance with your university's policies and requirements, only for reasons of maternity, child rearing, illness or health-related family responsibilities, provided your university permits such leave.
- During your interruption, you must be devoted to the activity for which the interruption was requested. You may not accept full-time employment.
- You must obtain approval from your university prior to interrupting your award.
- Contact your university to find out what documentation it requires to approve the interruption. This may include birth, adoption or medical certificates.
Paid Parental Leave
Note: Approval of paid parental leave requests is subject to the availability of funds.
- If you will be interrupting your studies/award within six months following a child's birth or adoption in order to be the primary caregiver for the child, you may request a paid parental leave supplement for up to six months, provided your university permits parental leave. This supplement is equivalent to the amount of your monthly stipend for up to six months. The end date of your award will be extended accordingly.
- You should request the paid parental leave at least four months before the proposed start date of the leave. You may not receive this supplement while your award is being deferred.
- The maximum period of paid leave is six months, even in cases of multiple births or adoption of more than one child at the same time.
- If both parents are supported by NSERC, each parent may take a portion of the leave, for a combined maximum duration of six months.
- To request the paid parental leave, you must obtain approval from your university prior to interrupting your award. Contact your university to find out what documentation it requires to approve the paid parental leave. This may include birth, adoption or medical certificates.
- If leave is approved, your university will administer the supplement and notify NSERC. In addition, you must certify in writing to the university that:
- you are not eligible for, and will not receive, employment insurance or other maternity/parental benefits from other sources;
- you will be the primary caregiver of your child during the parental leave; and
- you will not be engaged in research activities or employed.
Leave for Relevant Work Experience
- You may interrupt your award to obtain relevant work experience.
- A relevant work experience in the context of an interruption of an award is one that is relevant to the area of study and that provides an opportunity to develop professional and technical skills that will complement the award holder’s qualifications, beyond what can be acquired in the current program of study.
- You are not entitled to receive your award payments during such interruptions.
- You must obtain approval from your university prior to interrupting your award.
- You are permitted one four-month interruption for this type of leave during your master's studies and two four-month interruptions for this type of leave during your doctoral studies.
- No two periods of leave for relevant work experience can be consecutive. You must be registered for at least the equivalent of one full-time academic term between the interruptions.
Your university's policies and requirements apply with respect to vacation leave.
Reinstatement of Award
- Deferment: You must notify NSERC in writing at least eight weeks before resuming your studies, confirming the exact date you want your award to be reinstated. See also Activation of Payment.
- Interruption of less than 12 months: You must notify your university in writing at least eight weeks before resuming your studies, confirming the exact date you want your award to be reinstated.
- Interruption of 12 months or more: You must notify NSERC and your university in writing at least eight weeks before resuming your studies, confirming the exact date you want your award to be reinstated.
- Awards will be governed by the policies and requirements applicable at the time of reinstatement.
Change of Program of Study/Supervisor/Research Project
- Requests to change the program of study, supervisor or research project will be evaluated by your university. Contact the Faculty of Graduate Studies (or its equivalent) at your university that administers your award for further information. Any request for change must be accompanied by a one-page outline of your proposed research (including the proposed supervisor’s name).
- If your program of study or your research fall under the mandate of more than one federal granting agency (e.g., psychology, management studies, geography, physical education, bio-medical engineering, health sciences, bioinformatics, biostatistics, etc.), the university is required to consult NSERC for a ruling. Consult the Eligibility Criteria for Students and Fellows.
- If you modify your research project or program of study to the extent that they are not supported by NSERC, you will no longer be eligible to hold the award and it will be cancelled.
Change of University
To change your university of tenure, you must obtain prior approval from NSERC. If your change of university leads to changes in your research project or program of study, refer to Change of Program of Study/Supervisor/Research Project. Such requests for change of university should be made as soon as possible, preferably at least eight weeks prior to your start or transfer date, to allow time for NSERC to evaluate your eligibility and to give the new university time to activate payment of your award.
To change your university before taking up the award:
- If you have not yet submitted your Payment Activation form, you must:
- indicate the new university on a Payment Activation (Form 1B, Part I) and submit it, along with a copy of your Notice of Award, to your university; and
- indicate the new university on a Payment Activation (Form 1B, Part II) and submit it to NSERC.
- If you have already submitted your Payment Activation form, you must:
- complete both parts of a Payment Activation (Form 1B). Indicate the new university and submit Part I, along with a copy of your Notice of Award, to your new university and Part II to NSERC;
- complete a Request to Change University (Form 2, Part I) and submit it to NSERC; and
- advise your previous university of your intent to transfer.
To change your university after having taken up the award, you must send the following documentation to NSERC:
- the duly completed and signed Request to Change University (Form 2, Parts I and II) supported by the heads of the department of the original university and the proposed university; and
- a letter justifying your reasons for the change.
NSERC will notify you and the university if your request to change university has been approved. If the request is approved, you must then submit a Payment Activation (Form 1B), along with a copy of your Notice of Award, to the new university.
Changing to a Foreign University
- CGS D awards must be held at a Canadian university (no exceptions). However, a request to transfer your award from a CGS D to a PGS D in order to transfer to a foreign institution may be approved by NSERC, provided you meet the eligibility requirements. This approval is also subject to the availability of funds.
- PGS D awards may be held at an eligible foreign university provided you have received a previous degree in the natural sciences or engineering from a Canadian university.
- If you intend to hold your award at a university outside Canada, you must contact the appropriate agencies for immigration and taxation regulations. NSERC cannot advise award holders on such matters.
Other Sources of Income (employment and other awards)
- NSERC expects award holders to devote the majority of their time to the expeditious completion of their degree program. NSERC recommends that award holders limit the number of hours of employment to 520 hours within a 12-month period. These hours are in addition to any activities that are integral to the award holder’s degree program. Institutional regulations with respect to employment take precedence over NSERC’s recommendation. It is the award holders’ responsibility to ensure that they are in compliance with their institution’s policies.
- You may not hold full-time employment during any period of time in which you hold the NSERC award.
- Payment of the award during paid internships and co-op work terms is permitted, regardless of your registration status, provided that they are a requirement of your program of study.
- You may not concurrently hold another award from NSERC or from another Canadian federal granting agency (the Canadian Institutes of Health Research or the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada). You may, however, accept awards from other sources, regardless of value (e.g., foreign sources, provincial awards, private organizations or your university).
- You may accept supplements from your supervisor’s grants. There is no limit on the value of such supplements. Any such funding is to be in support of your work as a graduate student and is not to be remuneration for additional duties performed.
- Part-time PGS/CGS holders: No employment is permitted during tenure of the award without NSERC's prior authorization.
Annual Progress Reports
Your university will process an annual progress report on behalf of NSERC. This report must be completed in conjunction with your supervisor.
NSERC may cancel the award if your progress is judged to be unsatisfactory.
Termination of Award
- If you are planning to terminate your award early, contact your university and NSERC as soon as possible.
- In accordance with its policies, your university will determine the end date of your award based on information pertaining to your termination.
- Your registration status may change in certain circumstances (e.g., when you complete your degree, start another program of study, terminate your studies, change to part-time status or accept full-time employment). If you are uncertain whether your registration status has changed, contact your university.
- If your registration status changes, the final value of your award will be pro-rated based on the end date as determined by your university.
- If you accept full-time employment, regardless of whether or not you have completed your degree, your award will be terminated as of the effective date of your contract of employment. The value of the award will be pro-rated.
- Either your university or NSERC will contact you to reclaim any overpayment of your award.
Taxation and Other Issues
- Your university will issue a T4A income tax slip to award holders that it pays directly.
- NSERC is unable to dispense advice on income tax matters to individual students and fellows, given the uniqueness of each award recipient's personal financial situation. Consequently, you are encouraged to seek advice from the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) or from a qualified income tax specialist.
- You are referred to two documents published by the CRA:
NSERC is unable to assume liability for accidents, illness or losses that may occur during the tenure of an award. You are responsible for ensuring that you have appropriate insurance.
The Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act
We encourage you to read the Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act as they relate to application information.