Graduate research studentship vs. graduate research assistantship

To assist grantees in deciding whether a payment to a graduate student should be treated as a Graduate Research Studentship (GRS) or as a Graduate Research Assistantship (GRA), we have prepared the following chart of frequently asked questions. It is very important that anyone making these appointments first consider the following questions:

Frequently asked questions

Graduate research studentship

(Paid through Finance – Student Accounts)

Graduate research assistantship

(Paid through Payroll)

What is the primary motivation of the professor in appointing the student? To assist his/her student financially and to bring the student up to the guaranteed level of funding. To hire an individual to assist in completing the tasks necessary for the professor’s own research and for the professor’s own academic and professional gain.
What is the primary motivation for the student in accepting this role? To assist in his/her training to become an independent researcher; to assist in qualifying for his/her degree; financial assistance to enable the student to focus on his/her graduate studies. Employment income.
What will be the nature of the activities to be performed by the student? Research will relate to student’s own academic pursuits (still will contribute to the professor’s overall research); tasks will include all those necessary to learn to become an independent researcher; may be in receipt of GRS funds even when primarily involved in coursework. Unrelated to their own thesis; tasks may be more basic in nature and not of assistance in developing the student (e.g. reference checking, data entry, photocopying papers, etc. for professor’s research).
What will be the nature of the interactions between the professor and the student? More collaborative in nature; professor as academic mentor. Student takes direction and instructions from the professor; employer/employee relationship exists.
What degree of independence will the student have? As much as can be expected for current level of training of the student. Low – will take instruction from professor and possibly others in the lab/team.
Will the 10 hour rule be invoked? Does not apply as student’s activities are for his or her own graduate studies and therefore there should be no expectation of a set number of hours.

Students are able to pursue additional on-campus employment beyond the average of 10 hours per week (but less than an average of 20 hours per week), having followed a process and met certain conditions. See: Guidelines for graduate student employment | Graduate Studies and Postdoctoral Affairs | University of Waterloo (

What is the status accompanying this appointment?



What tax treatment will the funds receive?


T4 with statutory deductions for income tax, Canada Pension Plan (CPP) and Employment Insurance (EI).

What account should be used with the research grant posting attributes?

Account Code 60905

50210 account. A student type is required as well.

A student type of

  • 10 - Master Domestic
  • 11 - Masters International
  • 12 - Doctoral Domestic
  • 13 - Doctoral International
  • 14 - Undergrad Domestic
  • 15 - Undergrad International

How will the students receive the payments?

Lump sum payment for the term beginning the first Friday of the first month of that term. Quest 'fee arrangement' must have been made. See Student Financial Services website for additional details on 'Refunds for Scholarships, Bursaries & Awards'.

Monthly payments throughout the term - on the last Friday of each month. Payment will include 4% vacation pay. Bank and tax information must be provided to Human Resources so funds can be deposited directly into student's account.

What deductions will be taken from the payments?

Outstanding tuition or residence fees will be deducted. No statutory deductions (income tax, CPP, EI) will be made.

Outstanding tuition fees authorized by a student on a payment plan will be deducted. Statutory deductions (income tax, CPP and EI) will also be made.

Based upon the answers to these questions you will be able to determine whether the funds are to be paid as a GRS (student) or as a GRA (employee).

Back to top