COVID-19 Updates


The School of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies (SGPS) will use this space to keep the graduate and postdoctoral community updated with the latest information related to COVID-19.  If you still have questions after reviewing the information provided, please email us at, and we will do our best to address them.

For a complete listing of updates relevant to the entire campus, visit 

Please note:  for all admissions-related questions, please email

COVID-19 General Update for Graduate Students from SGPS
Sent March 26, 2020

Message to All Western Graduate Students

As the rapidly evolving COVID-19 pandemic continues, we recognize you may have questions and concerns, and that you are undoubtedly dealing with a wide range of emotions.

Please know your academic success, and your health and well-being, are our top priorities during this uncertain, challenging time.

Western has been sharing regular, important updates to the broader campus community and the School of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies (SGPS) has created a dedicated website for the graduate student community.

However, we wanted to address some specific issues we know many are grappling with:

Funding/Financial Concerns
Please know that the funding commitments made to graduate students in their funding letters will be honoured, regardless of whether or not you are able to progress in your scholarly activities and/or duties due to the current disruption.

We know some students may be facing additional financial challenges, even with the maintenance of our funding guarantee. We are looking at the possibility of some funding relief and are working with our provincial and federal partners to address issues that fall within their purview. Over the coming weeks, we will provide more information as it becomes available regarding available financial supports, including possible government actions in areas such as study/work permits, student loan policies and/or EI eligibility.

We also recognize there are questions about extension of scholarships, such as CIHR, NSERC, SSHRC, and OGS, and about possible changes in work permit eligibility for international students. While these decisions rest with the respective agencies, please know we are continuing to advocate on your behalf.

Academic Progression
We have advised graduate programs and supervisors to be as flexible as possible in helping you achieve your learning outcomes, and we encourage you to consult with your supervisor or graduate chair as appropriate.

Students in professional graduate programs whose internships or placements have been disrupted will not be required to incur additional tuition costs to resume or complete those placements or internships, as arranged by their program, when it is possible to do so.

Graduate Instruction and Supervision
The deadline for dropping winter term graduate courses has been extended. April 3, 2020 is now the last day to withdraw from a graduate course beginning in the winter term without academic penalty.

Students who drop after this date will receive an F on their transcript. Students who are unable to complete current assignments by the stated deadline should contact their instructor and/or graduate chair as appropriate to discuss options.

Graduate instruction and evaluation over the summer must be conducted online.  This includes comprehensive exams.  

During this time, it is more important than ever for students and supervisors to communicate about short-term and long-term goals, and to keep one another informed of challenges and potential barriers as well as opportunities for progress and professional development.

We strongly encourage those students in research programs to confer with their supervisors by April 15, to consider how they might adapt their academic plans to their current situation. We suggest such discussion focus on:

  • Revising research plans to focus on what meaningful progress can be made under the current circumstances. This might include, for example, re-considering assignments or projects based on program learning outcomes, re-prioritizing the order of work, taking online courses to develop skills or looking for online professional development opportunities.
  • Resources required to work effectively from home under the revised plan.
  • Setting realistic short-term goals. In the absence of in-person interactions, more structure may be beneficial.
  • Maintenance of regularly scheduled events, such as remote meetings.

Thesis Exams
Students currently on Thesis Defence Only (TDO) status whose thesis exam is delayed will have their TDO status extended for another term. Students who expect to submit their exam-ready thesis before the April 30 deadline should apply for TDO status. Completed theses should be submitted as usual: the preliminary evaluation can be completed online and committees can be constituted. The decision to proceed with remote thesis exams will be made at the program level, taking into account the needs of the individual programs.

Access to Campus Buildings
Based on a directive from the provincial government, the University moved to an essential services model as of 11:59 p.m. Tuesday, March 24, continuing for at least 14 days. This means that only those identified as essential personnel will have access to University buildings.

Academic/Health and Well-Being Supports
We encourage you to visit the newly-created Digital Student Experience website where you will find tools and resources to help with the transition to online/remote learning. The site also provides digital/virtual academic, health and well-being, career development, and social connection supports. Questions can be directed to Student Support; Case Management at 519-661-2111 x89152 or

We sincerely thank you for your patience and understanding as this situation continues to develop and encourage you to send questions or concerns to We will respond as quickly as we can.