Policies and Requirements
Note: For reasons of brevity, the Alexander Graham Bell Canada Graduate Scholarship will be referred to as “CGS,” “CGS M,” and “CGS D” in this document.
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 and in the program description found in the NSERC Program Guide for Students and Fellows;
- have been unconditionally admitted into a recognized and eligible graduate studies degree program in a field supported by NSERC;
- be registered full-time or part-time* and progressing satisfactorily in a graduate studies 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.
The date of degree completion is the date on which all requirements for your degree have been met, including successful defence and submission of the corrected copy of your thesis (in accordance with your university's regulations). It is not the conferred or convocation date indicated on your transcript. The Scholarship Liaison Officer may be asked to confirm the date on which the degree requirements were met.
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.
* 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 (New Award Holders Only)
- You must notify NSERC by the deadline date indicated in your Notice of Award of your decision to accept or refuse the award by completing an Acceptance or Refusal of Award (Form 1A).
- You must also provide NSERC with 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). 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, but intend to take your award to an eligible foreign university and are eligible to do so, you may decline your CGS and accept a PGS 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 Graduate Studies Office 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 contained 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.
- 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. PGS M, CGS M or Julie Payette-NSERC Research Scholarship holders should note that scholarship support will not extend beyond the 28th month of your master's program. PGS D or CGS D holders should note that 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 take up your award on either the first day of the May or September academic term following the announcement of the results, except in the following cases:
- PGS M and CGS M holders:
- If you had completed 12 months of studies in the program for which support was requested as of December 31 of the year of application, you must take up the award in May following the announcement of the results.
- PGS D and CGS D holders:
- You may take up your doctoral award on the first day of January if your prior PGS M, CGS M or IPS 1 award ends in December following the announcement of the results;
- If you had completed 24 months of studies in the 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 take up the award in May following the announcement of the results.
- If you have been offered a three-year PGS D or CGS D and have completed 12 months of studies in the 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 take up the award in May following the announcement of the results.
- If you have not yet begun the program of studies, you may take up 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.
- PGS M and CGS M holders: Be aware that starting your PGS M or CGS M in January might result in a four-month period of zero funding from NSERC if you successfully apply for a PGS D/CGS D.
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 inform the Scholarships and Fellowships Division 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 graduate studies program). NSERC will contact you to reclaim any overpayment of your award.
Note: Approval of requests for a stipend increase is subject to the availability of funds.
To be eligible for a stipend increase to the PGS D level:
- PGS M or CGS M holders who transfer from a master's degree into a doctoral program, who complete their master's degree in less than the maximum duration of their award and proceed into a doctoral program, or who enroll directly in a doctoral program following completion of their bachelor's degree may be eligible to have their stipend increased to the PGS D level for the remainder of the duration of the PGS M or CGS M.
- You must have completed a minimum of 12 months of graduate studies and have been admitted unconditionally and be registered in the doctoral program.
- This increase in stipend is not automatic; you must request it while your PGS M or CGS M is active.
To request an increased stipend:
- If you are pursuing your doctoral program at the same university where you held your PGS M or CGS M, you must inform the Graduate Studies Office at your university that you wish to receive an increased stipend.
If you plan to undertake your doctoral program at a university other than the one where you hold your PGS M or CGS M, see Change of University.
Students who receive the increase must still apply successfully for a PGS D if they wish to receive continued support beyond the term of the PGS M or CGS M.
Part-time PGS/CGS Support
- PGS/CGS support is available to those who are restricted to part-time studies for reasons of disability or family responsibilities. For students whose 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 PGS/CGS requirements will apply.
- No employment is permitted during tenure of a part-time award without NSERC's prior authorization.
- NSERC will notify you of the decision on your request to hold your award part-time.
- 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 graduate studies in a field supported by NSERC because a disability prevents you from pursuing full-time studies, you must have a Medical Certification to Hold an NSERC PGS/CGS/PDF on a Part-time Basis for Reasons of Disability (Form 4) completed by the qualified health professional most familiar with your situation. 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 the eligibility of the candidate for a part-time award.
- Your university must write a letter supporting your request to pursue part-time graduate 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."
- As an award holder, you must write to NSERC justifying your need to hold your award part-time for family responsibilities. A letter supporting your request must also be sent 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, to accept or hold employment, or to 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 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.
- During your deferral, you must be devoted full time to the activity for which deferment was requested. You may not accept employment.
- Furthermore, 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 though 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 only interrupt active awards.
- 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 also interrupt a PGS D or CGS D award once to take up a four-month industrial research and development internship (e.g., MITACS-Accelerate internship award).
- 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 Graduate Studies Office 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 Graduate Studies Office, 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 graduate studies is being calculated, regardless of your registration status.
- You may not interrupt your award in order to take up another award or to pursue studies other than those for which you received funding.
- During your interruption, you must be devoted full time to the activity for which the interruption was requested. You may not accept employment other than relevant work experience approved by your university (see Leave for Relevant Work Experience).
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, only for reasons of maternity, child rearing, illness or health-related family responsibilities, provided your university permits such leaves.
- 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 at your current stipend level for up to four months, provided your university permits parental leaves. You should request the paid parental leave at least four months before the proposed start date of the 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
- during the parental leave, you will not be engaged in your studies/research activities or employed in any capacity.
- You may not receive this supplement while your award is being deferred;
- The maximum period of paid leave is four 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 four months.
Leave for Relevant Work Experience
- You may interrupt your award to obtain relevant work experience.
- 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 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
- 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/Degree
- Requests to change the program of study, supervisor, research project or the degree will be evaluated by your university. Contact the office 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/Degree. 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 NSERC Award Notice, 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 NSERC Award Notice, 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.
- If you are a PGS M or CGS M award holder who has completed your master's degree before the end of your award and you want to use the balance of the award to commence your doctoral program at another Canadian university and receive the increased stipend, complete a Request to Change University (Form 2, Parts I, II and III) and submit it to NSERC. You do not need to include a letter justifying the 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 NSERC Award Notice, to the new university.
Changing to a Foreign University (Only for PGS)
- CGS awards must be held at a Canadian university (no exceptions).
- PGS 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. As a guideline, NSERC strongly suggests that award holders limit the number of hours of employment per 12-month period to 450 hours. Universities may, however, set their own guidelines. Contact your university for further information.
- 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 studies.
- You may not concurrently hold another award from NSERC or from another Canadian federal granting agency (CIHR or SSHRC). 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 NSERC 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
- PGS D/CGS D holders: 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 prorated 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 prorated.
- 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.
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