ECS Doctoral Thesis Induction Page

For any additional information not listed on this or other VUW pages, please consult with the Postgraduate Coordinator. You can contact the Postgraduate Coordinator or Postgraduate Administrator at any time if you have questions or concerns..



  • 1 Month: Confirmation of Provisional Registration - this ensures that you are correctly registered as a PhD student with appropriate supervisors
  • 1-2 Month : ECS Induction with Diana Siwiak, as well as IP
  • 9–12 Months: Transition to Full Registration - this is the University's substantial check of your progress, where you demonstrate that you have a clear plan to get to a PhD thesis
  • 6 Monthly Progress Reports - these help you and your supervisors keep track of your progress - this is where you flag up any successes or challenges
    • these happen every May and November for all VUW PhD students not on suspension or under examination
    • they are administered by FGR
  • 36–48 Months: PhD Thesis - this is the document upon which you will be examined

NB! For part-time students, all deadlines are doubled (e.g., proposal due within 18 months and thesis submitted within 8 years) except for six monthly reports. All students must complete progress reports in May and November unless under suspension. If under suspension, then they are due upon return.

Transition to Full Registration

This is a crucial step in your doctoral journey

  • ECS Requirements
    • < 10,000 word research document (no longer than ~40 pages, excluding front matter and appendices), 30 minute seminar presentation, and 30-45 minute question/answer period
  • Document includes
    • a survey of existing work in the field, a description of work you have already done, a plan for the rest of the work that you will do, and a timeline that shows how you will get to a PhD thesis within the time limits set by the University
  • The proposal document is ideally submitted 9 months after initial enrolment with permission of your supervisors
  • Within three weeks of submission, a seminar will be scheduled
  • The seminar must happen before 12 months (FTE) enrolment
  • Four outcomes: Pass OR Resubmission OR Masters OR the option of termination or withdrawal
  • Masters or termination/withdrawal will have a direct impact on funding and visas.

Thesis Examination

  • Student notifies supervisor of intention to submit
  • Student must be enrolled for at least the three months prior to submission
  • Examiner approval form is sent to FGR (signed off by HoS (delegate) and AD (PGR), along with the supervisor statement)
  • If a thesis is to be under embargo, this paperwork must be completed before submitting for examination
  • Submission of the thesis is in person at FGR. You must make an appointment with FGR to submit.
  • Three soft bound copies are taken to FGR along with one digital copy
  • If you have any holds or fees to pay, you must clear these before you can be put under examination
  • Examination typically takes between three and six months after submission (which is why you should save money up front)
  • Five outcomes: Pass with minor revisions OR Pass with major revisions OR Resubmission OR Masters OR the option of termination or withdrawal
  • Masters or termination/withdrawal will have a direct impact on visas

Time Expectations

  • regular supervisor meetings, followed up by a meeting summary via digital means (email, shared document)
    • meeting summaries are required by Diana Siwiak
    • if email summaries are not sufficient, more rigorous meeting logs will be instantiated
  • 40-45 minimum hours of research per week (Full-Time Enrolment)
    • this does not include extraneous workshops, tutoring, or non-thesis related work
    • this does include supervisor meetings, lab group meetings, and relevant workshops
  • majority of research time must be spent on campus or at research institute/facility
  • the School and University offer various research training workshops
    • inform your supervisors if you sign up for workshops
    • workshops cost the University money, you must honour your commitments when signing up for a workshop
  • allotted leave is up to four weeks per 12 months (not per calendar year)
    • this takes time away from your research
    • it is there for vacation, personal circumstances, conference time, and sick leave
    • using this time is strongly encouraged
    • inform your academic supervisor when taking this leave

Changes to Enrolment

  • Suspension
    • Suspensions are given in whole months.
    • Over the entire PhD you can suspend for up to 12 months.
    • For international students, visa requirements means that there is a maximum of three months suspension available in any 12 month period (note not calendar year)
    • Suspension stops the clock for submission time
    • Suspensions affect scholarships and visas
    • Applications for suspension should be made well in advance, as only medical certificates can be retroactively applied to suspensions
  • Extensions
    • You are expected to have submitted your PhD thesis before the end of 48 months (4 years) full time enrolment
    • In exceptional circumstances you can apply for an extension
    • The application must include your draft thesis and a clear, realistic plan for getting to the finished thesis
    • Normal practice is for an extension to be granted only if there are academic grounds for the delay in submission (other factors should have been handled by suspension)
    • Normal practice is for only a single extension to be granted and for this to be for no more than 6 months
  • Part-Time and Full-Time Enrolment
    • international students cannot often obtain part-time enrolment owing to visa restrictions
    • part-time enrolment is 0.5 FTE, that is 20 hours per week on your thesis research and writing

NB! Modifications to enrolment, such as change between part-time and full-time, suspension, and extensions are handled by Patricia Stein in the Faculty Office

Work Expectations

  • As a thesis student, remember that this is your research project.
    • Supervisors are there to guide and assist.
    • Keep an ongoing conversation with your supervisors regarding your progress.
    • Take the initiative. Be up front. Ask for help.
    • Good engagement between supervisors and student ensures higher chance of success
  • Manage your time and your supervisor’s time wisely. Plan ahead.
    • Your rush is not their rush.
    • Supervisors are busy. Ask them in advance to schedule time to review your drafts.
    • Your thesis drafts should be submitted to supervisors with enough time such that proper advice and feedback can be given and incorporated.
  • Discuss and create a workflow with your supervisors
    • What environments will you be working in? (LaTeX vs. Word)
    • How many drafts do they expect to see? (e.g., three drafts per chapter is common)
    • If more than one supervisor, what's the order of draft distribution?


  • No VUW thesis is required to have associated publications, however they are greatly encouraged
  • Publications provide the opportunity to publish ground-breaking work and get external feedback on your work
  • Publications help students gain post-doctoral employment in research or academia
  • You must include a plan for publications within your proposal if you plan to publish your work

  • Discuss and determine authorship and ownership of publications with supervisors
  • Discuss publication venue (conference, journal) with supervisors
  • Contact our Subject Librarian Nicola Atkinson for assistance in acquiring literature to review and choosing strategic venues at which to publish


  • If it is not yours, provide proper attribution
  • If it is yours and is published, provide proper attribution
  • This includes words, pictures, graphs, code, and licenses.
  • Use VUW's plagiarism software, Turnitin. Contact Diana Siwiak for access.
  • Creating ongoing logs of supervisory meetings ensures proof of research, which could provide justification in plagiarism cases

Intellectual Property

Some sort of agreement must be signed prior to commencing research

  • You must choose one of the three options below:
    • Sign and return the form to Tony McLoughlin;
    • Inform us that you are not willing to sign the default agreement and wish to re-negotiate, e.g. to clearly indicate that background IP is being brought in, or whatever other reasons;
    • Inform us that you need more time because your research involves external parties who have vested interest in the research; you (the student) must then provide another reasonable deadline, so that Tony McLoughlin can follow-up.


  • Most scholarships last only three years, however many students take longer than three years to complete
    • Plan ahead. Save money.
  • A hardship fund is available from the University throughout your enrolment for extraordinary circumstances
  • A submission scholarship is available towards the end of doctoral programme, if you are no longer on a scholarship and if close to submitting.
    • You have to apply for this and it is not guaranteed that you will get it
  • The Faculty Strategic Research Grant (FSRG) might be able to provide limited funding for travel to conferences once you’ve moved to full registration.
    • Applications are taken twice a year (usually March and September). You need to apply well in advance of the conference for this, sometimes even before the paper has been submitted.
  • Contact your supervisor for additional information about funding questions

Data and Thesis Management

  • Maintain version control through an appropriate VUW or ECS entity, such as ECS GitLab
  • Be wary of external cloud services (such as iCloud, Dropbox, GitHub, and Google Drive), as they have license conditions that impose restrictions, ownership, and limitations, which may change
  • Discuss this with your supervisors and decide on a viable plan


Minimum Resources Agreement (MRA)

  • There is an agreement between the Students Association and the University about the minimum resources you should have access to. Please consult the MRA for details
  • Discuss with your supervisors if you need particular gear or resources outside of the MRA

Student Conduct

  • As an ECS thesis student, we expect you to conduct yourself as an adult and maintain responsibility over your studies and your workload
  • Motivation is crucial in a self-directed project, such as a VUW thesis. You need to find ways to get yourself back on track when you lose focus.
  • Many of our spaces are shared, so they need to be treated with care and consideration. Your parents aren't here to clean up after you!

Supervisors’ Responsibilities

The primary responsibility of supervisors is to assist candidates to complete the research within an agreed time frame. This includes taking reasonable steps, consistent with available resources, to:
  • provide a framework within which the academic work can take place;
  • provide academic guidance;
  • provide appropriate and timely feedback;
  • assess progress;
  • facilitate administrative compliance;
  • act as a guide to University facilities;
  • guide the candidate to identify other relevant expertise to progress the research;
  • encourage the candidate to participate in University intellectual life and develop professional contacts outside the University; and
  • identify potential examiners and recommend their appointment to the Head of School well in advance of the thesis being submitted for examination.

You should be meeting regularly with your supervisor.

Candidates’ Responsibilities

Completing a PhD requires progressive development of skills, competence and confidence. Candidates must take responsibility for independently pursuing their studies with the guidance of their supervisor in a manner which develops their own intellectual independence. This includes taking reasonable steps, consistent with available resources, to:
  • plan and actively pursue the research;
  • identify and deal with any research-related problems;
  • comply with administrative requirements;
  • meet ethical guidelines;
  • give at least one month’s notice to their supervisor of their intention to submit;
  • take responsibility for the final form of the thesis; and
  • participate in University intellectual life.

Additional Resources