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SSHRC Doctoral Fellowships

Fall 2020 Competition

Value $20,000 per year
Duration 12, 24, 36 or 48 months
Application deadlineFootnote * Directly to SSHRC: October 17, 2020
Through a Canadian institution with a quota: Contact your institution
Results announced April 2021
Apply Web CV, application and instructions

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Important note: Both the SSHRC Doctoral Fellowships and the Canada Graduate Scholarships—Doctoral Scholarships (CGS D) are offered through one annual national competition. Applicants need to submit only one application to be considered for one or both awards. As each award has notable differences, applicants must read the descriptions for each award carefully to determine if they are eligible to apply and hold each award. Applicants eligible for both the SSHRC Doctoral Fellowships and CGS D Scholarships will automatically be considered for both awards.


The SSHRC Doctoral Fellowships are expected to respond to the objectives of the Talent program.

The SSHRC Doctoral Fellowships support high-calibre students engaged in doctoral programs in the social sciences and humanities. This support allows scholars to fully focus on their doctoral studies, to seek out the best research mentors in their chosen fields and to contribute to the Canadian research ecosystem during and beyond the tenure of their awards.

SSHRC welcomes applications involving Indigenous research, as well as those involving research-creation.

Joint initiatives and supplements

SSHRC offers supplementary funding to scholarship and fellowship award holders, some of which is offered through joint initiatives. SSHRC collaborates with organizations from across the not-for-profit, private and public sectors to support and promote training, research and connection activities in the social sciences and humanities. SSHRC’s joint initiatives are designed to reflect SSHRC’s strategic objectives and mandate, inform decision-makers, and, in certain cases, address specific needs of its partners.

Learn more about joint initiatives.

For a complete list of available supplements and joint initiatives, consult SSHRC’s funding search tool.

Unless otherwise indicated, there is no separate application process for most initiatives and supplements. However, candidates must indicate that they wish to be considered for an initiative or a supplement, and explain why, in their application form.

Future Challenge Areas

SSHRC invites all applicants to review Imagining Canada’s Future’s 16 future global challenges and to consider addressing one or more of these areas in their research proposal. This is not an evaluation criterion for merit review and does not offer additional or dedicated research funds for this funding opportunity. 

Value and duration

SSHRC Doctoral Fellowships are valued at $20,000 per year for 12, 24, 36 or 48 months, up to a total of $80,000.

SSHRC determines the value and duration of an award based on the number of months of full-time study (or equivalent) the applicant will have completed by December 31 of the calendar  year of application. See the Eligibility—Applicant section for more information.

Note: The value and duration of SSHRC Doctoral Fellowships differ from those of the CGS D Scholarships. 



To be eligible to apply, an applicant must: 

  • be a Canadian citizen or a permanent resident of Canada, as of the application deadline ;
  • not have already received a doctoral-level scholarship or fellowship from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) or SSHRC (the agencies); 
  • submit only one scholarship or fellowship application in a given academic year to either SSHRC, CIHR or NSERC. Nominations to the Vanier CGS program do not count toward this limit (See SSHRC’s regulations on multiple applications and holding multiple awards for more information); and
  • have completed no more than 48 months of full-time study in their doctoral program by December 31 of the calendar year of application.

Some eligibility requirements for the SSHRC Doctoral Fellowships differ from those of the CGS D Scholarships.

Months of study

An applicant’s eligibility for a SSHRC Doctoral Fellowship is based on the number of months of full-time study they will have completed by December 31 of the calendar year of application.

Part-time study is counted as half time. For example, two terms of part-time study count as one term of full-time study.

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.

The months of study completed are calculated starting from the date on which an applicant is officially registered in the doctoral program.

Fast-track, joint and direct-entry programs

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

For applicants registered in a doctoral program in which they obtain a master’s degree (e.g., MA/PhD), the months of study are calculated starting from the date on which an applicant is officially registered in the joint program (including the master’s portion of the program).

For applicants registered in a doctoral program directly from an undergraduate program (i.e., never enrolled in a master’s program), the months of study completed are calculated starting from the date on which an applicant begins the doctoral program. These applicants, however, may be eligible to apply to the CGS M program for their first year of doctoral funding.

Number of months completed by December 31 of the calendar year of application  Duration of SSHRC Doctoral Fellowship 
Between 0 and 12 months 48 months
Between 13 and 24 months 36 months
Between 25 and 36 months 24 months
Between 37 and 48 months 12 months
49 months or more Not eligible 

Subject matter

SSHRC Doctoral Fellowships support and promote research excellence in a wide variety of disciplines, including interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary research.

Consult the guidelines for selecting the appropriate federal granting agency and the guidelines on subject matter eligibility for more information.

Degree programs

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

Eligibility to hold an award

SSHRC Doctoral Fellowships are tenable at any recognized institution in Canada or abroad. For the fellowship to be held abroad, the award holder must have completed a bachelor’s or master’s degree at a Canadian postsecondary institution. For award holders who do not meet this requirement, the fellowships are tenable only at recognized Canadian postsecondary institutions.

The CGS D scholarships are only tenable at eligible Canadian institutions. There are no exceptions.

Award holders may be eligible to hold their awards part- time. Refer to the Tri-Agency Research Training Award Holder’s Guide  for further information.

Qualifying or “make-up” years of study are not eligible for support.

Application procedures

Applicants must complete the application form according to the accompanying instructions.

Applicants eligible for both a SSHRC Doctoral Fellowship and CGS D Scholarship will automatically be considered for both awards.

To apply, you must:

  • Ensure that you meet the requirements specified in Value and duration and Eligibility
  • Complete only one application form, together with the SSHRC CV and required attachments. Application instructions can be accessed when you log in to the application form  in the SSHRC web application system.
  • Determine your current registration status from the Quota and Where to submit an application sections below and submit your completed application to the appropriate institution or to SSHRC directly, as required.


The term “quota” refers to the maximum number of applications an institution can forward to SSHRC’s national competition. Applicants should first determine if an institution has a quota, then follow the instructions below on where to submit their application.

Where to submit an application

An applicant must apply through a Canadian institution with a quota or directly to SSHRC. Failure to submit an application through the correct channel will result in an application being rejected from the competition.

Applicants should contact the faculty of graduate studies (or its equivalent) to confirm their registration status in the calendar year of application.

For more information, refer to the document Where should I submit my application?

Indigenous applicants

Institutions may recommend applications from Indigenous applicants for submission to the doctoral awards competition beyond their application quota, if applicants agree to their personal information being used for this purpose. Applicants can do so by making the appropriate selection in the application form.

Indigenous applicants who have selected this option in their application and who are required to submit directly to SSHRC are automatically evaluated in the national competition.

For more information, see SSHRC’s Indigenous Talent Measures.


Once the 8:00 p.m. (eastern) application deadline has passed for direct applicants on October 17, the application form will be offline for 48 hours and applications will not be accepted. After this time, the application form will come back online, and only applications from Canadian institutions with a quota will be accepted for the November 21 deadline.

Institution deadlines

Applicants applying through their institution must submit their applications by the deadline set by the institution.

The institution will review all applications received, rank them and submit the recommended applications to SSHRC by 8:00 p.m. (eastern) on November 21. The Institution will notify applicants of its evaluation outcome.

For more information about institutional deadlines, applicants should contact their faculty of graduate studies (or its equivalent).

Deadline for submitting directly to SSHRC

Applicants applying directly to SSHRC must submit using the appropriate application portal before 8:00 p.m. (eastern ) on October 17. If the deadline falls on a weekend or a Canadian public holiday, applications must be submitted by the following business day before 8:00 p.m. (eastern). 

Applicants requiring assistance while preparing their application should communicate with SSHRC well in advance of their application deadline.

Selection procedures

Applications are evaluated, and available funds awarded, through a competitive merit review process. SSHRC bases funding decisions on the recommendations of the selection committee and on the funds available.

Institutional review

The faculty of graduate studies (or its equivalent) at each Canadian institution is responsible for coordinating the institutional evaluation of doctoral award applications. Institutions then submit applications according to their quotas for SSHRC’s consideration.

SSHRC review

Multidisciplinary selection committees covering broad research areas evaluate applications (whether sent directly to SSHRC or via the institutions.)

Selection criteria

The evaluation of doctoral award applications, whether by institutions or by SSHRC, is based on the following criteria:

Criteria Description Weight

Research ability and potential 

Indicators of research ability and potential:

  • Quality of research proposal
    • specific, focused, and feasible research question(s) and objective(s)
    • 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 formats


Relevant experience and achievements obtained within and beyond academia

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

  • Scholarships, awards and distinctions (amount, duration and prestige)
  • Academic record, such as:
    • 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
    • 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


SSHRC’s Guidelines for the Merit Review of Indigenous Research are relevant for researchers (applicants and project directors) and students preparing SSHRC applications related to Indigenous research. SSHRC provides these guidelines to merit reviewers to help build understanding of Indigenous research and research-related activities, and to assist committee members in interpreting SSHRC’s specific evaluation criteria in the context of Indigenous research. SSHRC makes concerted efforts to include experts in Indigenous research in doctoral and postdoctoral selection committees. The guidelines may also be of use to external assessors, postsecondary institutions and partner organizations that support Indigenous research.

Communication of results

SSHRC informs all applicants of the outcome of their applications in April of each year.

The faculty of graduate studies (or its equivalent) of Canadian institutions with a quota will be informed of their applicants’ competition results via SSHRC’s secure site.

SSHRC will publish the names (and other basic award information) of scholarship recipients on its website.

All communications of results, including publication of recipients’ list, meet all requirements of the Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act.

Regulations, policies and related information

SSHRC reserves the right to determine the eligibility of applications, based on the information included. SSHRC also reserves the right to interpret the regulations and policies governing its funding opportunities.

All applicants and scholarship/fellowship holders must comply with the Regulations Governing Fellowship and Scholarship Applications and with the regulations set out in the Tri-Agency Research Training Award Holder’s Guide.

Official languages

Applicants can submit their application in the official language of their choice. Institutions must have mechanisms in place to review both English and French applications.

Guidelines and related support material

All applicants for SSHRC funding should consult the following guidelines while preparing their applications:

Contact information

For more information, contact:

Tel.: 613-943-7777

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