COVID-19 Information for Graduate Students

This page features recent information shared with graduate students to address the impact of COVID-19 on their studies. To learn more, see the University's Campus Life in Fall 2020 page; and for general information about COVID-19 and the UAlberta community, visit ualberta.ca/covid-19.

Frequently Asked Questions

Note: Because of the evolving nature of the COVID-19 situation, the information provided on this page is as accurate as possible at the time of publication. We will keep you updated as things change. (Last updated: July 6, 2020)

Graduate Courses and Learning

Supervision, Examinations and Convocation

Managing Finances and Program Requirements

  • (a) I am facing financial difficulties in the context of COVID-19. What should I do?

    Students facing immediate financial difficulties due to COVID-19 should explore the sources of emergency funding detailed here, and learn more here.

    Note as well that the federal government has announced sources of funding that may benefit some graduate students:

    • Domestic and international students who meet eligibility requirements can apply for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) (useful notes on "Graduate Students and CERB" are available on this page).
    • Some students not eligible for the CERB may be eligible for the Canada Emergency Student Benefit (CESB) (CESB is not open to international students at this time). Information on this and other student supports is available from the Government of Canada.
    • Students and recent graduates aged 30 or under who volunteer with a charity or not-for-profit organization may be eligible to apply for the new Canada Student Service Grant.

    You may also have questions about how other funding mechanisms, such as scholarships/awards and GRAs/GTAs/GRAFs, have been affected by COVID-19. Begin by speaking with your department about this and consulting this document; if you have additional questions, we at FGSR will do our best to help. You can reach us at grad.mail@ualberta.ca.

    (Updated June 30)

  • (b) I am an international student with concerns about my finances in the context of COVID-19. What options are available?

    University of Alberta International has provided these updates (and these FAQs) addressing various issues related to international graduate students’ finances, from federal government support to GRAs/GTAs/GRAFs and work regulations. Note as well that current international students facing immediate financial concerns due to COVID-19 may explore the sources of emergency funding detailed here.

    Please also review this page and consult with an advisor at International Student Services (advising@ualberta.ca) to ensure that you have explored all options available to you. Should you have additional questions, we at FGSR will do our best to help out; you can reach us at grad.mail@ualberta.ca.

  • (c) I am an incoming or current international student with concerns about immigration, study permits, online studies, self-quarantining rules, travel restrictions, and/or other subjects. Where should I go?
    University of Alberta International has provided these updates (and these FAQs) to help you with these issues. Please contact an advisor at International Student Services (advising@ualberta.ca) if you have additional questions.
  • (d) I am the recipient of a Tri-Council award. What options are available in light of COVID-19?

    Training award recipients (master's, doctoral, and postdoctoral) may defer the start date of their award, or request an unpaid interruption of up to four-months for reasons related to the COVID-19 situation. For master’s and doctoral award holders, this can be adjusted to align with the next available start date (May 1, 2020; September 1, 2020; or January 1, 2021).

    The agencies will continue to support training award holders who, given the challenges posed by the COVID-19 situation, can only devote part-time hours to their research. They may continue to hold their awards and will be paid at the full amount. The amount will not be prorated, and the end date of the award will remain unchanged.

    Please continue to refer to the COVID-19 webpages for CIHR, NSERC, and SSHRC for the most current agency program updates.

    Award recipients who are interested in applying these exceptions to their award should contact the FGSR Awards team at grad.awards@ualberta.ca.

  • (e) May I apply for a leave of absence (LoA) to deal with COVID-related issues?

    During these unusual times you may find yourself unable to make progress on your research due to a lack of access to libraries, labs, and field work. You may also be prevented from devoting your full attention to your studies because of childcare demands, homeschooling your children, or caring for other family members, among other reasons. In these situations, you may consider taking an exceptional leave of absence (LoA), which is an administrative option to help preserve your time in program when you are unable to continue working on it full time.

    We understand the complexities that COVID-19 has created for our students' lives and want to reassure students that taking a LoA will not prejudice your academic standing or continued progression in your program in any way. This is an administrative option to help reduce stress as it relates to your studies so that you can focus on other things in these trying times.

    Is a Leave of Absence Right for Me?
    There may be financial implications to this option so you should discuss your particular situation with your supervisor. For example, when you are on an LoA you are not registered as a student, meaning that you will not be paying tuition and your time in your program is paused. You are therefore unable to hold any TAships or RAships during a LoA. Any awards that you hold through Tri-Council or through the U of A will be paused until the time that you are once again registered. (Awards outside of the Tri-Council or U of A may have different requirements.)

    Note as well that international students should consult with University of Alberta International (UAI) before applying for a leave of absence or transitioning to part-time registration status to avoid unintended impacts on study permits, visas or ability to obtain a post-graduate work permit. (Please review this UAI webpage and discuss your circumstances with an advisor at advising@ualberta.ca.)

    Students who do not wish to take a leave of absence now but nonetheless find their research is not advancing at the pace it otherwise would have in a non-COVID-19 reality can also consider, at a later date, applying for a program extension, as needed, in order to finish final program requirements. We understand that COVID-19 will be an event affecting our graduate students for the foreseeable future and FGSR will do everything it can to support student success and program completion.

  • (f) May I apply for part-time status to deal with COVID-related issues?

    Students in thesis-based programs who find that certain kinds of COVID-related personal circumstances prevent them from working full-time on their programs may be eligible to apply for part-time registration status. Please note that not all circumstances qualify a student to submit such an application; the full policy can be found on the FGSR website. Students who are eligible to apply can find the Part-Time Registration Status form in the FGSR Forms Cabinet under Records.

    It is very important to reason through this decision with your supervisor since a move to part-time status will affect a student’s eligibility to hold or apply for most scholarships and awards.

    Note as well that international students should consult with University of Alberta International (UAI) before applying for a leave of absence or transitioning to part-time registration status to avoid unintended impacts on study permits, visas or ability to obtain a post-graduate work permit. Contact an advisor at advising@ualberta.ca.

Pursuing Research

Resources for Graduate Students


What U of A Graduate Students Need to Know About Their Studies in Light of COVID-19Dean's Updates

Since mid-March, Dean Milne has been providing graduate students with occasional updates on COVID-related policies and opportunities. To access an archive containing all of these updates, please follow the link below. 

View the Updates

What U of A Graduate Students Need to Know About Their Studies in Light of COVID-19What U of A Graduate Students Need to Know About Their Studies in Light of COVID-19

(March 31, 2020): Featuring Dr. Brooke Milne in conversation with GSA President Fahed Elian and GSA VP (Academic) Dylan Ashley.

Subjects: Revised grading system for Winter 2020; impact of COVID-19 on graduate student research; financial implications for graduate students

Watch the Video