Update on Arrangements for Research Postgraduate (RPg) Students for Semester 1, 2020/21 due to COVID-19

1. Subsequent to my bulk email of July 29, 2020, local UGC-funded institutions were informed by the Research Grants . Subsequent to mGC) yesterday on the registration and scholarships arrangements for non-local Hong Kong PhD Fellowships (HKPF) awardees. The University has also further reviewed the situation and I would now like to update supervisors, administrative colleagues and RPg students about the special arrangements for RPg students for Semester 1, 2020-21 due to COVID-19.

New RPg Students

2. New non-local RPg students are advised to discuss with their supervisors and decide whether they should come to HK to start their studies in person as planned.  There are a few options available and they should decide, with the support from supervisor, which is the most suitable option to them.

Option I: Online Supervision & Online Courses

(a) In semester 1, 2020-21, new RPg students may start their studies from outside Hong Kong through online communications with their supervisors, and taking Graduate School courses online as appropriate. They are eligible to receive PGS during the online study period, and the PGS will be back paid to them after they have arrived HK and reported in person to their Faculty offices, and have opened a local bank account. They are exempted from taking study leave for the online study period outside HK, unless they are HKPF awardees (please see paragragh 4). 

Option II: Deferment of Registration Date

(b) If supervisors are of the view that their new students should start their research in person in Hong Kong, then students should defer their registration date. The students will be eligible for PGS upon commencement of their candidature in Hong Kong. Following the existing practice, request for deferment of registration date will be approved by Faculties, with the support of the supervisor and Department. The relevant parties are advised to process such requests favourably.

(c) At present, PhD students can start their studies on the first day of any calendar month, while MPhil students have to start their studies on either September 1, 2020 or January 1, 2021. However, given the current special situation, the Graduate School will allow MPhil students to register any month in Semester 1, 2020/21 (i.e., September 1, October 1, November 1 or December 1, 2020) if there is a genuine need. Faculties can approve the deferment of registration date, similar to that for PhD students.

(d) Students who have deferred their start date will be allowed to take Graduate School online courses if they wish to, subject to availability of places. Similar to all cases in deferment of start date, these students will not receive PGS during this period even they may take online courses. In case if the students decide not to come to Hong Kong after Semester 1, the courses enrolled/completed will be considered null and void. For Faculty/Department courses, Faculties/Departments may make reference to the Graduate School course arrangements, and there may be variation within Faculties/Departments at their discretion. 

Current RPg Students

3. Students should discuss with their supervisor on the best mode of supervision. Supervision may take place in mixed-mode, depending on the nature of the research. 

(a) If the research work requires laboratory attendance and/or the use of campus facilities, students are expected to return to the University as far as is practically possible.

(b) Students who are in Hong Kong and whose research requires them to work on campus should follow all precautions when working on campus (taking temperature, wearing mask, social distancing, etc.).  

(c) Students who are not in town at the moment should discuss with their supervisors on whether, when and how to return to Hong Kong, depending on the nature of their research. If they are not able to / advised not to return to HK, and can continue their research through electronic communications with their supervisors, they are exempted from taking study leave, unless they are HKPF students (please refer to paragraph 4 below). 

(d) Students may take non-study leave if they would like to suspend their studies.

HKPF Awardees

4. The arrangements in paragraphs 2 and 3 above are also applicable to HKPF awardees. In addition, HKPF awardees have to observe the following requirements set by the RGC:

Study Leave (Applicable to both new and current HKPF Awardees)

(a) In view of the current special situation, non-local HKPFS awardees can submit application for academic leave to the RGC through their universities. Institutional support and confirmation from their supervisors with full justifications that the research can be conducted as scheduled by the awardees without the need to be in Hong Kong physically are required for the applications.

(b) For the above approved cases of academic leave, awardees are eligible for stipend during the leave period in the first semester and the number of leave days accumulated in the above academic leave would not count towards the aggregate period of 183 days outside Hong Kong for academic/ research activity. Please note this special arrangement is applicable only to Semester 1, 2020/21.

Non-study Leave and Deferral of Registration

(c) For those non-local HKPFS awardees who need to be on campus physically but are not able to come to Hong Kong, they can apply for non-study leave (for current HKPF awardees) or deferral of registration (for new HKPF awardees).

(d) For the approved cases of non-study leave by the RGC, the end date of the fellowship would be deferred accordingly and the HKPF stipend during the non-study leave would be suspended in accordance with the Terms and Conditions of the HKPFS set by the RGC. Nonetheless, the total financial award to the awardees will not be affected as they are still entitled to the stipend for a total period of up to three years.  

Entry and Quarantine Requirements

5. All students are reminded to pay attention to the HKSAR Government’s restriction on entering HK and quarantine requirements. Please note that the Graduate School has sent emails to non-local current students and non-local new RPg students respectively in early July about the quarantine arrangements offered by the University. 

Please do not hesitate to contact the Graduate School if you have any questions. Please stay vigilant and healthy. 

Professor Frederick K.S. Leung
Graduate School