COVID-19 advice for Graduate Researchers

As a graduate researcher you may have questions about how coronavirus (COVID-19) is affecting your research. Here are some frequently asked questions to provide information on your research during this time.

Victorian restriction information

The Victorian government has released its reopening roadmap, and there will be no additional on-campus activities until at least 26 October (the third step of the roadmap for Metropolitan Melbourne). Those graduate researchers who have permission under current restrictions to be on campus should also note that under the roadmap, from Monday 14 September until the end of Step 2 (not before 26 October) individuals must complete a Health Declaration prior to and each time they access campus.

Study spaces utilised by graduate researchers on campus remain unavailable, with the exception of some clinical placements. Co-ordinators will communicate directly with graduate researchers about any specific arrangements for research activity. The University remains committed to operating in compliance with government and health requirements and is working through the updated advice currently and what it means for our graduate researchers, students, staff and the University’s operations.

Metro Melbourne

For people living in metropolitan Melbourne, Stage 4 restrictions currently apply. Visit the Department of Health and Human Services page for information on what this means if you live within Metro Melbourne.

Regional Victoria

For people living in regional Victoria, Stage 3 restrictions currently apply. Visit the Department of Health and Human Services page for information on what this means if you live within regional Victoria.

Last updated: 02.48pm, 14 September 2020

Manage your candidature

  • How can I continue my research?

    From 11:59pm on Wednesday 5 August, if you are required to attend on-site for research activities (including travelling further than 5km from your home or outside the curfew hours) you must have a valid “worker” permit issued by the University. Failure to do so will result in a fine for the individual.

    Please also note that as per the Victorian Government’s reopening roadmap, from Monday 14 September until the end of Step 2 (not before 26 October) individuals must complete a Health Declaration prior to and each time they access campus.

    Permits can only be issued for permitted activities that cannot be completed remotely in line with the Guide for business – stage 4 restrictions. Having existing access as part of our previous return to campus plans does not automatically transition to a rationale for a permit. If you wish to apply for a worker permit, please contact your School or Faculty Office for advice on the relevant process.

    Graduate researchers wishing to return urgently to campus to undertake research are required to provide information on their proposed activity and how it meets the currently approved criteria for access to University facilities. An online form is available for requests. Any new requests for access to campus for critical research activity must be reviewed and endorsed by your Academic Division and approved by the Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research. All approvals will be subject to individuals complying with relevant health and related safety requirements.

    This is the first step of the process. To begin, you should check your eligibility against the research return to campus criteria.

    NB: Graduate researchers who are also University employees.

    When submitting a Research Return to Campus request, graduate researchers who are also University employees need to use the profile most suited to the activities they are planning to conduct on campus, that is, either student or staff ID. The review and approval of the requests, and the physical access to facilities (which card you use) is based on the profile provided. If you need to request access as both a graduate researcher and as a staff member, you will need to complete a separate request for each profile.

  • What can be done to ensure that my examiners understand how COVID-19 has affected my thesis?

    It may have been necessary for you to alter your research plan, leading to a project that is different to the one you had originally intended. In some cases, this may mean that the thesis you submit is not typical for your discipline. In your thesis, you should discuss any methodological changes you have made and explain how the changes arose because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Theses usually also include discussion of possible future research; you may wish to outline research that could be done once conditions change. Your discussion in the thesis of COVID-19 impacts will guide the examiners’ understanding of the reported work and the environment in which it was undertaken.

  • Taking leave from my candidature

    If you cannot continue productive work, either because of COVID-19 disruptions to your research or because it is impacting your personal circumstance (such as creating additional caring responsibilities), you can apply for a COVID-19 leave of absence. See Taking leave and financial support for more information.

    This leave is available to domestic candidates and to international candidates under compassionate and compelling reasons.

    If you wish to take leave for other reasons (such as parental leave, if you are unwell, or pursuing employment opportunities) you should apply for leave by using the appropriate leave reason.

    If you are enrolled full time but able to work at a part time rate (50%), you should consider changing to part-time enrolment.

    You can continue to access the University’s health services while on leave.

  • Are my supervisors available to help me?

    While the University is introducing a phased return to campus process, we continue to operate remotely, and supervision should – where possible - be by virtual means.

    Our usual  expectations of supervisors and candidates remain, including meeting regularly, maintaining respectful behaviour, and providing timely and insightful feedback.

    If maintaining engagement with your supervisor is proving to be challenging, please liaise with your Advisory Committee Chair, graduate research administrator or Associate Dean, Graduate Research, who will work with you to identify alternative options.

  • I am approaching a candidature milestone, what should I do?

    If you are not taking a leave of absence (whether for Coronavirus (COVID-19) or other reasons), confirmation and progress reviews should continue as scheduled, with the meetings to be held virtually. If you need an extension to confirmation or other review dates, discuss this with your supervisors and Advisory Committee Chair. Your Advisory Committee Chair can recommend an extension to confirmation of up to 3 months for doctoral and 6 weeks for masters’ candidates. These requests for extension will take into account the current COVID-19 circumstances.

    If you are taking leave, your confirmation, progress review and submission dates will be adjusted accordingly.

  • What if I need an extension to candidature because of COVID-19?

    The President of Academic Board has approved a temporary increase of six months to the maximum course duration (that is, maximum thesis submission deadline) of graduate research degrees.

    Doctoral candidates

    • Maximum course duration increases to 4.5 years
    • Available to candidates who have commenced their course prior to 1 March 2020
    • Candidates must not have reached the 4-year milestone by 1 March 2020
    • During this period of restrictions, if you are making satisfactory progress and are nearing your 3-year milestone your candidature will be automatically extended to 3.5-years EFTSL. If you hold a scholarship, your scholarship will be extended automatically to the same date
    • If you have already applied for a further candidature extension, you do not need to reapply
    • You must record COVID-19 disruptions to candidature at each progress review
    • At your 3.5-year review, your expected work submission date will be adjusted with the net recognised time lost to COVID-19.

    Masters candidates

    • Maximum course duration increases to 2.5-years
    • Available to candidates who have commenced their course prior to 1 March 2020
    • Candidates must not have reached the 2-year milestone by 1 March 2020
    • If you have already applied for a further candidature extension, you do not need to reapply
    • During this period of restrictions, if you are making satisfactory progress and are nearing your 1.5-year milestone, your candidature will be extended to 2.0 years EFTSL. If you hold a scholarship, your scholarship will be extended automatically to the same date
    • You must record COVID-19 disruptions to candidature at each progress review
    • At your 1.5 year review, your expected work submission date will be adjusted with the net recognised time lost to COVID-19.

    Further extensions to candidature are available where progress is delayed due to circumstances beyond your control.

    You and your supervisors should discuss and record any COVID-related impacts to your candidature and update it periodically. We encourage you to document this through a Candidature Management form. Those documents should be used in progress review meetings. Progress review forms will be updated, so that time lost to COVID-19 is recorded at each milestone.

    If you still need time beyond the maximum course duration, you will need to seek permission to submit. Previously completed candidature management and progress review forms can be used to support your application.

  • My progress is being affected by COVID-19 disruptions, how can this be considered in the future?

    We understand that many of you may be experiencing disruption now and we remain committed to helping you progress. The University’s policies allow for extensions to candidature and late submission where circumstances beyond your control delay completion.

    If you are making some progress, but there are factors affecting your productivity, we encourage you to record this in a Candidature Management form.

    Once you submit the form, it will be sent to your principal supervisor as part of a weekly email they receive on Thursday mornings.  On completion, you, your supervisors and your graduate research administrators will all be able to access the form.

    Where it is likely that your research project will need to be adjusted (for example, due to lost access to resources, participants or fieldwork), please discuss how to revise your project plan with your supervisors. Extensions to candidature will be considered along with revised plans.

    These forms are intended to act as an ongoing record of impacts on candidature to be used in progress review meetings and to support requests for extension of candidature or late submission.

  • I am due to hold my completion seminar soon. What should I do?

    Completion seminars should be held by Zoom or other virtual meeting tools. The seminar should be advertised with the Zoom/access link.

  • Are thesis submissions continuing?

    Thesis submission or requests to extension for submission should continue to follow existing processes. If your thesis contains a creative work or if you have an oral examination for a joint PhD, consult your Graduate Research Administrator about arrangements that can be put in place.

Scholarships

  • Will the University be providing scholarship extensions?

    We are providing stipend extensions for doctoral candidates whose research progress has been directly impacted by COVID-19 disruptions of:

    • Up to 12 weeks if you have lost significant productivity due to COVID-19.
    • Up to 26 weeks for those of you whose project has been profoundly affected by COVID-19 to the extent that a major restructure or re-conception of the project is required to complete your research degree.

    This stipend extension scheme will be provided at the University standard scholarship rate ($31,200 pa pro rata in 2020) and will be available to doctoral candidates until they reach 4 years of candidature. This is the maximum support available to doctoral candidates, inclusive of any COVID-19 paid leave received. For example, if you have lost significant productivity due to COVID-19 and have already taken 4 weeks paid COVID-19 leave, then you would be eligible for up to 8 weeks stipend extension.

    As Masters candidates on stipend receive this for the standard University maximum course duration of 2 years, stipend extensions will not be available via this scheme.

    An application will be required, and a University committee will oversee the process to ensure equity across faculties. Applications will need to set out a clear case of significant disruption.

    In the first instance, we are focused on urgent cases. Stipend extensions applications are therefore only open for doctoral candidates whose stipends expire between 1 June and 31 December 2020. More information on eligibility and the link to the application form can be found on the Graduate Research Scholarships page.

    Further announcements will be made for other candidates.

  • Why isn’t the University offering a universal extension?

    There are two key factors in our decision not to offer a universal extension. First, we design policy in line with the individual needs of our graduate researcher cohort. Graduate researchers require different levels of support, from those who have had their research disrupted to those for whom working from home has allowed them to meet deadlines ahead of time. Each researcher’s situation is different and should be considered as such.

    Second, our income is finite. We must also consider how best to fund graduate researchers – and their scholarships – beyond 2020. The University needs to ensure that there is income in place to support current graduate researchers, and enrol future graduate researchers, in 2021 and beyond.

Taking leave and financial support

  • I can’t continue my studies at the moment, what should I do?

    If you cannot continue your studies at all due to insurmountable research restrictions or valid personal reasons directly related to COVID-19 you can apply for a leave of absence with the reason – COVID-19.

    To do this, apply for leave via the RHD Leave of Absence form and select the reason COVID-19. If you are taking leave to return to clinical or other work, please use one of the Employment reason codes.

    This leave will be available to domestic candidates and international candidates with compelling and compassionate reasons. You can continue to access the University’s health services during this time.

    If your COVID-19 leave is approved your expected thesis submission date and any future progress review dates will be adjusted accordingly.

    If you are on a stipend, up to 60 days of approved COVID-19 leave will be paid, , even if your scholarship does not offer paid sick leave. If your scholarship does offer paid sick leave, COVID-19 leave will be provided in addition to your current sick leave entitlement.

    At present there is no limit on the amount of unpaid COVID-19 leave that candidates can take but the leave must be justified by impacts of the COVID-19 crisis.

  • I don’t receive a scholarship. What financial support is available to me?

    The University’s financial aid pages list a variety of support packages. More assistance is being provided by Australian governments in response to coronavirus (COVID-19). If you are an Australian resident, check whether you are eligible for Centrelink or other forms of assistance (such as rent relief).

    If you do not receive a stipend, you may apply for support through the University’s Emergency Support Fund.

    If you are not eligible for University or government subsidies, and you require financial support, we recommend you begin a discussion with your supervisor to determine how best to progress your research program.

  • I have incurred extra Study Away costs because of Coronavirus (COVID-19). What support is available to help with those costs?

    If you incurred extra costs in returning to Australia or your home country in response to travel restrictions, it is recommended that you seek refunds from your travel provider and your travel insurance. For University-approved Study Away costs that are not covered by travel insurance, the University will make available support through the Emergency Support Fund (Cancelled Overseas Study) to assist with genuine, reasonable costs associated with returning to Australia. Please keep all documentation (receipts, booking confirmations etc) to assist with your application for a support grant.

Services and support

  • Can I still access the library?

    Although  the University's library buildings across all campuses are currently closed, library services are being delivered virtually and continue to provide access to a vast array of materials online, with many publishers temporarily expanding their digital offerings. Find out how to source online materials for your research.

    If you can't find what you need through our self-service options, you can ask a librarian to help you source materials or contact your Faculty and School Librarian directly. Librarians will investigate a range of options to supply a suitable resource.

    We are also developing online materials to help you continue your research work from home, such as a digital research skills support pack.

    If you are completing your degree this year, we will waive the fee for library alumni membership which provides access to a limited range of electronic resources and will provide general borrowing privileges across our physical collections until December 2021. Details will be available on the Library website shortly.

  • What other services are available?

    Most University services are continuing in virtual mode. For example, the Melbourne Statistical Consulting Platform is providing personal consultations via Zoom video link or telephone. See each service’s webpages for details.

  • Who should I contact with questions?

    The Graduate Research Hub and Student Services Directory continue to be the primary resources for information about candidature and the services available to you.

    If you have further questions, please contact your graduate research administrators .

  • What IT support is available remotely?

    In response to COVID-19, some of our software vendors are offering free home-use licences on personal devices. A list of available software for personal devices is available here .

    IT assistance is available to all graduate researchers and students working remotely.

  • Software to support your data analysis

    Licenses for statistics software (SPSS & Stata), Adobe Creative Cloud and more software have been temporarily extended, and graduate researchers may now install these tools on their personal devices.

    You may wish to access more information and new installation guides. Online troubleshooting help is available via chat or a service request to Student IT

Health and wellbeing

  • What support is available for my health and wellbeing?

    Health and wellbeing services continue to be available to all students and graduate researchers. See the Coronavirus (COVID-19) student page for details.

Travel, visas and insurance

  • I am overseas on Study Away. What should I do?

    If you are an Australian resident, we strongly recommend that you return to Australia as soon as possible if it is safe to do so. If you wish to remain overseas on Study Away, you must submit a new Study Away application. Approval will require the endorsement of your Dean and the Academic Registrar.

    If you are a non-resident or non-citizen of Australia, you are unable to travel to Australia at present. You should consider the advice of your home government and of the country you are in, to determine whether to remain or return to your home country. Discuss with your supervisors whether you can productively continue candidature. If you can, submit a new Study Away application. If you cannot, apply for COVID-19 leave or leave of absence as appropriate.

  • I want to take leave to return home to my family

    We understand international candidates are anxious for the wellbeing of their family and friends. If you wish to return to your home country voluntarily or are doing so at the recommendation of your home government, apply for leave of absence under compassionate and compelling reasons.

    You should also be aware of any possible restrictions or risks with returning to home countries, as well as the Australian Government’s travel advice and restrictions, which may prevent you from returning to Australia. The University will continue to monitor this situation and how it might impact students’ ongoing enrolment. For any visa enquiries, you should contact the Department of Home Affairs.

  • I am finishing my degree and want to return home

    If you require assistance in making arrangements to return to your home country, you can register for support on the Department of Home Affairs website: https://covid19.homeaffairs.gov.au/leaving-australia

For commencing graduate researchers

  • I am due to commence my degree in the next few months. Can I still start as planned?

    If you are a domestic candidate currently in Australia or New Zealand, you can commence your course provided that:

    • While COVID-19 restrictions are in place you accept that supervision may be undertaken by virtual means
    • You and your supervisors agree that the research project can progress without needing physical access to University facilities (or field work) for a period of at least 6 months
    • You understand that some processes such as induction may be deferred until you can be present on campus.

    If you are an international candidate, either in Australia or offshore you can commence your course provided that:

    • You have a visa that allows you to study as a graduate researcher in Australia
    • While COVID-19 restrictions are in place you accept that supervision may be undertaken by virtual means
    • You and your supervisors agree that the research project can progress without needing physical access to University facilities or field work for a period of at least 6 months
    • You understand that some processes such as induction may be deferred until you can be present on campus.

    If you are an international candidate commencing an international joint PhD, you can commence without a visa to study in Australia provided that:

    • You are able to perform your research at the institution of the joint PhD agreement, and
    • Suitable supervisory arrangements are in place in that institution.

    Please note that scholarships cannot be commenced outside Australia. You should discuss scholarship payment arrangements with your graduate research administrator. If you would prefer to defer until 2021, please also discuss the implications for scholarship deferral with your graduate research administrator.