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COVID-19 information for taught postgraduate students

Pārongo KOWHEORI-19 mā ngā tāura

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.

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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:

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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).

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I can’t do my original dissertation / research project

The COVID‑19 lockdowns during 2021, restrictions on travel and possible future restrictions will have affected and may continue to affect different students in different ways. Some students will have been significantly affected in their ability to undertake their research. For others, adaptations to proposed research have been or will be quite feasible.

A first step is to continue to work with your supervisor to identify what can be changed or adapted or delayed, as the situation requires.

Second, document these supervisor-approved changes and keep records, in case you need evidence later. Examiners of dissertations undertaken while significant COVID‑19 restrictions are in place may be provided with guidelines for examining research or projects that have been disrupted as a consequence of the pandemic.

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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 2021 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).

For further information, see

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


Each of the divisions has its own guidelines and forms for applying for dissertation extensions. In most cases, HoDs are able to grant a 1-month extension. If you need a longer extension than this (up to 3 months), you will need to apply using the forms provided in your division. Consult your supervisor, programme co-ordinator, or Associate Dean (Postgraduate).

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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 re-scope or re-scale their projects to something that is manageable in the current context.

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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

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Pūtea Tautoko student support fund

For information on financial support available, see

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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 2, 2021.

As a result, academic staff have been instructed to take this into account when finalising marks for semester 2 and for full-year dissertations, research projects, reports or creative components of postgraduate taught degrees.

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