Graduate Studies Conference Assistantship

Effective September 23, 2022: Graduate Studies Conference Assistantship reimbursement claims can now be submitted via Concur for all faculties. GSPA strongly recommends that these claims are submitted using this method. For more information, please refer to the Reimbursements section below. 

All applicants who intend to travel to attend a conference must refer to the Travel Guidelines page on the COVID-19 information website and adhere to all safety measures outlined on Waterloo International’s Safety Abroad website, as appropriate. Decisions regarding applications received will be made in accordance with the advertised Travel Guidelines as directed by government regulations. 

The Graduate Studies Conference Assistantship (GSCA) is funded through support from Graduate Studies and Postdoctoral Affairs (GSPA) and the Graduate Studies Endowment Fund (GSEF). University of Waterloo graduate students can apply for a GSCA to help cover their expenses related to attending and presenting their research at an academic conference or workshop. The GSCA application form can be used to reserve funds from a student's supervisor, department/school, faculty and/or GSPA/GSEF.


Students can receive GSPA/GSEF funding for no more than one conference/workshop per fiscal year (May 1 – April 30), up to a maximum of $500. A student’s supervisor, department and/or faculty may choose to provide funding for additional conferences within the same fiscal year. 

If funds are depleted, the program may be suspended without notice until further funds become available.


Term Application Deadline*+ Travel/Conference Dates Submission Status
Winter 2022 April 1, 2022 January 1 – April 30 Closed
Spring 2022 August 1, 2022 May 1 – August 31 Closed
Fall 2022 December 1, 2022 September 1 – December 31 Open; funds available
Winter 2023 April 1, 2023 January 1 – April 30 Open; funds available

*If the application deadlines above fall on a weekend or holiday, applications will be accepted until the following Monday. 


Graduate Studies Conference Assistantship application is required in order for funds to be reserved. Applicants should follow the instructions at the top of the application and submit it to their Department Graduate Co-ordinator, once obtaining their supervisor's approval and signature on the form. 

Applications will be approved on a first-come, first-serve basis. Decisions are based on the date the application was received by GSPA. Those who apply by the deadline are not guaranteed funding due to limited funds available. Students are encouraged to apply as early as possible to ensure their application has the best chance of being approved.

Applicants are not required to submit any supporting documentation at the time of application. Emails may be attached in lieu of signatures. 

Students will receive an email communication from GSPA regarding their application status (approved/declined) within 1-2 weeks after the application is received by GSPA.

After obtaining the appropriate approvals, the department/faculty should upload applications within the “DROPBOX” folder of the GSCA library on the GSPA SharePoint website. Staff can also view and download approved/declined GSCA applications within their faculty folder once processed by GSPA.

Eligibility and selection criteria

  • Applicant must be a graduate student registered full-time or part-time in a degree program at Waterloo at the time of the conference. Students who degree complete prior to the conference date(s) are not eligible. 
  • Applicant must be presenting* their research (oral, poster, paper) at an academic conference or workshop, as a first or second author, in connection with a Waterloo research activity. Note that in-person and virtual conferences are acceptable.
  • Applicant must incur conference/workshop-related expenses.
  • Applicant must not have already received GSPA/GSEF funds for a GSCA within the same fiscal year (May 1 – April 30).
  • Applications must be submitted in advance of the conference/workshop.
  • Applicant should seek additional funding support from at least one of the following: supervisor(s), department/school or faculty and have the application form completed accordingly.

*Applications will also be considered from students who are planning to attend (but not present at) an academic conference occurring until April 30, 2023. Conferences must be related to the applicant’s program or research as verified by their supervisor or department head. Students may also seek support for attendance at workshops. To qualify for the assistantship, the workshop must be of value to the student’s academic program (as verified by their supervisor or department head) and an equivalent workshop must not be available at Waterloo. Typically, support for workshop attendance will be provided in cases where the offering institution is considered a global leader in the workshop theme. Funding will be prioritized for applicants who are presenting their research.


Students must refer to the Travel Guidelines web page and adhere to all safety measures outlined on Waterloo International’s Safety Abroad website, as appropriate.

Funds reserved by GSPA may only be used towards the original conference indicated on the application.

Applicants who are presenting their research, must have their supervisor or department head verify that the applicant’s presentation at the conference is of direct benefit to a University of Waterloo research program and that the program conforms with the Income Tax Act definition of research (Research involves a critical or scientific inquiry aimed at the discovery of new facts, or the development of new interpretations or applications. It does not include research carried out for the sake of acquiring the experience or skill of conducting research, as may be the case with research carried out by undergraduate students).

Applicants who are attending (but not presenting at) a conference/workshop must have their supervisor or department head verify that the conference is related to the applicant’s program or research, or if attending a workshop, that it is of value to the applicant’s academic program.

Applications submitted to GSPA should demonstrate that partial financial support will be provided by at least one of the following: supervisor(s), Department/School, or Faculty. If funding from at least one source is not reserved on the form, GSPA may contact the student and/or the Department/School for further explanation before GSPA/GSEF funds will be reserved.

If the estimated travel dates or conference dates cross over two academic terms, the application will be considered for the term in which the student’s expected return travel date or conference end-date occurs. Should the travel/conference dates change, the application will still be considered for the original term for which the funding was reserved.

GSPA/GSEF funds will expire within two months after the anticipated date of return or virtual conference end-date. Funds will be automatically expire if GSPA has not received a reimbursement claim within this timeframe. As funds are limited, students are encouraged to notify GSPA if they no longer plan to use their reserved funds, so that other students can be supported.

Applicants are encouraged to purchase cancellation insurance, if possible, or purchase tickets from airlines that offer refundable tickets.


  • In order to receive GSPA/GSEF funds, the claim must include the following documents:

Presented Research

Attended Only

Claim must include the following documentation1

X X Approved Graduate Studies Conference Assistantship application2
X X Proof of conference attendance3 (e.g. registration receipt)
  • Claims must be initiated by the student immediately after the conference. Claims may be submitted either via Concur or by using the Expense Claim Form (GSPA strongly recommends that claims are submitted using Concur). Students should contact their Department Graduate Co-ordinator in order to obtain the appropriate GSPA/GSEF work order to indicate on the reimbursement claim, regardless of the method used to submit it (Concur or Expense Claim Form).
    • Submitting claims using Concur:
      • Departments must obtain the correct work order from SharePoint (staff-only) and provide it to the student. The student (or delegate) will then add the work order to their claim.
    • Submitting claims using the Expense Claim Form:
      • Departments must obtain the correct work order from SharePoint (staff-only) and indicate it on the Expense Claim Form along with the amount required from GSPA.
      • Note: Expense Claim Forms should be submitted to Finance without signature from GSPA (no email approval necessary). GSPA will approve the claim once Finance has routed it through Unit4 workflow.
  • Claims may utilize up to the full amount pre-approved by GSPA provided that reserved funds from other sources on the original application are also contributed from at least one of the following: student’s supervisor, department/school, or faculty.
  • Students will receive reimbursement via direct deposit, provided their banking information has been added to Quest. To set up direct deposit, visit the Finance website.

Cash Advances

  • Any departmental or faculty cash advance requests for travel should be requested and settled through Concur, with the understanding that GSPA will not provide cash or travel advances prior to conference/travel dates.

  • If a cash advance was processed by the department or faculty using the Expense Claim Form, the reimbursement claim must be settled by using the Expense Claim Form. In these instances, the Claimant must indicate the cash advance number on the Expense Claim Form when submitting their settlement.

    Students are no longer required to submit a presentation abstract and proof of presentation.
    Department to download from GSCA SharePoint (staff-only) website and provide to student.
    To be supplied by student.

    Helpful resources and forms

    Questions about the GSCA can be emailed to the Co-ordinator, Graduate Financial Aid and Awards in Graduate Studies and Postdoctoral Affairs.

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    Updated September 23, 2022