Enrolment and time limits

Residence requirements - graduate programs

Residence is related to terms of enrolment and on-campus activity. It is calculated based on a student's enrolment status in their program (part-time or full-time). Additional enrolment information is provided below.

Table of residence requirements
Master's

PhD

  • Normal: three terms of full-time enrolment (6 terms part-time) from an Honours Bachelor's degree
  • Minimum: two terms of full-time enrolment (4 terms part-time) from an Honours Bachelor's degree
  • Normal: six terms of full-time enrolment from Master's degree, nine terms from Honours Bachelor's degree
  • Minimum: four terms of full-time enrolment from Master's degree, six terms from Honours Bachelor's degree

In exceptional cases, and on the recommendation of the Faculty, some or all of the residence requirements may be waived.

Enrolment

At the University of Waterloo the calendar year is divided into three academic terms known as Fall (September-December), Winter (January-April) and Spring (May-August). Graduate students normally enrol for the first time in September at the beginning of the Fall term. In some cases, a department permits new students to enrol in January or May. To enrol, a new student must have been issued a Letter of Acceptance by Graduate Studies and Postdoctoral Affairs (GSPA) which specifies the date for which enrolment is authorized.

Enrolment and residence: On successful completion of each four-month period (Fall, Winter, Spring) students advance as follows:

  • full-time students will advance at the rate of one term (1.0);
  • part-time students will advance at the rate of one-half term (0.5);
  • inactive enrolment has a term value of 0.0.

Term enrolment: Students will not be allowed to enrol after the government reporting date in a term (for relevant dates refer to the Academic deadlines and events page). If they are not enrolled, students will not receive credit for course work completed up to that date and will have to apply for readmission to their program.

Enrolment and time limits (additional Program time limits information is provided below): Students who have enrolled and paid fees, but have reached the maximum time limits allowed for their program must submit a Petition for extension of program time limits form to their department/Graduate Studies and Postdoctoral Affairs (GSPA) by the government reporting deadline of each applicable term (departments may have earlier deadlines). Students who fail to do so will be de-registered from their program. Once de-registered, students will be required to re-apply to the program.

Failure of students to arrange fees as required will cause their enrolment in Graduate Studies to lapse. It may be re-established only if an application for readmission is approved.

Students who are readmitted to a program must enrol for a minimum of one academic term.

Continuous enrolment

A graduate student proceeding to a degree must maintain continuous enrolment, either active or inactive, in each successive term from the time of initial admission until the end of the term during which the requirements for the degree are completed. Students are responsible for ensuring that they enrol and arrange fees by the deadline each term (formal dates are available on the Finance website).

Graduate students must enroll as Active, and pay appropriate fees plus incidentals, in each term in which they are engaged in coursework, research, or thesis preparation including the term in which the completion of degree requirements is anticipated.

Notes:

  1. Students must remain enrolled and fee arranged until their final degree requirements are completed. For programs with a thesis, completion includes submission and approval from Graduate Studies and Postdoctoral Affairs of the thesis in UWSpace.
  2. Faculties and/or departments and schools will verify degree completion.
  3. Graduate students are notified of degree completion approval by Graduate Studies and Postdoctoral Affairs. 
  4. The completion, degree, and convocation dates will appear on student academic records/transcripts.

If a student plans to enroll in courses beyond the degree requirements, they must apply for non-degree admission for the term following the term of degree completion.

Co-operative work terms

Students on a work term must change enrolment status to part-time/work term. Students requesting a status change, must complete a Change of enrolment status form.

Enrolment in a course is allowed with permission from the student's home department. Failure to maintain continuous enrolment will cause their registration in Graduate Studies to lapse (see the Co-Operative Education page for more information).

Full-time off-campus

A student who is undertaking an internship, or other degree requirement where the activity requires the student to be away from campus for more than four weeks in an academic term shall enrol as full-time off-campus.

The student's supervisor/graduate officer/associate dean must advise her/him regarding intellectual property commitments, e.g., signing an agreement which may restrict a student's ability to publish their thesis or other program-related work.

Students requesting full-time off-campus status must complete a Change of enrolment status form.

Leave of Absence from study

In certain circumstances, students may wish to request a Leave of Absence from their studies. Types of leave are outlined below.

Leaves of absence must normally be requested and approved prior to the start of the term in which the leave will take place. When a student is funded by an external agency or sponsor, the guidelines for such agencies should be consulted prior to planning a leave.

Inactive status

Students may request up to two consecutive terms of Inactive status by completing a Change of enrolment status form, which must be approved by the Associate Dean (Graduate Studies) of their Faculty.

Valid reasons for Canadian citizens or permanent residents to request Inactive status include illness, limited external research or work opportunity which is not related to their University of Waterloo program, personal or family obligations, lack of suitable courses (for students in coursework-only programs), or temporary financial difficulties for which the University cannot provide funds.

Valid reasons for international graduate students to request Inactive status include illness, personal or family obligations, lack of suitable courses (for students in coursework-only programs), or temporary financial difficulties for which the University cannot provide funds.

International students must consider the immigration regulations/conditions (R220.1 (1)) pertaining to their Study Permit and eligibility for the Post Graduation Work Permit Program when requesting Inactive status. Individual circumstances may vary. International students should meet with an Immigration Consultant in the Student Success Office for advice.

Students should not request Inactive status to work on their thesis or any other activity related to their graduate program. Normally, Inactive status is approved for a maximum of two consecutive terms. Students who request more than two consecutive terms of leave because they have other commitments such as a full-time job or travel plans, should voluntarily withdraw from their program and may reapply when they are prepared to resume their studies. Normally, students who have incomplete courses on their record are not eligible for Inactive status.

Students who have been granted Inactive status for a term are not expected to study or conduct research while on leave, and thus should not expect access to their supervisor. 

Birth leave

Female students who are expecting to give birth may take up to six weeks of leave from study, research and teaching duties starting no later than their due date. In the case of illness or other complications, leaves may start earlier or be extended.

Students are not expected to study, conduct research or teach while on birth leave. A student planning to take birth leave should inform her supervisor (if applicable) and department as soon as possible. The student’s registration status remains Active during birth leave. Students who are Teaching Assistants should refer to Policy 30 regarding absence from these duties.

Partner leave

The partner of a birth mother may take up to two weeks leave from study, research and teaching duties at the time of their child’s birth. In the case of illness or other complications, the duration of the leave may be extended.

A student planning to take partner leave should inform their supervisor (if applicable) and department as soon as possible.

The student’s registration status remains Active during partner leave. Students who are Teaching Assistants should refer to Policy 30 regarding absence from these duties.

Parental leave

Students who become parents through birth or adoption may take up to 5* terms of uninterrupted leave during the first year of birth or adoption. If both parents are University of Waterloo students, the leave can be split between the two. Both University of Waterloo parents cannot be on parental leave at the same time; however, one partner can be on parental leave while the other partner is on birth leave. Parental leaves must coincide with the start and end dates of academic terms.

Students planning on going on parental leave must request a change of their enrolment status to Inactive by completing the Change of enrolment status form.

Students on parental leave are not expected to study or conduct research while on leave, and thus should not expect access to their supervisor. 

Students who wish to apply for a University of Waterloo parental leave bursary should complete the Graduate Studies Parental Leave Bursary application.

*Pending Senate approval.

Enrolment - international students on Study Permits

Students without valid Study Permits will not be allowed to enrol at the University of Waterloo. All international students admitted to graduate studies degree programs at the University of Waterloo must have a valid Study Permit issued by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC). A copy of the Study Permit must be submitted to Graduate Studies and Postdoctoral Affairs (GSPA) upon arrival at the University.

If a Study Permit expires prior to program completion, students must apply to IRCC for renewal and submit a copy of the renewed Study Permit to Graduate Studies and Postdoctoral Affairs (GSPA) (check the 'valid until' date on the Study Permit). Make sure you apply at least 30 days before your current permit expires. If your Study Permit expires and you have made an application to renew it, but have not had a decision yet, you can continue studying until you receive a decision. Proof of application for renewal must be submitted to Graduate Studies and Postdoctoral Affairs (GSPA) to permit continuing enrolment.

Withdrawal

Students who are unable to participate in their program of study for more than two consecutive terms should voluntarily withdraw from the program by completing a Change of enrolment status form. In advance of voluntary withdrawal, students must discuss with their department any conditions which must be met if they are approved for readmission. Students who reapply to a program and are approved for readmission, will be required to enrol for a minimum of one full term, without tuition refund, to complete their program.

The University reserves the right to require a student to withdraw from a program for academic reasons.

Course drop/add date

During the first three weeks of term, students must drop or add graduate courses using Quest, the University of Waterloo's online student information system. For courses with enrolment restrictions, students must obtain permission through their Department Graduate Assistant.

Graduate students who wish to enrol in an undergraduate course may petition using a Drop/Add form, obtainable through their Department or Graduate Studies and Postdoctoral Affairs (GSPA). Signature of the instructor, supervisor and Department Graduate Officer are required.

After the first three weeks of term, students may not drop or add a course except by petition using the Drop/Add form, and only under exceptional circumstances with the signature of the instructor, supervisor, Department Graduate Officer and the Associate Dean (Graduate Studies) of their home Faculty.

These are Graduate Studies and Postdoctoral Affairs (GSPA) deadlines. Individual Faculties may have earlier deadlines. (Please check with your Associate Dean's Office.)

Courses may not be dropped or added, nor course status changed, after the examination period begins.

Retaking graduate courses

Course selection by a graduate student is subject to approval from the academic department of the student's program. A graduate course may be retaken only once as a requirement for the degree and requires approval from the department and Faculty. The original course will be retained on the student's academic record and is normally counted for credit in the overall average for the program.

Program time limits

The University Senate has set the following program time limits:

Table of program time limits
Program level Time limits
Master's 6.0 terms
PhD from an Honours Bachelor's 18.0 terms
PhD from a Master's 12.0 terms
PhD from an MA (Clinical Psychology) 15.0 terms

Up to 3.0 terms' extension of these time limits may be obtained by petitioning the Graduate Officer of the Department. Further extensions must be approved by the Associate Dean (Graduate Studies) of the Faculty. A Petition for extension of program time limits form may be obtained from department graduate offices or through the Graduate Studies and Postdoctoral Affairs (GSPA) website. If the Petition is not approved, the student will be discontinued from their program. If students fail to submit a Petition approved by the government reporting date of each term (departments may have earlier deadlines), they will be discontinued from their program and must reapply.

*For the purposes of these time limits a term is counted as 1.0 per term of full-time enrollment, and 0.5 per term of part-time enrollment.