Undergraduate Student Research Awards
The Undergraduate Student Research Awards (USRA) program supports more than 3,000 students annually and is administered jointly by Canada’s three granting agencies: the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC). Applications for the USRA program must be completed and submitted to the Canadian institution where you wish to hold the award through NSERC’s online system. Selected applications are submitted to NSERC by institutions. No USRA applications may be submitted directly to the agencies.
Presently, CIHR and SSHRC USRAs are exclusively for Black student researchers. Institutions are assigned a specific allocation for these awards, as outlined in the Undergraduate Student Research Awards allocations web page.
|$6,000 plus host institution contribution
|Set by institution
|How to apply
|For more information
|Refer to the Guidelines for Undergraduate Student Research Awards liaison officers.
On this page
- Important information
- Value and duration of awards
- Location of tenure
- Supervision of the student at the institution
- Subject matter eligibility
- San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment
- Equity, diversity and inclusion
- Black student researchers
- Indigenous student researchers (for NSERC only)
- Application procedure
- Selection process
- Notification of results
- Payment of awards
- Travel allowances
- Use and disclosure of information
Undergraduate Student Research Awards (USRAs) are meant to nurture your interest and fully develop your potential for a research career in health, natural sciences and engineering, or social sciences and humanities. These awards are also meant to encourage you to undertake graduate studies by providing research work experience that complements your studies in an academic setting.
You are permitted to hold a USRA during a co-op placement. Your institution’s co-op office or USRA liaison officer (LO) may be able to assist you in finding a placement. LOs are institution administrators and usually work in your institution’s scholarship office.
To be eligible to apply for an award
- you must be a Canadian citizen, a permanent resident of Canada or a Protected Person under subsection 95(2) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (Canada), as of the deadline date for applications at the institution
- you must be registered, as of the deadline date for applications at the institution, in a bachelor’s degree program at an eligible institution
- you must have obtained, over the previous years of study, a satisfactory cumulative average (normally at least B-; check with your institution)
- you cannot be currently enrolled in an undergraduate professional degree program in the health sciences (e.g., MD, DDS, BScN) (does not apply for CIHR USRAs)
- you cannot be currently registered or have been previously registered, at any time, in a graduate program in the same field of study
- you cannot have completed all your degree requirements
CIHR and SSHRC USRAs are, at the present time, exclusively for Black student researchers. To be considered, you must self-identify as Black (see the Black student researchers section for more details).
- if you already hold a bachelor’s degree and are studying toward a second bachelor’s degree, you may still apply for this award
- you may hold only one USRA per fiscal year (April 1 to March 31)
- you may hold a maximum of three USRAs throughout your undergraduate career (regardless of the granting agency)
To hold an award
- you must have completed all course requirements for at least the first year of study (or two academic terms) of your bachelor’s degree
- you must have been registered in a bachelor’s degree program at the time of application and in at least one of the two terms immediately before holding the award
- you must be working full time in eligible research and development activities in your proposed field of research during tenure of the award
- you cannot be registered in a graduate program
- You may hold an award at any time during the year as permitted by your academic program.
- Tenure may start on a date acceptable to both you and your host institution.
Value and duration of awards
- USRAs have a value of $6,000, and the host institution is required to supplement the award.
- The duration of the award is 14 to 16 weeks on a full-time basis.
- The activities conducted during the tenure of the USRA are governed by the agreements, including employment agreements (if applicable), you have with the host institution and the relevant terms and conditions of awards.
- The agency’s contribution is paid directly to the host institution and is included in the funds that you receive.
The USRA program makes no provision for sick leave or vacation, or for other types of interruptions. Should a USRA be interrupted or terminated early for any reason, the agencies must be informed immediately.
Location of tenure
Without exception, USRAs are tenable only at eligible Canadian institutions with an assigned allocation. Awards must be held at the institution where the offer of award originates.
Supervision of the student at the institution
An eligible supervisor is a person authorized by the institution to independently supervise students. Your institution will decide if your proposed supervisor is eligible. You must work under the supervision of a person who has been approved by the institution.
Subject matter eligibility
NSERC, CIHR and SSHRC support and promote high-quality research in a wide variety of disciplines and areas, which are divided into broad fields of research (health, natural sciences and engineering, and social sciences and humanities). This includes research that bridges two or more disciplines or that requires the skills of several disciplines.
You must ensure that you are submitting your application to an institution that has an allocation for your selected agency (refer to the Undergraduate Student Research Awards allocations web page for a list of allocations by institution and by agency).
If the granting agency determines your application was submitted to the wrong agency based on the subject matter, it will be transferred accordingly (refer to Selecting the appropriate federal granting agency web page for more information).
It is not necessary for your proposed supervisor’s research program to be exclusively within your selected agency’s field of study (health, natural sciences and engineering, or social sciences and humanities).
San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment
NSERC is a signatory to the San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment (DORA). To promote NSERC’s support of research excellence in Canada and incorporate the principles of DORA, NSERC has developed Guidelines on the assessment of contributions to research, training and mentoring. The guidelines highlight NSERC’s commitment to excellence in research funding and aim to ensure that a wide range of research results and outcomes are considered and valued as part of the assessment process.
Equity, diversity and inclusion
The three agencies are acting on the evidence that achieving a more equitable, diverse and inclusive Canadian research enterprise is essential to creating the excellent, innovative and impactful research necessary to advance knowledge and understanding, and to respond to local, national and global challenges. This principle informs the commitments described in the Tri-agency statement on equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) and is aligned with the objectives of the Tri-agency EDI Action Plan.
When preparing the research proposal, supervisors are encouraged to consult the NSERC guide on integrating equity, diversity and inclusion considerations in research web page.
Eligible Canadian institutions are assigned a separate allocation of awards to offer from each agency. Institutions must respect the agency-specific allocation of awards. Refer to the Undergraduate Student Research Awards allocations web page for a list of allocations by institution and by agency.
Black student researchers
For NSERC: Institutions may recommend applications from self-identified Black student researchers for USRAs beyond their allocation of awards.
For CIHR and SSHRC: At the present time, CIHR and SSHRC USRAs are exclusively for Black student researchers. Institutions are assigned an allocation of awards, as outlined in the Undergraduate Student Research Awards allocations web page. To be eligible to apply for these awards, you must self-identify as Black by checking the relevant box within the application form. Note that this self-identification information will be shared with the institution to which you are applying and, if awarded, publicly. Refer to the Instructions for completing an Undergraduate Student Research Awards (USRA) application – form 202 web page for more information.
Indigenous student researchers (for NSERC only)
Institutions may recommend applications from self-identified Indigenous student researchers for USRAs beyond their allocation of awards.
To apply for these awards, you must complete and submit an application using NSERC’s online system. Refer to the Instructions for completing an Undergraduate Student Research Awards (USRA) application – form 202 web page for more information.
You can apply to more than one institution. You must apply directly to the institution where you would like to hold the award. However, please note that it is the institution’s choice whether to accept candidates from other institutions.
Eligible Canadian institutions are assigned an allocation of awards to offer each year. Refer to the Undergraduate Student Research Awards allocations web page for a list of allocations by institution and agency. Note: CIHR’s and SSHRC’s allocations are, at the present time, exclusively for Black student researchers.
The selection process of USRA applications will be carried out by institutions with an allocation and will be based on the following three selection criteria:
- academic excellence
- research potential
- expected quality of the training and mentorship to be received
All application and review processes are internal to the institution. It is the institution’s responsibility to establish its own selection criteria within the broad guidelines that the agencies provide. Institutions have the discretion to apply stricter selection criteria than those outlined above. When selecting students for awards, the institution will take into account the objectives of the USRA program. For details on the institution selection procedures, refer to the Guidelines for Undergraduate Student Research Awards liaison officers or contact the USRA LO at the institution where you would like to hold the award.
Each eligible institution sets its own internal deadline dates for receiving applications. For information about these dates, contact the USRA LO at the institution where you intend to apply for an award.
Although awards may be held in the summer, fall or winter term, each institution will determine the number of selection processes it holds each year.
Notification of results
Each institution will inform applicants of its award decisions after it has completed its selection process. To find out if your application was recommended to the agencies, contact the USRA LO at your institution. Recommended candidates approved by NSERC and SSHRC will receive an award letter on SharePoint midway through their award. Recommended candidates approved by CIHR will receive an award letter by email. Award letters should be read carefully and kept for future reference.
Once the relevant agency has approved your USRA for tenure at one particular institution, you may not transfer it to another institution.
Payment of awards
You will receive your payment from the institution. The institution will issue payments to you for the total value of the award in accordance with its pay procedures. It will also issue a T4 or T4A slip (statement of income) to you at the end of the calendar year.
NSERC, CIHR and SSHRC will pay their respective contributions directly to the institution.
Travel allowances are not provided by the granting agencies.
Use and disclosure of information
All personal information collected as part of this program is used by the agencies and by the relevant officials at the eligible research institutions to review applications and to administer and monitor awards. It may also be used to determine the most appropriate funding jurisdiction, or to monitor overlap in federal support. Details on the use and disclosure of this information by the agencies are described by CIHR on the Info source – Sources of federal government and employee information web page, by NSERC on the Use and disclosure of personal information provided to NSERC web page, by SSHRC on the Collection, use and disclosure of personal information web page and in the relevant program literature.
Each agency may publish the names and other limited award information of award holders on their websites in accordance with the agencies’ policies on disclosure under the Access to Information Act and their Privacy Act policies and guidelines related to the collection, use, retention and disposal of personal information. For more information, consult the Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act.
For more details regarding CIHR’s use of personal information, refer to the Undergraduate Student Research Awards details on CIHR’s Funding Opportunity web page.
The first point of contact regarding the USRA program should be the USRA LO at the institution where you intend to apply for an award or where you are currently registered in an eligible program of study.
For general information about the USRA program, policies and guidelines contact NSERC staff by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For post-awards inquiries