COVID-19 Graduate Student Report

In late April, the Toronto Science Policy Network (TSPN) launched a survey to understand the impact of COVID-19 on graduate students across Canada. The survey includes questions relating to working from home, health and wellness, teaching and course requirements, research, funding, and your experiences as a graduate student during COVID-19. This survey was open from April 22nd, 2020 to May 31st, 2020, collecting a total of 1,431 responses.

Based on this survey, we make several recommendations to ensure graduate students receive support as Canada slowly begins to recover from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

This COVID-19 Graduate Student survey aimed to understand the early impacts of COVID-19 on graduate students across Canada, and therefore it captures only a snapshot of what graduate students were experiencing during late April and May of 2020. This does not capture the whole picture of how the COVID-19 pandemic will continue to impact graduate students in the future. 

We would also like to note that our data, while being drawn from a national and bilingual sample of graduate students, does have limitations in capturing all of the unique experiences of graduate students.  While we tried to survey as many individuals as possible, and capture as many different issues and perspectives as we could, participation in the survey was voluntary and self-selecting. It is important to note that we were not able to cover some key topics, such as the effect of the pandemic on graduate student parents and caregivers. Additionally, the ways in which factors such as race, gender, and ability, may alter or exacerbate certain challenges, were not identified in this body of work as our respondents are largely white (71%), and female (65%). We ask that, as you read the report, you consider how equity-seeking groups may face additional challenges as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. As we move forward, TSPN will continue to look into these challenges. We also urge other groups working to support graduate students to be cognisant of how different identities and factors can drastically alter the graduate student experience.

Full Report

Executive Summary

Press Release

For more information, please contact

Survey Questions

We recently made a correction to our report. You can find the previous version here.

The survey, report, and associated materials are the work of the Toronto Science Policy Network.

Citation: The Early Impacts of COVID-19 on Graduate Students across Canada. Toronto Science Policy Network. (August 10 2020,

Contributors: Najah Adreak1,2, Dawn Bannerman1,3, Sivani Baskaran1,3, Jenny Bicong Ge1,4, Kali Iyer1,3, Isabella Lim1,3, Claudia Lutelmowski1,3, Bryony McAllister1,3, Sam McWhirter1,3, Louise Moyle1,3, Maegan Ong1,3, Vidhant Pal1,3, Caroline Pao1,3, Farah Qaiser1,3, Mathieu Seyfrid1,5, Frank Telfer1,3, and Alana Wilcox1,6.
*Contributors are listed in alphabetical order by surname.


1 – Toronto Science Policy Network, Toronto, ON, Canada
2 – University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, Canada
3 – University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, Canada
4 – Ryerson University, Toronto, ON, Canada
5 – McMaster University, Hamilton, ON, Canada
6 – University of Guelph, Guelph, ON, Canada

Acknowledgements: We would like to thank all the graduate students who participated in our national bilingual survey, and all the individuals, student groups and departments who assisted us in the development and distribution of  this survey across Canada. In particular, we would like to thank Paul Dufour, Kimberly Girling (PhD), Ellen Gute (PhD), Shawn McGuirk, Jennifer Polk (PhD), Vasa Lukich (PhD), Reinhart Reithmeier (PhD), and Molly Sung (PhD) for their critical insights as reviewers of this report. This project was made possible thanks to funding from the University of Toronto’s COVID-19 Student Engagement Award.

Disclaimer: This report is based on survey data collected between 22nd April to 31st May 2020, presenting a snapshot of the early impacts of COVID-19 pandemic on graduate students in Canada, which continue to change rapidly. Participation in this survey was voluntary, and may therefore be prone to self-selection bias. In addition, we would like to acknowledge that all of the contributors to this project are full-time graduate students and post-doctoral fellows who are living, and working, through an ongoing global pandemic. We have taken all efforts to address survey limitations and report data as accurately as possible.

If you would like additional information regarding the report, subsections of data, or have questions about the results of our survey please contact TSPN at Please note that in order to protect the privacy of our respondents, we will only share subsections of data where there are over 100 responses.