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Corona FAQ for GSNS PhD students

For the latest announcements and guidelines released by AU, please see the regularly updated webpage Corona information from Aarhus University.

FAQ for PhD students

Below we are collecting answers to the most frequently asked questions regarding coronavirus/COVID-19 and PhD studies. The answers are specifically relevant for PhD students at Graduate School of Natural Sciences, GSNS. The list is updated on a regular basis.

For more general questions, please refer to the links on the right (or below if you're using a mobile device). Our FAQ should be seen as supplemental to the info given by AU's other outlets.

PhD defences

My PhD defence is coming up soon. What are my options?

Currently, PhD defences can be conducted in one of three ways:

  1. Online
  2. Partly online and partly physical
  3. Physical without an online option

If you choose one of the two latter, you must follow AU’s and the authority’s general rules concerning COVID-19. The graduate school refers to AU’s rules, hereunder AU’s guidelines concerning external parties. Please find AU’s rules and guidelines here: https://medarbejdere.au.dk/en/corona/for-staff-members/.

Ask your department or programme secretary for access to buildings, incl. booking of auditoriums, and rules that apply locally.

PhD defences must be publicly available.
This means that for online PhD defences, interested parties should upon request be able to get a link to access the defence. Therefore, please submit to your PhD partner a name and e-mail address for the person in charge of distributing the link. This information will be added to the online announcement of the defence.

The contact person can be the supervisor, the chairman of the assessment committee, or the programme secretary, and he/she may also instruct audience members in proper online etiquette (e.g. muting microphones and turning off cameras). If no such arrangement can be made, please contact your PhD partner to find an alternative solution.  

How do I conduct my PhD defence digitally/online?

First of all, make sure to update your PhD partner about your plans for conducting your defence.

We recommend that you use one of these four digital platforms:

Please read the guides carefully. Aarhus University has licenses for all platforms and can provide IT-support, if needed.

The platforms have different strengths and weaknesses. We recommend that you use the platform, with which you are most comfortable. All four platforms support the following functionalities:

  • Recording
  • Screen sharing
  • Notes, chat and whiteboard
  • Video conference

(With Adobe Connect and Zoom you can also make breakout sessions within a meeting.)

If you have any questions regarding functionality and setup of the system, please contact your local IT-support.

Please note when conducting a digital defence:

  • The PhD defence must be publicly available.
    Interested parties should upon request be able to get a link to access the defence. Therefore, please submit to your PhD partner a name and e-mail address for the person in charge of distributing the link. This information will be added to the online announcement of the defence. The contact person can be the supervisor, the chairman of the assessment committee, or the programme secretary, and he/she may also instruct audience members in proper online etiquette (e.g. muting microphones and turning off cameras). If no such arrangement can be made, please contact your PhD partner to find an alternative solution.
  • The PhD thesis must be available for reading before the defence.
    Since Aarhus University is physically closed for the time being, your PhD thesis will not be available for reading at the offices of the PhD administration, as is our usual procedure. Instead, interested parties can send an e-mail to gradschool.nat@au.dk to receive a digital copy. It may in certain cases be necessary to make individual arrangements to read the PhD thesis.

 

I have defended my PhD thesis. How soon can I get my diploma?

During the lockdown period, it has not been possible for us to make any PhD diplomas. We have now resumed the preparation of diplomas and we are aiming at sending them within 2 months of a successfully completed PhD defence. All diplomas will be sent digitally through e-boks.

If you urgently need documentation of your PhD degree, please ask your PhD partner to prepare a letter confirming your successfully completed PhD defence.


Qualifying exam

My qualifying exam is coming up. What are my options?

Currently, qualifying exams can be conducted in one of three ways:

  1. Online
  2. Partly online and partly physical
  3. Physical with no online option

If you choose one of the latter two, you must follow AU’s and the authority’s general rules concerning COVID-19. The graduate school refers to AU’s rules, hereunder AU’s guidelines concerning external parties. Please find AU’s rules and guidelines here: https://medarbejdere.au.dk/en/corona/for-staff-members/.

Ask the department secretary for access to buildings, incl. booking of auditoriums, and rules that applies locally.

Make sure to update your PhD partner about your plans for the exam.

Digital solutions

We recommend that you use one of these four digital platforms:

Please read the guides carefully. Aarhus University has licenses for all platforms and can provide IT-support, if needed.

The platforms have different strengths and weaknesses. We recommend that you use the platform, with which you are most comfortable. All four platforms support the following functionalities:

  • Recording
  • Screen sharing
  • Notes, chat and whiteboard
  • Video conference

(With Adobe Connect and Zoom you can also make breakout sessions within a meeting.)

If you have any questions regarding functionality and setup of the system, please contact your local IT-support.


Research Environment Change

Should I come home from my stay abroad?

That is up to you, but we encourage you to carefully consider your situation. Please also consult your main supervisor.

Currently, Aarhus University strongly encourages all members of staff who do not live abroad to return to Denmark as quickly as possible. 

Please stay informed at AU’s corona website and via the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark’s guidelines for travelling abroad.

Special circumstances may apply for international PhD students travelling to or from Denmark. Please keep yourself updated on the International Academic Staff Service (IAS) website.

I am travelling to Denmark soon. Can I get an official document confirming my enrolment/employment to present to the customs officer, if needed?

Yes, please ask your PhD partner to send you an enrolment/employment confirmation letter.

Can I go abroad for my research environment change?

At the moment, Aarhus University strongly advises against travelling abroad.

All PhD Students must stay informed via the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark’s guidelines for travelling abroad.

Special circumstances may apply for international PhD students travelling to or from Denmark. Please keep yourself updated on the International Academic Staff Service (IAS) website.

I have received a GSNS mobility grant, but my travel plans are affected. What should I do?

If you cut your stay short in order to return to Denmark, you are still eligible to receive the full amount of the grant despite the 90 day-requirement. The grant may be used to cover expenses in relation to cancelling or changing your travel plans.

If your stay is postponed, please send an e-mail to GSSTgrants@au.dk with the new dates for your stay abroad. You do not need to submit a new application.

If you cancel your stay abroad entirely, please let us know by sending an e-mail to GSSTgrants@au.dk. You are welcome to send another application later on, when you make new plans for your research environment change.

Click here to read more about the GSNS mobility grant.


Research and PhD courses

What am I expected to do during the university lockdown?

It is expected that you continue to work from home, as far as possible.

We recommend that you, in consultation with your main supervisor, assess how you can approach the PhD project and what parts of the project you can work on during this period and under the given circumstances.

As usual, you should notify your manager of illness and absence in accordance with your department’s guidelines. You are not obliged to provide information about the nature of your illness, but in this special situation, you are encouraged to inform your manager if your illness is likely to be a result of coronavirus. This will make it possible for the university to apply for sick leave benefit reimbursement in connection with your absence.

Are PhD courses cancelled or postponed?

Please check the course descriptions on the GSNS website to see any updates. If in doubt, contact the person in charge of the course.

We are working hard to prepare digital solutions in order to offer distance learning. We are currently testing the technology and expect to be able to offer distance learning on some PhD courses.

The university has never before had to apply this technology on such a large scale. Therefore, we ask for your patience.


PhD enrolment and employment

Can I get a study extension for the research time lost during the lockdown?

Yes, if the lockdown situation has led to a documented delay you may be able based on individual assessment to get an extension of both your PhD enrolment and fellowship.

AU has decided on a joint procedure for handling the challenges students are facing in relation to completing their PhD projects as a direct consequence of COVID-19, including the physical shutdown of AU - click here to read more about the procedure.

This joint procedure is based on the political agreements on the phased reopening of the country, in addition to the ‘Circular on the agreement on the possibility of extending temporary employment contracts, as a consequence of delays occurring in connection with COVID-19’.

An application for extension will not be relevant if you have worked from home taking online courses, written articles or thesis chapters, and been able to continue with parts of your research. If you are in the early stages of your PhD studies, re-planning may allow you to catch up later.

If you are in the final phase of your studies and have been significantly delayed due to the lockdown, discuss the possibilities for completing in due time with your supervisors.

If an extension is deemed necessary, please follow the normal procedures described in section 7.3 of our Rules and Regulations with the “COVID19 exception”, that fellowships can also be extended; not just the study time. All applications will be individually assessed.

I’m sick, possible with COVID-19. What should I do and is it ground for an extension?

As usual, you should notify your manager of illness and absence in accordance with your department’s guidelines. You are not obliged to provide information about the nature of your illness, but in this special situation, you are encouraged to inform your manager if your illness is likely to be a result of coronavirus. This will make it possible for the university to apply for sick leave benefit reimbursement in connection with your absence.

Normally, you will only be granted an extension if you are sick continuously for more than 30 days. Special rules apply when it comes to COVID-19. Please contact the GSNS specialist team to learn more.

If you are sick, please follow the general guidelines and preventive measures outlined by AU.

Should I continue my work as a student teacher/instructor?

Yes, it is expected that you continue to carry out teaching obligations through the available digital solutions (e.g. Blackboard/Zoom). Please consult the course coordinator regarding how best to continue your teaching.

To learn more, please see AU’s webpage on how to transition to remote teaching and learning.    

I’m set to start my PhD studies during the AU lockdown. What are my options?

For the time being, it is expected that you start your work from home, as far as possible. We recommend that you, in consultation with your main supervisor, assess how you can approach the PhD project and what parts of the project you can work on during this period and under the given circumstances.

If you have an employment contract, it is still valid under the current circumstances. You will receive your agreed salary. A postponement of the employment can only be made based on mutual agreement between you and your employer, i.e. your main supervisor and the department management.

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