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.

With the easing of COVID-19 restrictions and increasing levels of access to campus, we have made some changes to earlier emergency initiatives:

  • The criteria for paid scholarship leave for COVID-19 reasons have changed and
  • The provision of automatic candidature extensions at 3.0 years EFTSL for PhD and 1.5 years EFTSL for masters candidates has ceased.

We have also provided further information for candidates continuing their research remotely.

See the relevant FAQ below for further information.

Find up to date information on accessing campus here.

Last updated: 03.12pm, 19 January 2021

Manage your candidature

  • How can I continue my research?

    On campus research

    In line with Victorian government advice, we look forward to welcoming more graduate researchers back to campus in 2021.

    Approval for campus attendance will be managed by Academic Divisions, and local controls and rostering will ensure density constraints and COVID-safe practices are adhered to. Graduate researchers will need permission to be on campus. You should discuss your return to campus with your supervisor or Return to Campus Co-ordinator.

    Off campus research

    There are considerable complexities regarding approvals for off-campus research. This includes fieldwork, research in communities or organisations, in-person interviews, and research involving animals, plants or people that are time and place dependent.

    Face-to-face research can take place, subject to divisional approval and in line with current regulations.

    Further advice regarding specific situations should be sought from your supervisor or graduate research manager.

  • I am continuing my research from outside of Australia. Am I insured?

    If you are currently located outside Australia and wish to continue your research, you must be approved to Study Away and confirm that you understand that limits to the University’s Travel Insurance may apply to you.

    You should assure yourself of your situation with regards to the University’s travel insurance.  The University’s Travel insurance will not apply if:

    • Your research is being conducted within 100 km of your usual place of residence
    • You reside in a jurisdiction where coverage is not available for citizens in their home country or territory (these include mainland China, Taiwan, Norway, Argentina, Brazil, France, India, and Japan).

    Please also note that:

    You may also need to consider that healthcare services may not be available to travellers in some locations, given the impact of COVID-19 on local healthcare systems.

  • 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. See the resource on the GR Hub for further information.

  • 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?

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

    As more staff and graduate researchers access campus, you should discuss with your supervisors how you will hold supervision and progress review meetings -whether in person, virtually or a combination of both.

    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. For candidates enrolled at 1 March 2020, a Dean may grant an additional extension to probationary candidature of up to six calendar months. Requests for extension will take into account 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 commenced their course prior to 1 March 2020
    • Candidates must not have reached the 4-year milestone by 1 March 2020
    • 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.
    • We are not currently providing an automatic extension of candidature from 3.0 to 3.5 years EFTSL for doctoral candidates. This temporary mechanism that was introduced due to the difficulties of scheduling review meetings during 2020 is no longer required. If you need an extension, a request can be made at your 3.0 year progress review following the standard procedures. If your extension to 3.5 years is approved and you hold a scholarship, your scholarship will be extended automatically to the same date.
    • If you need to apply for a COVID-19 stipend extension when your scholarship expires, we recommend that you hold your 3.5 year review 6 weeks early. This will allow your candidature and stipend extension requests to be considered at the same time and avoid a gap in stipend payments.

    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
    • 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.
    • We are not currently providing an automatic extension of candidature from 1.5 to 2.0 years EFTSL for masters candidates. The temporary mechanism that was introduced due to the difficulties of scheduling review meetings during 2020 is no longer required. If you need an extension, a request can be made at your 1.5 year progress review following the standard procedures. If your extension to 2.0 years is approved and you hold a scholarship, your scholarship will be extended automatically to the same date.

    Further extensions to candidature are available where progress is delayed due to circumstances beyond your control. If you require flexibility in the scheduling of upcoming milestones such as review meetings or completion seminars, please speak to your supervisors or advisory committee chair.

    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.

    Questions for candidates and Advisory Committee Chairs have been added to all online progress review forms. You will need to summarise how COVID-19 has impacted your research since your previous review, and any adjustments made to your research.

    Your Advisory Committee Chair will be asked to note the net cumulative impact to your project at each progress review – that is the balance of delays and any time made up, including project redesign.

  • 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) 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.

    The University has extended its stipend extension scheme into 2021. For those candidates whose stipends expire between 1 April 2021 and 30 June 2021, you are welcome to apply from 15 February 2021.

    We are continuing to stagger application dates, to ensure that the most urgent cases are considered first. This means applications are currently open to candidates whose stipends expire before 31 March 2021.

    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.

    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.

    Note that the criteria for accessing paid scholarship leave for COVID-19 reasons have changed. Paid COVID-19 leave is currently available only if one or more of the following conditions apply:

    • You, or someone for whom you are the primary carer, is required to self-isolate for COVID-19 for 14 days or more
    • You, or someone for whom you are the primary carer, has contracted and is recovering from a COVID-19 infection
    • An application for COVID-19 leave made prior to 15 January 2021 is subsequently approved.

    Candidature extensions, as explained above, are used to adjust candidature for other forms of COVID-related disruption.

    The maximum cumulative scholarship leave payment for COVID-19 reasons is 60 working days (full-time equivalent). This leave is calculated pro rata (up to 120 working days) if you are studying part-time.

    If you need to take a leave of absence for other reasons, the standard candidature and scholarship leave provisions are available.

  • 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 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.

Libraries, services and support

  • Can I access the library?

    Baillieu Library

    From Monday 4 January 2021 the Baillieu Library will be open to all University staff and students with a valid University of Melbourne ID card –bookings will not be required, and walk-in entry will be permitted.

    While in the Baillieu Library, staff and students will be able to shelf browse, use informal study areas, and access self-service borrowing, printing and scanning. The Baillieu service desk will be closed but the virtual library service will continue to be offered. If you have questions relating to study or research while on site, please contact the library via Library Chat, Student IT Chat and other online services for assistance.

    Guidelines for staff and students:
    • All visitors are required to scan the QR code and enter their details for contact-tracing purposes before entering the library
    • To enter the library, staff and students must present a valid University of Melbourne ID card; you will not be able to enter without a University of Melbourne ID card
    • When in the building, where 1.5 metres physical distancing cannot be maintained, the Department of Health and Human Services strongly recommends you wear a face mask
    • There are several hand sanitiser stations throughout the building for your use
    • Library staff onsite will available to guide you through new COVIDsafe protocols
    • Access to the Reading Room in Baillieu Library will be available to graduate researchers and UoM researchers by appointment only. Please see Archives and Special Collections section below
    • Library staff onsite will available to guide visitors through new COVIDsafe protocols. If you need assistance with study or research, please contact the library via Library Chat, Student IT Chat and other online services for help.

    Browse and Borrow services will be available at other select libraries from Monday 11 January – Sunday 31 January, 2021. Please see Browse and Borrow section below for more information.

    Archives and special collections

    All University of Melbourne students and staff who require access to Archives and Special Collections can do so via the Reading Room of the Baillieu Library.  The service will be provided by appointment only. The Reading Room will be open for two-hour appointments at 11am and 2pm on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. Follow these steps to secure an appointment.

    1. To access the Archives and Special Collections in the Reading Room, make a request for materials through the Aeon system
    2. Reading Room staff will be in touch to advise on when your materials will be available and on how to make an appointment
    3. Complete the online COVID-Safe training module in TrainMe and health declaration. Further details are here

    You will only be able to view the material requested for the duration booked in the Reading Room. You may make multiple bookings, and your materials will be kept for you, but please note that in times of high demand, the number of slots requested by one user may be restricted.

    Browse and borrow

    All Graduate Researchers are eligible to book an appointment to browse general library collections in Brownless Biomedical Library, Giblin Eunson Library and Southbank Library. This is in addition to walk-in access to the Baillieu Library from Monday 4 January and booked appointments to use the Archives and Special Collections in the Reading Room, located in the Baillieu Library.

    While in Brownless Biomedical Library, Giblin Eunson Library and Southbank Library, you will be able to shelf browse, use informal study areas, and access self-service borrowing, printing and scanning.

    Browse and Borrow Sessions

    Graduate Researchers can book Browse and Borrow appointments at the following locations for dates Monday 11 January and Sunday 31 of January inclusive. Bookings can be made from Monday 4 January. Please note, bookings need to be made by 5pm the previous day, otherwise the Browse and Borrow session will be cancelled.

    Walk-in entry is not permitted to these locations.

    Library

    Browse and Borrow Dates

    Baillieu Library

    All UoM staff and students can access the Baillieu Library from Monday 4 January. No bookings required and walk-ins permitted. Valid UoM ID required to enter the library.

    Brownless Biomedical Library

    Wed, 13 January

    10-12pm

    Wed, 20 January

    1.30-3.30pm

    Thurs, 28 January

    10am-12pm

    Giblin Eunson Library

    Wed, 13 January

    1.30-3.30pm

    Tues, 19 January

    10am-12pm

    Wed, 27 January

    10-12pm

    Southbank Library

    Tues, 12 January

    1.30-3.30pm

    Wed, 20 January

    10am-12pm

    Thurs, 28 January

    1.30pm-3.30pm

    How to book a Browse and Borrow session

    You can now make a Browse and Borrow appointment. See the example below on what to select when booking.

    Browse and Borrow Guidelines

    • Please arrive on time for your booking. You will be greeted and admitted by a concierge who will check that you are on the booking list and ensure that you understand COVIDsafe requirements in the library
    • Ensure that you bring with you:
      • evidence of faculty approval for you to attend campus (approval printed or on a mobile device)
      • Your valid University of Melbourne ID card
      • Please note, the concierge cannot admit you without sighting your ID card and  evidence of faculty approval.

    If you have any queries about this service, please contact the Library.

    For those unable to visit in person, the Library continues to offer a range of online services and resources to supply books and archival and special collections material to graduate researchers remotely. Details can be found at the Stop 1, Student Services and Libraries page.

  • What other services are available?

    University services continue to be available. Refer to each service’s webpage 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?

    A full list of software available to download or access via myUniApps is available here. This includes software to support your data analysis.

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

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

  • I am finishing my degree but can’t return home. What can I do?

    To remain temporarily in Australia you must have a valid visa. A number of options are available for graduating students. Visit the Department of Home Affairs site for further information.

For commencing graduate researchers

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

    Any candidate wishing to commence remotely must be approved to Study Away and confirm they understand that limits to the University’s Travel Insurance may apply.

    You should assure yourself of your situation with regards to the University’s travel insurance.  The University’s Travel insurance will not apply if:

    • Your research is being conducted within 100 km of your usual place of residence
    • You reside in a jurisdiction where coverage is not available for citizens in their home country or territory (this includes mainland China, Taiwan, Norway, Argentina, Brazil, France, India, and Japan).

    Please also note that:

    You may also need to consider that healthcare services may not be available to travellers to other locations, given the impact of COVID-19 on local healthcare systems.

    Further requirements below also apply depending on your circumstances.

    If you are a domestic candidate, 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 your commencement, please also discuss the implications for scholarship deferral with your graduate research administrator.