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Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarships (Vanier CGS)

Please note: Information and dates may be updated depending on further information from the Tri-Agencies.

The information contained on this web page pertains to the Fall 2023 Vanier Canada Graduate (Vanier CGS) Scholarships competition and the internal administration and evaluation process at the University of Waterloo.


The Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarships (Vanier CGS) program was created to attract and retain world-class doctoral students and to establish Canada as a global centre of excellence in research and higher learning. It is awarded to those who have a high standard of scholarly achievement in the natural sciences and engineering, social sciences and humanities, and health-related fields and demonstrate exceptional leadership skills.

With up to 166 awarded annually, this scholarship is the most prestigious and competitive of the doctoral scholarships offered by the Federal Government. While institutions are required to endorse candidates based on a maximum annual quota, final selection of recipients is made by Canada’s three federal granting agencies:

The Vanier CGS is valued at $50,000 per year for up to three years. Successful recipients at Waterloo will also receive the President’s Graduate Scholarship

How applicants are considered

The application process at Waterloo is handled in two steps:

  1. The University requires interested candidates to request support from the department at UW where they intend to continue or pursue their doctoral program by July 28, 2023. 
  2. Applicants who receive departmental support to continue with the second step of the application process are required to submit their complete application within ResearchNet by 9:00 a.m. EDT on September 13, 2023.

Interested applicants must complete the Vanier CGS application, available on ResearchNet, in collaboration with the proposed host Canadian institution at which they are (or will be) pursuing doctoral studies. Without exception, the Vanier CGS is tenable ONLY at the institution that supported the original application.

The maximum* number of nominations Waterloo may submit to the national level competition for Fall 2023 are as follows:

CIHR – 2        NSERC – 13        SSHRC - 7

Given the limited quota of awards an institution can host, Waterloo is required to be strategic in determining the number of applicants selected for institutional endorsement. The selection process within institutions is a rigorous one. To provide guidance on potential candidates’ likelihood of success, the following summarizes the academic qualifications of recent Vanier recipients at the University of Waterloo:

  • Applicant has held a number of meritorious institutional awards and/or a tri-agency or OGS scholarship at the master’s level;
  • Applicant has a strong record of impactful research in their discipline;
  • Applicant has had averages close to or higher than 90% in each of their last two years of full-time academic study.

Given the prestige and competitiveness of the Vanier scholarship, applicants are expected to demonstrate strong leadership potential and ability that goes above and beyond the expected norms and has resulted in overcoming obstacles, mentoring others, or leading and spearheading change for the betterment of others. Given the academic strengths of all the applicants, successful applicants often differentiate themselves through the leadership component.

*Applicants who wish to self-declare as an Indigenous+ applicant and who receive department endorsement to apply (see "2. Seek endorsement from the proposed nominating department" within the Critical steps section) are invited to complete the Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship (Vanier CGS): Voluntary Self-Identification Form and upload it within their application in ResearchNet. If selected to go forward to the national level competition, applications from those who self-identified as Indigenous will be above and beyond the institutional quota.

+“Indigenous peoples” is a collective name for the original peoples of North America and their descendants. “Aboriginal Peoples” is also sometimes used as a terminology. For the purposes of this program, the tri-agencies use the Canadian Constitution Act, 1982 definition of Aboriginal Peoples as including the First Nations, Inuk (Inuit) and Métis Peoples of Canada.

Critical steps in application process

1.   Confirm eligibility

Canadian Citizens, Permanent Residents of Canada and international students are eligible to be considered for a Vanier CGS at the institution where they are currently pursuing or wish to pursue their doctoral studies. Interested applicants must review the eligibility criteria and selection criteria on the official Vanier CGS website before beginning their application.

Note: Applicants of the Vanier competition are NOT automatically considered for agency-specific doctoral award competitions. Eligible applicants MUST apply for the Vanier and for agency-specific funding opportunities separately. Applicants may apply to the same or a different federal granting agency in the same academic year, provided that the research proposed in each application falls within the mandate of the agency to which the application is submitted.

2.   Seek endorsement from the proposed nominating department (department endorsement MUST be received prior to submitting an application)

Prospective Vanier applicants** must email the Graduate Officer/Associate Chair of the department where they intend to hold the Vanier (if successful) and provide them with the following:

  • their expressed written interest and intent in applying for the Vanier CGS;
  • the name of the faculty member they are interested in working with and with whom they have already been in contact;
  • a copy of their CV and transcripts (if not already a UW student) and UW student ID number (if applicable);
  • a lay abstract of the proposed research (maximum one page).

Departments will review the information provided and determine whether the student will be a competitive applicant. The department Graduate Co-ordinator must email the Associate Director, Graduate Financial Aid & Awards (copying the applicant) by August 9 confirming the departmental support of the applicant; if the student does not receive departmental endorsement then they are not permitted to apply for the Vanier through UW. The department is responsible for notifying applicants who they have decided not to endorse.

**In situations where the department has identified a prospective competitive applicant, the department co-ordinator must still email the Associate Director, Graduate Financial Aid & Awards (and copy the applicant) by August 9 confirming their support.

Reminder: the Vanier CGS can only be held at the institution that is providing the endorsement; students can only be nominated by one university.

3.   Transcripts

Applicants who are currently registered or were last registered at Waterloo in the 2023 calendar year must complete the Vanier applicant transcript request form (web form) by 9:00 a.m. EDT on September 13, 2023.

Applicants not currently registered or who have not been registered at Waterloo but intend to be for their doctoral program, and who have not yet applied for admission are responsible for having official secure electronic transcripts emailed to the Associate Director, Graduate Financial Aid & Awards no later than September 13, 2023. Transcripts will be accepted from the issuing institution and from services such as Parchment, National Student Clearinghouse, e-Script-Safe, or TranscriptsNetwork.

Graduate Studies and Postdoctoral Affairs (GSPA) will ensure transcripts are uploaded to endorsed student applications in ResearchNet prior to final submission to the agency.

4.   Refer to the application and nomination instructions

The official Vanier website has detailed instructions regarding the competition process including how to create a Canadian Common CV (CCV), starting the application in ResearchNet, how to confirm the proposed research falls under the correct tri-agency, the number of referees required, presentation standards of the free form documents, etc. Applicants must ensure they read and follow the application/nomination instructions outlined on the Vanier website.

5.    Select and contact referees

If departmental support has been received, the applicant must contact potential referees as soon as possible thereafter and set a deadline by which referees must upload their assessment within ResearchNet. The default deadline is two days prior to the institutional deadline of September 13.

Leadership references

Two leadership reference letters are required and should be written by referees who can speak about the candidate in a non-academic capacity and who are able to highlight the demonstrated leadership abilities and potential of the applicant. Further details about the leadership reference letters can be found in the application/nomination instructions. Per the instructions, it is not recommended to have the same person who is writing the academic reference letters write the leadership letters.

Academic references

In addition to the leadership references, two academic references are also required. Referees must be able to provide evidence, perspectives and insight in their assessment that will support the applicant’s candidacy in light of the selection criteria.

Tips for selecting referees

  • Applicants should select referees who know them well and are capable of making an informed assessment based on the selection criteria.
  • Referees will not be able to see the student’s application in ResearchNet. As such, the applicant should provide them with a package of information that will assist them in writing a strong letter of support. As appropriate, this package should contain the following documents from the applicant:
    • current curriculum vitae
    • transcripts
    • research proposal
    • a list of accomplishments the applicant feels should be highlighted in the letter

6. Submit application to ResearchNet

In order for the University to determine whether to endorse an applicant, application material, including reference letters must be submitted through ResearchNet by September 13, 2023 at 9:00 a.m. EDT.

Waterloo’s administrative review process

After being reviewed and ranked at the departmental level, applications will be adjudicated by an institutional selection committee* who will select nominees to go forward to the national competition based on the University quota.

*At Waterloo, the institutional selection committee is normally comprised of the Associate-Vice, President, GSPA (chair), the Assistant Vice-Presidents, GSPA, and the six Faculty Associate Deans, Graduate Studies or designates as appropriate. All committee members are required to undergo training in unconscious biases.

Waterloo’s timeline

Visit Waterloo's Vanier CGS timeline for further details on the Vanier competition at Waterloo.

Helpful resources

Questions regarding this competition at Waterloo can be directed to the Associate Director, Graduate Financial Aid & Awards in GSPA.

Updated June 23, 2023

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