Tips | Funding Graduate School

Graduate school can be costly, but if you do your research, you may be surprised by the financial supports available to you. This tip sheet outlines sources of funding, factors to consider when applying for funding, and useful websites.


1. Where is Funding Available?

Funding may be available through government loan programs, research councils, foundations, university awards offices, academic departments and banks. There are several categories of funding which, depending on your situation, you may be eligible for:

  • Loans: monetary aid that must be repaid within a specific timeline
  • Grants: monetary aid that, typically, is not repaid
  • Bursaries: grants given to students who can demonstrate financial need
  • Scholarships: grants given to students based on academic merit
  • Fellowships: funding based on academic merit, similar to a salary
  • Teaching or Research Assistantships: salary in return for assisting faculty with teaching or research work


2. Things to Consider When Applying for Funding

  1. What is the nature of your study? Academically-oriented graduate programs (e.g. master's and Ph.D. in a specific academic discipline), have different funding options than professional programs (e.g. law and medicine). Ontario Graduate Scholarships (OGS) and fellowships mainly apply to academic programs. Other options are available to students in professional programs from both within and outside the program/department.
  2. Keep in mind that accepting one scholarship may exclude you from applying to others. It is important to make informed choices by exploring the potential benefits and consequences before making your decisions.
  3. When assessing individual awards, look at details such as what period of time the award covers and whether or not it is renewable. Read the fine print to make the right choice for you.
  4. Do you want to conduct research outside of Canada or are you an international student looking to conduct research in Canada? Support is available from the Canadian Government.  


3. Government Funding

Provinces and territories provide student funding for which some graduate programs are eligible. Check with the provincial funding agency where you will be studying for more details. The School of Graduate Studies and/or financial aid office of your intended program will also have links to such programs and agencies. For an example pertaining to the University of Toronto, check out the University of Toronto’s Financial Aid website.

Ontario Graduate Scholarship (OGS) – The maximum amount of aid provided is $15,000 for 2-3 consecutive sessions, renewable for 2-4 years depending on your level of study (full-time masters or doctoral students). To be eligible, you must be a Canadian citizen, permanent resident, or protected person. International students intending to study at U of T (with a study permit) are eligible for a select number of awards. Check the website for deadline dates. The award is administered through your institution’s graduate awards office. Read more about the University of Toronto Ontario Graduate Scholarship.


4. Research Councils

There are three research councils that provide monetary aid to graduate students and scholars engaged in research. (Note: some undergraduate awards also exist). They focus on three different fields:

Most programs of study fall within one of these categories and students are typically able to apply to only one research council. If you feel that your field of research falls into more than one category, review the list of eligible research grants within every council and consult with your department. For the majority of research awards, applying students must be either Canadian Citizens or Permanent Residents to qualify by the application due date.


Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC)

  • To be eligible for support, you must be conducting research and be enrolled in a program of study in one of the fields that NSERC supports.
  • If NSERC deems your field of interest to be a better fit with one of the other research councils, your NSERC application will not be accepted.
  • Your application must be submitted to NSERC before 8:00 p.m. (ET) on the deadline date. Deadline dates vary for each program. Check the NSERC website for the exact deadline date for your program.
  • NSERC does not support clinical trials or research related to human health or nutrition.


Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC)

  • Applicants must be pursuing a graduate degree in the social sciences/humanities.
  • Several funding programs are available in addition to priority research areas.
  • The intended outcome of the research must primarily be to add to an understanding and knowledge of individuals, groups, and societies.
  • Deadlines for funding opportunities differ so consult the website above for details.
  • Contact SSHRC for detailed funding information, deadlines and guidelines.


Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR)

  • CIHR is committed to ensuring that its programs, funding opportunities, and evaluation systems result in the fair treatment of all participants.
  • Applicants must be affiliated with an eligible Canadian institution or organization.
  • Applicants cannot be employed by Canadian federal government departments or agencies or for-profit organizations unless affiliated with a university.
  • For a detailed list of funding programs, deadlines and information, check the CIHR website above.


5. University Awards Office and Academic Departments

Investigate both the awards office and the academic departments of the university and program you plan to attend for graduate studies.

  • Universities typically offer awards, fellowships, teaching and research assistantships, bursaries, and scholarships - through the university as a whole, the faculty of graduate studies, and/or the program department.
  • Each source of funding may require separate applications. In some graduate units, eligible students must apply for OGS, SSHRC, CIHR, or NSERC funding in order to qualify for internal funding from their department; please consult your department for its particular funding policies.


6. Foundations

The University of Toronto libraries carry a number of directories of foundations that may fund graduate education, including: 

  • Foundation Grants to Individuals Online: An online database of over 8,500 foundation and public charity programs that fund students, artists, researchers, and other individual grant-seekers. Up-to-date information on foundations funding scholarships, fellowships, research, and professional support. 
  • Foundation Directory Online: Access to listings of 120,000+ foundations and corporate donors 
  • Other directories based on subject of interest and geographical locations are available. Please note that many of these resources are available for use within the library only. 


Please note that this information is subject to change. It is best to refer to the original sources for the most up-to-date information.



Updated August 4, 2022.