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Formal approval is required for most changes that occur during candidature. Such changes are requested either directly through your eVision portal or through your Departmental administrator using a “Change of research details” form, available on the “Forms, policies and guidelines” page:

Forms, policies and guidelines

Change of research details

The 'Changes of Research Details' form covers:

Change of topic – the new topic and a reason for the change is required.
Change of supervisory arrangements – in certain circumstances (for example, upon a supervisor resigning from the University), a new or additional supervisor will have to be appointed.
Change to full-time/part-time status – usually only approved for health, family or career-related reasons
Change of supervising department or subject code
Details of off-campus request – this requires the dates of being off-campus, reasons for the travel and completion of a 'Postgraduate Travel Overseas Research and Safety Plan' if the candidate is going overseas. Even if fieldwork overseas has been approved as part of the research proposal, this form must be completed before the candidate travels overseas. Overseas tenure of a University of Otago Master's Research Scholarship is not normally permitted.

Once completed this form gets signed off by the candidate, primary supervisor, and Head of department and is then sent to the Divisional Office for approval.

Deferral (temporary suspension) and permanent withdrawal

You are required to be continuously enrolled until submission of your thesis. Circumstances, however, may make it necessary for you to withdraw from Master's study for a period of time. A period of deferral does not count as progress on your thesis – for University purposes it effectively 'stops the clock' on enrolment, and thesis submission deadlines will be adjusted accordingly. Scholarship payments also cease while on deferral, and you have no right to any services or support, including supervision, from the University during the period of withdrawal. Candidates receiving or eligible for StudyLink entitlements, including student loans, should be aware that these may be affected by deferral. International candidates should check with the Student Visa Team about the implications of a deferral; normally international Master's candidates are not permitted to have a deferral.

You can apply for a deferral through your eVision portal or using a deferral form. A reason and explanation must be given (and a medical certificate may be required if the request relates to a medical condition), and the application must be endorsed by the supervisor(s), and the Head of Department. The deferral can be from one month – and note it must be from the first day of a month to a last day of a month), up to a maximum set by the department.

Any decision to withdraw permanently from a Master's programme should be made only after careful consideration of all the factors involved, and after discussion with appropriate parties, including the Head of Department. Students can apply for permanent withdrawal through their eVision portal. The regulations of some Masters' degrees make provision, in the case of withdrawal, for papers already passed to be credited towards a Postgraduate Diploma or a Diploma for Graduates. Students should consult their Head of Department in the first instance.

Time limits

The regulations of Masters' degrees normally define a maximum period of time within which the degree must be completed and students should be aware of any such time limit. In exceptional circumstances an extension of time in which to complete the requirements of the degree may be approved by the appropriate Pro-Vice-Chancellor (or their nominee). A request for an extension of time should be made in writing and be supported by the Head of Department and Dean (where applicable).

Upgrading to a PhD

In certain exceptional circumstances, students enrolled in a University of Otago research Master's degree may be permitted to upgrade their studies to a PhD degree. An upgrade may only occur if it is fully supported by the student's supervisor and approved by the Head of the Department, the Pro-Vice-Chancellor (or their nominee) and the Graduate Research Committee.

In order to be considered for an upgrade, applicants apply for the PhD programme through eVision. Supervisors must supply (in eVision) evidence to support the upgrade including commentary regarding the scope of the thesis and how this will transfer to a PhD, and objective evidence of the candidate's ability to satisfactorily complete a PhD degree. This evidence may include aspects such as the publication of a paper in a journal or a presentation at a conference or an address at a departmental seminar (where a senior academic can provide a statement of the capacity of the candidate for doctoral study). In other words, for a transfer to occur, while the opinion of a supervisor is highly valued, there does need to be additional support.

In assessing an application for a transfer, the Graduate Research Committee will consider whether the applicant has:

• a strong academic background (i.e. a grade point average of B+ or better)
• chosen an appropriate PhD research topic of sufficient scope
• gained satisfactory knowledge of the background literature and is able to relate the project to existing scholarship and research in the field
• started to work at a PhD level, especially in terms of theoretical insights and conceptual frameworks
• the ability to exercise independent critical powers
• the ability to make a significant contribution to subject knowledge in the research field
• adequate training in research techniques and methodology
• planned a suitable research programme likely to achieve a PhD conclusion

Normally, if the student is admitted to a PhD degree, the start date is back-dated to the start of their Master's degree. Master's upgrades will not normally be considered until at least 8 months of Master's thesis work has been completed.

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