COVID-19 information for postgraduate students

The COVID-19 epidemic 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 24 June 2021.

Current COVID-19 level

All of New Zealand is now at Alert Level 1.

We must all remain vigilant however, and continue checking locations of interest on the Ministry of Health website.

As a reminder, do not come to campus if you are unwell. If you become ill, remain at home and seek medical advice through Healthline—0800 358 5453.

Download and use the Government’s NZ COVID Tracer app (including enabling the Bluetooth function) and scan the QR codes at entry points to buildings. You can download the app in the Apple App Store or from Google Play.

You are encouraged to be vigilant with scanning QR codes as you move through the University.

Continuing your research

You are welcome at the university campuses. We are encouraging all schools to allow their postgraduate research students to return to work in their normal workspace, provided physical distancing is achieved and hygiene principles provided by Mauri Ora (Student Health and Counselling) are implemented. Your school will be in contact with you about the specific conditions for your workspace.

Any questions regarding the minimum resource agreement and whether you can take your computer, screens and computer chairs if you continue to study at home should be directed towards your individual School.

You should continue to have regular meetings with your supervisor. You should discuss with them the challenges that COVID-19 has caused to your research programme and work with them to keep your research on track.

If you are still affected by the COVID-19 restrictions, for example, you are unable to conduct fieldwork, talk with your supervisor about how you can refocus your research. In particular, we do not know when New Zealand and international borders will reopen so research that involves international travel may need to be reworked. Work together to make a plan B that leads to a successful thesis, even if the research may look 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.

Research overseas

The University is not currently approving Research Away overseas for research students who are in New Zealand unless the circumstances are exceptional. As of 19 April 2021, we have a travel bubble with Australia: the University will consider applications to do research away in Australia; students wanting to do research in Australia must apply for permission to do Research Away. Students who are currently overseas and need to travel outside of their home to carry out their research must also apply for permission to do Research Away.

For all students, permission to do Research Away is applied for using the usual Application to undertake doctoral research away from Victoria University (Word). You will need to attach a risk assessment to your application. Ensure that it specifically addresses the COVID-19 situation, including the risk of catching COVID-19 while undertaking the field work, and the protections in place to mitigate this risk and respond if it does happen (e.g., does the student have medical insurance if working in a country without public healthcare).

The application and risk assessment are in place so that we can be sure the student has taken all the risks into account and that the University has fulfilled its duty of care to the student.

Research extensions

We acknowledge that your thesis may take longer to finish.

Masters-by-Thesis students

The normal time allowed to complete a Master’s thesis is 12 months. Masters-by-Thesis students enrolled on 30 April 2020 are eligible for a one-month grace period, fees free, to submit beyond their original end date to account for the challenge of the nationwide lockdown. Those students who need more than that month will need to apply for a further extension.

Students enrolled on 30 April 2020 in a 90 point or above thesis are eligible for the one-month grace period. There is no approval process attached to this request, students just need to complete the required form (Word) and return it to their faculty advisers. The one-month fees free will be added on to the end of student’s normal 12 month registration period (full time, or equivalent), and students should apply before their current registration lapses. For students who have already applied for a COVID-19 related extension prior to this one-month grace period being announced, put in an application form noting this.

Doctoral students

Provisional to full registration: The Dean has granted a one-month extension to the usual time period for provisional registrations for all students registered on 30 April 2020. You are normally expected to progress from full registration within 12 months (24 months for half-time candidates). Considering the current situation this period has been extended to 13 months for affected students. This is automatic and you need make no application.

Thesis submission date: Doctoral students have up to four years to complete before needing to apply for an extension. The average finishing time has been 3.5 years, prior to COVID-19, so most students can still expect to complete within four years. If your research takes longer than the maximum time, you can apply for an extension.

For any student, major disruptions to research caused by COVID-19 will be considered a good reason for an extension to be approved. To apply for an extension, complete the Faculty of Graduate Research’s Request for an extension form.

Because doctoral students have considerably more freedom than Masters students in the length of time to complete, there is no automatic extension on submission date. Instead we have put in place additional funding to support students financially if they need extra time. See details below under ‘Financial aid’.

A retrospective suspension is an alternative option. See the details below under ‘Suspending your studies’.

If your doctoral degree takes longer to complete than you expected, and you find yourself in financial hardship, you can apply for a Doctoral Hardship Scholarship. The University's Wellington Doctoral Hardship Scholarship offers short-term scholarships to doctoral students nearing the end of their degree. The regulations for the Hardship Scholarship have been modified to allow application from any student in hardship owing to COVID-19.

For students on existing Wellington scholarships, see further information under ‘Scholarships’ below.

Alternatives to full-time enrolment

We are aware that some students are still in a position where they cannot work full time on their research owing, for example, to continuing caring responsibilities. There are alternatives to full-time enrolment.

Part-time enrolment

Domestic doctoral students can change to part-time enrolment if they are spending fewer than 30 hours a week on research. If this is the case for you, apply by completing the Faculty of Graduate Research’s Change between full and half time form.

International students studying outside of New Zealand are not bound by visa requirements and are therefore also eligible to enrol part-time using the form above.

If you are on a student visa in New Zealand, the conditions of that visa do not allow you to change to part-time enrolment.

International doctoral students

International doctoral students who are overseas and unable to return to New Zealand may continue to study at a distance. We have a dispensation from the Tertiary Education Commission (TEC) to continue to charge such students only domestic rate fees.

International students who have an Offer of Place are temporarily being allowed to enrol from overseas and begin their PhD studies from a distance. Students enrolling from overseas 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.

Students interested in this option must discuss with their supervisor(s) whether this is a feasible arrangement for them and their research, and if it is, contact us at fgr-postgrads@vuw.ac.nz for further information on the enrolment process and for the appropriate forms.

If you are already in New Zealand, you can proceed with your study visa application and enrolment.

Submitting doctoral theses for examination

We have permanently changed the rules so that all doctoral theses are now submitted in electronic form. Contact the Doctoral Examinations team and they will advise you on how to submit your thesis for examination. They are also able to handle exceptional cases where the thesis includes physical aspects that must be submitted physically, such as some architecture or design theses.

Doctoral examinations

Doctoral examinations are continuing for all students, whether in New Zealand or overseas. We will use videoconferencing where necessary. At levels 3 and 4 all exams are held via Zoom. The examinations team will contact you before your exam date to make arrangements.

Lodging a copy of your thesis in the Library

The library offers an online self-deposit service. For further instructions see the Library’s website.

Financial aid and scholarships

For Doctoral students nearing thesis submission 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 for students whose research has been significantly impacted by the pandemic. This temporary extension applies to applications for scholarships to start between November 2020 and December 2021.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 for.

If you have any questions about your scholarship, contact the Scholarships Office.