Your guide to the 2020-21 school year at U of T

Frequently asked questions

Last updated: Oct. 14, 2020, 9:00 a.m. EDT (updated question 1.10, 2.3 and 2.12)

1. Students

Students have the option of studying online in about 90 per cent of undergraduate courses and, in fact, most of these courses will be offered online only. Information specific to each Faculty is available on Faculty web sites.

Those courses that do have an in-person element, such as some teaching labs, will follow strict safety and public health guidelines. Faculties and departments are being as flexible as possible to address individual needs.

The university will accommodate those individuals who may be at higher risk due to underlying health conditions or age, as is required under the Ontario Human Rights Code. We are also working to accommodate those who have specific needs due to other COVID-19 related issues such as child care or eldercare.

Students registered with Accessibility Services should continue to contact Accessibility Services to receive accommodations and supports. Accessibility-related COVID-19 updates can be found here:   

Instructors should continue to work with the accessibility services on their campus on the implementation of final exam and assessment accommodations:   

Yes, students will be able to live in residence. In consultation with public health authorities, we have reduced the number of students in our residences so that we can assign single rooms to all incoming students for at least the first semester. We’ve also enhanced safety and cleaning measures to make sure students living in residences have a safe, comfortable home for the upcoming academic year.  Please visit this page for the most up-to-date information about residence.

Graduate and professional students can visit the School of Graduate Studies Looking Ahead page for information and frequently-asked-questions on research recovery and adaptation, various programs types, personal accommodations, and financial support. You can also check your Faculty site or contact your Department’s Graduate Chair.

Students will continue to have access to a range of student services.

Please visit the Sports & Recreation page and the Hart House page for more information.

For campus-specific programming, please refer to the following pages:

We have reduced non-tuition incidental fees that go to student services and recreation programs for the fall session. No changes have been made to planned tuition levels as academic programs continue to be delivered through alternative means and some will include in-person components, where possible in accordance with public health and government regulation. We also are making significant investments in virtual learning and educational supports.  More information on fees is available on the Vice-Provost, Students page.

We encourage students who are facing financial hardship to visit this Funding Opportunity Directory. Undergraduate students can also contact their college or divisional registrar to apply for emergency bursaries, and graduate students can contact the School of Graduate Studies.

Please visit your Faculty’s site for information specific to your program. You can also contact your divisional registrar.

You can find information on technical requirements, adaptive technology, recommended accessories, and internet connectivity on this page. The page also includes an FAQ. We encourage undergraduate students who are facing financial hardship to contact their college or divisional registrar to apply for emergency bursaries, and graduate students to contact the School of Graduate Studies for support.

As of Sept. 28, 2020, the University of Toronto has extended the cancellation of future University activity to international locations for all students until April 30, 2021. University activities abroad on or after May 1, 2021 are scheduled to continue at this time, but please keep in mind that conditions crated by the pandemic may require changes. More information on learning abroad is available.

Please visit this FAQ for international students for information. Additional information for newly admitted international students is also available. For information about U of T support for students during quarantine, please visit the Vice-Provost Students web site.

To limit occupancy and help slow the spread of COVID-19, access to University buildings is restricted to members of the U of T community, with various measures in place to protect the health and safety of community members.

Libraries:

U of T students continue to have access to all electronic resources available through the library’s catalogue, including e-books, online journal article databases, primary source databases and streaming videos.

Students at U of T also have remote access to 2.5 million books and other references through the online repository, HathiTrust. If an item isn’t available through Hathi, students, staff or faculty can make a request for curbside pick-up at Robarts Library, the U of T Mississauga library or U of T Scarborough library. (U of T Libraries expects to expand curbside service to other libraries on campus, too. Please check individual library websites for updated information.)

Libraries across the three campuses will also quarantine books that are physically loaned out for at least three days after they are returned.

On the St. George campus, the Robarts and Gerstein libraries will reopen their doors, although the stacks will remain off limits. At Robarts, floors one to five will be open to students looking for a quiet place to study, as will Gerstein’s main floor. Furniture in study spaces will be spaced out or taped off to facilitate physical distancing. Those who need research support can reach out via the Ask Chat with a librarian service, request a virtual consultation with a librarian or take a workshop.

Students will continue to have access to library equipment such as computers, scanners and printers. They will also be able to log into a library computer remotely to use specialized software, including data analysis and design tools.

Please visit the University of Toronto Libraries information page for the most up-to-date information on library services.

Study space on campus

On-campus, physically-distanced study space is available at some U of T libraries. This space is available to U of T students, faculty, and staff.

Athletics and recreation

Effective midnight Oct. 10, 2020 and for a minimum of 28 days, the province has closed all indoor gyms and fitness centres in the City of Toronto, Region of Peel and City of Ottawa. In consideration of these new provincial measures, and in an effort to support public health efforts, the University has made the decision to suspend all indoor sport and physical activity programs for the 28-day period. For more information:

The status of these facilities may change as public health guidance is revised. 

2. Faculty, librarians and staff

If you have HR-related questions about COVID-19 or plans for the 2020-21 academic year, please visit the HR & Equity COVID-19 website.

If you feel unsafe in the workplace, please speak to your Manager, Chair, or Department Head. Similarly, if you are concerned about someone in the workplace who is ill and exhibiting flu-like symptoms, speak to your Manager, Chair, or Department Head. Managers, Chairs or Department Heads are advised to contact environmental health & safety.  

Employees in the workplace who are ill with flu-like symptoms should stay home; advise their Manager, Chair, or Department Head; visit the UCheck web portal to complete a self-assessment; and seek out medical advice accordingly.

There have been reports of discriminatory behaviours towards some members of our community. Behaviours and comments that perpetuate stereotypes are harmful and should not be tolerated or condoned. Assessment of risk should be based on exposure history and not on race or ethnicity. We encourage members to reinforce messaging of the University’s commitment to human rights and our values of diversity, inclusion, respect and civility.

To limit occupancy and help slow the spread of COVID-19, access to University buildings is restricted to members of the U of T community, with various measures in place to protect the health and safety of community members.

Libraries:

U of T students, faculty and staff continue to have access to all electronic resources available through the library’s catalogue, including e-books, online journal article databases, primary source databases and streaming videos.

Students, faculty and staff at U of T also have remote access to 2.5 million books and other references through the online repository, HathiTrust. If an item isn’t available through Hathi, students, staff or faculty can make a request for curbside pick-up at Robarts Library, the U of T Mississauga library or U of T Scarborough library. (U of T Libraries expects to expand curbside service to other libraries on campus, too. Please check individual library websites for updated information.)

Libraries across the three campuses will also quarantine books that are physically loaned out for at least three days after they are returned.

On the St. George campus, the Robarts and Gerstein libraries will reopen their doors, although the stacks will remain off limits. At Robarts, floors one to five will be open to students looking for a quiet place to study, as will Gerstein’s main floor. Furniture in study spaces will be spaced out or taped off to facilitate physical distancing. Those who need research support can reach out via the Ask Chat with a librarian service, request a virtual consultation with a librarian or take a workshop.

Students, faculty and staff will continue to have access to library equipment such as computers, scanners and printers. They will also be able to log into a library computer remotely to use specialized software, including data analysis and design tools.

Please visit the University of Toronto Libraries information page for the most up-to-date information on library services.

Study space on campus

On-campus, physically-distanced study space is available at some U of T libraries. This space is available to U of T students, faculty, and staff.

Athletics and recreation

Effective midnight Oct. 10, 2020 and for a minimum of 28 days, the province has closed all indoor gyms and fitness centres in the City of Toronto, Region of Peel and City of Ottawa. In consideration of these new provincial measures, and in an effort to support public health efforts, the University has made the decision to suspend all indoor sport and physical activity programs for the 28-day period. For more information:

The status of these facilities may change as public health guidance is revised. 

If you have research questions related to COVID-19, please visit the Research & Innovation COVID-19 web site.

The Centre for Teaching Support and Innovation has a range of resources available, including on planning for next term. The Quercus Support Resources page may also be useful as you plan. Finally, you may wish to consult your divisional head for additional guidance and resources. The University has also made recommendations to students on minimal technical requirements needed to access remote/online learning.

Since March 16, a significant portion of U of T’s workforce has worked remotely, and will continue to do so until further notice

The province is strongly recommending that all work that is able to be done remotely be done in that manner. Some employees work in roles where there is a requirement to be physically present on our campuses to maintain these essential services identified by the province. Divisional HR offices are in communication with these individuals.  

The COVID-19 Temporary Special Telecommuting Work Arrangements Guideline is available on the HR & Equity COVID-19 website as a resource for employees and managers. Information Technology Services (ITS) has also prepared technical work-from-home resources to support employees accessing work material while telecommuting.  

For the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic, employees who are requesting work-from-home arrangements due to being immuno-compromised themselves can work directly with their Manager, Chair, or Department Head. These requests do not need to be reviewed by Environmental Health & Safety, and supervisors should approve these requests wherever possible. 

If employees are unable to secure child care, they may utilize the following options:   

  • Request to work from home and telecommute (if the duties of their job and their child-care responsibilities allow).
  • Use personal / flex days in accordance with their employment policy or collective agreement.  
  • Access overtime banks. 
  • Request to use vacation days. Any limits on using yet-to-be-accrued vacation are waived at this time.  

We ask Managers, Chairs, and Department Heads to approve these requests wherever possible. 

The University has Working Alone Guidelines that include resources available to support members of our community while on our campuses.

We are aware that the COVID-19 pandemic may cause significant challenges for pre-tenure and pre-continuing status faculty members at the University of Toronto with respect to their research, scholarship and teaching. 

In response, any pre-tenure or pre-continuing status faculty member may request a one-year delay in their timeline to tenure or to continuing status on the grounds of “serious personal circumstances beyond their control” associated with COVID-19. 

Faculty members should submit any request for a delay in writing through their Dean/Chair/Director/Principal following the normal process. 

A tenure stream faculty member may request a delay to their interim review, their tenure review, or both. A teaching stream faculty member may request a delay to their probationary review, their continuing status review, or both. 

In line with the provisions of the Policy and Procedures on Academic Appointments, we ask faculty members to submit any request at the earliest opportunity in the review process (i.e., as soon as you know or reasonably ought to know that your review may warrant a delay).

Yes. Any pre-permanent status librarian may request a delay in the date of their review for permanent status for a period of time equivalent to the time they are unable to physically work at the University due to COVID-19. 

We ask librarians to submit any request at the earliest opportunity in the review process (i.e., as soon as you know or reasonably ought to know that your review may warrant a delay).

As of Oct. 10, 2020, the Ontario government has updated limits on organized activities for regions in modified Stage 2 (including Toronto and Peel): All social gatherings – including wedding receptions - and organized public events will be subject to a maximum of 10 people indoors and 25 people outdoors where physical distancing can be maintained. The two limits may not be combined for an indoor-outdoor event.

At this time, and knowing that events take time and resources to plan, the University is recommending the postponement or cancellation of all events in the foreseeable future that cannot be hosted remotely. 

We would also recommend the consistent use of the following language for communications on postponements or cancellations: “The health, safety and well-being of our community members is very important to us. We regret to inform you that owing to the current situation with COVID-19, _________________ event has been postponed/cancelled until further notice.”  

If you choose to postpone the event, you may wish to add the following: “Once conditions permit, we will be in touch with further information about the possible rescheduling of this event. In the meantime, please accept our apologies and our best wishes for your continued health and wellbeing.”  

Those planning meetings and events need to bear in mind that physical distancing requirements will likely remain in place as well as international travel restrictions, including quarantine requirements.   

We recognize that the landscape continues to change and so, for events beyond 2020, we would recommend the following language: “Please note that while preliminary planning for this event continues, the current pandemic conditions may require cancellation or postponement on short notice. We are actively monitoring the situation and will advise of changes as soon as we are able.” 

3. Health and safety

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that originate in animals but are known to cause respiratory illness in humans, particularly during the fall and winter months. Other novel coronaviruses have included Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV). 

In January 2020, a novel (new) coronavirus (COVID-19) was identified as the cause of an outbreak of pneumonia originating in Wuhan, China. The provincial government provides updated statistics for Ontario.

The  University of Toronto has been monitoring the situation very closely and taking action as necessary in light of the global situation, the advice of public health authorities and the interests of our community. 

The risk of more severe illness may be higher for individuals with weakened immune systems such as older people or those with chronic diseases such as diabetes or heart, renal or chronic lung disease.  

Please visit this Ontario Ministry of Health web site for information and resources.

No one should come to campus if they have symptoms related to COVID-19.  In order to facilitate self-assessment, staff, faculty, librarians and students at the University are strongly encouraged to  use  U of T’s UCheck self-assessment tool when they plan to work or study on campus. To learn more and to use UCheck, please visit https://ucheck.utoronto.ca.

The most common symptoms of COVID-19 include:

  • fever (feeling hot to the touch, a temperature of 37.8 degrees Celsius or higher)
  • chills
  • cough that's new or worsening (continuous, more than usual)
  • barking cough, making a whistling noise when breathing (croup)
  • shortness of breath (out of breath, unable to breathe deeply)
  • sore throat
  • difficulty swallowing
  • runny, stuffy or congested nose (not related to seasonal allergies or other known causes or conditions)
  • lost sense of taste or smell
  • pink eye (conjunctivitis)
  • headache that’s unusual or long-lasting
  • digestive issues (nausea/vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pain)
  • muscle aches
  • extreme tiredness that is unusual (fatigue, lack of energy)
  • falling down often
  • for young children and infants: sluggishness or lack of appetite

Many of these symptoms are similar to seasonal influenza.  

All members of our community are encouraged to complete a self-assessment for COVID-19 systems using the university’s UCheck self-assessment portal before they leave their residence room or come to campus. Those who are not coming to campus are also encouraged to complete the self-assessment regularly as a way to monitor their health.  

Should you experience these symptoms, avoid contact with others and follow the advice provided on the UCheck web portal. More resources are also available on the Ontario Ministry of Health web site.  You can also take a self-assessment on this Ministry of Health site.

A number of dedicated assessment centres have been established across the Greater Toronto Region to facilitate assessment and testing. Information on locations is available on local public health websites including Toronto and Peel Region. If you live in other regions you can find your local health unit here.

If you are advised by a public health authority that you have tested positive for COVID-19, please contact ehs.occhealth@utoronto.ca immediately.  

Everyone with symptoms of COVID-19 (e.g., fever, cough, difficulty breathing, etc.) should stay home, not work, self-isolate and complete a self-assessment using the UCheck web portal. A number of dedicated assessment centres have been established across the Greater Toronto Region to facilitate assessment and testing. Information on locations is available on local public health websites, including Toronto and Peel Region. If you live in other regions you can find your local health unit here: http://www.health.gov.on.ca/en/common/system/services/phu/locations.aspx

If you are advised by a public health authority that you have tested positive for COVID-19, please contact ehs.occhealth@utoronto.ca immediately.

Yes. Our caretaking staff is increasing the frequency of cleaning of high touch-points areas, such as handrails, door handles, elevator buttons and public counters, and installing more hand sanitizing stations in all buildings. For more information on safety and hygiene measures at our three campuses, view these videos.

Cleaning protocols are based on public health guidance.

Please see section 4 of this page for questions pertaining to masks.

As usual, continue to practice good hand hygiene and other infection prevention and control practices. This includes washing thoroughly with soap and water, using hand sanitizer, coughing or sneezing into your elbow, and staying at home or in your residence room if you are experiencing flu-like symptoms.

Practice physical distancing, including waiting for the next elevator or taking the stairs, using a less busy hallway and allowing others to pass before proceeding.

Guidance from public health authorities indicates that passing encounters such as walking by someone with COVID-19 or being briefly in the same room at less than two meters is not be considered a close contact and does not put you at an increased risk of Infection. 

Those with symptoms should stay home.

We understand concerns about possible flare ups or a second wave of the pandemic. U of T will continue to follow the requirements of government and public health authorities and is putting plans in place for a transition to remote learning from in-person instruction if necessary. All on-campus activities will include proper physical distancing protocols, and caretaking staff are increasing the frequency of cleaning of high-touchpoint areas. 

By offering a wide range of remote learning opportunities and co-curricular programming, our Faculties and divisions are working to minimize the impact of a potential second wave. 

Residences will be open, and students will be assigned single rooms for the fall term. Students who wish to live in residence but who are unable to come to campus in September, may be placed on an Active Applicant list. More information regarding residences is available at https://www.viceprovoststudents.utoronto.ca/covid-19/#ResidenceFall2020

4. Masks

As part of its commitment to providing a safe and healthy environment for its faculty, librarians, staff, students, post-doctoral fellows, volunteers, visitors, and other community members, the University has implemented a temporary Policy on Non-Medical Masks and Face Coverings requiring non-medical masks or face coverings to be worn indoors in all common-use spaces on University property. This Policy is consistent with the approach taken in recent Toronto and Mississauga by-laws.

Certain activities and individuals, including individuals with an underlying medical condition that inhibits their ability to wear a mask, are exempt from this policy. Please refer to the draft Guideline for the full list of exemptions.

Public health authorities recommend that a non-medical mask be used to reduce community transmission of COVID-19, especially when physical distancing may be challenging or not possible. Such use can protect others if the wearer of the mask is infectious. While those with symptoms should stay home, there are cases of transmission of disease from asymptomatic individuals.

Yes, the University is providing two (2) non-medical cloth face masks to every student, staff, faculty member and librarian across our three campuses.

Students:

Mask distribution dates and locations vary, so please be sure to consult this webpage for details. You will be required to provide your UTORid to receive your masks.

Faculty members, Librarians and Staff:

Mask distribution for faculty members, staff and librarians will be arranged at the divisional level. Your CAO or department head will be in touch with information on how to obtain your masks.

The University referred to the guidance of public health organizations in selecting the masks and considered a combination of factors including fabric and weight, comfort, and quality.

The U of T-supplied masks are two-layer, 100 per cent polyester, reusable and washable, with adjustable elastic straps and a flexible wire frame over the nose.

The main benefit of a non-medical cloth mask is to help stop the spread of droplets by the person who is wearing it and thus reduce the risk of community transmission. Cloth masks are not a substitute for situations where personal protective equipment (PPE) is recommended. U of T community members who require PPD are provided with it.

You may also wear a balaclava, bandana, scarf, cloth or other similar item that covers the nose, mouth and chin without gapping.

In general, masks are preferred to face shields when it comes to required face coverings.

A face shield is an extra layer of protection that is usually used in clinical settings in combination with a mask. It does not offer the same kind of protection as a mask because it does not fit securely around the chin, mouth and nose. The benefits of using a face shield on its own without a mask to either provide personal protection or reduce community transmission are unclear, although shields should certainly provide some protection.

If instructors have recommended that masks are not required in their learning and teaching environment, then instructors and students in that class may wear a face shield. Also, if an individual has a medical, religious, or other circumstance requiring accommodation, then that person may wear a face shield instead of a mask. The University has a supply of face shields available for these situations as well for clinical settings.

The policy applies to lobbies, elevators, hallways and corridors, stairwells, washrooms, service desks, cafeterias and lunchrooms, common areas in residences, study lounges, meeting rooms, classrooms, research and teaching labs, shared or open-space offices, and other locations used in common, including where practising physical distancing may be difficult or unpredictable.

A mask may not be necessary outdoors if you can stay two metres away from others.

Certain activities and individuals are exempt from this policy, as outlined in the draft Guideline.

As noted in 4.7 (above), the Policy applies to research and teaching labs. Medical-grade masks (unlike the non-medical masks distributed to U of T students, faculty and staff members) may be required for protective purposes in some labs, as recommended by the Environmental Health & Safety office. Masks used in labs where there are flammable materials present will need to meet certain safety standards. For questions regarding which face coverings are appropriate for certain lab environments, please review FAQ 4.6 and 4.7 on the VPRI Research FAQ page or contact Environmental Health & Safety at ehs.ppe@utoronto.ca.

Non-medical masks or face coverings are not required in certain situations, including:

  • When an individual is required to wear personal protective equipment in lieu of a non-medical mask or face covering, as determined by the U of T Environmental Health & Safety office.
  • When wearing a non-medical mask or face covering would create a risk to the individual related to their work, as determined by the University’s workplace safety guidelines.
  • While taking part in organized University community activities that interfere with mask-wearing (e.g., athletic or fitness activities, playing a musical instrument) in accordance with public health guidelines.
  • When eating or drinking.
  • Where protective barriers are in place.
  • In learning and teaching environments if and when the instructor recommends that non-medical masks or face coverings are not required on the basis that wearing them would materially impair the effectiveness of the learning activity, and where the learning activity can be carried out safely.
  • In research environments, if the approved departmental/divisional research re-entry plans allow individuals to maintain a consistent two-metre physical distance.
  • In administrative, office and industrial environments (e.g. server rooms, control rooms, mechanical rooms), when the physical layout allows individuals to maintain a consistent two-metre physical distance (for example, in private offices).
  • Inside meeting rooms, lunchrooms, and lounges when the physical layout allows individuals to maintain a consistent two-metre physical distance.

For a full list of exemptions and accommodations, please refer to the draft Guideline.

We know that some members of our community have conditions that place them at higher risk. If you have concerns, there may be other measures that can be taken for accommodation. Contact Environmental Health & Safety at ehs.occhealth@utoronto.ca.

Yes. The policy applies to all indoor spaces including leased buildings where U of T activities take place that are accessible to the public. In leased spaces, occupants may also be subject to the policies and guidelines of the building owner or manager.

The Policy requires non-medical masks or face coverings to be worn indoors in all common-use spaces on University property, including by instructors in classrooms. Instructors have discretion to remove their own masks while lecturing as long as they are distanced from students, including those in the front row of a classroom. In such a case, students would still be required to wear masks.

Non-medical masks or face coverings will not be required in learning and teaching environments if an instructor recommends an exception on the basis that wearing masks would materially impair the effectiveness of the learning activity. If instructors recommend that masks are not required in a particular class, they must ensure that the learning activities are carried out safely according to public health and University guidance, following the procedures outlined in the Teaching Re-Entry Planning section of the University’s COVID-19 Leadership Toolkit.

This policy will remain in effect as long as Ontario public health authorities recommend that mask-wearing is necessary in indoor public spaces. It is subject to change and extension at the discretion of the Governing Council of the University of Toronto as public health guidance and understanding about COVID-19 evolves.

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