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Research students call for thesis and dissertation extensions amidst COVID-19 disruption

Research students have sent an open letter to University management with a range of demands as a result of the coronavirus.

Research students on campus are calling on the University of Sydney (USyd) to grant a six-week extension on their thesis or dissertation due dates as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Over the past two days, USyd Honours, Masters and PhD students have drafted an open letter which addresses their concerns regarding the ability to carry out research on campus due to social distancing policies. This includes the recent closure of all University of Sydney libraries and study spaces as of Wednesday.

Sent to University management today, the demands also include: an extension of the census date, appointments to borrow from the libraries or access archival material, access to financial assistance, and a two-week extension on all coursework assignments.

Social distancing policies and library closures mean that research students will no longer be able to access all the materials necessary for their assignments, theses and dissertations. In the absence of this, students will either have to pay out of pocket for them or not have access at all.

Students who had originally planned on undertaking fieldwork are also now unable to do such for the foreseeable future. For those in the Theatre and Performance Studies Honours and PhD programmes, ethnographic fieldwork is a mandatory component of courses.

“For many students this means completely restructuring thesis research that they have been planning and working on now for months, which is a major disruption,” the letter states.

Bella Devine-Poulos, a Political Economy Honours student who spearheaded the response, told Honi, “We are disappointed that the University hasn’t been more proactive in reaching out to us about these issues and creating solutions to them.”

“While some individual academics and Honours coordinators have been considerate and offered extensions, others have been too busy to do so at best and negligent at worst. For this reason we see a clear need for a blanket rule approach coming from Faculties in the interests of equitably protecting all students and ensuring they have the time to restructure their projects and find new ways of accessing resources they vitally need. If the university cares about the quality of the research it puts out it should listen to our demands.”

The open letter notes that if these demands are not met by the University, many students are prepared to drop out of their courses.

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