COVID‑19 Info for Grad Students and Postdocs


Last updated: May 27, 2020 at 2:30 p.m. ADT

These FAQS only address issues pertaining to Graduate Studies at Dalhousie. For information that affects all students and the wider university community, please see this page.
 

For admissions information and updates on fall 2020 campus operations, please see our "Outlook for Fall & Winter 2020" page.
 

Office operations

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

No. In order to align with social distancing best practices, the Faculty of Graduate Studies has moved all in-person services to an online format. 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 through this unique situation.

Can I still request confirmation letters?

Yes, we are processing requests for letters that confirm you are registered or that you have met your degree requirements. Please submit the request form via email to graduate.studies@dal.ca. A completed confirmation letter will be sent to you via email.

 

Beginning my program at Dalhousie

If I start my program remotely, when do I need to relocate to Dalhousie?

If you begin your program remotely, then you're expected to relocate to Dalhousie when travel restrictions are lifted. Please stay in contact with your supervisor or program director to plan your travel collaboratively.

 

Grading and degree completion

What should I do if I feel my final grade was affected by COVID-19?

We encourage you to work with your instructors over the coming weeks to minimize the impact of COVID-19 on your studies. If you feel that the final grade you receive in a course does not reflect your normal performance, you may request to have the grade changed from a letter grade to “Pass”. This will allow you to get credit for the course while having no impact on your GPA. If you fail a course due to COVID-19-related challenges, you may request a grade of “ILL”. In this case, you will earn no credit for the course and there will be no negative impact on your GPA. Please contact your supervisor or advisor to discuss how requesting these changes will affect your progress in your program. Additional details will be available in the coming weeks on the process for requesting this change. 

How do I submit the necessary forms for my final thesis submission?

Your Thesis Approval Form, Dalhousie Thesis Licence Agreement, and Student Contribution to Manuscripts (if applicable) should be submitted, as attachments to a single email, to thesis.review@dal.ca. If you or any committee member does not have access to a printer, you can sign using the Adobe Reader signature function with your mouse or insert an image of your signature.

Please note that your Thesis Approval Form does not need to have all signatures on the same page. Each committee member may sign on their own identical copy of this form. When you send your paperwork to thesis.review@dal.ca please remember to include all copies of this form.

I am a Dalhousie undergraduate student considering taking Pass grades in winter term. What impact will this have on my admission to grad studies at Dalhousie?

Dalhousie currently determines admission GPA for graduate studies based on the last 60 credit hours of courses (typically the last 20 courses). We allow for up to 15 of those 60 credit hours to be PASS grades, which are considered GPA neutral (i.e. they will not be included in GPA calculations). Your admission GPA would then be determined from the remaining 45 credit hours of courses with letter grades.  

If you have more than 15 credit hours of courses with a PASS grade, FGS will consider previous academic terms until 45 credit hours of letter graded courses are available. If PASS grades in the Winter 2020 term negatively affect your admissibility to graduate studies, FGS will work with the department considering your application to see if an accommodation can be made.


Research and supervisory relationships

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

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.
  • Have a frank discussion about how you have progressed, the limits you face, and what is possible based on what you have learned so far. 
  • 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.

What should I do if my research is delayed or stopped?

Our current focus is to minimize delays in degree completion and financial impacts by encouraging students to work with their supervisor to find alternative research activities that can continue remotely. We are waiting for news from several funding agencies on the long-term supports which may be available for students whose research cannot be continued due to COVID-19. If your research is directly and significantly impacted by COVID-19, please work with your supervisor on the individual approach that makes the most sense for your specific situation.

I depend on Dalhousie's libraries to conduct my research. What should I do now that their buildings are closed?

While library buildings are closed, library services and many of its collections are available remotely, including e-books and e-journals. Library staff are standing by to assist with research questions via LiveHelp, which can be found at the bottom of their homepage. They have also launched a webpage to address updates in their operations related to COVID-19.

What do I do if another university is offering a course online that I'm interested in taking this summer?

If you’re interested in taking a course online from another university this summer, please work with your supervisor or advisor to identify the equivalent course at Dalhousie and submit a Letter of Permission request to graduate.studies@dal.ca. FGS has relaxed limitations on the number of courses students can take from other post-secondary institutions and are temporarily allowing up to 50 per cent of your degree course requirements to be taken this way. 

Will professional development for graduate students continue to be offered during the COVID-19 pandemic?

In-person professional development workshops have been cancelled. However, the Faculty of Graduate Studies and its partners are developing programming that can be delivered online. Please refer to our weekly eNewsletter or professional development webpage for ongoing updates. 

 

Leaves of absence

If I take a leave of absence will I need to start repaying my Canadian student loan? 

If you take a leave in the summer or switch to part-time status you will have a grace period of six months before you will need to begin making repayments on your loan. When you return to full-time study, you will be given another six-month grace period when you complete your degree, take another leave of absence or move to part-time. 

If I take a leave of absence will I still be able to access Dalhousie’s student health services and my health insurance?

Yes, you will continue to be able to access medical and counselling support through Student Health and Wellness if you take a leave of absence. You can make appointments by visiting the Student Health and Wellness website. You can also continue to access online mental health supports.

Students who registered in Fall 2019 are covered by the DSU International Health or Health and Dental plans for an entire academic year until August 31st. If you are unsure of your coverage, please check https://www.dal.ca/campus_life/health-and-wellness/health-plans-and-coverage.html 

Will I still be able to access Dalhousie’s libraries if I go on a leave of absence during the summer semester?

You can continue to access e-resources and services available via Dalhousie’s libraries while on a leave by contacting library@dal.ca with your name, banner number and NetID to set up access.

I’m an international student. If I take a leave of absence, will I be able to work under the terms of my Study Permit?

If you are forced to take a leave of absence due to COVID -19, you will not lose your student status and will have the ability to work 20 hours per week off campus and an unlimited number of hours on campus. Please refer to the “Working on or off-campus” section of this Canadian Bureau for International Education notification for more information or contact Dalhousie’s International Centre.

I'm an international student. Will my Post Graduation Work Permit be affected if I take a leave of absence?

No, international graduate students can take a leave of absence from Dalhousie due to issues related to COVID-19 and maintain their work permit with no short- or long-term negative impact.  Please refer to this Canadian Bureau for International Education notification on post-graduation work permit eligibility for more information or contact Dalhousie’s International Centre.


PhD thesis defence

Will my PhD defence go forward?

Yes, doctoral defences will proceed as scheduled and continue to follow FGS guidelines, including protocols for length of presentation, order of questions, role of the chair, “in camera” decision-making, etc.

Will I be able to schedule my PhD defence during the spring/summer semester?

Yes, you will be able to defend your PhD thesis remotely during the spring/summer semester. The process for initiating a thesis defence remains the same. Please refer to our "Preparing for a Doctoral Defence" webpage for further information.

Will PhD theses defences remain open to the public?

No, until further notice theses defences will be closed to audiences.

Are theses defences taking place in person?

No. Due to social distancing health recommendations, all theses defences will proceed by means of remote participation

How will remote participation work?

We support theses defences via video and teleconferencing. 

What will happen if both the videoconference and teleconference 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 your remote participants 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 for the videoconference and a phone for the teleconference. Ideally, you will use a landline phone with a handsfree option. 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?

Yes.

I am concerned that the necessary signatures on defence-related forms may not reach Graduate Studies on time. Is there any solution?

Yes, as an alternative you are permitted to submit scanned or photographed copies of signed forms. These can be emailed to thesis@dal.ca

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. Following Canada’s and Nova Scotia’s guidelines for social distancing, we anticipate that all theses defences will be conducted remotely.

What if I require an accommodation to proceed with my thesis defence?

Please contact thesis@dal.ca.


Scholarships, grants and fellowships

My research has been delayed by COVID-19. Will I be able to get an extension of my Tri-Agencies scholarship/fellowship?

We have been informed that the Tri-agency guidelines on eligibility for funding extensions for scholarships and fellowships are being developed by CIHR/NSERC/SSHRC. We have expressed the urgency of this matter for those whose funding is nearing completion and hope to receive more information from Tri-agency shortly. 

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. 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. Please contact gradfunding@dal.ca to discuss alternatives.

I am a current student with a scholarship. Will my funding be affected by COVID-19?

FGS is currently processing scholarship payments for the summer for registered students. If you would prefer to place your studies on temporary hold, you can request a leave of absence. If you are considering a leave of absence, please discuss this option with your supervisor or graduate coordinator before the next academic term. 

I am in a difficult financial position due to COVID-19. Can I apply for an Emergency Bursary?

Support from the university is available for students who are experiencing unanticipated or unmanageable financial issues directly related to the COVID-19 pandemic. If this is the case, and you are a domestic graduate student, please contact fgs.slo@dal.ca with your banner number, program and a description of your specific need. If you're an international student, please contact covid19@dal.ca with the same information and your request will be reviewed in collaboration with the International Centre.

Will I still receive my monthly scholarship stipend?

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

I am a new student/postdoctoral fellow, and my scholarship/fellowship includes relocation support. Will this cover the cost of a 14-day self-isolation if I am traveling from a restricted area?

No. If you are unable to plan for a required 14-day isolation period upon arrival at Dalhousie from an area covered by travel restrictions, you are encouraged to consider deferring your start date. Please contact your supervisor or graduate coordinator for more information. 

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

As non-essential university travel is suspended until June 1st at a minimum, FGS is not currently accepting or processing Graduate Student Conference Travel grant applications.

 

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.

I have been laid off/put on emergency leave. What should I do?

If you’re a postdoc employee and your work term at the university has been affected by the stoppage or slow-down in research you may be eligible for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), as long as you have earned more than $5,000 in the past year. This applies to both Canadian and International postdocs. Postdocs in this situation can request their records of employment by emailing roe@dal.ca. Details about eligibility for CERB, and how to apply, can be found online.

I have concerns about my immigration status. Is there someone at Dalhousie to advise me?

To ask question about your immigration status, please contact Karin McLay, Legal Advisor (International) (karin.mclay@dal.ca) in Dalhousie Human Resources.  

I am a new postdoctoral fellow scholar with a start date in the next two months. Is this flexible?

Yes. Please contact your proposed supervisor and the Scholarships Liaison Officer to discuss deferring your start date.