COVID‑19 Info for Grad Students and Postdocs


Last updated: August 5, 2020 at 9:30 a.m. ADT

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

 

Admissions

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

Office operations

Last updated: August 5, 2020

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

We anticipate the office will remain closed until at least January 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. 

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.

I'd like to apply for the upcoming term. Is it too late?

FGS will accommodate late applications from individuals who are impacted by COVID-19. However, you are encouraged to first contact your prospective department to confirm if they are accepting late applications for admission.  

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 is allowing students to change their start date with the approval of their prospective department. Please connect with your supervisor or advisor to make the request.

 

Beginning your program at Dalhousie

Last updated: August 5, 2020

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

Please stay in contact with your supervisor or program director to plan your safe arrival together. Conditions may change, even as you are making your plans. Please contact the International Centre for direction

 

Grading and degree completion

Last updated: August 5, 2020

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. You may 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 forms to thesis.review@dal.ca please remember to include all copies of this form.

I received a Pass grade in the winter 2020 term. What impact will this have on my admission to grad studies at Dalhousie?

Dalhousie currently determines admission GPAs 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

Last updated: August 5, 2020

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 contact your supervisor for more information on whether lab access is available and how this might impact your research program.

Am I able to access space on campus to pursue my studies?

Students, faculty, instructors and staff may now book a study room or computer in the Wallace McCain Learning Commons and the Kellogg Library Learning Commons in the Collaborative Health Education Building. Bookings can be made for three-hour timeslots from Monday to Friday by contacting library@dal.ca. Please see the Dalhousie Libraries blog for complete details on how to book a space.

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 continues to be 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.  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. This might include the modification of your thesis topic, course schedule, or a leave of absence.

I depend on Dalhousie's libraries to conduct my research. What should I do if 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.

Curbside pickup is available from all five Dalhousie libraries for items not available electronically. Please see the Dal Libraries website for more details.

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

If you’re interested in taking a course online from another university, 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. For Summer and Fall 2020, 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 through a letter of permission. Please note that there may be additional fees for courses taken at other institutions.

How can I pursue professional development?

The Faculty of Graduate Studies and its partners have developed programming to be delivered online. Please refer to our weekly eNewsletter or professional development webpage for ongoing updates. 

 

Leaves of absence

Last updated: August 5, 2020

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

If you take a leave 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 took a leave of absence in Summer 2020, can I still access Dalhousie’s student health services and my health insurance?

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 2020 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  

If you register again in the fall, you will pay the annual health insurance fee in September 2020 and have access to health services until August 31, 2021. 

If while on your LOA you require extended health and/or dental coverage, please contact the DSU Health Plan Office for assistance and information about an individual plan for purchase that is not related to the student health plan.  

Can I access Dalhousie’s libraries if I am on a leave of absence during the summer 2020 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 have taken a leave of absence for Summer 2020, will I be able to work under the terms of my Study Permit?

If you were 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 for Summer 2020?

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.

If the university opens during my Leave of Absence am I able to resume my program partway through the semester?

An early return for thesis-based grad students may be possible. If you have taken a leave due to COVID-19 and wish to resume your program mid-term, please contact program.officer@dal.ca to discuss your specific situation and the potential impact on tuition fees and notations on your academic record. Course-based students cannot usually return mid-term due to the need to complete in-class hours.


PhD thesis defence

Last updated: August 5, 2020

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.

Are remote PhD theses defences open to the public?

Yes, fully remote theses defences are open to audiences.

How does remote participation work?

We support theses defences via Microsoft Teams.

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?

Yes.

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, 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

Last updated: August 5, 2020

My Tri-agency award (NSERC, CIHR, SSHRC) ended between March 30th and August 30th, 2020. I believe I am eligible for an extension. What should I do?

Tri-agency recently provided an update for students and fellows who may be eligible for a 4-month extension to their awards. Please see this Tri-agency advisory for the most recent information.

Eligible scholars and fellows will be contacted by their funding agency within the coming weeks with specific details on how to apply for an extension. Please note that Dalhousie will be contacted directly by the Tri-agencies with the list of approved extensions.

If I receive a Tri-agency funding extension, what does this mean for my other FGS-managed scholarships?

If you hold other active scholarships managed by FGS, such as NSGS or Killam scholarships, in the term after your Tri-agency award would have ended, those awards will be extended by up to four months. The amount of the extension will be equivalent to the normal scholarship value or the value of the Tri-agency extension, whichever is lower. Award values and end dates will be updated in the Grad Funding Payment system as approved extension notices are received from Tri-agency. 

My Tri-agency Postdoctoral Fellowship has ended within the eligibility window for an extension. How might an extension affect me if I am eligible, but no longer at the university?

We are waiting for more information from Tri-agency regarding flexibility on dates for fellowship extensions. If you are contacted by the Tri-agency regarding an extension for a fellowship that has already ended, please discuss the possibility of re-starting your fellowship with your supervisor. If continued work is possible, you are encouraged to contact the Tri-agency regarding flexibility in start/end dates for fellowship extensions to ensure that this aligns with your intended activities at Dalhousie. 

Will the Faculty of Graduate Studies provide financial support to thesis-based graduate students who have been delayed in their studies?

FGS is offering Program Continuation Scholarships for some students who have been delayed in their studies. Please see this backgrounder for more information on eligibility and how to apply. 

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.  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

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 or starting your activities remotely. Please contact your supervisor or graduate coordinator for more information. 

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

Last updated: August 5, 2020

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

To ask questions 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 near future. Is this flexible?

Please contact your proposed supervisor and the Scholarships Liaison Officer to discuss possibilities for starting your fellowship remotely or deferring your start date.