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Updated: 15 July 2022

Who is this advice intended for – does it cover me?

This advice is relevant to students who are currently working on a thesis of 90 points or more, as part of enrolment in a master's or doctoral degree.

Postgraduate students undertaking research dissertations, projects, or creative research components, please see 'Information for taught postgraduate students'

Information for international students

Possibility to start your study at Otago from overseas

Updated: August 2022

Normally, international PhD students are expected to be in New Zealand to start their study. If in New Zealand, or offshore on approved research leave (e.g. for fieldwork), international PhD students are eligible for domestic fee status (normally you can be away for up to 12 months).

However, as we transition back to pre-pandemic arrangements, it may be possible to start your PhD offshore with strong justification and support from your supervisors. If a remote start is approved, you can have domestic fee status until 1 March 2023, without being on approved offshore research leave.

If you and your primary supervisor do agree to remote study initially, you will both need to be familiar with these criteria:

Criteria for enrolling new international PhD candidates who start remotely

Your primary supervisor will then need to request formal approval from the Graduate Research School through this process:

Process for gaining remote start approval

Alternatively, you may wish to delay your start date until you are able to arrive in New Zealand. In that case, you should ask your primary supervisor to contact (1) the International Admissions Team to request a delayed start date, and if you have a University of Otago Doctoral Scholarship, (2) the Scholarships Team to request an extension of scholarship offer date.

Existing students wanting to return home due to COVID‑19 disruption

If you are an international PhD candidate wanting to return to your home country to continue your study, we currently have more flexibility to allow this, with you remaining on domestic fee status, at least while our borders remain closed. A number of factors will be considered, and there is more flexibility if you are nearer the end of your PhD studies - you need to be aware that it may be very difficult to return to New Zealand, given the situation with border restrictions and quarantine requirements.

We require candidates to complete the Off-campus Request section of the 'Change of Research Details' form, and get it approved by their supervisor (and then sent through for further signatures as required).

Go to the link to the Change of Research Details form

There are particular aspects which need to be considered, when completing the form:

  • Reasons for returning home (these could be compassionate / family / COVID‑19-related reasons, etc.)
  • Confirmation from supervisor that your research, and supervision of it, can continue from a distance
  • Brief details of how supervision will work at a distance – points that should be covered
  • Confirmation that you will have access to an internet connection of sufficient quality to support video conferencing through platforms such as Zoom, Skype, or Google Hangouts, and that connection enables access to library databases and eVision
  • That you have a mechanism to be able to pay any tuition fees that are due, while you are overseas
  • You must complete and submit to your department, a health and safety plan (formally known as a 'Postgraduate Travel Overseas Research and Safety Plan'), form prior to departure. This is particularly important at the moment, as COVID‑19 presents a widespread Travel Safety issue that should be noted in that section of the form, in addition to any other issues particular to your situation / travel plans.

    Link for the Postgraduate Travel Overseas Research and Safety Plan form

Please note that if overseas study is approved, you would be allowed to pay fees at the domestic rate, as long as the borders back into New Zealand remain closed and/or travel is impractical.

If you are receiving a University of Otago Doctoral Scholarship, you will also need to consult with the Scholarships Team ( regarding payment of your scholarship offshore.

Once the borders are open, you could remain overseas on domestic fee status, providing you had approval (requested through a Change of Research Details form) to conduct research overseas that cannot be done in New Zealand (e.g., data collection, field or lab work), and providing your time away from New Zealand does not exceed 12 months (this time away does not include border closure period during COVID‑19). If the reason is not research-related (e.g. write‑up), and it is practical to return to New Zealand, then international fees would apply.

Research candidates overseas

For research purposes

The Graduate Research School may have already been in touch with you regarding your options, and please keep in touch with your supervisor.

If you need to extend your time away, just complete a change of research details form to request an extension to your period overseas, with details of your location.

If you are an international candidate on research leave overseas, given COVID‑19, it may be possible to be overseas for longer than 12 months and still maintain domestic fee status at least while the borders to New Zealand are closed and it is impractical to return. Candidates should check eligibility for this by emailing

It is also very important that you remain up‑to‑date with the travel advice from the Government of the passport you are currently travelling on.

On deferral

For students on deferral, we do have some flexibility in terms of extending deferrals, supporting remote study, or for more extended (than usual) research-related reasons.

If you are an international candidate and are extending your deferral, there may be more flexibility around time on deferral without losing your student visa – please email to check any impact.

We can also consider retrospective deferrals once students are back in the country, to account for study time lost while away, but granting this may impact your student visa, so you must check with the Student Visa team at Consideration for a retrospective deferral for a period in the previous calendar year, must be lodged no later than early March.

If your research has been significantly disrupted due to COVID‑19, you can apply to the Pūtea Tautoko Student Support Fund for a one or two month extension to your scholarship, or for a tuition fee waiver and living expenses. You can apply to this fund more than once, but no more than once per semester, and the amount of award usually decreases with subsequent applications.

Stuck because of travel restrictions

If you have become stuck because of travel restrictions you can:

  • Be away for up to two months without needing any approvals in place. If self‑funding, you will likely want to take a deferral so you are not paying fees
  • Apply for off-campus study overseas if you can keep doing some study while away. Just now you can be writing up and remain on domestic fee status, at least while our borders are closed and travel is impractical
  • Apply for a deferral – minimum of one month and maximum of 12 months. Just note that taking a deferral means you lose access to resources (including the library) and any scholarships payments cease. You should also check any visa implications by contacting
  • Do any combination of the above e.g. holiday for two months, then off-campus study (good to take advantage while the borders are closed as if they open we would likely have to charge international fees), then deferral etc.

Nearing submission or under examination

You may be in the write-up phase of your project, or you may be awaiting examination. We have significant flexibility and tools to support remote supervision during write-up and remote examinations.

If you have an oral examination soon, we recommend going ahead with your exam by Zoom / other video conferencing software, as long as you can access a facility with reliable internet access. If participating by video conference is not workable, please contact:

Dean of the Graduate Research School

Funding support

If students are currently experiencing severe hardship and urgently need financial assistance, they should contact Otago University Students' Association (OUSA) Student Support (;, as they may be able to provide some support.

Also, check to see if you are eligible for Pūtea Tautoko - Student Relief Fund.

Options for candidates if research is substantially disrupted

You are encouraged to continue to study if possible, doing what you can and discuss your progress with your supervisor. If your progress has been significantly disrupted, apply for a scholarship extension, or, for self-funders, a tuition fee waiver and additional living expenses, via the Pūtea Tautoko Student Support Fund, noting multiple applications are possible as the pandemic continues.

If continuing your study is not possible or practicable, you can apply for a deferral through your eVision portal. The deferral must be for a minimum of one month, and during this time your study clock stops and your scholarship payments (if applicable) cease. A deferral can be extended if needed – just reapply by email as above. In some cases the deferral may need to cover a retrospective period, but note that this should be lodged by early March, if the period includes any months in the previous calendar year. eVision cannot accommodate retrospective dates, so if applying retrospectively, please use the Deferral Form (PDF). If you are receiving a scholarship and are considering a retrospective deferral, you should contact the Graduate Research School, to check any financial implications before applying.

Note that if you are an international PhD candidate, your visa normally only allows deferrals up to 3 months in any 12 month period. Please check with to find out if a deferral for longer than 3 months and/or a retrospective deferral will impact your student visa.

If you are an international master's candidate in New Zealand, deferrals are not usually allowed, but may be permissible now – email to check your options before applying for a deferral.

If you are an international master's thesis candidate and are offshore, you can apply for a deferral, and you should not lose your student visa (but you must check with as the Immigration New Zealand advice is being updated).

If you are in a taught programme, doing a dissertation, then a deferral is not possible. Talk to your programme coordinator or supervisor to discuss options.

Changing any research details or enrolment status

If your circumstances have changed (e.g. location of study), and/or you want to switch to part-time (or full-time) status, you will need to complete a change of research details form (PDF) to gain approval for the changes. Note that changes from part-time to full-time status or vice versa, can only be made at the start of each semester, i.e. in January or July. There may also be visa implications, so please check with

Travel and conferences

The University has restricted all research-related travel. This means that any travel requires the approval of your Head of Department and Pro-Vice-Chancellor.

The Pro-Vice-Chancellors decide whether funding is available for virtual conference attendance. This may vary across Divisions, so please contact your respective Associate Dean (Postgraduate) to check.

Submitting theses for examination

We now only accept digital theses for examination.

For PhD candidates

About a week before submission, you must email for approval to submit. After checking you are eligible for submission, Student Administration (doctoral) will advise you how to submit.

You need to submit:

  • A digital PDF file of your thesis either by email or Mail Express
  • A signed thesis submission declaration form (digital signature is acceptable) emailed to A photocopied or scanned declaration is acceptable as long as the signature is hand written or digital – not typed.

For Master's thesis candidates

You need to submit:

  • A digital PDF file of your thesis either by email or Mail Express
  • A signed thesis submission declaration form (digital signature is acceptable). A photocopied or scanned declaration is acceptable as long as the signature is hand written or digital – not typed.

Where to submit:

  • in Dunedin, email to the Client Service Administrator in your department/unit
  • in Christchurch, email to the Manager, Academic Programmes, in the Dean's Department (except for Master of Public Health theses which should be submitted to the Department of Public Health and General Practice

in Wellington, email to the Postgraduate Liaison Officer in the Postgraduate Office

Note that you may be asked to produce one or more soft-bound copies for the examiners.

COVID‑19 impacts on thesis

If COVID‑19 has significantly impacted the nature of your research, this form can be used to provide guidance to examiners about the nature of the disruption.

Publishing bursaries

If you are delayed in completing your publication, please contact Mr Peter Boston (Manager, Postgraduate Scholarships, Prizes and Awards) – – to request an extension to the date.

Additional funding is unavailable, but you can apply to the Putea Tautoko Student Support fund.


Library services

For the impact of any COVID‑19 Traffic Light settings on Library services, please check the latest news on the Library website:

Support for well‑being and research productivity

We know undertaking research can be stressful, let alone the added stressor of a global pandemic.

Disruption due to the pandemic can make you feel overwhelmed with trying to catch up if you have had delays or if it has been hard to focus.

Self-care and leisure activities to support your well‑being and productivity are important right now. Regular breaks and exercise are encouraged.

In the University community, your peers and departmental colleagues are your best source of support. Try to keep connected with your supervisor and peers – either face to face when possible, or online.

If you feel you need some coaching to maintain productivity and keep yourself healthy, consider contacting the Graduate Wellbeing Coach, Carolyn Jenkins (Nikki Fahey is on leave until September 2022). Carolyn offers either face to face or Zoom consultations (especially for northern campus and distance candidates or if in a Red COVID setting).

If you are struggling with your mental and emotional health, you can contact Student Health or your local health professional.

For support with grief, anxiety, distress, or mental well-being, you can call or text 1737 – free anytime, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week – to talk with a trained counsellor.

For further support

  • If you are a PhD or master's thesis student, email
  • If you are doing a professional doctorate (DBA, DClinDent, DMA, EdD), contact your programme coordinator

Keep up-to-date with advice

Visit for ongoing updates

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