NSERC Postgraduate Scholarships


Likely September 2021

Annual Value



Permanent Resident

Degree Level


The NSERC Postgraduate Scholarships – Doctoral (PGS-D) program provides financial support to high-calibre scholars who are engaged in an eligible doctoral program 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.

Applications to the PGS D program will automatically be considered for the Alexander Graham Bell Canada Graduate Scholarship – Doctoral (CGS D) award, which is offered to the top-ranked applicants; the next tier of meritorious applicants will be offered a PGS D award.

Fall 2020 competition deadlines:

  • Application deadline (through The University of British Columbia): Tuesday, 15 September 2020 at 12:00 pm (PDT)
  • Graduate program nomination deadline (to Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies): Friday, 9 October 2020 at 4:00 pm (PDT)


To be eligible to apply, an applicant must:

  • be enrolled in a program of study that includes a significant research component that leads to the completion of a thesis, major research project, dissertation, scholarly publication, performance, recital and/or exhibit;
  • 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
  • submit only one doctoral award application in a given academic year. Nominations to the Vanier CGS program do not count towards this limit;
  • not have already received a doctoral-level scholarship or fellowship from CIHR, NSERC or SSHRC.

Number of months

Eligibility for PGS D/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 of the calendar year of application. Two terms of part-time study count as one term of full-time study.

Note: In general, the agencies count all studies toward the doctoral degree for which funding is requested, whether or not they were completed at the degree-granting institution.

Fast-track and joint programs

For those registered in a master’s program and subsequently transferred to a doctoral program (fast-track), the months of study completed are calculated starting from the date on which an applicant transfers into the doctoral program.

For those registered in a doctoral program, if a master’s degree is obtained as part of the program (for example, MA/PhD), the months of study are still calculated starting from the date on which an applicant is officially registered in the joint program (including the master’s portion of the program).

Note: To be considered eligible for the PGS-D program, the applicant's proposed research must clearly lie within the natural sciences and engineering, rather than the health sciences. Applicants are encouraged to review NSERC's addendum to the guidelines for the eligibility of applications related to health, which provides examples of research subject matter that are eligible and ineligible for NSERC's funding support, in addition to NSERC's eligibility criteria for students and fellows and Tri-Agency's guidelines on selecting the appropriate federal granting agency.

Complete eligibility criteria are available on the CGS-D program page (the NSERC PGS D shares eligibility criteria with the CGS D).

Evaluation Criteria

Complete evaluation criteria are available on the CGS-D program page (the NSERC PGS D shares evaluation criteria with the CGS D).

The evaluation of NSERC doctoral award applications is based on the following criteria:

  • Research ability and potential (50%)
  • Relevant experience and achievements obtained within and beyond academia (50%)

Application Procedures

Students registered in a UBC degree program (or on an approved leave of absence from UBC) between 1 January and 31 December 2020 must complete the NSERC online application by Tuesday, 15 September 2020 at 12:00 pm PDT. Please follow the application instructions.


  1. Confirm eligibility
  2. Confirm research area: Select the appropriate funding agency. Applicants should complete the agency application that is best aligned with their research subject matter.  
    1. Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR)
    2. Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC)
    3. Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC)
  3. Determine where to submit an application (through a Canadian institution such as UBC or directly to the appropriate agency). See the CGS-D program page for guidance. If applying via UBC, complete the application by the UBC application deadline, Tuesday, 15 September 2020 at 12:00 pm PDT.
  4. Read the application instructions and complete the NSERC online application
    • Online submission of transcripts: Applicants who submit their application to UBC will be asked to identify a ‘university designate’ (i.e., the applicant's graduate program staff) who will upload the applicant's transcripts to their NSERC application. Applicants are responsible to confirm with their graduate program which transcripts need to be provided by the student and which transcripts the graduate program already has on file to be uploaded. Please note that applicants must request certified true copies of transcripts from their graduate program, not from the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies. It is the applicant’s responsibility to ensure their graduate program has their complete, official, up to date transcript package on file.  The transcript requirements are outlined in the application instructions.
      • Due to COVID-19, NSERC has indicated that they will accept unofficial transcripts temporarily.  Applicants should order and submit their up-to-date, official transcripts as soon as they are available, and preferably by the 15 September 2020 application deadline.  We will permit applicants to provide official transcripts up to 6 November 2020.  In cases where an official transcript is delayed, a scan of an official transcript must be submitted in its place by the 15 September 2020 application deadline. 
    • Online submission of reports on the applicant: Applicants invite their referees via the NSERC online application. Reports are to be submitted by referees using the online system. Applicants are responsible for inviting two referees: one referee should be very familiar with their research and abilities (i.e., current or previous research supervisor) and the other should be sufficiently familiar with their research and abilities to provide a meaningful commentary. Applicants will not be able to verify their application until each referee form has been successfully verified and completed. It is the applicant's responsibility to ensure their referees complete and submit their assessments in advance of the application deadline.

Affiliated Fellowships-Doctoral application: NSERC PGS-D applicants applying through UBC do not need to submit a separate Affiliated Fellowships-Doctoral application. To be considered for criteria-based Affiliated Fellowships, students should submit the criteria-based Affiliated Fellowships checklist to their graduate program by the application deadline.

Nomination Procedures

Graduate programs review and rank the applications they receive, and forward their top applicants to the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies. Nominations must be submitted by graduate programs to the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies by 4:00 pm PDT on Friday, 9 October 2020.

Adjudication Procedures

NSERC PGS-D applications are first reviewed and ranked by the applicant's UBC graduate program. The graduate program forwards a limited number of its top-ranked applicants to the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies, which oversees a university-wide adjudication. Adjudication committees composed of UBC faculty members review and rank nominated applications and select which applications will be forwarded to the national competition. UBC's nominees are forwarded to NSERC, which oversees a nation-wide competition that selects which NSERC doctoral scholarship applications will be funded.  Results are announced in April each year.

Further Information

NSERC's FAQs provide helpful information for applicants.

For further information, please visit the NSERC PGS-D page.



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