COVID-19 updates for graduate students

We are in a time of an extraordinary global health challenge, and as things shift by the hour, we thank you for your ongoing patience and support. This web page includes graduate student specific information, which will be updated on an ongoing basis - so check back often.  Please also visit the University of Waterloo’s coronavirus information page for up-to-date University of Waterloo COVID-19 details.

As a reminder, academic and support units at the University of Waterloo are closed to in-person traffic, and staff and faculty are working remotely. Please rest assured that we will continue to provide outstanding service to you, our graduate student community. Below, where applicable, we have indicated contact information to help with specific questions.  Should you have generic questions about COVID-19, please email the general University of Waterloo coronavirus email account

New updates

Future graduate students

Current graduate students

Spring 2020 admission

  • Update April 30, 2020 - New Students
    • We are working with our incoming spring students to clear conditions of admission.
    • For students who deferred to the fall term, we thank you for your patience and as we continue to complete your new offer to the fall term.

On March 18 an email was shared with our incoming international graduate students that included the following information and options:

If you are currently outside of Canada, these new restrictions will not permit you to begin your studies at the University of Waterloo for the spring 2020 term. We understand that this is an unprecedented time and we are committed to supporting our Waterloo community. Given the travel circumstances, we wish to offer you the opportunity to defer your start at Waterloo until the fall 2020 term (September). We hope that you are still interested in pursuing your studies at the University of Waterloo. Please advise us if you wish to join us in September. Please reply to this email by Tuesday, March 24 with your full name, University of Waterloo ID number and indicate your intentions – to either defer admissions or to withdraw your application.

If you are currently in Canada, you have several options; you can begin your studies in the spring term (May 2020), defer your start date until the fall 2020 term (September) or withdraw your application.  Please reply to this email by Tuesday, March 24 with your full name, University of Waterloo ID number indicate your preference.

Should you have any questions that we can help you answer to help guide your decision, please contact the University of Waterloo graduate admissions team via email:

Fall 2020 admission

What is happening for the fall 2020 term?

Admission for fall 2020 (September 2020 start) continues and all programs are in the process of vetting applications. Our priority right now is ensuring that all of our applications are assessed in a timely and equitable manner. Our graduate departments and admissions teams are continuing to review applications for admission. We appreciate your patience during the admission review process.

Once the admission review process is complete, your admission decision will appear on Quest.

Conditions of admission - transcripts

If you have been offered admission for fall 2020 (or beyond) and have conditions to meet that require sending documentation which cannot currently be processed by the home institution, please know that we will work with you to ensure your documents are received by your start date. 

April 30 update:

The deadline to submit final transcripts has been extended to August 15, 2020 and can be extended further if needed.

To clear your conditions of admission:

  1. We will accept electronic transcripts provided by the issuing institution. Please have electronic transcripts sent directly from the issuing institution to
  2. We will accept official secure electronic transcripts provided by the issuing institution and from services such as Parchment, National Student Clearinghouse, eScript-Safe, or TranscriptsNetwork. Please have electronic transcripts sent to
  3. We will accept official hard copy transcripts sent from the issuing institution directly to Graduate Studies and Postdoctoral Affairs.

If your institution is closed and/or cannot produce electronic transcripts, we will temporarily accept unofficial transcripts. Please send documentation (a screenshot) proving that the institution cannot produce electronic transcripts at this time to, along with an updated copy of your unofficial transcript. We will assess and evaluate your official and final documents when they become available.

English Language Proficiency, GRE and GMAT admission test

We are aware that TOEFL® and GRE® testing centres have been affected in many countries, which have a direct impact on application documents that are required to meet admission conditions. We have alerted all graduate programs reviewing applications to consider the unofficial scores at present and more details will be shared pending resolution of the testing centres opening world-wide.

April 30 update:

While testing centres are closed, the following options are available for test takers:

English Language Proficiency:

For those students not able to use the TOEFL at home test:

  • The Duolingo English Test results may be used for possible placement in our English for Academic Success (EFAS) offered online through University of Waterloo, Renison University College, English Language Institute.
  • Duolingo score plus EFAS requirement for results to satisfy ELPC for Graduate Studies of 75% overall in level 400 with at least 75% in writing, oral and academic skills
    • 85-94: 2 terms of English language support (EFAS)
    • 95-104: 1 term of English language support (EFAS)
    • 105+: good candidate for summer intensive support (EFAS)


The GRE® General Test at Home is available everywhere the computer delivered GRE General Test is offered, except for Mainland China and Iran.

The GMAT Online exam is available in most locations, except for Mainland China, Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Sudan and Slovenia due to local data privacy rules.


Please contact your program graduate co-ordinator if you have specific questions about your status; do keep in mind that given the recent set of world events, there may be a slight delay in reviewing applications.  Please be patient and know we are doing our best to review all applications. 

Awards and funding

Winter 2020 term

All payments arranged for winter 2020 have been and will continue to be honoured; TA, RA and GRS payments will appear on students’ account as expected. Given the directive to no longer hold in-person classes, TA assignments may be impacted.  Instructors will discuss details with TAs directly. If you are receiving RA and GRS payments, speak to your supervisor directly about your options.

Spring 2020 term

The University is committed to supporting our students in spring 2020 at levels that are consistent with the letters of admission you received. For questions related to your funding, please speak to your program co-ordinator.

April 16 update:

  • If you are funded by scholarship or awards that are not predicated on research deliverables, you will continue to receive those awards, without interruption
  • If you are funded by Tri-Agency grants held by your supervisor: the University announced that NSERC and SSHRC grants are eligible to be extended and that NSERC is strongly encouraging the use of these funds to support students in these tumultuous times. 
  • If you are being funded by external sources other than the Tri-Agencies, supervisors are strongly encouraged to continue to provide support
  • In cases where supervisory support is not possible, the University is exploring alternative ways to offer support.
  • If you are experiencing financial hardship as a direct result of COVID-19, please speak to your program co-ordinator, graduate supervisor or explore GSPA’s financial needs funding options, where you can also find information about the new Student Emergency Support Fund.

June 3 update: 

Additional details are now available from the tri-agencies regarding extensions to tri-agency master’s, doctoral and Vanier scholarships. For award holders whose scholarship ends between March and August 2020, the tri-agencies will extend the scholarship for an additional four months. Agencies will be contacting award holders directly. Further details, including FAQs, are available on the tri-agency website.

Credit (CR) / No credit (NCR) for courses

For the winter 2020 term, James W.E. Rush, Vice-president, Academic and Provost issued a memo providing flexibility to faculty members and students with respect to course grades.  Below you will find additional details on using the credit (CR) and no credit (NCR) for courses. 

  • If your course instructor has opted to use only non-numeric grades:
    • You will receive a credit (CR) if your performance indicates that a numeric mark would have satisfied the requirements for that course to be counted towards your degree completion.
    • A course with a CR grade will not affect your grade point average (GPA) and/or scholarship eligibility.
    • Instructors will submit the CR grade by May 3, 2020, and there is no action required by you.
  • If your course instructor has issued numeric grades:
    • You may request to have the numeric grade changed to credit (CR)/no credit (NCR)
      • A CR will be issued if the grade satisfies the requirement that the course can be counted towards your degree (typically this is at minimum 70%; instructors and students should confirm this with their program before making this request).
      • A course with a CR grade will not affect your grade point average (GPA) and/or scholarship eligibility.
      • If you choose to pursue this option, submit the Change Grading Basis Request Form – Graduate Students which will be available April 26 until May 10.
      • An NCR will be issued if your work does not satisfy the requirements of the course, and the course will not count towards your degree.
      • If you do not agree with the assessment you can take action by filing a Petition for Exception to Academic Regulations – Graduate Students (Form 70A).

Note: Not all graduate programs have equivalent numeric grades that result in a course being considered as part of the degree completion.  To understand the implications of how a numeric grade will be converted to a non-numeric grade, speak to your program co-ordinator or visit your program’s degree requirements section of the Graduate Studies Academic Calendar.

April 24: Change Grading Basis Request Form – Graduate Students is now available.

May 8: CR/NCR update - for students with numeric grades still outstanding for courses taken in winter 2020: the deadline to request a grading basis change from numeric to CR/NCR has been extended from May 10 to May 15.

May 21: A course with a CR grade will not affect your grade point average (GPA) and/or scholarship eligibility - addition of scholarship eligibility. 


On March 30 Feridun Hamdullaphur, president and vice-chancellor shared a memo with the campus community, indicating the following:

  • With deep regret, we will not be able to conduct in-person convocation ceremonies in June; they will be delivered in a different manner to celebrate our new alumni. 
  • It’s important to update your HOME address in QUEST as you will likely receive your diploma by mail. 
  • You will have a chance to attend a ceremony at a later date. 

April 16 update: The University has extended the program completion deadline for spring 2020 convocation; you have until April 30, 2020 to apply to graduate and complete all your degree requirements by May 15See the graduation checklist for additional details.


Important dates

Many recent announcements have indicated a shift in academic timing.  Below is an overview of academic-specific important dates to note in the coming days/weeks.

Winter 2020

As per a memo sent from James Rush to campus on March 23, 2020:

  • Course instructors can elect to use CR or NCR in place of numeric grades for Winter Term 2020 if they judge that they do not have enough information to give numeric grades 
  • Students will be able to ask to convert numeric grades to CR or NCR for a specific period after the end of Winter Term

Stay tuned to more information from GSPA about how to convert your grades from numeric values to CR/NCR in the coming weeks.

Spring 2020

All courses and exams, including graduate research milestones, will take place online. Transcripts will not reflect the online delivery for milestones and courses.

All courses will happen online or using alternative delivery methods, beginning May 11, 2020 – a week later than originally scheduled.

Courses will run for a full 12-week term, to August 4, 2020. There will be a limited one-week exam  period, ending, August 15, 2020, during which there may be online exams or final assessments due.

Fall 2020

At this time, we do not have enough information on COVID-19 to make a determination on how the fall term will be managed.  As soon as information is available, it will be shared with all impacted.

May 15 update: review memo re: fall 2020 term

International students

May 18 update re: Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP) Program

The federal government announced on May 14, 2020 that for students beginning their studies in fall 2020, whose in-class courses are being moved to an online-only format as a result of COVID-19, their eligibility for the Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP) Program will not be affected. International students in this situation may begin their classes while outside Canada, and may complete up to 50% of their program while outside Canada if they cannot travel to Canada sooner. These students will not have time deducted from the length of their work permit for any period of study completed outside of Canada up to December 31, 2020. Additional details are available on the Government of Canada website.

Petitions for exceptions to academic regulations

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.

Reporting illness

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.

Research and supervisory expectations

The University recognizes that COVID-19 has disrupted research activities across the campus. 

To balance the needs of advancing critical research and supporting graduate students, Graduate Studies and Postdoctoral Affairs (GSPA) and the Office of Research (OR) require that:

  • All research activities are compliant with government restrictions on, for example, travel and physical distancing;
  • All requests for continuing research that have the potential to expose you to risk are evaluated by the University’s critical research vetting processes (see research details on the Waterloo coronavirus information webpage); and
  • You are not mandated or permitted to engage in research activities that exposes you to risk.  If you’re uncomfortable with continuing your research due to COVID-19, talk to your supervisor.

In addition to these requirements, GSPA and the OR strongly recommend that:

  • You and your supervisor engage in an open and frank conversation in which you have the opportunity to articulate the challenges that you’re facing as a result of the changes made necessary by COVID-19;
  • You and your supervisor collectively reassess project timelines and establish a common understanding of realistic dates for research outcomes;
  • You and your supervisors identify resources that may be necessary or beneficial to help achieve the research outcomes;
  • Your supervisor, when necessary and appropriate, seeks to connect you with other campus services that may be able to advance both your research agenda and your well-being;
  • These conversations occur at regular, agreed-upon intervals such that the you and your supervisor continue to share a common understanding of successful progress; and
  • Your supervisors whenever possible and appropriate continues to support you financially.

You’re also encouraged to take a look at the Guide to Graduate Research and Supervision to review the roles and responsibilities of students, supervisors, the department team and the advisory committee.

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) during the winter 2020 and spring 2020 terms, please note that these milestones are now being facilitated remotely. 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.

Update August 27, 2020: 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. 

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 Library, the Writing and Communications Centre, as well as resources within your Faculty and Department.   


All university travel is currently suspended. For most up to date travel-related University of Waterloo instruction, visit the University of Waterloo coronavirus information website.

If you have travelled outside of Canada in recent days/weeks, please follow the government guidelines for isolation and self-monitoring.


There are resources available during this time of in flux.  Visit the community resources section of the University of Waterloo coronavirus information website, or the work from home and remote resources web page 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.

April 16 update: Do you have questions about your graduate studies during the COVID-19 pandemic? Join us for our faculty-specific virtual symposia for graduate students, where we will answer your questions during a live webinar. 

May 14 update: a summary of the virtual symposia questions/answers are now available

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