Vanier Canada Graduate ScholarshipVanier Canada Graduate Scholarship

The Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship is one of the most prestigious doctoral awards in Canada. With a value of $50,000 per year for three years, it provides exceptional financial support for students pursuing their PhD at a Canadian university. This article provides an in-depth look at eligibility criteria, who the scholarship is for, what it covers, and its maximum value. It aims to inform prospective PhD students about this opportunity to fund their graduate studies and research.

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The Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship (Vanier CGS) program was created by the federal government in 2008 to attract and retain world-class doctoral students. Administered jointly by Canada’s federal research funding agencies – the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC), and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) – it aims to build Canada’s capacity for research and innovation.

Since its inception, over 2,500 students have received Vanier scholarships to pursue their PhD studies at Canadian universities. The prestige associated with the award allows institutions to recruit top talent, both domestic and international. Competition is fierce, with only 167 scholarships awarded in 2021. For students, it provides invaluable financial support and recognition of their academic excellence and research potential.

This article outlines everything prospective PhD students need to know about the Vanier CGS program – from eligibility criteria to maximum value. It summarizes who is eligible, what the scholarship covers, and tips for crafting a competitive application.

Eligibility Criteria

Meeting the Vanier CGS eligibility criteria is the first step to applying for this prestigious doctoral award. They are:

  • Be nominated by only one participating Canadian academic institution; each has a limited nomination quota
  • Be pursuing your first doctoral degree (including joint programs like MD/PhD, if research is a significant component)
  • Have completed no more than 20 months of doctoral studies by May 1 of the year of nomination
  • Achieve a first-class average in each of the first two years of graduate study
  • Not have already received federal funding to undertake their PhD program

Let’s explore these requirements in more detail:


Students cannot self-nominate for the Vanier CGS. You must be officially nominated by the Canadian university where you are pursuing or will pursue your PhD.

Contact the graduate awards office at your target institutions to learn about their internal nomination process and deadlines. These are usually months in advance of the Vanier program deadline.

Note that each eligible Canadian university has a limited nomination quota – only two candidates per 50 doctoral students. Competition is stiff, so put your best foot forward.

Program Level

You must be in the first two years of your initial doctoral program by May 1st of the year of nomination. This includes joint programs like MD/PhD or DVM/PhD, provided they have a significant research component.

Students in master’s degree programs are not eligible. The scholarship is intended to support and incentivize promising researchers to take on PhDs.

Academic Standing

To qualify, you must have achieved a first-class average, as defined by your university, in each of the first two years of your doctoral program. Maintaining excellence in coursework and research is key.

Prior Federal Funding

You cannot have already accepted federal funding from CIHR, NSERC or SSHRC to pursue your doctoral degree. This emphasizes that the Vanier CGS targets new doctoral students with exceptional potential.

Meeting all eligibility criteria is essential to getting nominated and having a shot at the Vanier scholarship. Being informed of the rules well in advance allows you to plan your doctoral program timeline strategically.

Who is the Vanier CGS for?

The Vanier CGS aims to attract both Canadian and international PhD students across all academic disciplines. Eligible candidates include:

  • Canadian citizens – both current citizens and naturalized citizens
  • Permanent residents – must have obtained permanent residency status before May 1st of nomination year
  • Foreign citizens – can apply but may face higher competition as quotas exist to achieve balance

The scholarship endeavors to support outstanding PhD students who represent the diversity of the Canadian population. Women, Indigenous peoples, persons with disabilities, and members of visible minority groups are especially encouraged to apply.

Your proposed research topic must align with the mandates of one of the three federal research agencies. Here is a brief overview of their areas:

  • CIHR – health sciences, natural sciences, engineering, social sciences, humanities
  • NSERC – natural sciences and engineering
  • SSHRC – social sciences and humanities

The Vanier CGS aims to build research capacity across all disciplines. Students pursuing ground-breaking, meaningful PhDs in any field are encouraged to apply.

What does the Vanier CGS cover?

The Vanier CGS provides $50,000 per year for three years of doctoral studies – a total value of $150,000. This generous funding can make a tremendous difference in enabling students to fully focus on their research during their PhD.

Here is an overview of what the scholarship covers:

  • Tuition – fully funds tuition fees at Canadian universities, up to your institution’s published maximum
  • Stipend – provides an annual stipend of $20,000 to cover living expenses
  • Research costs – remaining $30,000 can support research activities and travel

The scholarship is flexible in how students allocate the $50,000 each year. It can be used to fully finance doctoral studies without the need to work outside academia.

Joint program students (e.g. MD/PhD) can only apply scholarship funds to the PhD portion of their degree. The Vanier CGS does not cover professional program fees.

Maximum Value

The Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship has a maximum total value of $150,000 for recipients. Here is a breakdown:

  • $50,000 for each of 3 years of the doctoral program
  • Total individual maximum is $150,000

This table summarizes the annual and total maximum funding provided:

Year of PhDAnnual AmountTotal Amount
Year 1$50,000$50,000
Year 2$50,000$100,000
Year 3$50,000$150,000

The scholarship can only be taken up for a maximum of three years (36 months), even if the doctoral program takes longer to complete. No extensions are permitted.

The $150,000 total is the most an individual can receive through the Vanier CGS program – it cannot be held simultaneously with other federal awards. This enables the support to be distributed to more students over time.

Applying for the Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship

Now that we’ve covered the eligibility criteria, scope, and value of the scholarship, here are some tips for preparing a competitive Vanier CGS application:

  • Start early – Begin putting together your application well in advance of institutional deadlines to get feedback.
  • Focus your research proposal – Craft a compelling proposal explaining your research objectives, methodology, and potential impact.
  • Highlight leadership skills – Provide concrete examples of demonstrated leadership experience and potential.
  • Obtain stellar references – Ask professors and mentors who know you and your work capacity to write letters of support.
  • Be detail-oriented – Carefully review requirements and meticulously complete all sections of the application.

Leveraging institutional resources like graduate awards offices early in the process can help you submit the strongest application possible.


The Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship represents one of the most significant sources of funding for Canadian PhD students. Its substantial value enables students to fully immerse themselves in their research during their studies.

While the eligibility criteria are strict and competition is significant, prospective doctoral candidates should seriously consider applying. The prestige and financial support of the Vanier CGS can be transformative in recruiting top talent to Canada and enabling them to become leaders in their respective fields.

By publicizing open competitions on its website, the Vanier program aims to reach all potential PhD students who meet its criteria. I hope this article provides a helpful guide to the scholarship and supports young researchers in pursuing this opportunity. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you need any clarification or have additional questions.

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