Accessibility Skip to Global Navigation Skip to Local Navigation Skip to Content Skip to Search Skip to Site Map Menu

COVID-19 information for taught postgraduate students

Updated Friday 16 October 2020, 4:45pm

This information is for postgraduate students undertaking research dissertations, projects, or creative research components for their degrees. These tend to be 40–60 points in taught postgraduate programmes (but are sometimes worth fewer points), and are core components in some honours degrees, postgraduate diplomas, and taught masters’ degrees.

For information for postgraduate students undertaking a thesis (i.e. of over 90 points), see information for graduate research candidates.

^ Top of page

Who has oversight of my programme?

Unlike research students undertaking a master’s or PhD thesis that is administered by the Graduate Research School, taught postgraduate programmes are overseen by the division that the department or programme sits in.

The four Divisions in the University are:

  • Commerce (Otago Business School)
  • Health Sciences
  • Humanities
  • Sciences

Each division has a Pro-Vice-Chancellor and a number of Associate Deans, who – along with others – provide leadership and administrative oversight. The Associate Deans (Postgraduate) in each division provide oversight and liaise with departments and programmes in relation to taught postgraduate programmes.

The Associate Deans (Postgraduate) are:

^ Top of page

Who do I contact?

In most instances, the first point of contact for academic queries arising as a result of COVID‑19 will be the same as for any other academic matter in your programme. Usually this will be your supervisor or your programme co‑ordinator.

If you feel that, having sought answers to questions from your normal contact you are still unclear about something, you should contact your Head of Department, Head of Programme, or Head of School as appropriate. They may refer you to the Associate Dean (Postgraduate) in your division, or elsewhere to address your problem.

In a rare instance, you may feel unable to speak to people in your programme or department, then contact the Associate Dean (Postgraduate) in your Division (contact details above).

^ Top of page

I can’t do my original dissertation / research project

The COVID‑19 lockdown and other restrictions on travel will affect different students in different ways. For some students who were part-way through experimental work in labs or similar, their studies will have been significantly affected. For others, access to the materials for their research (e.g. archives) will not be possible.

For others, adaptations to proposed research will be quite feasible.

First, you should work with your supervisor to identify what can be changed or adapted or delayed.

Second, you must document these supervisor-approved changes and keep records. Examiners of dissertations will be provided with guidelines for examining projects or research that has been undertaken in the context of COVID‑19.

^ Top of page

Will the disruptions caused by COVID‑19 be considered in the examination of my dissertation?

Yes, where those disruptions have a significant effect that has not been addressed in other ways.

Examiners of dissertations that have been produced in the time period that COVID‑19 disrupted normal life in semester 1, 2020 may be provided with guidelines to account for this.

In addition, the University has established a process for ‘special consideration for impaired performance’ due to the impact of COVID‑19 on study. This is available for full-year dissertations, research projects and reports, or creative research components and may include a notice for the examiner explaining the disruption to the student’s work due to COVID-19, how this has been addressed, and requesting that this be taken into account when assessing the student’s work and assigning a mark.

Contact your supervisor, post-graduate co-ordinator, or Associate Dean (Postgraduate).

^ Top of page

Can I get an extension to the submission date of my dissertation?

As part of the ‘special consideration for impaired performance’ that was available during semester 1, 2020, students could request an extension. Any students affected by COVID-19 related impaired performance in semester 1 will have already gone through the process outlined below. It is not applicable during semester 2.

Students can apply for special consideration for COVID-19 related impaired performance, which may in some instances consist of an extension of time to complete the work. Normally this should not exceed two months, with the extension length taking account of the extent of any disruption. An extension is the preferred approach where extra time may mitigate any disruption. The approach taken to Special Consideration will vary between Departments, Programmes, Schools and Divisions. Consult your supervisor or programme co-ordinator, or Associate Dean (Postgraduate).

In some exceptional circumstances, extensions to dissertations may be available. However the approach take to extensions varies between Departments, Programmes, Schools and Divisions. Consult your supervisor, programme co-ordinator, or Associate Dean (Postgraduate).

^ Top of page

Can I defer my dissertation or project research?


Because dissertations or projects are administered as a paper (with a four-letter subject code followed by a three-digit number, e.g. GEOG 490), deferrals are not possible.

This is why students and supervisors are encouraged to first rescope or rescale their projects to something that is manageable in the current context.

^ Top of page

I’m struggling on multiple fronts. Where can I get support?

The phrase ‘we are in unprecedented times’ has become commonplace for a reason. Everyone will cope in different ways and has different things to cope with as well. Lecturers and supervisors are aware of this, and will be accommodating and sympathetic.

The University still has a range of support options available (see

^ Top of page

Pūtea Tautoko student support fund


^ Top of page

Special Consideration for dissertations, research projects, reports and creative components

Owing to COVID‑19 and the move to online learning, almost all Otago University students have had their studies disrupted in semester 1, 2020.

As a result, academic staff have been instructed to take this into account when finalising marks for semester 1 and for full-year dissertations, research projects, reports or creative components of postgraduate taught degrees.

For other full-year 400- and 500- level papers see information on how final grades will be adjusted.

^ Top of page

Visit for ongoing updates