COVID-19 information for postgraduate students

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed how everyone at the University is working. Find out what it means for graduate students working on their thesis.

This page was last updated on 4 October 2021.

Information for:

Research interruptions due to lockdown

Research students who were unable to do any substantial research during the August-September 2021 lockdown or who had experiments that had to be aborted because of the lockdown are able to apply for a retrospective suspension to compensate for the time lost. A separate email is being sent with further details.

To apply, use this online form which includes instructions and eligibility criteria. The closing date for applications is Friday 8 October 2021.

Doctoral students in New Zealand

Alert level 2

All of Aotearoa New Zealand is at alert level 2, except for Auckland and parts of Waikato, which are at alert level 3. Staff and research students can work on campus, following alert level 2 protocols.

Physical distancing of 1 metre is strongly recommended in learning, teaching, research and laboratory spaces. A limit on 100 staff and students in each lecture or teaching space is strongly recommended.

Wearing a face covering is strongly recommended for staff and students in learning, teaching, research and laboratory spaces but is not mandatory except in public facing areas including Mauri Ora (Student Health and Counselling), the University Pharmacy, University Recreation Wellington, and retailers on campus. You are also encouraged to wear a face covering in confined spaces where physical distancing is not possible.

There will be an abundance of QR codes for the NZ Tracer app placed in learning and teaching spaces, and other places on campus, to ensure staff and students can readily comply with contact tracing requirements.

Public health information can be found on the New Zealand Government's COVID-19 website.

Find out more about how university operates at different alert levels.

Continuing your research

Due to the unpredictable nature of COVID-19 and the ongoing implications and restrictions, you may need to discuss with your supervisor how you can pivot your research. Make a plan together about how you can conduct your research in the context of a global pandemic that will lead to a successful thesis even if it is different from your original plan.

We know that the pandemic has affected everyone. We encourage you to take advantage of the experience of your supervisors. They have met challenges before that have required them to adapt their research in the face of unexpected obstacles. They will have useful advice.

Doctoral examinations and submissions

Submission

We have permanently changed the rules so that all doctoral theses are now submitted in electronic form. Under alert levels 3 and 4, all theses and submission documents must be submitted via email to phd-exams@vuw.ac.nz. The deadline for submission is midnight on the last day of the month, unless specified otherwise. Look at the Doctoral Examinations webpage for more information on submission.

Oral Defence

At alert levels 3 and 4 all oral defence examinations are held via Zoom. The Examinations Team will contact you and your examination committee before your exam date to explain the arrangements, and to confirm all participants’ availability to attend.

Lodging your thesis in the Library

The library offers an online self-deposit service. There are instructions about how to deposit your thesis on the Library’s website.

Research Away applications

The University is not currently approving Research Away applications to travel overseas unless the circumstances are exceptional.

To apply you need to download and complete the application form below. It is also available on the Wellington Faculty of Graduate Research's Forms and templates page.

You will also need to include a risk assessment  that specifically addresses COVID-19 as supporting evidence for your application. You will need to include:

  • The risk of catching COVID-19 while undertaking this field work.
  • How you will mitigate this risk and how you will respond if you do become infected—this might include, for example, your medical insurance arrangements.

The application and risk assessment processes are in place for everybody's benefit. We need to be sure that you and your School have taken all the risks into account and that the University has fulfilled its duty of care towards you.

International students returning home

In normal circumstances, you need to be resident in New Zealand in order to be eligible to pay doctoral fees at the domestic (rather than international) rate.

The New Zealand border remains closed to all non-citizens and non-permanent residents. If you are an international student and you leave the country, we don't know when you will be able to return.

If you need to return home due to unexpected circumstances, you may be able to apply an exemption on compassionate grounds. If your application is approved, you would be able to continue to work on your thesis in your home country while paying domestic fees, until it is reasonably practical for you to return to New Zealand.

Email fgr-postgrads@vuw.ac.nz if you wish to apply to return home on compassionate grounds.

Financial aid and scholarships

If you are a doctoral student nearing the submission of your thesis, you can apply for the Wellington Doctoral Submission Scholarship. As a response to the COVID-19 pandemic, this scholarship has been extended to allow up to an extra two months’ funding to students whose research has been significantly impacted.

This temporary extension applies to applications for scholarships starting between November 2020 and December 2022. This scholarship will provide a stipend of $2,000 per month, less any outstanding tuition fees.

If you are facing financial hardship now, the University also has a general Hardship Fund that you can apply to.

If you have any questions about your scholarship, contact the Scholarships office via email pg-research@vuw.ac.nz.

Doctoral students offshore

Border closure

The New Zealand border remains closed to all non-citizens and non-permanent residents. Immigration New Zealand is not currently processing Study Visa applications for anyone who is not in New Zealand.

Due to the evolving nature of the COVID-19 situation, we do not know when current or prospective students will be able to travel to New Zealand. This will be decided by the New Zealand Government. Any future updates on the situation will be communicated here.

Starting your PhD from outside New Zealand

If you have received and accepted your Offer of Place, you can apply to start your doctoral studies from overseas as a distance student. Applications are considered on a case-by-case basis and depend on the nature of your research.

Because students are currently unable to travel to New Zealand, the University has a dispensation from the Tertiary Education Commission. This dispensation means that international students are able to study from outside this country, and pay domestic fees until it is reasonably practical from them to travel to New Zealand.

To enrol from overseas, you will have to meet the criteria outlined in the 'Guidelines for enrolment of international PhD students who are overseas due to Covid-19 travel restrictions' below. If you are interested in this option you must discuss with your supervisor(s) whether this is a feasible arrangement you and your research.

Once you have agreement from your supervisor, please email the Doctoral Administration team at fgr-postgrads@vuw.ac.nz to receive the remaining paperwork. Please note these applications can take up to 3 weeks to process due to the approvals required.

Visa information

Immigration New Zealand is not currently processing Study Visa applications for anyone who is not in New Zealand. You do not need a visa to start your doctoral studies from overseas.

Any future updates on the situation will be communicated here.

Doctoral examinations and submissions

Submission

We have permanently changed the rules so that all doctoral theses are now submitted in electronic form. For offshore students, all theses and submission documents must be submitted via email to phd-exams@vuw.ac.nz. The deadline for submission is midnight on the last day of the month, unless specified otherwise. Look at the Doctoral Examinations webpage for more information on submission.

Oral Defence

Doctoral examinations are continuing for all students, whether in New Zealand or overseas. If you are overseas you will attend via Zoom. The Examinations Team will contact you and your examination committee before your exam date to explain the arrangements, and to confirm all participants’ availability to attend.

Lodging your thesis in the Library

The library offers an online self-deposit service. There are instructions about how to deposit your thesis on the Library’s website.

Research Away applications

If you are planning to do research outside of your usual office or place of residence you will need to apply for 'Research Away' permission.

To apply you need to download and complete the application form below. It is also available on the Wellington Faculty of Graduate Research's Forms and templates page.

  • There are sections for you and for your supervisors to complete.
  • Submit your application to your School Research Committee (or equivalent).
  • Disregard the references to Wellington or Victoria University as the 'home' location, and apply the form to your own situation.

You will also need to include a risk assessment  that specifically addresses COVID-19 as supporting evidence for your application. You will need to include:

  • The risk of catching COVID-19 while undertaking this field work.
  • How you will mitigate this risk and how you will respond if you do become infected—this might include, for example, your medical insurance arrangements or the availability of public healthcare.

The application and risk assessment processes are in place for everybody's benefit. We need to be sure that you and your School have taken all the risks into account and that the University has fulfilled its duty of care towards you.

Studying part-time

If you are an international student studying towards a PhD from outside New Zealand, you are an 'international distance student'. You are able to study half-time as you are not restricted by Study Visa conditions (as you would be if you were already in New Zealand).

Half-time study is appropriate if you are spending less than 30 hours per week on research towards your PhD.

Half-time registration counts as 50 percent of full-time registration. Therefore, if you are enrolled half-time:

  • The deadline for moving from provisional PhD registration to full registration is 24 months.
  • The minimum period that you must be registered before you submit your thesis is 72 months (assuming you remain at half-time enrolment for the duration of your doctoral study).
  • If you change between half-time and full-time registration, the calculations of these deadlines are prorated.

If you are already enrolled, you can apply to change between full-time and half-time enrolment. Download and complete the 'Change between full- and half-time form' below, and return it to your Faculty's postgraduate adviser.

When you travel to New Zealand, you will need to be registered for full-time study to meet the conditions of your Study Visa.

Financial aid and scholarships

If you are a doctoral students nearing the submission of your thesis, you can apply for the Wellington Doctoral Submission Scholarship. As a response to the COVID-19 pandemic, this scholarship has been extended to allow up to an extra two months’ funding to students whose research has been significantly impacted.

This temporary extension applies to applications for scholarships starting between November 2020 and December 2022. This scholarship will provide a stipend of $2,000 per month, less any outstanding tuition fees.

If you are facing financial hardship now, the University also has a general Hardship Fund that you can apply to.

If you have any questions about your scholarship, contact the Scholarships office via email pg-research@vuw.ac.nz.

Master's by thesis students

Continuing your research

Due to the unpredictable nature of COVID-19 and the ongoing implications and restrictions, you may need to discuss with your supervisor how you can pivot your research. Make a plan together about how you can conduct your research in the context of a global pandemic that will lead to a successful thesis even if it is different from your original plan.

We know that the pandemic has affected everyone. We encourage you to take advantage of the experience of your supervisors. They have met challenges before that have required them to adapt their research in the face of unexpected obstacles. They will have useful advice.

Grace period due to August 2021 lockdown

In light of the suddenness of the August 2021 lockdown, the Dean of the Faculty of Graduate Research has agreed a short extension for some Master's by thesis students.

If your thesis submission deadline is between 19 August and 20 September 2021, you will be granted up to 6 days' grace without the need for an extension.

Back to the main COVID-19 information page