Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Doctoral Scholarships

Information on this page is subject to change pending updates from the agency.

Update as of October 11, 2023: The SSHRC Doctoral application portal is now live again. Waterloo has extended the institutional deadline to October 17, 2023 at 8:00 p.m. EDT. The timeline of activities following October 17 have also been extended. Please see timeline for full updates.

This web page relates to the fall 2023 SSHRC Doctoral Scholarships competition and the University of Waterloo's internal administration of the program. For information pertaining to the Tri-Agency Canada Graduate Scholarships Master's (CGS M) competition, please visit Waterloo's Tri-Agency (CIHR, NSERC, SSHRC) Canada Graduate Scholarships Master's (CGS M) website.


CGS D Harmonization

In fall 2019, the three national granting agencies (CIHR, NSERC, SSHRC) harmonized the CGS D competitions. They share the same program guide, eligibility, and selection criteria, however the agency-specific doctoral awards (ex. SSHRC Doctoral Fellowship etc.) were not harmonized and continue to have their own unique program guides, eligibility, and selection criteria.

Award Description

The SSHRC Doctoral Scholarships support high-calibre students engaged in doctoral programs in the social sciences and humanities. There are two types of SSHRC Doctoral Scholarships available:

  1. Canada Graduate Scholarships - Doctoral Program (CGS D) - offered to top ranked applicants; without exception, these awards are tenable only at eligible Canadian universities; valued at $35,000 a year for three years.
  2. SSHRC Doctoral Fellowship - offered to the next tier of highly ranked applicants, for study in Canada or abroad. These awards may be taken up at any eligible Canadian university or an eligible foreign university provided that the applicant has completed a bachelor’s or master’s degree at a Canadian postsecondary institution. This award is valued at $20,000 for one to four years.

Applicants are automatically considered for both (if eligible) by completing an application through the SSHRC online system. The agency determines the value, duration, and type of award during the adjudication based on the applicant's eligibility. If a student is offered a CGS D but decides to undertake graduate studies at an eligible foreign university (provided they are eligible to do so), they must decline the CGS D and are alternatively awarded a SSHRC Doctoral Fellowship. Specific eligibility details are available on the official CGS D Program website and the SSHRC Doctoral website.

Applying for a SSHRC at Waterloo

For Fall 2023, Waterloo’s allocation of SSHRC Doctoral Scholarships is 39. This is the number of applications we can put forward to the national competition.

Recipients of a SSHRC Doctoral Scholarship who hold their scholarship at Waterloo are also eligible to receive the President’s Graduate Scholarship (PGS).

Important dates

The dates below are applicable to students whose applications will be considered at Waterloo. To determine where your application should be considered, applicants must refer to Step 2: Confirm where your application should be considered in the Critical Steps section.

  1. Transcript request deadline – Wednesday, September 13, 2023
  2. Application deadline – Tuesday, October 10, 2023 at 8:00 p.m. (ET) +EXTENDED TO OCTOBER 17, 2023 AT 8:00 P.M. EDT

Critical steps

1. Eligibility

It is the applicant's responsibility to confirm that the minimum eligibility criteria are satisfied before they begin the application process. Some eligibility requirements for the SSHRC Doctoral Fellowships differ from those of the CGS-D Scholarships. Interested applicants must review the official eligibility criteria on the SSHRC Doctoral Fellowship website and the CGS D Program website before beginning their application.

Note 1: Applicants may also be eligible to apply for the Vanier CGS; applicants MUST apply for the Vanier CGS and for the SSHRC Doctoral Scholarships separately. Details about the Vanier CGS are available on the official agency website; applicants applying for the Vanier with the intention of holding it at Waterloo should refer to Waterloo's Vanier web page for additional details. Successful applicants can only take up one award.

Note 2: Applicants who are or will be registered in a fast-track program (accelerating from a master's program into a doctoral program without obtaining the master's degree) or direct-entry PhD program (never enrolled in a master’s program), may be eligible to apply for a CGS Master's Scholarship (CGS M) for the first year of doctoral funding which could maximize their potential funding. If eligible for both a CGS M and a SSHRC Doctoral Fellowship/CGS D, then it is the applicant’s responsibility to determine which scholarship they are going to apply for.

2. Confirm where your application should be considered

The student’s registration status at the time of application will determine where their application will be forwarded to (and considered by); i.e., either through Waterloo, another Canadian university, or directly by SSHRC. Applicants should review the flowchart regarding “Where should I submit my application?” on SSHRC’s web page to ensure their application is submitted appropriately. Applicants who apply incorrectly will be deemed ineligible.

3. Transcripts

Transcripts are required for all programs of study listed in the SSHRC CV, including if the applicant just started their program in Fall 2023. Students are unable to submit their application until they have uploaded all transcripts to their application.

The process to obtain these transcripts is as follows:

  1. Applicants must complete and submit a Tri-Agency Doctoral Scholarships Transcript Request Form (webform). This request is free of charge and is due by September 13, 2023.
  2. In order for GSPA to fulfil these requests, students must have provided their official transcripts from previous institutions as part of their application for admission.*
  3. If there are any transcripts which GSPA is unable to provide because they are not on-file, the student is responsible for ordering a new hardcopy version. The student must then scan the hardcopy and merge it with the pdf sent by GSPA.
  4. GSPA will email a single pdf file of the requested transcripts to the student via the email provided in the request form. It is the student’s responsibility to then upload the file to their SSHRC Online Application.

*Applicants who are in the following situations are responsible for obtaining their own final official transcripts from previous post-secondary institutions:

  • Students who went on exchange for any terms and the courses do not have an actual grade showing on your home university transcript, you will require official transcripts from the exchange institution.
  • Students who have not provided their final official transcripts from previous institutions to GSPA for graduate admission purposes.

Note: Students who are in the above situations and are having issues with obtaining their official transcripts must contact Miranda Bilotta in GSPA, by Wednesday, September 13, 2023 for further direction.

4. Read the application instructions

Applicants must follow the detailed instructions provided on SSHRC's website including how to complete the application, how to confirm the proposed research falls under the correct agency's mandate, the number of referees required, presentation standards of the free form documents, etc.

5. Selecting referees

Two completed Letters of Appraisal (reference letters) are required to apply through the SSHRC Online System.

  1. Instructions regarding referees, including recommendations for who should be completing the appraisal, can be found in the Application Instructions (SSHRC website).
  2. Applicants must contact potential referees as soon as possible, but no later than 3 weeks prior to the October 10 October 17 application deadline. Invitations for the referees are initiated through the SSHRC Online System and a deadline must be set for the referee (refer to instructions). Referees should be given a deadline at least 3 days in advance of the application deadline.
  3. Applicants must provide the potential referees with SSHRC's evaluation and adjudication guidelines (see SSHRC website), as well as SSHRC’s Instructions for Referees.
  4. Once submitted, applicants will only be able to see that the referees have submitted their appraisals but will not be able to see the content of them.

Tips for selecting referees and reference letters:

  • Applicants should select referees who know them well and can make an informed assessment from an academic perspective (i.e., current or previous supervisor) based on the evaluation criteria.
  • Applicants should be up front and ask their potential referees if they have the time and are able to provide a supporting reference letter that can address the applicant's strengths based on the evaluation criteria. Letters should highlight qualities such as academic and non-academic leadership as well as research ability/potential, academic accomplishments, and the importance of any publications, if applicable.
  • Applicants should provide referees with a package of information that will assist them with writing the appraisal. This package should contain:
    • Current curriculum vitae
    • Transcripts
    • A list of research contributions; applicants are encouraged to request referees to address the importance of their publications and contributions in the letters of appraisal (e.g. focus on the impact your research has received outside of the academy and the applied outcomes that have positively influenced society, governance, industry or other sectors, etc.)
    • A copy of the research proposal
    • A list of community involvement or other extracurricular activities that demonstrate leadership qualities

6. Research proposal

The proposed research project and doctoral program of study must be eligible within the mandate of the agency to which the application is being submitted. To confirm the proposal falls under the correct agency, applicants should refer to the Government of Canada’s website for Selecting the Appropriate Federal Granting Agency or SSHRC’s website for Subject Matter Eligibility for more details about applying to the correct agency. Applicants can only apply to one Tri-Agency competition, and it is important to ensure it is the correct one or they may be disqualified.

7. Components of a complete application

A complete application package includes the following sections:

  • SSHRC web-based CV (not the Canadian Common CV)
  • SSHRC Doctoral Award application
    • Application Profile
    • Program Information (where the institution with a quota is identified)
    • Areas of Study
    • Diversity Considerations in Research Design Module
    • Research Proposal – upload (max. two pages)
    • Bibliography / Citations – upload (max. five pages)
    • Official and/or certified copies of all undergraduate and graduate level transcripts– upload (max. 10 MB)
      • Note: for the fall 2023 competition, SSHRC will accept unofficial electronic transcripts if official transcripts are not available
    • Official letter confirming part-time status or interruptions (max. one page if applicable)
    • Allowable Inclusion – upload (max. one page if applicable)
    • Research Contributions, Relevant Experience and Activities - upload (max. two pages)
    • Justification pages for supplements and joint initiatives (max. one page each if applicable)
    • Two completed letters of appraisal (max. one page each)

Ranking and results

For applications where the University of Waterloo is responsible for the review and ranking, the following process takes place:  

  1. After the deadline, applications will be distributed to departments based on where the applicant is currently enrolled. Departmental award committees will review and rank the applications received to determine which applicants should be considered for scholarship offers at the institutional level using the Selection Criteria as defined by the agency.
  2. Based on the institutional quota, the institutional selection committee* will review and assess the applicants using the same selection criteria to determine which applicants will go forward for national adjudication. Given the limited quota of awards available, Waterloo is required to be strategic in determining the number of applicants selected for institutional endorsement. The selection process within institutions tends to be quite rigorous.
  3. GSPA will communicate with applicants to advise them of the decision after the institutional level adjudication. Only applicants selected for endorsement who require revisions to their application (e.g., to strengthen it or address eligibility concerns), will receive an email with feedback and suggestions for improvement.
  4. By April 30, SSHRC will communicate results to all applicants via the Extranet and will also notify GSPA.

*At Waterloo, the institutional selection committee is comprised of the Associate-Vice, President, GSPA (chair), both of the Assistant Vice-Presidents, GSPA, and the six Faculty Associate Deans, Graduate Studies (ARTSENGENVHEALTHMATHSCI), or designates as appropriate. All reviewers are encouraged to follow unconscious bias training and are subject to the Conflict of Interest and Confidentiality Agreement for Review Committee Members, External Reviewers, and Observers.


Visit Waterloo’s SSHRC Doctoral scholarship timeline for further details on the SSHRC Doctoral Awards competition at Waterloo.

Helpful resources

Questions regarding this competition at Waterloo can be directed to Miranda Bilotta, Manager Graduate Financial Aid & Awards in Graduate Studies and Postdoctoral Affairs.

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August 3, 2023; updated October 11, 2023