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Winter 2021 term information

We will continue to deliver most large courses online, with clinical programs, labs or tutorials available in-person as in the fall term. Though the COVID-19 situation may change throughout the term, classes that start online will stay online throughout winter term.

Some activities will continue to happen in-person, if the conditions allow.  This could mean clinical programs, smaller undergraduate classes or seminars and research-based graduate students working in labs.  Any in-person activity will meet strict guidelines for physical distancing and other public health requirements. 

We will continue to operate on-campus supports and services as conditions allow.

We will support students, wherever they are. This includes support for students in financial difficulty, people who need health and mental health advice, and people who need academic support.  

Additional information:

Fall 2020 term information

The following list summarizes the remotely delivered and in-person course (and course component) offerings for course-based and research graduate students for fall 2020 at the University of Waterloo.

Additional information:

Graduate student research

Research and supervisory expectations

Tips for serving as a Teaching Assistant (TA) during COVID-19

  • Discuss and agree on expectations for your contributions to the course delivery over the term.  If your program uses a TA agreement form, be sure to fill that out with the course instructor.
  • Begin to coordinate with the instructor to understand the planned approach for delivering the course, particularly what technology the instructor intends to use.
  • Understand from your instructor how students enrolled in the course will have their academic performances evaluated – through assignments, quizzes, exams, projects, etc. – and how those elements will be marked.
  • Recognize that students who are enrolled in your course may be participating from various parts of the world, in different time zones, and potentially with limited access to technology.  You should consider with your instructor how you can support students’ learning given these challenges.
  • During the term, check-in with the instructor and discuss the progression of the TA position with respect to the hours assigned for this position.
  • Visit the Keep Learning website for resources and support.

Tips for continuing your research during COVID-19

We recognize that government and public health have in some cases limited students’ ability to progress on their research.  That being said, the University is eager to support you as you continue your scholarship.

  • Continue to discuss your research with your supervisor.  If you’re in a situation where you are not able to advance critical elements – lab work, face to face interviews, etc. – you and your supervisor may be able to identify research-related activities – writing portions of your thesis or research paper, creating drafts of manuscripts, or analyzing existing data – that can continue.  
  • Have an open conversation with your supervisor to create a set of expectations for the term.  You may wish to review the research and supervisory expectations web page to understand the University’s expectations.
  • Create a schedule for how you will resume or accelerate your research activities when public health regulations allow.  Please note that the University will be actively monitoring this information and will be taking steps to restart research activities when they can be done safely.
  • Engage with your committee members to maintain continuity in their and your understanding of how you are progressing.
  • Stay in touch with your campus community, particularly your fellow students.  Your peers can be excellent sources of support – both academic and personal – in this remote environment.  Some recommended activities include meeting with your research group, participating virtually in seminars, or collaborating on writing sessions or cafes.
  • Take advantage of University support for research, including the Librarythe Writing and Communications Centre, as well as resources within your Faculty and Department.   

Revised time limits for graduate students

In light of the extenuating circumstances created by the COVID-19 pandemic, the University is revising the time restrictions for graduate students.  More specifically, the following changes are in place, effective immediately.

  • If you are a graduate student who is within three terms of the time limit for a research milestone – comprehensive exam or research proposal – you will be granted a one term extension for your research milestone without the need for a petition under Policy 70. 
  • Similarly, if you were given a fixed time limit to accomplish an academic outcome, e.g., securing a graduate supervisor or meeting minimum academic performance requirements, you will be granted an additional term to satisfy these requirements.
  • If you are a graduate student who in winter 2020 is in the final term of your program time limit, typically term six for research master’s students and term 12 for PhD students, you shall have your time limits extended by one term. The implications of this consideration include the relaxation of the need to petition for time extension in the subsequent term.  
  • If you were beyond your time limits prior to winter 2020, there is no change in expectations.

You are encouraged to contact your graduate supervisor, graduate officer/program directror or graduate co-ordinator to adjust your academic requirements appropriately.

April 16 update: The University is also eager to support students who are near to completing their graduate research program and to accelerate their paths to graduation.  To this end, you are encouraged to discuss your progress and ways to accelerate your degree completion with your supervisor. 

Thesis proposals, comprehensive exams, thesis defences

If you are anticipating meeting your academic milestones (including thesis proposals, comprehensive exams, final thesis defences), please note that these academic milestones will continue to be facilitated remotely for the foreseeable future - should other options become available, this will be communicated to the graduate studies community.

Review the new processes for remote thesis defences and contact your program co-ordinator or graduate supervisor(s) to make the necessary arrangements or to obtain more specific details for your program.  Don't forget to check out the Remote defence: tips for success page.

Here is a list of resources available to you and your supervisor(s) as you prepare for your academic milestones remotely.

Submission of your approved thesis remains online – details are available on the thesis submission webpage.

Graduate practica and internships

The Graduate Studies and Postdoctoral Affairs website contains up-to-date information on graduate practica and internships.

Accessing campus

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and guided by public health, earlier this year the University placed substantive restrictions on campus access.  As public health limitations were relaxed, the University took efforts to restart research activities with a concentration on laboratory access.  Protocols were put in place over several months to facilitate a safe return to on-campus research in laboratories.

Graduate students have communicated interest in access to non-laboratory campus facilities to promote their academic and specifically research progress.  The University is eager to accommodate these students’ requests in ways that catalyze their academic success with an emphasis on safety.

To this end, the University and Faculties have developed protocols by which students and their supervisors can request access to campus.  The following links provide Faculty specific points of contact to make these requests.

The University and Faculties have also worked collaboratively to develop a common set of considerations and criteria to be used in the vetting of these requests, while still acknowledging Faculties’ local conditions. These include:

  • The safety of students and the University Community is the primary consideration.  All members of the University community are encouraged to continue to work remotely unless there is a compelling need for access to campus.
  • Access to facilities will only be possible if students have been included in departmental/faculty occupancy considerations and plans.
  • Access to a campus facility at any time is limited by public health guidance on that facility’s occupancy limit.   
  • Students for whom their remote conditions create significant impediments to their academic and research progress will be given priority.  These challenges may include:
    • Insufficient or unreliable internet access;
    • Personal obligations such as child or family care that creates challenging environments;
    • Inability to access research resources that can’t be resolved remotely;
  • Other considerations as articulated by the faculties or departments on the pages linked above.

Recognizing that the situation remains dynamic, these criteria may evolve over time based on guidance from public health. 

Students for whom a return to non-laboratory campus facilities is approved are agreeing to follow all University, Faculty and public health safety protocols and best practices.

International student supports

Detailed information is available for many frequently asked questions. Please refer to the following FAQ categories for more information:

The University’s International Student Experience provides a variety of supports, available online, for international students including:

Staying well

There are resources available during this time of in flux.  Visit the resources section on the COVID-19 information website or the work from home and remote resources on the GSPA website that has been compiled specifically for graduate students.  If you come across resources you want us to make more widely available to other graduate students, we would be happy to do so; please contact Sarah Howard in GSPA.

Help is available

We understand that many of our students have family members in areas affected by COVID-19. If you feel overwhelmed or anxious and need to talk to somebody, please contact the University’s Campus Wellness services, either Health or Counselling Services.

Please visit or call Health Services (519-884-4096), drop by the Counselling Services office in Needles Hall North, 2nd Floor or phone 519-888-4567 ext. 32655. Visit the Campus Wellness page for hours of operation and additional information. Campus Wellness services are provided at no charge in a private and confidential setting to University of Waterloo students who are currently registered or on a co-op term.

The COVID-19 Information home page provides information on a number of additional resources.

AccessAbility Services

Although the doors of AccessAbility Services and the Exam Centre are temporarily closed, our staff our still available and committed to students. AAS will continue to support students with assistive technology, learning strategy support, and accommodation consulting to ensure you are supported in the online space. 

Find out more about AccessAbility Services modified services.

Accommodations due to COVID-19

A new online Petition for Exception to Academic Regulations - Graduate Students (Form 70A) has been created. Students may submit this form in accordance with Policy 70 (Student Petitions and Grievances) – Section 3 and Appendix A; Policy 70 provides information and explains the difference between petitions and grievances.

If you are demonstrating symptoms consistent with COVID-19, you can now self-declare (via a Quest form) notifying the university that you are unwell.