COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions

For more information about forms and to submit any of the forms below, contact the Graduate School at GradStudentSvcs@austin.utexas.edu.

The Graduate School

Student Services

  • Is the Graduate School open to students?
    In response to the university’s social distancing policy for COVID-19, the Graduate School will not be open for student walk-ins until further notice. However, staff will be available by email.
  • How can students contact the Graduate School and submit forms?
    Students can contact the Graduate School and submit forms via email: GradStudentSvcs@austin.utexas.edu. We are currently not accepting submissions via US Mail. Please include your name and UT EID in all correspondence. All forms must be submitted in PDF format. Please ensure forms contain all the required signatures before emailing. Failure to do so may delay processing. For more information and links to forms for current and graduating students, please see policies for current and graduating students.
  • How should Ph.D. defenses be organized?
    Given the university’s current policy on meetings, final defenses should be conducted remotely if at all possible. The Faculty Innovation Center has prepared guides and more information to facilitate electronic meetings between supervising committees and their students.
  • Does the Graduate School require all committee members sign the Report of Dissertation Committee?
    Yes. 
  • Does the Graduate School accept digital signatures?
    Yes. Electronic signatures continue to be approved for use on all graduate school forms such as the Request for Final Oral, Master’s Committee Approval form and Report of Dissertation Committee. Digital signatures or scanned signatures are also allowed.
  • Will oral exams--such as proposal and defense exams--still need to be available to the public, and if so, how?
    No, exams do not need to be made available to the public while the University in-person meetings are restricted. 
  • Are there accommodations for students who have missed the deadline to submit their final thesis or report because of COVID-19 or the winter storm?
    Yes. The Graduate School’s deadline to apply to graduate for the spring semester is April 16, 2021. Graduating students must provide final submission materials to the Graduate School by the spring submission deadline of 3 p.m. on May 7, 2021.

    If you were on track to graduate in May but your progress has been delayed by COVID-19 or by the effects of the winter storm, you may petition to register in absentia for the summer 2021 semester in order to provide you with extra time to finish.

    To petition for in absentia registration, students must be enrolled during the spring semester, and they must apply to graduate in spring 2021 by the April 16, 2021 deadline.

    In absentia registration is available, for example, if your final submission to the Graduate School has been delayed due to labs that were closed, courses that were canceled or research with human subjects that couldn't be completed either as a result of the university’s COVID-19 restrictions during the time period beginning in spring 2020 through spring 2021 or as a result of the storm in February 2021.

    There is no cost to register in absentia, and students registered in absentia will be able to graduate in August of 2021 if they submit all graduation materials to the Graduate School before 3 p.m. on July 30, 2021.

    If you would like to petition to register in absentia for the summer semester, please contact your graduate adviser and thesis/dissertation supervisor. They will need to submit by email a short petition form and a signed affirmation that you were on-track to graduate in May. You will be able to register for in absentia if the Graduate School approves the form.

    The deadline to submit a petition to register in absentia is May 13, 2021.

    Please be aware of restrictions that come with in absentia registration. Students registered in absentia are not technically enrolled and, thus, don’t have all the benefits of an enrolled student. Here are some considerations for students registering in absentia:

    • Students should continue to have building access, barring any building-specific restrictions of which we are not aware.
    • They should have continued library privileges for the summer and access to resources that require a UT ID. Students with difficulty accessing library services should contact staff in UTL’s Borrower Services or the student, faculty and staff hotline at (512) 495-4300 to troubleshoot.
    • They will not be eligible to hold AI, TA or GRA employment positions or fellowship positions. (These positions require enrollment and most come with a tuition waiver.)
    • Student employees enrolled in UT Select will not be able to maintain their health coverage in this plan. However, students registered in absentia may enroll in the Academic Blue health insurance plan during summer 2021. More information on student health insurance options is available on the Graduate School’s FAQ page.
    • International students will have to apply for OPT in the last semester they are enrolled (i.e. spring 2021, not summer 2021).
  • Are there accommodations for students who received an “X” because of COVID-19 or the winter storm?
    Under certain circumstances, spring-to-summer in absentia registration might also be available to resolve an X (the symbol used for a temporary delay of a final course grade). Please contact your graduate adviser and thesis/dissertation supervisor for more information.
  • Can an undergraduate student enrolled in a graduate course use the undergraduate COVID-19 pass/fail exception on the graduate course?
    No. The COVID-19 pass/fail exception should not be used for graduate courses, including for undergraduate students enrolled in graduate-level courses or in an integrated program.
  • Do undergraduate COVID policies apply to graduate students?
    In many cases, no. When reading a communication about COVID-19 policies, be sure that you’re aware of the intended audience for it. Contact your program’s graduate coordinator or graduate advisor if you have questions.

Teaching Resources

  • I am a teaching assistant (TA) or assistant instructor (AI). Can I conduct my duties remotely?
    The Graduate School has been working with colleges, schools and departments to ensure that graduate student course modality preferences are closely considered as fall classes are scheduled.
    The Office of the Provost and Graduate School have asked colleges, schools and departments to make the following accommodations for academic employees:
    • Be as flexible as possible when scheduling classes to accommodate graduate students’ preferences for online or in-person classes.
    • Designate a point-of-contact—such as a graduate coordinator or HR professional within each department—who can work with students and primary instructors on accommodation requests.
    • Assign TA and AI roles early to ensure they have adequate time to prepare for the modality of instruction.

    Graduate students already assigned to courses are encouraged to first contact the primary instructor to request accommodations. Students not yet assigned to courses should first contact their departmental point-of-contact.

    Students who qualify for health accommodations under the Americans with Disability Act (ADA) or who fall in a high-risk group (as defined by the Health and Wellness working group guidelines) should contact the university’s ADA coordinators if an agreement cannot be reached between the student and the department. ADA coordinators will contact the student’s department to discuss the request. More information about the university’s employee accommodation process can be found on their website.

    Students with household members in high-risk groups (as defined by Health and Wellness working group guidelines) should include a note about the individual(s) when requesting accommodations from their departments in order to provide context for the request. Additionally, many GRAs have health and safety concerns about returning to labs to conduct research. We have asked programs and principal investigators to look for ways to work with GRAs to help address their concerns about these issues leading up to the fall semester.

  • What teaching resources are available to help graduate students transition to online learning?
    The Faculty Innovation Center has developed resources for graduate student instructors on its website, including tips on conducting office hours remotely, using Canvas and communicating with students.

Financial

General

  • How can I access health insurance?
    There are two health insurance plans available to graduate students depending on whether they are academic employees. Graduate students employed as AIs, TAs and GRAs for 20 hours or more a week for at least 4.5 months are eligible to participate in the university's employee insurance plans. Please see Human Resource’s student employee insurance and benefits website for more information. All currently enrolled students are eligible for health insurance through the AcademicBlue health plan provided by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Texas. Please visit the plan’s website for information on benefits, costs and enrollment periods.

Graduate and International Admissions Center (GIAC)