Outlook for 2021

Before you start

University information: These FAQs only address issues pertaining to Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies. For the latest updates on the university’s operations during the pandemic and information that affects all Dalhousie students and the wider university community, please see this page.

Our approach during the pandemic

Our top priorities are your safety and the high quality of your academic experience. It is vital that you’re able to pursue your studies and research while ensuring your continued health and well-being. For this reason, the Summer 2021 term is being conducted predominantly online, with limited exceptions for research and accredited programs. These programs have been approved to go forward in cases where they can be provided safely in adherence to health protocols. 

Dalhousie's goal is to safely open campuses to students, faculty and staff in Fall 2021. With revised safety plans, this means we will be able to hold almost all our classes in person, including our larger classes. Learn more

Below is a list of frequently asked questions. If you have a query that isn’t answered, please contact graduate.studies@dal.ca.

International students

If you’re an international student in need of information about how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted travel to Nova Scotia, please see this page on Dalhousie’s International Centre website. For questions about how COVID-19 has impacted Post-Graduation Work Permits, please see this page. If you have specific questions about study or work permits, please book an appointment with an International Centre advisor.

International postdoctoral fellows with questions should contact academic.staff.relations@dal.ca.

Office operations

Can I get assistance in person at the Faculty of Graduate Studies office?

We anticipate the office will remain closed until at least September 2021. If you require service, please email Graduate.Studies@dal.ca with your name, student ID number and the nature of your request. We will respond as soon as possible. We appreciate your patience and understanding as we work to serve you remotely.

How do I request confirmation letters?

Please submit the request form via email to graduate.studies@dal.ca. A completed confirmation letter will be sent to you via email.


Applying to Dalhousie

I received a PASS grade in a recent term. What impact will this have on my admission to grad studies at Dalhousie?

Many universities have offered students the option to take a PASS grade while COVID-19 is affecting their studies. If you are a prospective graduate student that has been affected by this and have received one or more terms of only PASS grades, please contact the department that you are applying to. Most programs are willing to be as flexible as possible in their evaluation of grades during COVID-19.

Where do I send the supporting documents for my initial graduate application?

Please contact the department that you are applying to for information on how they would prefer to receive your documents. The process may differ depending on the program you are applying to.  

How does the Faculty of Graduate Studies want to receive my final documents after I have been accepted?

The Faculty of Graduate Studies does not require paper documents for Winter, Spring or Fall 2021 terms.  


  • Electronic file-transfers from the issuing institution and from services such as Parchment, National Student Clearinghouse, eScript-Safe, or TranscriptsNetwork. Electronic transcripts are to be sent to graduate.studies@dal.ca.  
  • PDFs sent by email directly from the issuing institution. These emailed transcripts are to be sent to graduate.studies@dal.ca.  

If you are unable to have your official transcripts sent from your home university, you may email an unofficial copy of your transcripts to graduate.studies@dal.ca. You may be required to provide proof of this inability. Transcripts must include your first and last name, degree and program type, and name of degree issuing university.  

As always, your final transcripts will be required within 90 days of the start of your program.  

ESL test scores:   

  • Applicants will send verifiable ESL test results as PDF documents to graduate.studies@dal.ca.
  • The applicant must request their testing centre make their results available to Dalhousie University.
  • FGS will contact testing centres to verify the results.
  • You will not be able to register for classes until your ESL scores are verified.     

*Please note the above information only refers to the final documents required by the Faculty of Graduate Studies. Your department may have different requirements for the documents that they request as part of your initial application. Please contact them for their specific requirements.  

Is the Faculty of Graduate Studies accepting the results of at home TOEFL tests as official?

Yes, results from the at home test are being considered official for those applying during the COVID-19 pandemic. The TOEFL iBT Special Home Edition test can be found here. The use of this test for admission to graduate studies at Dalhousie may be reassessed in the future. 

Is the Faculty of Graduate Studies accepting the results of CAEL online tests as official?

Yes, results from the CAEL ONLINE test are being considered official for those applying during the COVID-19 pandemic. The CAEL ONLINE test can be found at https://www.cael.ca/. The use of this test for admission to graduate studies at Dalhousie may be reassessed in the future.  

I’d like to change my start date for my program due to issues associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. Is that possible?

The Faculty of Graduate Studies allows you to defer their start date for up to 12 months with the approval of your department. Please connect with your department to make the request. 

I deferred my acceptance to a graduate program once and would like to request a second deferral because of issues associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. Is this possible?

The Faculty of Graduate Studies will temporarily allow you to defer your acceptance a second time with the approval of your department. Please connect with your department to make the request.  


Grading and degree completion

I’d like to change one of my final letter grades to PASS/ILL. How do I do this?

Thesis defence results, comprehensive and qualifying exam results and internship, clinical placement and residency format courses are not eligible to be changed to PASS/ILL, but all other graduate or undergraduate courses taken by a graduate student are eligible.   

Requests for PASS/ILL waivers for the 2020/2021 Fall term must have been received by February 1, 2021. If you need to request a PASS/ILL waiver, please contact your Graduate Coordinator to discuss. 

Requests to change a final grade to PASS/ILL for courses completed within the Winter term will need to be requested through Dal Online when it opens for submission (TBD). If you need to request a PASS/ILL waiver now for the 2020/2021 Winter term, please contact your Graduate Coordinator to discuss. 

See our memo to students for complete details on changing grades to PASS/ILL.   

Research and supervisory relationships

Will I be able to pursue lab-based research?

Dalhousie has established processes that guide the safe return to research for our entire community. Please discuss your research and lab access with your supervisor. 

How do I book space on campus if I'd like to find a quiet place to work?

Students may book study rooms at Dalhousie Library locations or spaces in the Learning Commons on the Dalhousie Libraries website. Provincial health guidelines for indoor public spaces, such as wearing a mask, will be in effect.  

I depend on Dalhousie's libraries to conduct my research. Where can I learn about services currently offered?

Dalhousie Libraries buildings are closed but services remain available. Please see their COVID-19 website to learn how you can access collections and support.

What should I do if my research continues to be delayed or stopped and I’m unable to find a solution?

We encourage you to first discuss potential options with your supervisor and department.  If you require additional advice, please contact the Faculty of Graduate Studies at graduate.studies@dal.ca and we will help you navigate your options. 

What advice can the Faculty of Graduate Studies provide to faculty, students and postdocs for maintaining and strengthening remote supervisory relationships ?

The Canadian Association for Graduate Studies (CAGS) has held webinars on the topic of remote graduate student supervision. Recordings of the webinars are accessible here. 

As supervisors and trainees meet it’s important to do the following.

Set the tone 

  • Be clear about expectations and willing to adapt as the situation changes.  
  • Be cognizant of your emotions. Negativity can lead to increased anxiety and stress. Try to be positive in your interactions. Focus on opportunities.
  • Do not feel guilty if you need to occasionally prioritize yourself over other obligations but be sure to articulate your needs on an ongoing basis.
  • Take into consideration that remote communication is not a perfect substitute for in-person meetings. Feedback, enquiries and answers should be formulated clearly.   

Adjust expectations

  • Do not expect increased productivity from yourself or others. While the absence of regular university life may make it appear that we have more time, many are dealing with increasing home-life complications and heightened levels of stress.
  • Documenting decisions in writing can be helpful to provide ongoing agreement of a student’s research direction. 
  • Have an open discussion about how your student has progressed and what is possible based on their individual circumstances. 
  • Agree on smaller, manageable deliverables rather than focusing on big projects. 

Provide ongoing structure

  • If you have not done so already, establish regular meetings.
  • Schedule frequent individual check-ins.
  • Try to maintain regular business hours for deadlines and meetings. 
  • Preserve contact and interactions within the research team to help boost morale and social support. 
  • Discuss and evaluate the communications platform(s) that are being used and adjust accordingly.

Support each other

  • Remember to find moments to discuss the supports that are available through Dalhousie Health and Wellness, including same-day counselling appointments and online resources.
  • Discuss what additional resources may be needed to work from home that were not identified or needed initially. Consider ways to help fund such resources. Ensure IT supports are in place so that you can access data and online resources. 
  • Minimize the ongoing impact of social isolation. If you haven’t done so already consider instituting virtual social gatherings to foster group cohesion rather than productivity. 
  • Capitalize on the expertise of supervisory committee members to identify and expand support mechanisms. 
  • Continue to speak openly about constraints faced by those with care-giving responsibilities and agree on accommodations that might be needed. 

PhD thesis defence

Will my PhD defence be conducted online?

Yes, doctoral defences are currently entirely online and continue to follow FGS guidelines, including protocols for length of presentation, order of questions, role of the chair, “in camera” decision-making, etc.

The process for initiating a thesis defence remains the same. Please refer to our “Preparing for a Doctoral Defence” webpage for further information.

How does remote participation work?

We support theses defences via Microsoft Teams.

Are remote PhD theses defences open to the public?

Yes, remote theses defences are open to audiences by invitation. When your defence date is set, you are welcome to share the link to your Microsoft Teams meeting with those who may like to attend. To minimize distractions, observers are asked to have their microphones muted and their camera off during the defence process. 

What will happen if both the video and audio fail during my defence?

Your defence will be rescheduled.

Do I need to do anything differently to prepare for my defence?

Yes. You must submit your slide deck as a PDF to thesis@dal.ca at least one day ahead of your defence. Graduate Studies will ensure that the Examination Committee have a copy in case their videoconference link fails.

What equipment do I need to defend my thesis remotely?

You will require a computer with a webcam and a microphone. You will use a landline or cellphone in case of disconnection. If you need to use a cellphone, it should be plugged in to a power source during your defence to ensure it maintains power for up to 3 hours. 

Will the external examiner and my examining committee ask the same questions remotely as they would on-site?


Will theses defences for master's students follow the same procedures as PhD theses defences?

At the master’s level, theses defences are the responsibility of your academic unit. Please contact your department for information on how your defence will proceed.  


Thesis final submission

Are there any changes in how I submit my thesis submission forms?

No, all instructions for thesis submission are located here.  

Is there a thesis submission deadline extension?

No, the normal deadlines remain in effect and can be found on our website here

Scholarships, grants and fellowships

I have received a scholarship but have chosen to defer the start of my program due to an issue related to COVID-19. Can I defer my scholarship?

Yes, you are eligible to defer scholarships managed by the Faculty of Graduate Studies for up to 12 months from the original intended start date. This may be an appropriate action if you do not expect to be able to come to Dalhousie due to travel restrictions. Please contact your supervisor or graduate program administrator to submit a request for deferral.  

I will begin my program at Dalhousie through remote learning from outside of Canada. Will I be able to access my scholarship?

Yes, if you have determined that you will be able to take your courses online or have established how you will pursue your research with your supervisor, you will be able to access your scholarship. We are unable to direct deposit a payment to a bank account outside of Canada.  Payments to students who do not have a valid Canadian bank account will be made by cheque. Please contact gradfunding@dal.ca to discuss alternatives.  

Will I receive my monthly scholarship stipend despite working remotely?

Yes, payments will continue. Graduate Funding payments are being processed through the Graduate Funding Payment System by the Faculty of Graduate Studies, Student Accounts and Payroll. Please direct any inquiries or concerns regarding funding payments to gradfunding@dal.ca

Is FGS still accepting applications for Graduate Student Conference Travel grants?

All non-essential university travel has been suspended, so FGS is only accepting travel grant applications to cover registration costs for virtual conferences.


Postdoctoral fellows

I am worried about my postdoc employment status. Who should I contact?

If you have concerns about your employment at Dalhousie, you can contact academic.staff.relations@dal.ca.