Higher Degree Research Frequently Asked Questions

We have compiled the information below to answer some of the most common questions about our Higher Degree Research (HDR) programs. We encourage you to review these FAQs and if you have any further questions, you can contact the Graduate Research School.

Extensions


 

Yes. If your candidature has experienced research-related disruptions due to factors outside of your control (for example, your fieldwork was disrupted by bushfires, etc.), you can apply for an extension to your candidature. An extension provides additional candidature time and extends your maximum submission date.

If you intend to apply for an extension to candidature, you should submit your application no earlier than six months and no later than two months prior to your maximum submission date.

You will be liable for tuition fees for the period of your candidature extension. These costs may be substantial and you should consider these before applying for a candidature extension.

In some cases, it may be possible to request a fee waiver for the duration of your additional candidature time (see information below about fee waivers).

Yes. If you are an international student, an extension of candidature will require you to apply to for a new student visa. This is required because you are extending your period of study and you may need to remain in Australia for longer than your visa previously allowed. The candidature extension does not automatically guarantee a visa extension – you must contact the Department of Home Affairs for further advice.

You will also be required to extend your Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC) policy.

You are responsible for the full costs of visa and/or OSHC extensions. These costs may be substantial and you should consider these before applying for a candidature extension.

Yes. If your candidature has experience research-related disruption due to factors outside of your control (for example, a facility was closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, etc.), you can apply for an extension to your scholarship.

If your scholarship extension is approved, your scholarship will continue to be paid at the usual stipend rate for the period of the extension.

If you intend to apply for a scholarship extension, you should submit your application no earlier than six months and no later than two months prior to your maximum submission date.

If your scholarship is funded by an external partner or other arrangement, the Graduate Research School will review the scholarship agreement and seek advice from the funding body to determine if an extension is possible.

A tuition fee waiver covers costs for the period of an extension where you would usually be liable to pay tuition fees. A tuition fee waiver can only be granted if you are in receipt of a scholarship administered by Western Sydney University.

A tuition fee waiver can only be granted if you are in receipt of a scholarship administered by Western Sydney University. If you apply to extend your candidature and/or scholarship and a fee waiver is required, we will contact you with further information.

Tuition fee waivers are not guaranteed even if your extension is approved and will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

To be eligible to apply for a candidature and/or scholarship extension, the circumstances relating to the extension request must be beyond your control and not of a personal nature. All extension requests are considered on a case-by-case basis and a positive outcome is not guaranteed.

If you have experienced a disruption to your research due to changes to the circumstances of your research environment, the following criteria will help you to determine your eligibility to request an extension:

  • Unavoidable delays caused by external events (including but not limited to bushfires and extreme weather events, COVID-19 pandemic, international conflict, etc.) that have impacted access to University campus facilities, infrastructure, fieldwork sites, or state or national institutions. For example: lack of access to conduct lab experiments, inability to conduct face-to-face fieldwork or clinical research with patients or community groups, lack of access to non-digitised archive materials, lack of access to remote communities, inability to adopt use of alternative methodologies, and/or related circumstances.
  • Extended periods of unavailability or breakdown of essential equipment where you were (i) unable to continue data collection; (ii) unable to use alternative equipment or methodology; and/or (iii) unable to use the period of disruption to do data analysis and/or writing.
  • Delays in candidature progression due to unforeseen problems with the working environment (e.g. moving of offices/buildings, building damage, change of Principal Supervisor, etc.) which were outside of your control.
  • Delays to ethics approval beyond your control and that could not have been reasonably foreseen.

All disruptions and related problems must have been reported to your School/Institute at the time that they occurred or as soon as reasonably possible (i.e. within one month), to enable appropriate remedies to be sought before an extension becomes necessary.

Yes. If you are on an extension you can apply for a subsequent extension. However, these requests will be reviewed closely on a case-by-case basis and you will need to demonstrate the progress you have made on the initial extension and the reasons for your request for another extension.

Requests for extensions are considered on a case-by-case basis. The following are examples of circumstances where an extension will not be considered:

  • To enable you to undertake further primary research and/or laboratory work (unless the work relates specifically to a target area that has been approved by the University; e.g. priority COVID-19 pandemic research).
  • To enable you to write papers that do not form part of your thesis.
  • To enable you to undertake internships that do not relate to your thesis, either to assist your supervisor(s) or external to the University.
  • Where you have a demonstrated history of poor academic progress.
  • Where you have difficulties with the achieving the standard of English language required in your thesis (including delays as a result of editing and/or proofreading).
  • Where there has been inadequate planning and time management (e.g. where you have not completed the required HDR milestones, failed to allow sufficient/reasonable time for your supervisor(s) to consider the final draft of your thesis prior to the submission deadline, or for an external sponsor to approve a final draft of the thesis) or where you have failed to engage your supervisor(s) during a period of working off-campus related to your research, personal circumstances or other disruptions.
  • For holidays, sport, moving house, marriage/honeymoon, or other changes to personal circumstances or events that were planned or could reasonably be expected.
  • For personal matters such as illness, injury or changes to caring responsibilities such as home-schooling children or taking care of family members.
  • For computer or other equipment failure or theft where the use of an alternative is possible or the loss of research was avoidable.
  • For lack of awareness of the correct policy and application procedures for requesting an extension.

If you are not eligible for an extension, you should consider alternative options such as taking a leave of absence (i.e. a break from your studies) or changing to part-time (i.e. reducing your study load).

Step 1: Prepare your supporting documentation.

As part of an application for extension, you are required to include the following documentation:

  • Copies of your past Annual Progress Reports (APR) or other milestones – to detail your candidature progression.
  • Letter of support from your Principal Supervisor.
  • HDR Research Continuity Plan (RCP) – to detail the impacts to you and your research and how you have proactively managed the situation to reduce negative impacts to your project (for COVID-19 disruptions only).

Step 2: Complete an Application to Extend Candidature form, and if required, an Application to Extend Scholarship form.

If you do not submit all the required documentation, your application will not be considered.

All extensions require approval from your Principal Supervisor, the Associate Dean, Research or HDR Director, and the School Dean/Institute Director prior to submission to the Graduate Research School.

The maximum extension time available is six months per extension request. The extension period will be determined based on the information you have provided detailing the duration of the disruption and the work undertaken to proactively manage the disruption.

If you are unsure about what is the best option for your situation or you need advice about the implications of the various options, please contact the Graduate Research School. We will have staff dedicated to answering these questions and seeking clarification about the most appropriate option for your candidature.

Leave of absence

A leave of absence (LOA) is a period of leave where your candidature is paused and you take a break from your studies. The leave of absence period is not counted towards your overall candidature time and it is expected that you are not substantially working on your project during this time.

You should consider requesting a leave of absence when you are unable to make sufficient progress on your candidature due to factors such as:

  • Family or carer responsibilities;
  • Illness or injury;
  • Mental health and wellbeing; or
  • Employment commitments.

Your leave of absence allows you to attend to the other matter(s), without using up your limited candidature time when you are unable to completely focus on your studies.

You can apply for a leave of absence at any time in your candidature, excluding the last six months prior to your maximum submission date.

No. A leave of absence is not intended to be used to extend your candidature time and is designed to provide you with a break from your studies. You may keep in contact with your supervisors and make arrangements for your return, however, you should not be substantially working on your project during this time.

No. Your leave of absence is intended to be a period away from your studies. You will not have access to University resources (e.g. Library services, facilities, supervisory support, etc.).

You will maintain access to your student email to keep in contact with your supervisors and make arrangements for your return.

You should also be aware that you may be ineligible for certain University support (such as hardship funds) if you choose to take a leave of absence.

Yes. You can take a leave of absence as a scholarship recipient, however, your scholarship payments will be paused for the duration of the leave.

A leave of absence is a break from your studies and pauses your candidature. A leave of absence can be used for personal circumstances that are preventing you from making suitable progress in your candidature.

An extension is additional time added to your candidature and extends your maximum submission date. Extensions can be used where you require additional time due to a disruption to your candidature and are considered on a case-by-case basis.

You need to submit an online ‘Variation of Candidature – Leave of Absence’ form to request a leave of absence. We recommend that you discuss this request with your Principal Supervisor before submitting the form.

The approval of a leave of absence is not a guaranteed outcome and requests are considered on a case-by-case basis.

Study mode (full-time / part-time)

If you are a part-time candidate, you are expected to spend a minimum of 35 hours per week on your study.

This is offered as a guide only and your circumstances may change at different points in your candidature (i.e. some periods of study may be more intensive and require a more substantial time commitment).

If you are a part-time candidate, you are expected to spend a minimum of 20 hours per week on your study.

This is offered as a guide only and your circumstances may change at different points in your candidature (i.e. some periods of study may be more intensive and require a more substantial time commitment).

The time of day that you work on your study should be negotiated with your supervisory panel. You may choose to work much like a normal workday (9.00am – 5.00pm, Monday to Friday), after hours, on weekends or on a flexible arrangement that suits the requirements of your research and your personal circumstances.

You can change to part-time study at any point in your candidature. Changing to part-time study is a good option to consider if you are willing and able to continue your research, but your progress has been impacted due to factors such as work, family commitments or other disruptions to your project. Rather than taking a leave of absence and pausing your candidature, a part-time study load allows you to continue studying and accessing University resources, but with a reduced workload.

When you change from full-time to part-time, your candidature time will be consumed at half the rate. However, the reduced rate only applies from the point that you change mode, so you do not get extra time for the part of your candidature that has already been consumed.

It is important to understand that a change to part-time study may increase the time that it takes for you to complete your degree.

Usually, you would change study mode for a period of one semester. However, if your circumstances change and you decide that your progress and workload can return to normal, you can change back to full-time study at any time.

You are required to maintain a full-time study load and cannot change to part-time study unless there are extenuating circumstances where the University understands that it would be in your best interest to reduce your workload.

It is important to understand that a change to part-time study may increase the time that it takes for you to complete your degree, but it does not extend your student visa status. If you do require additional time to complete your studies (beyond your visa expiry), you may need to apply for a new CoE and student visa.

There are tax implications for scholarship recipients that request to study part-time and therefore we do not recommend this option as it may affect your stipend amount.

If there are extenuating circumstances where you believe it would be in your best interest to study part-time (even with a tax-reduced stipend), you should contact the Graduate Research School for advice.

You need to submit an online ‘Variation of Candidature – Study Mode’ form to request to change your study mode. We recommend that you discuss this change with your Principal Supervisor before submitting the form.