Changes in your Doctoral studies

As your research progresses it is not uncommon to apply for changes to your topic, Department or School, supervisory team or location. Please browse the various application options below to see the processes for a change in your Doctoral studies. 

As your research progresses it is quite likely that you may have changes to your initial proposed area of research. Minor changes of topic or research emphasis may be approved by your supervisors and can simply be noted in your next 6-monthly progress report form.

Significant changes of topic require the approval of the Dean of Postgraduate Research. If your thesis topic has changed substantially you need to apply in writing to the Postgraduate Office to change the topic of your proposed research. Your application will be considered by the Dean of Postgraduate Research in consultation with your supervisors. Consideration will be given to whether supervision arrangements may need to be changed and whether you will require an extension of your final submission date. You will be notified on the outcome of your request by the Postgraduate Office as soon as possible.

Before applying for a change in thesis topic, discuss the matter with your supervisors first.

It is possible that you may wish to change the Department or School you are based in for a variety of reasons related to the direction that your thesis work develops in. If you wish to change Department or School you need to complete the Change in course code form to receive the approval of the Dean of Postgraduate Research. You will be notified on the outcome of your request by the Postgraduate Office as soon as possible.

During your PhD studies it may become necessary or desirable to make changes to your supervisory team for a variety of reasons; such as changes to your research topic, or changes in academic staff in your Department/School.

Changes to your supervisory team following submission of your Supervisory Agreement must be approved by the Dean of Postgraduate Research. If you wish to make any changes to your supervisory team (either by adding or removing supervisors) you need to download and complete the Change in supervisory team form‌, and forward it to the Postgraduate Office as an email attachment.

Your application will be considered by the Dean of Postgraduate Research in consultation with your supervisors and, as necessary, by the Heads of the relevant Departments/Schools. You will be notified on the outcome of your request by the Postgraduate Office as soon as possible.

Before applying for an extension please first discuss the matter with your supervisors.

If you require an extension to the final submission date for your PhD thesis then please complete the Extension for thesis submission deadline form. Once signed off by your supervisor, please return (via email) to the Postgraduate Office.

Please be aware that your thesis submission date is 4FTE (i.e., 4 years full-time study) after your initial PhD enrolment.

Your application for an extension will be considered by the Dean of Postgraduate Research in consultation with your supervisors. You will be notified on the outcome of your request by the Postgraduate Office as soon as possible.

If you are granted an extension to your thesis submission date you will be liable for any additional fees for the period of the extension. You must ensure that your enrolment is kept up-to-date. You will need to enrol on your thesis anniversary date, regardless of any extensions that you might have been granted.

Granting of an academic extension does not also create an extension to any scholarship you may be receiving. Application for extensions of scholarships must be made separately to the scholarship granting agency.

  • If you require an extension to the submission of your Supervisory Agreement of more than a month then please complete this form: Extension to Supervisors Agreement Doctoral
  • If you require an extension to the date of completion of your Doctoral Confirmation process of more than two months you will need to complete this form: Extension to Doctoral Confirmation
  • If you require an extension to the submission of your Progress Report of more than a month then please complete this form: Extension to Progress

Before applying for a suspension please first discuss the matter with your supervisors.

If you wish to suspend your PhD study then please download and complete the Suspension of doctoral study form.

Your application for a suspension will be considered by the Dean of Postgraduate Research in consultation with your supervisors. In granting a suspension the viability of your project and availability of ongoing resources, including supervision, is taken into consideration. If the project is not going to be viable after the requested period, then period of suspension may be declined or reduced in length and you may be requested to continue to study or withdraw completely from your studies. You will be notified on the outcome of your request by the Postgraduate Office as soon as possible.

Please note that a suspension to study means a complete withdrawal from study for a period. During the period of suspension you should not be working on your thesis and will not have access to any UC resources (including supervision) during that time. Payment of UC Scholarship stipends will stop for the duration of a suspension of studies. Any scholarship stipend payments received while on suspension, including for a back-dated suspension, will need to be re-paid to the University. Students who are suspended should fully expect to return to their studies after the suspension period. Suspensions can only be awarded for whole months, can only start from the first day of the month, and are for a minimum period of one month and will be granted for whole months.

If a suspension is applied for in advance, tuition fees will be refunded for any months paid. If a back dated suspension is granted, a refund is not automatic. A separate application must be made for refund of tuition fees. 

International students should contact the Enrolments Office (Level 1, Matariki) to discuss their visa situation before applying for a suspension of their studies.

  • If the suspension is for a short period of time for valid reasons, the Student Visa can remain in place
  • However if the suspension is for three months or longer, then Immigration New Zealand will cancel the student’s student visa and will require the student to apply for a Visitor permit pending expiry of the suspension period.

Studying for a PhD is expected to be a full-time commitment. It is expected that you should be enrolled in your PhD on a full-time basis unless there is good reason for you to be enrolled in a part-time basis. The most common acceptable reasons are:

  • Employment (you must provide evidence that you are employed for at least 20 hours per week on a regular basis and a statement from your employer that you will be able to satisfactorily pursue the necessary study and research).
  • Sole or principle responsibility for the care of young children or elderly persons.
  • A chronic health condition or disability that makes full-time study impossible (you must provide evidence from your health professional supporting your need to enrol on a part-time basis)

There are provisions within the PhD regulations for you to change your enrolment status throughout your PhD.

If you wish to change your enrolment from part-time to full-time or vice-versa you need to complete the Change in enrolment status - part time/full time‌ form. Your application will be considered by the Dean of Postgraduate Research in consultation with your supervisors. You will be notified on the outcome of your request by the Postgraduate Office as soon as possible. This notification will also detail the change to your thesis submission date. The Enrolments Office will be notified of any change in enrolment status and your tuition fees will be adjusted accordingly.

PhD students who are normally based in Christchurch that wish to study or conduct research away from Christchurch - either elsewhere in New Zealand or overseas - for a period of one month or longer must obtain the approval of the Dean of Postgraduate Research. This approval is required because the duty of care (including provision of supervision; provision of ethics approval for research) that the University of Canterbury has to its students still applies when those students are conducting research or studying away from Christchurch.  We have mechanisms in place to assist students if emergencies arise.

If you wish to study or conduct research away from Christchurch, you must fill out the Study outside of Christchurch form and send to the Postgraduate Office in advance of your departure.  This form can be completed electronically and preference is for it to be submitted as an email attachment to postgraduate-office@canterbury.ac.nz

International Students and New Zealand permanent residents should discuss their plans with the Postgraduate Office Staff as there may be visa and re-enrolment issues.
This approval is required only for periods of one month or longer. Travel for conferences does not usually need the DPGR approval.

Sometimes students enrol as a PhD candidate but, for a variety of reasons, realise that this isn't an appropriate course of study for them. If this happens early on in your tenure as a PhD candidate you can apply to transfer your enrolment to a Master's Thesis instead. If you do transfer, the start date for your master's thesis will be backdated to the start of your PhD - please check with your supervisors as to the maximum time limits for completion of a master's thesis in your department/school; and for more information about master's theses please see the Guidelines for Master's theses. Please note that transfer from PhD to Master's enrolment is not usually an option later in the PhD tenure due to difficulties in completing the PhD within the time limits.

To apply to transfer from PhD to master's you write to the Postgraduate Office explaining the reasons for your request. Your application for a transfer will be considered by the Dean of Postgraduate Research in consultation with your supervisors and, as necessary, the Heads of the relevant Departments/Schools. You will be notified on the outcome of your request by the Postgraduate Office as soon as possible. If your transfer is approved the Postgraduate Office will arrange for your file to be transferred to the appropriate College Office and the Enrolment Office will be advised of your change of enrolment.

For more information on withdrawal, suspension, time away, or termination of your PhD, please see the Doctoral Leave Table‌.