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Graduate Studies

NSERC Postgraduate Scholarships – Doctoral

Canada Graduate Scholarships – Doctoral (CGS D) and the NSERC Postgraduate Scholarships – Doctoral (PGS D) programs provide financial support to high-calibre scholars who are engaged in an eligible doctoral programs in the natural sciences or engineering. This support allows these scholars to fully concentrate on their studies and seek out the best research mentors in their chosen fields. There is a single application and review process for the CGS D and the PGS D programs. The top-ranked applicants are awarded the CGS D (tenable only in Canada) and highly ranked applicants in the next tier are awarded the PGS D (tenable in Canada and abroad).

Value and duration

  • Canada Graduate Scholarship – Doctoral Scholarship: $35,000 per year for 3 years
  • NSERC Postgraduate Scholarships – Doctoral Program: $21,000 per year for 3 years


To be eligible to apply, an applicant must:

  • be a Canadian citizen or a permanent resident of Canada, as of the application deadline date
  • have completed no more than 24 months of full-time study in their doctoral program by December 31 of the calendar year of application if previously enrolled in a master’s program
  • have completed no more than 36 months of full-time study in their doctoral program by December 31 of the calendar year of application if enrolled in a joint program; for example, MD/PhD, MA/PhD
    • applicants who fall into this category have access to the 36-month window whether or not they were previously enrolled in a master’s program
  • have completed no more than 36 months of full-time study in their doctoral program by December 31 of the calendar year of application if enrolled directly from a bachelor’s to a PhD program (with no time spent in a master’s program)
    • direct-entry applicants must be enrolled in their doctoral program at the time of application
  • Eligibility for CGS D is based on the number of months of full-time study in the degree for which you are requesting funding by December 31, 2021. Two terms of part-time study count as one term of full-time study.
  • Applicants can submit a maximum of one scholarship application per academic year to either CIHR, NSERC or SSHRC. Nominations to the Vanier CGS program and applications to the Banting Postdoctoral Fellowships program do not count toward this limit.
  • Applicants cannot have already received a doctoral-level scholarship from CIHR, NSERC or SSHRC.

Special Circumstances and COVID-19

Reviewers must consider any special circumstances the applicant has chosen to provide that have had an effect on their performance or productivity. This includes delays in disseminating research results due to health problems, family responsibilities, parental leave, disabilities, trauma and loss or other applicable circumstances. Reviewers must also consider any special circumstances related to COVID-19 that may have delayed or interrupted the applicant’s studies or research, or otherwise affected the performance on which the assessment for funding will be made. The description of special circumstances may include the following information as needed:

  • the duration of the delay/interruption and if applicable a percentage of reduction in workload;
  • a clear description of its impact, including if relevant, the type of research contribution impacted (for example, publications, data collection, presentations)

Updates this year in form 201

A new resource document: Equity, diversity, and inclusion considerations at each stage of the research process will be made available at the launch of the programs.

NSERC acknowledges that diversity considerations may not be applicable in the context of some research projects, but nonetheless encourages applicants to fully consider their relevance, as they apply to more areas than one might think. Generally, research that involves or impacts human subjects, organisms capable of differentiation, or their tissues or cells, can benefit from such considerations. It is important to thoroughly reflect on the type of data collected and who might be impacted by the research findings before concluding that diversity considerations are not relevant.

Program of study

An eligible doctoral program must include a significant research component that leads to the completion of a thesis, major research project, dissertation, scholarly publication, performance, recital and/or exhibit that is merit/expert-reviewed at the institutional level as a requirement for completion of the program.

Joint programs with a professional degree (e.g., MD/PhD, DVM/PhD, JD/PhD, MBA/PhD) as well as clinically oriented programs of study, including clinical psychology, are eligible if they have a significant autonomous research component as described above.

Indigenous applicants

Students can self-identify as Indigenous when completing the doctoral application on the NSERC On-line System. McMaster can recommend applications from self-identified Indigenous applicants to the doctoral awards competition beyond our application quota.

McMaster internal application deadline: Sunday, October 3, 2021, 11:59 p.m.

Applications are prepared and submitted by students in the NSERC On-line System by the internal deadline set by McMaster. Students will not be able to submit their applications to the NSERC On-line System until all their required tasks are completed, including referee letters of support.

Uploading Transcripts

All SLO Assistant Designates must provide their full name, and email address to their students for the online application process.

Departments’ SLO Assistant Designates – uploading transcripts/legends

A complete application includes a copy of all up-to-date transcripts (or other proof of registration in certain circumstances), as described in the online NSERC CGS/PGS D Instructions.

Up-to-date transcripts for all undergraduate and graduate studies must be scanned and uploaded, in the Transcripts – University page of the student’s application by the Department SLO Assistant Designate as follows:

  • Ensure the Academic Background page of the application has been completed by the applicant
  • Applicant enters the name and email address of the department’s SLO Assistant in the Transcripts – University page of the application.
  • Once the information is saved, an email containing the appropriate links will be forwarded to the SLO Assistant.
  • Student must provide SLO Assistant an up-to-date transcript for each and all of the degree programs listed under Academic Background.
  • SLO Assistant will follow instructions in the NSERC On-line System on how to upload the transcripts

Note: Please retain the applicants’ original transcripts until the competition results are announced in the spring of 2022.

Transcripts and legends Information for department and applicants

NSERC acknowledges that the widespread disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic may hinder the ability of some applicants to access official and up-to-date versions of their transcripts in advance of the deadline date, particularly at institutions which do not currently provide official electronic versions of these documents. As such, for the fall 2021 competition, NSERC will not immediately reject applications that include unofficial transcripts in lieu of official transcripts.

Applicants should be aware of the following:

  • Electronic transcripts provided by an institution’s registrar’s office are considered by NSERC to be official transcripts. Applicants should check with their institution(s) to verify whether this option is available to them prior to submitting an application.
  • While applications containing unofficial transcripts will be accepted, applicants should note that submission of an application will continue to serve as a formal attestation that they have provided true, complete, accurate information in the application and its related documents.
  • NSERC may contact administrative staff (scholarships liaison officer or equivalent) at applicants’ institution(s) in order to certify that the contents of submitted transcripts are true, complete and accurate.
  • NSERC may follow up with applicants directly to request official transcripts at a later date.

Students are required to include all undergraduate and graduate transcripts.  Please provide official transcripts when possible.

For uploading purposes, all the documents:

  • must be saved in a single PDF file
  • must include one copy of the university legend for each set of transcripts (do not scan the legend multiple times)
  • should be scanned as a black and white document
  • text must be oriented so that it is readable on a computer monitor from left to right without any adjustment by the viewer.

Transferred courses taken at other universities must also be included. A transcript is required for all programs listed in the application, even if a program was not completed. If the applicant is already registered in their program of study at the time of application, they must submit a transcript for this program regardless of the number of months completed in the program or whether the transcript contains any marks. This requirement also applies to programs of study started in the fall session of the year of application. This means that current McMaster transcripts from the fall 2021 session are required for every applicant. 

The inclusion and completeness of these documents are essential to determine the eligibility of the application. A complete set of up-to-date transcripts is also an integral part of the evaluation material reviewed by scholarship and fellowship selection committees. Students and their graduate administrative assistants/administrators should collaborate to upload the transcripts.

Selection criteria

Expandable List

Indicators of research ability and potential:

  • Quality of research proposal
    • specific, focused and feasible research question(s) and
    • clear description of the proposed methodology
    • significance and expected contributions to research
  • Relevant training, such as academic training, lived experience and traditional teachings
  • Research experience and achievements relative to the applicant’s stage of study, lived experience and knowledge systems
  • Quality of contributions and extent to which they advance the field of research. Contributions may include: publications, patents, reports, posters, abstracts, monographs, presentations, creative outputs, knowledge translation outputs, community products, etc.
  • Demonstration of sound judgment and ability to think critically
  • Demonstration of responsible and ethical research conduct, including honest and thoughtful inquiry, rigorous analysis, commitment to safety and to the dissemination of research results and adherence to the use of professional standards
  • Enthusiasm for research, originality, initiative, autonomy, relevant community involvement and outreach

The ability or potential to communicate theoretical, technical and/or scientific concepts clearly and logically in written and oral format

Indicators of relevant experience and achievements obtained within and beyond academia:

  • Scholarships, awards and distinctions (amount, duration and prestige)
    • Academic record:
    • Transcripts
    • Duration of previous studies
    • Program requirements and courses pursued
    • Course load
    • Relative standing in program (if available)
  • Professional, academic and extracurricular activities as well as collaborations with supervisors, colleagues, peers, students and members of the community, such as:
    • teaching, mentoring, supervising and/or coaching
    • managing projects
    • participating in science and/or research promotion
    • participating in community outreach, volunteer work and/or civic engagement
    • chairing committees and/or organizing conferences and meetings
    • participating in departmental or institutional organizations, associations, societies and/or clubs

NSERC Scholarships and Fellowships Information Session: Resources