COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions for Graduate Students

Last updated July 24, 2020

New Students
International Students
Funding, Financial Support and Tuition
Programs and Courses
Graduate Student Research
Internships
Travel for Fieldwork and Conferences
Registration
Other Resources
Further Questions

New Students

I am a newly admitted student. What will my studies in the fall term look like?
The fall session will proceed as scheduled in September 2020. U of T has provided a “roadmap” plan for a safe return to campus this fall.

All graduate courses will be available online, so that any students who are unable to attend in person will be able to commence their studies in the fall. We’re working closely with public health authorities to determine when and how to facilitate a safe return to campus, classrooms and research spaces this fall. Although on-campus activities may be modified, your U of T experience will begin this September. There will be many valuable opportunities for you to interact and collaborate with your peers and to engage in important co-curricular activities to round out an exceptional student experience. Additional academic supports will be provided remotely through the Graduate Centre for Academic Communication and the Graduate Professional Development program.

As a world-class university, we have high-quality resources available to instructors and students, allowing effective teaching and learning in remote environments. Our outstanding faculty members will continue to work with students, offering the high quality of teaching and mentorship for which U of T is known.  We’re committed to finding ways to allow newly enrolled students, including international students, to begin their studies at the University of Toronto in the 2020-21 academic year, regardless of potential restrictions that may be in place in September.

How will I submit transcripts to clear the conditions in my admission letter?
We will accept e-transcripts sent securely by an e-transcript service from your university. E-transcripts must be sent to the graduate administrator in our department.

If your school does not issue e-transcripts, they can be mailed to us at the following address. Please note, there will be a delay in processing transcripts sent by mail.

Graduate Office, Geography & Planning
University of Toronto
Room 5047, 100 St. George St.
Toronto, Ontario, M5S 3G3

Do I need to be on campus to register and enroll in courses?
Students will be able to register and enroll in courses online. The department will provide detailed instructions when registration opens in mid-July.

International Students

For a more detailed FAQ for international students, please visit the Office of the Vice-Provost COVID-19 Information website.

Do I need a study permit?
Yes, if you are not a Canadian citizen or Permanent Resident, you will need a study permit to study at a Canadian university. Students are advised to apply for their study permit/renewal online as early as possible. The Office of Student Life provides more detailed information about study permit applications. Students may also find some of their online workshops and info sessions helpful.

Can I begin my program online/remotely before I receive a study permit?
You can begin your program through online courses outside Canada, even if your study permit, temporary resident visa (TRV) or electronic travel authorization (eTA) have not yet been processed. Remember you should apply for these documents now.

Does the move to an online course format affect the eligibility of international students for a Post-Graduation Work Permit?
The Government of Canada has advised that study being delivered online on an exceptional basis because of measures related to COVID-19 will not affect Post-Graduation Work Permit Program eligibility for a post-graduation work permit.

Funding, Financial Support and Tuition

Will I continue receive funding package payments?
Yes, students will continue to receive their funding package payments as scheduled (except in cases where students are not registered – e.g. summer LOA). This includes RA funding that was included in the funding letter (paid by the student’s supervisor).

Will TA contracts be impacted?
While the duties for TA positions may be modified to reflect changes to online delivery, overall hours will not be reduced. We do not expect any reduction to the number of available positions/TA hours in the fall or winter sessions.

Will RA contracts be impacted?
While duties for RA positions may be modified, faculty members are expected to fulfill RA commitments that are noted in a student’s funding letter.  RA contracts which fall outside the funding package may be affected. Please contact the hiring faculty member for clarity about the status of these contracts.

What financial assistance is available?
The A&S Graduate Student Emergency Bursary is available to provide short-term/immediate financial relief in connection to unexpected expenses incurred due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This bursary is available to currently registered graduate students (students who have graduated in June and prospective students who will not be registered until September are not eligible to apply in the summer).

The department is currently accepting applications for summer research awards. Other department level funding will be announced via internal listserv email as information becomes available.

Students who are experiencing longer term financial hardship may apply for an SGS Emergency Loan or an SGS Emergency Grant.

On April 22, the Government of Canada announced enhancements and changes to federal student grants, loans and financial assistance to support students and recent graduates.

The Faculty of Arts & Science has also prepared a guide to various government supports, focusing on those relevant to graduate students.

Will 2019-20 scholarships be extended?
The Canadian government has announced that Tri-Agency (SSHRC, NSERC, CIHR) student awards and fellowships due to end between March and August 2020 which have been directly impacted by COVID-19 are eligible for a 4 month extension. Eligible awards include Canada Graduate Scholarships (Masters CGS-M, Doctoral CGS-D and Vanier streams), Banting Postdoctoral Fellowships and agency-specific doctoral and postdoctoral programs.

Potentially eligible award holders will be contacted directly by the relevant granting agency (CIHR, NSERC or SSHRC) to attest that their research was disrupted by COVID-19 and that they are not current benefiting from compensation under the Canada Emergency Student Benefit (CESB) or the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) or other income supports related to COVID-19. If eligible, payment will be made and additional months added to the award end date by September 30, 2020. The Tri-Agency Scholarship Extensions Announcement & FAQ webpage has full details on the extension program, including restrictions, agency contacts and Frequently Asked Questions.

At this time, other scholarships are not being extended.

Will time in the funded cohort be extended?
At this time, there are no plans to extend the time in the funded cohort.

Programs and Courses

Will the start of the fall session be delayed? Will fall session courses be held online?
The fall session will proceed as scheduled. U of T has provided a “roadmap” plan for a safe return to campus this fall.

All graduate courses will be available online, so that students who are unable to attend in person will be able to commence their studies in the fall. In some courses, there may be a mix of online and optional in person activities (for students who are able to attend classes on campus).

What technology do I need for remote/online learning?
The University of Toronto, has outlined the minimum technical requirements (computer specifications), recommended accessories, internet connection and frequently asked questions about learning remotely. If you’re unable to afford the recommended technology, please contact the Financial Advisor at the School of Graduate Studies.

What is the grade deadline for winter session courses?
For students graduating in June, the SGS grade deadline has been extended to May 13. For all other students, the grade deadline has been extended to June 3. Please note, instructors may set earlier deadlines for submission of student work.

Will students be able to choose CR/NCR option for Winter 2020 graduate courses?
Due to COVID-19 related disruptions in the Winter 2020 session, some graduate units have offered the opportunity to students to choose either a CR (Credit)/NCR (No Credit) option, or to maintain the assigned grade for select full-year courses taken in Fall 2019/Winter 2020 or half-year courses taken in Winter 2020. This option has been made available for Geography & Planning courses.

To earn a CR grade, a student must have a final grade of at least B-. Courses with a CR grade may count towards your degree program requirements. For programs in which GPA is assessed, CR/NCR grades will have no impact on students’ GPA.

Students may elect to receive a CR/NCR grade on ACORN between June 8th and June 30th for any 2019/20 full-year courses, or Winter 2020 courses where the graduate unit has made this option available.

Am I expected to hold an annual progress meeting this summer?
Yes, the expectation is that PhD students will have an annual progress meeting each year. Under the current circumstances, all meetings should be done by video or tele-conference.

Are defenses and other oral exams taking place?
Yes, exams may proceed as usual, with the following modifications:

  • For PhD comprehensive exams, all formats (1 day, 2 day and 5 day) are to be written off campus. The oral exam should take place with the student and all committee members attending remotely (video or tele-conference).
  • For master’s and PhD thesis defense exams the oral exam should take place with the student and all committee members attending remotely (video or tele-conference).
  • Exam results will be submitted electronically (instructions will be provided to the student’s supervisor).
  • All SGS Final Oral Exams (FOEs) are now being held by video conference only. Students will also have the option of delaying the exam until in person exams are permitted, if that is preferred. The department will provide full instructions to the student and examiners on exam procedures.

Will program timelines be extended?
At this time, SGS deadlines are not being extended. Our own program timelines will be maintained, but wherever possible, we are committed to being flexible and supporting extensions (including requests for extensions to SGS deadlines) on a case-by-case basis. Students should be in dialogue with their supervisors about any changes in program advancement schedules.

What is the latest date by which students must complete degree requirements without having to register or pay fees for the fall session?

Graduate Student Research

Can I continue working on campus or in a lab?
Campus buildings and offices are currently closed. All students should remain at home and continue to work remotely at this time.

  • Labs:Academic divisions have begun planning a phased approach to the recovery and adaptation of research including on-campus research and off-campus sites. Please consult the website of the Office of Vice-President Research and Innovation which will be updated daily; we will also share information with you as we receive it. At the present moment, only research labs conducting critical COVID-19 related research or other time-sensitive critical projects that have been exempted by the University are permitted to operate. All other research should continue remotely where possible and researchers are encouraged to consider alternative procedures for projects that do not disrupt scientific merit and integrity (e.g. changing in-person interviews to phone interviews).
  • Libraries: University of Toronto Libraries (UTL) offers curbside pickup, as well as maintaining online access of the Hathi Digital Collections. In the meantime, while libraries remain closed, library staff are available to assist students in searching e-resources. Visit the Libraries COVID-19 website for more information about library operations.
  • Residences: The university will continue to operate on-campus residences for incoming and continuing students. More information for students in residences is available on the Office of the Vice-Provost Students website.

My research plans have been disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. What should I do?
Some students will need to adapt their research plans. These adaptations should be undertaken in dialogue with supervisors and, where appropriate, the members of the supervisory committee. SGS has published some information on research recovery and adaptation which some students may find useful.

Internships

How do I proceed with my MSc Pl internship requirement?
The Planning Director is working on various strategies to provide alternatives to fulfill the internship requirement for those students who have not secured one. The department has always provided some funding for students doing internships in a volunteer capacity, and we are seeking to expand this funding to give additional support for students that can find voluntary positions this year. We have been reaching out to identify some of these, but students should also search on their own. Students who have any questions about whether a position qualifies can contact the Planning Director Paul Hess (acg.planning@utoronto.ca).

Research Assistantships also fulfill the internship requirement and there should be some additional opportunities available this summer. Professors hire students directly for these positions.

For students who have not been able to secure a position, we are looking to mount a workshop course in July-August which will count toward the internship requirement. Updates will be provided as details become available.

Internship requirements can also be fulfilled next year, including through the Planning for Change course (JPG1812Y). This course will be mounted again next year, but we cannot predict how it may be affected by ongoing public health concerns.

Travel for Fieldwork and Conferences

Are students currently able to travel to do research or attend conferences?
As of May 25, 2020 , the University of Toronto has cancelled future University activity to international locations for all students until December 31, 2020. University activities abroad on or after January 1, 2021 are scheduled to continue at this time. If you’re able to postpone or shift your travel to a later date, please arrange to do so. If you’re unable to change your plans, please note that, regrettably, your activity is cancelled.

PhD students planning to travel abroad for dissertation research during this time should contact safety.abroad@utoronto.ca. Given the current situation, there are significant travel restrictions and it will be difficult for you to make travel arrangements. We encourage you to postpone or shift your travel to a later date if you’re able to do so. If your work abroad can be carried out safely and in consideration of government advisories regarding travel, you may be able to proceed.

I have received funding to travel to do fieldwork or attend a conference. What will happen to this funding?
The university has suspended all student travel through June 1 (this may be extended beyond June). Students who received conference/travel funds should alter their travel plans accordingly.

  • Department funding: Students who received funding from the department in the fall session may hold this funding and apply it to a future trip.
  • SGS funding: Students who received SGS travel and/or conference award, may alter or delay their travel dates. Using the SGS Change Request Form, students can opt to change or defer their proposed travel or decline the grant and reapply to a future application cycle, should the travel not be expected in the near future. In either case, students will receive – at a minimum – the same level of support, provided the destination and duration remains the same. Students who must cancel or pay to reschedule their pre-purchased travel, can access the SGS Emergency Grant. to help cover the unexpected additional expenses. Travel grant recipients who are currently traveling with an SGS grant and must either extend or shorten their trip due to COVID-19, can request a reassessment by submitting an SGS Travel Special Circumstances Form along with the usual SGS Conference / Research Travel Grant Payment Activation Form

Registration

How do I request a leave of absence?
Students may take a leave of absence from their graduate program for a period of one session, up to 3 sessions (1 year). While on leave, students are not expected to complete work and will not have access to university resources. Time to completion and funding eligibility is put on “hold” while a student is on an approved leave and resumes when they return to their studies. Please be assured that COVID-19 is an acceptable reason for personal leave and taking such a leave will not negatively impact time-to-completion, funding when you return from leave, or jeopardize future access to leaves of absence.

Please feel free to discuss this option with your supervisor and the graduate administrator if you have questions. To request a leave, complete the SGS LOA Request Form and submit it to Jessica Finlayson (geography and PhD planning) or Marija Wright (MSc Planning).

Additional Resources

Further Questions

This page will be updated as new information becomes available. If you have further questions, please contact us:

  • MSc Planning students – contact Marija Wright at wright@geog.utoronto.ca
  • All other graduate students – contact Jessica Finlayson at finlayson@geog.utoronto.ca