Frequently Asked Questions

How are admissions to the Fall 2020 (September) term currently impacted?

In his May 12th update, President Stoicheff indicated that the Fall term would be delivered primarily online, with some limited activities beginning to resume on campus. Travel restrictions currently remain in place, as do Visa processing delays for international students. 

Based on the above, students admitted for Fall 2020 should expect to begin studies remotely. if your academic unit will be part of the first groups of research/teaching resuming on campus, please communicate with your incoming students about what that will look like as they prepare to begin their Fall studies.

If the program structure and/or student's personal circumstances are making it difficult for them to begin studies in the Fall term as planned, students may request to defer their admission to a future term. The decision to allow a deferred admission will remain first at the discretion of the academic unit. We encourage academic units to be as supportive of those requests as possible, while acknowledging that deferrals are easier to accommodate in some programs than others. The CGPS is committed to remaining supportive and flexible where the academic unit is supportive of a request. 

Can we continue admitting students to the Fall term?

Yes! As long as an academic unit is able to allow the student to begin coursework/research remotely, it is fine to proceed with new admissions to the Fall term. Keep in mind that some factors may impact the viability of a student beginning their studies remotely, including funding limitations for students outside of Canada. Consult within your unit to determine which options are viable for you.

How are admissions to the Winter 2021 term (January) currently impacted?

Academic units which admit students to the Winter term should continue to send those admission recommendations as normal. What course delivery and research will look like in the Winter term is yet to be decided. Of course the hope is that in-person teaching and research will continue to increase on campus, pending a slow and safe transition occurring during the Fall term. We should be prepared for remote learning to remain a possibility for students admitted to the Winter term. Academic units should continue to make decisions and recommendations about Winter admissions with these contingencies in mind.

We have been told to plan for students to begin studies remotely. If an international student does not yet have a study permit/visa, can they still begin their studies remotely?

It is possible for a student to begin studies from their home country remotely, without yet having a visa/study permit to study in Canada. There is no policy stopping them from doing so. However, it may not be advisable in all cases, as there are risks in doing so. The most significant risk is the potential that a student will begin studies remotely before being issued a student visa/permit, and will subsequently be unsuccessful in obtaining said visa/permit to get to Canada to complete their studies.

Many graduate students study in Canada with the intention of then obtaining a post-graduation work permit as part of a path to permanent residency and/or citizenship. Per recent announcements made by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), in order to remain eligible for a post-graduation work permit, students must complete at least 50% of their studies here in Canada. For programs which are very short in duration, or for students whose immigration processes are delayed indefinitely, there is a risk that students will begin studies remotely, will subsequently not be able to travel to Canada, and whose longer-term plans for post-graduation work, etc. will be disrupted, temporarily or indefinitely.

As always, there isn’t blanket advice which suits everyone. For programs which can be completed 100% remotely, and for students in those programs who are not concerned with post-graduation work in Canada, they may be eager to begin study from their home country without a permit, and willing to accept the possibility that they may not ever end up coming to Canada for any of their studies. It is important to consider the circumstances and desires of individual students, as well as the policies, resources, and structures of your programs.  Further, being fully informed and transparent about the opportunities and limitations will support informed decisions by students. 

International students with questions on immigration matters can always reach out to the International Student and Study Abroad Centre (ISSAC) for advice from trained professionals – international.students@usask.ca

How can new students meet proof of English proficiency requirements given that many testing centres are closed?

To address this need, the CGPS is accepting two home-based language test options for admissions to the 2020-2021 academic year – the Duolingo English Test and TOEFL iBT Special Home Edition test. While these tests will be accepted by the CGPS, individual academic units may choose to accept them at their discretion and are not required to do so. The two home-based tests are listed with additional information on the graduate admissions English Language Proficiency Requirements page.

How can incoming students submit official documents?

Newly admitted students are typically required to have official post-secondary transcripts sent (by mail in a sealed envelope directly from the institution) to the CGPS, at the following address:

College of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies
Room 116 Thorvaldson Building - 110 Science Place
Saskatoon, SK CANADA S7N 5C9

Effective March 23, all suppliers, couriers, and service providers are instructed to phone ConnectionPoint (the Usask service office) at (306) 966-2000 for instructions prior to attempting to deliver goods or come on campus to perform services. Our office is working with ConnectionPoint to receive documents. The College of Graduate and Postdoctoral studies are having staff periodically pick up and receive documents. These new procedures will cause some delays in reviewing and processing of documents arriving. 

Electronic documents/transcripts

Alternatively, the College of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies will accept electronic documents to satisfy conditions of admission.  Electronic versions of official documents must be e-mailed to CGPS directly by the issuing institution.  Documents being sent by another post-secondary institution to the College of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies on should be sent to grad.studies@usask.ca.

I have a student who already previously deferred admission for one year. Graduate policy limits admission deferral to one year – do they have to reapply and pay another application fee?

CGPS will be allowing flexibility on the deferral policy, when requested by the academic unit. If the graduate chair is prepared to support the deferral, the CGPS will approve deferrals beyond the one year mark for students impacted by COVID-19.

Can we continue to admit Visiting Research Students?

Unless a student can conduct their supervised research 100% remotely, it is not advisable to admit new Visiting Research Students until campus operations are returning to normal.

The primary message is this: No student, including Visiting Research Students, should be making any plans to relocate or travel to Saskatoon until travel restrictions have been lifted by the Canadian government and the University, and public health officials have advised that it is safe to do so. We value these students and their contributions, and understand their importance to many faculty research programs. Our first priority is the health and safety of our entire community, and doing our part to slow the spread of COVID-19.

As is the case with regular Fall and Winter admissions, we are proceeding as normal with Fall and Winter term admissions for Visiting Research Students. As with regular admissions, we will continue to monitor COVID-19 developments and communicate about impacts to admissions for future terms as we know more.

If you utilize Visiting Research Students for a unique need (ex: Veterinary interns) and/or for a group which is part of essential research (ex. COVID-1 vaccine research) and you are unsure about how your admissions are impacted, please reach out to CGPS for support.

Would the College of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies allow a digital viewing of artistic work as a replacement for an in-person art exhibition?

Yes. Creative ways to allow students to complete their degrees will be essential. All supervisors and graduate chairs are encouraged to identify alternate mechanisms that would allow students to more easily satisfy degree requirements during the current shelter-in-place situation.

Is it possible to allow students access to materials in library stacks, archives, and materials on reserve?

Unfortunately, the Library staff are not considered essential workers and therefore are not allowed to be on campus. The Library team is looking at a way to get access to digital versions of books that we own in print upon request. Students should reach out to their liaison librarian, or use the Ask Us feature that’s available on the University Library website, or email USask Library staff using the email form at https://library.usask.ca/askus/emailform.php.

Has there been any thought to extending the maximum duration of a student’s program after which an extension request must be submitted?

The College of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies has been steadfast in our commitment to be flexible and supportive. Any requests for program extensions would certainly take into account the challenges and hardships associated with this state of emergency. The process of requesting a program extension is an excellent opportunity to confirm the essential degree requirements and ensure role clarity and responsibilities for everyone. A blanket extension would sacrifice these important clarifying steps.

Is it reasonable/acceptable for the research activities for some students to be different from other students/graduates?

The diversity in research, in research programs led by principal investigators and in advisory committee membership make it very difficult (impossible?) to ensure that the research requirements of all students will be the same.  Indeed, the research conducted by students will vary greatly.  It is reasonable and acceptable for the research activities of current students and former graduates to be different.  

Can scheduling of thesis defenses proceed?

In accordance with the increased university building closures effective March 24th, 2020, all thesis defenses should be scheduled and facilitated 100% remotely until further notice.

Academic units will vary in their ability to easily accommodate remote defense. Students and faculty should collaborate with resources in their academic unit to assess this option as a possibility. Academic units will need to ensure that the resources used to support these remote defenses are robust and sufficient for the purpose.

See our guidelines and tips for a successful remote defense.

If it is not possible to successfully complete a defense remotely, the defence scheduling must be delayed. Please reach out to CGPS for help if this occurs.

Questions or concerns on this matter can be directed through the CGPS Service Desk for support.

 

Would academic units be allowed to consider altering the approved activities for students who are continuing in their programs to facilitate the completion of their degrees?

Yes.  Supervisors and advisory committees might consider various revisions in order to help students continue to make progress toward the completion of their degree.  As examples, revisions to programs of studies might include substituting online courses for in-person and lab-based courses.  Also, research activities, as examples, might be altered to

  • reduce the amount of additional lab and field activities required, or;
  • replace previously required lab and field activities with alternatives, or;
  • accept the research activities completed to data as sufficient for the degree.

Can student committee meetings still be held?

Committee meetings should continue to be held as appropriate to track and guide student progress. Given current campus closures and social distancing directives, committee meetings should be held remotely using web conferencing software such as Webex, Microsoft Teams, Zoom, etc.

My student can’t make progress due to the impacts of COVID-19 – what can they do?

The impacts of COVID-19 on student’s progress are many. Some may be impeded from data collection due to lab closures or internship/practicum cancelations, some may need to be away managing untenable home and work situations, as just a few examples.

The CGPS is committed to being flexible and supportive in utilizing the graduate Leave of Absence policy for graduate students who are temporarily unable to make academic progress due to COVID-19. The academic unit should endeavor to provide mechanisms for graduate students to continue making academic progress under the current circumstances, but where progress is not possible, and where the graduate chair supports a request for a leave of absence, CGPS will be supportive. A leave of absence based on compassionate circumstances will be most appropriate in COVID-19-related cases.

A leave of absence can be requested using the Graduate Student Leave of Absence form in Jira Service Desk.

We have heard that students have been forced to leave residence. Where are they supposed to go?

We have been assured that students who do not have alternate housing arrangements will continue to be accommodated. Updates and contact information are provided on the Residence Page of the COVID-19 updates site.

What is the message for graduate students who have completed coursework, but still need to do lab or fieldwork?

Messaging released by the Vice-President Research (VPR) indicated that effective Tuesday, March 24, 2020, at 11:59 pm, all but essential on-campus and field-site research, scholarly work, and creative activities are suspended. Activities deemed essential are:

  • Research related to COVID-19;
  • Research that is part of essential clinical care activities; and
  • Ongoing research involving animal care and maintenance of breeding colonies as well as ongoing research involving plants and other living organisms (though these researchers must develop contingency plans in case this research activity is adversely impacted in the days ahead).

The CGPS encourages graduate/postdoctoral supervisors to be creative and supportive and to think of alternative ways to engage your reports in research without being in the lab.

Should graduate students be coming to campus each day?

Per directives by senior leadership, no one is to come to campus unless specifically identified as someone providing core services specific to:

  • Research related to COVID-19;
  • Research that is part of essential clinical care activities; and
  • Ongoing research involving animal care and maintenance of breeding colonies as well as ongoing research involving plants and other living organisms (though these researchers must develop contingency plans in case this research activity is adversely impacted in the days ahead).

The CGPS encourages students and faculty to seek ways to ensure that students are able to continue to progress toward completion of their degree remotely.

 

How can we provide financial support (stipends/scholarships/salaries etc.) to international students who are beginning their studies remotely?

The university continues to seek clear and workable options for this question. Typically, when arriving in Canada to begin studies, a student will need to take some preliminary steps in person (open a bank account, visit Service Canada) in order for the stipend to start to flow. Without completing those steps first, the student cannot begin receiving funding directly. This is problematic under the current circumstances, which are keeping students from arriving in Canada to begin studies. 

One solution which is currently available is paying awards or stipends directly onto a student’s account to cover their tuition and fees. For many, this will only be a partial solution, but it is one available option so that students will not have to worry about tuition and fees owing while beginning their studies remotely. For some, this may be a satisfactory solution until the student can arrive in Canada and take up their stipend/award/etc. fully. We acknowledge that in other cases, this may not be an option if tuition and fees are ineligible expenses for the funding source.

Process information will be forthcoming shortly to advise academic units on the most efficient steps to follow for those who wish to pay money directly onto student accounts to cover their tuition and fees. 

Students have been unable to access labs, equipment and studios? Will students receive tuition refunds?

The university physically closed on March 16th but our activities have remained on-going since that time. The delivery of classes for the Winter of 2020 for the majority of our programs was recently completed in a remote fashion and now we are into exams. It is expected that these alternate mechanisms for program delivery will continue in the upcoming terms.

Just as the delivery of classes has evolved in response to the state of emergency, so too have the supervision and mentorship of graduate students. Faculty members and academic units have been encouraged and enabled by the flexibility of the College of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies to find alternate ways for students to continue to make progress in their programs. As examples, academic units are working to define the essential requirements of academic programs and creating alternate ways for students to demonstrate competence in those learning outcomes.

The university recently announced a tuition freeze for graduate programs for the 2020/2021 year.  

Tuition refunds are not being actively considered. However, additional financial support has been sought to help offset financial hardships that students are facing. Between March 13th and May 15th, over 1.2 million dollars in crisis aid was distributed to USask students by Student Finance and Awards. Much of this funding was provided to graduate students. Emergency funds are largely depleted because of this significant effort. We continue to seek avenues for financial support for our students. As of May 15th, the Canada Emergency Student Benefit has also been implemented to support students requiring support.

Can the time limit for the eligibility of scholarship funding, including devolved scholarship funding, be extended?

It’s important to acknowledge that there will likely be no additional money available in our scholarship funds. Thus, extending the eligibility for these scholarship funds will cause an additional cohort of students to be eligible for the same amount of funds. Other initiatives are being pursued to provide additional financial support, with the expectation that current funds awarded in existing competitions will continue to be available, consistent with their approved terms of reference.

 

Will USask provide emergency funding to students who have incurred job loss or are enduring financial hardship due to caring for family, being self-isolated or other hardships related to the COVID-19 crisis?

USask leadership is working toward a support solution for emergency situations. We expect more information to be released on this in the coming days. 

There are various provincial and federal supports that have been recently announced and we encourage you to check often for these updates as well. Updates on these supports and more can be found on the Money page of the COVID-19 update site.

Will teaching assistants continue to receive their salaries? Can the duties assigned to teaching assistants be changed ?

As per the email communication from People and Resources to all staff on March 19 “we will issue pay and benefits to all our employees at regular levels and following the normal payroll process at this time …”.

Depending on the unit and the duties assigned, TAs may continue to work remotely and/or have duties revised to account for the campus closure – options should be discussed with their supervisor and a revised Description of Duties and Allocation of Hours form should be completed (remotely) outlining any changes.

You are encouraged to monitor the updates page on the university website to ensure they are kept up to date on any changes in response to the evolving situation and connect with your HR SBA.

Will students receive reimbursement from tri-agency funds if they were unable to travel to a conference?

The tri-agencies confirm that the reimbursement of non-refundable travel fees from agency funds is acceptable considering the impacts of COVID-19. This applies to the travel of both principal investigators and research personnel when cancellation occurs as described above.” More information

Are payments for current graduate student scholarships and postdoctoral  fellowships being impacted?

Right now the CGPS is fully operational (remotely) and at this time scheduled payments are being made as usual.

 

What is the status of the NSERC-USRA competition ?

As of today, Tri-Agency is going ahead with the summer program. However, the college is investigating the practicality at USask as we want to ensure that students can be successful. More information will be released on this in the days to come.

When do I have to submit my unit's devolved scholarship plan?

Plans are due no later than April 15th and must be approved by the Dean (CGPS) before allocations can be made. We continue to work with units on the development of plans which have not yet been approved.

The work of in-scope Postdoctoral Fellows continues to be governed by the Collective Agreement with the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC).

Postdoctoral Fellows should follow directives provided to all unversity staff on the Staff Section of University COVID-19 updates site. Additional helpful information may be found on the Research Section of that updates site. 

Postdoctoral Fellows (or those supporting them) requiring assistance may contact the CGPS Postdoctoral Fellow Coordinator, Jennifer Redler, at jennifer.redler@usask.ca