Taking leave

A leave of absence should be applied for if circumstances occur that may temporarily hinder your studies. For example, if you are ill, have additional family or carer responsibilities, or an employment opportunity arises, you may be approved for leave.

For international students on a student visa there may be visa implications for taking leave. If your leave is not approved for compassionate or compelling circumstances, your Confirmation of Enrolment (CoE) will be cancelled for the period of leave and this may affect your visa. If you are unsure, please discuss your plans with your faculty prior to applying for leave.

When leave is approved, your expected thesis submission date, academic progress review due dates and CoE (student visa holders) will be adjusted. You should check the terms and conditions of your scholarship and/or student visa for information on leave of absence restrictions, if relevant.

Please note:

  • If you are travelling for research-related activities you should apply for Study Away rather than take leave.
  • From 1 February 2023, the special leave provision for COVID-19 as an additional entitlement is no longer available. Any leave for COVID-19 should now be considered as sick leave and part of your standard leave entitlements.
  • To check on the progress of submitted leave request, go to the graduate research tab of my.unimelb and click on ‘Submitted Leave Forms’

How much leave can I take?

As a graduate researcher you are entitled to leave as advised in the table below:

Minimum period

2 weeks

Except in the case of a partner leave application of five days; see additional entitlements or when you expect to take recurring short period of leave because of a chronic condition you, or someone you care for, experiences; see Managing leave for ongoing chronic health conditions

Maximum period

12 months

Consecutive leave applications can total more than 12 months.

Accumulated maximum

12 months

24 months

Applies if you commenced or confirmed your degree after 1 January 2017.

Applies if you commenced or confirmed your degree before 1 January 2017.

*Note that the commencement date refers to the date you were first enrolled into your course.

Only in approved compelling or compassionate circumstances may leave additional to the allocations mentioned in the table above be granted.

Additional entitlements

The following are considered to be separate entitlements and will not reduce your maximum leave entitlement in the table above.

Parental leave (maternity, adoption leave and partner leave)

12 months per leave for primary carer

8 weeks per leave for partner of primary carer

Parental leave is available to you if:

  1. You are pregnant (maternity leave)
  2. You are a primary carer of your newborn child or a newly adopted child under sixteen years of age
  3. You are the partner of the primary carer of a new born or adopted child (partner leave).

You must submit a parental leave application with a doctor's or adoption certificate.

Recreation leave

4 weeks per calendar year (pro-rata)

Recreation leave is not recorded on your student record and will not alter your expected thesis submission date. You are not required to submit an application for recreation leave via my.unimelb, instead it is by arrangement with your supervisors and department who must be advised where you are and your contact details while you are away.

For more information, view the Graduate Research Training Policy (MPF 1321) and the Enrolment and Timetabling Policy MPF1294.

How do I get my leave approved?

Leave of absence approvals are at the discretion of your faculty or department. You should discuss any planned leave of absence with your supervisor.

You are unlikely to be approved for a leave of absence if you are:

In the first half of probationary candidature

Leave of absence will only be approved in exceptional circumstances or for compassionate reasons.

In the last month of candidature

Leave of absence will only be approved in exceptional circumstances, ie for compelling personal, medical or compassionate reasons. If an extension to candidature is possible, you should first apply for an extension before requesting a leave of absence.

Applying for retrospective leave

Leave of absence must be applied for in advance, except in unavoidable circumstances. Any retrospective leave application must be submitted within 2 weeks of the date of return to study and appropriate documentation (for example, a medical certificate) must be provided. If your retrospective leave is approved, you are expected to pay back all the scholarship payments you have received in most cases.

Currently enrolled in coursework

You are not able to take leave while enrolled in coursework subjects. If leave is required, you will be withdrawn from any enrolled coursework subjects. Making changes to your enrolment after the subject census date listed in the Handbook can impact your fee liability and your academic record.

Completing a degree with live examination of a performance or exhibition or creative works

Leave of absence will not be approved once your public performance or exhibition has been examined. The thesis must be submitted within 6 months of examination of a public performance or exhibition. This limit is measured in calendar months: part-time or full-time enrolment does not affect the 6-month limit, nor does leave of absence.

During a period of ‘at risk’ or unsatisfactory progress

Leave of absence is only likely to be approved if discussed with your supervisor as part of your progress plan and in exceptional circumstances for compelling or compassionate reasons. Higher level of approval is required.

What supporting documents do I need?

In order for leave applications to be approved, documentation is required to be submitted for:

  • Retrospective applications
  • Parental leave
  • Sick leave (if required for stipend payments)
  • Candidates who have had a total of more than 12 months LOA previously
  • Candidates 'at risk' or on unsatisfactory progress
  • Candidates applying for leave where leave is not normally approved
  • International candidates on a student visa.

The supporting documentation (such as medical certificates) needs to include relevant dates for the leave application. Documents in languages other than English require a certified translation.

International candidates on a student visa must also attach the following documents to the application:

When submitting a leave of absence application you will be provided with the opportunity to attach supporting documents after you have entered the leave details and clicked ‘confirm’. If you do not have all of the supporting documentation required when you confirm your leave, you can return at any point while your application is being reviewed to add additional documents.

Graduate researchers with chronic health conditions and/or conditions they do not wish to disclose to their supervisors are encouraged to register with Student Equity and Disability Services (SEDS) on enrolment, or as early as possible once the condition becomes evident.  SEDS can create an adjustment plan/document that recognises your needs but does not necessarily disclose your condition. The adjustment plan will be held on your record. You can refer to your adjustment plan when making leave or other relevant applications, rather than requiring separate medical certificates. Note that you are still required to submit separate leave applications to manage scholarship payments and suspensions.

Managing leave for ongoing chronic health conditions

You are encouraged to register with Student Equity and Disability Services (SEDS) on enrolment, or as early as possible if you:

  • experience or develop a chronic health condition
  • care for someone with a chronic health condition
  • have a condition you do not wish to disclose to your supervisors but require adjustments to manage the impacts to your progress plan

Registering with SEDS will provide you with an opportunity to create an adjustment plan/document that recognises your needs but does not necessarily disclose your condition. The adjustment plan will be held on your record. You can refer to your adjustment plan when making leave or other relevant applications, rather than requiring separate medical certificates. Note that you are still required to submit separate leave applications to manage scholarship payments and suspensions.

In addition, if due to the nature of the health condition you anticipate that you will require frequent and/or recurrent short periods of leave of less than two weeks in discussion with your supervisor you may prospectively submit an application for an estimated equivalent block of leave at the start of an enrolment period (every six months). If your request for prospective leave is approved you should plan to meet with your supervisors near the start of each enrolment period to confirm how much leave was taken and to discuss the anticipated leave for the next period. Please note you must be registered with SEDS and have shared your adjustment plan with your supervisor to apply.  This does not preclude you from applying for leave for other purposes.

How will leave impact my scholarship?

If you are granted leave of absence from your course, you will be automatically considered for scholarship leave - no separate application is required.

Your scholarship will normally be extended by the duration of your approved leave. However, scholarship payments will be suspended while you are on leave unless the conditions of your scholarship include paid leave provisions (eg additional sick or maternity leave).

Not all research scholarships provide full leave entitlements. Please refer to the scholarship terms and conditions (available in your offer letter) to find out more.

The further information below applies to scholarships which are subject to our graduate research scholarship terms and conditions.

Paid leave

To access your paid leave entitlements, make sure you provide supporting documents (e.g. a medical certificate) with your leave of absence application. If there is insufficient documentation to support paid leave we will try to contact you, however your payments may be suspended until we have received additional documentation.

If you have consumed your paid leave entitlements, your scholarship payments will be suspended for any further periods of leave of absence.

Retrospective leave

If you are granted a leave of absence retrospectively and you are not entitled to paid leave, you may be required to return scholarship payments to which you are ineligible.

Usually this is done by withholding scholarship payments (in full or in part) on your return from leave. In some cases, we seek repayment via electronic bank transfer.

If this occurs we will contact you and provide further details.

Returning from leave

When your return from leave of absence has been confirmed, scholarship payments will resume from the first available pay day.

There might be a small reduction in the first payment if this pay day falls in the same week as your return from leave is processed. However, the following payment will include a back payment for this reduction.

Apply for leave

You will need digital copies of your supporting documentation.

Apply for leave

Return from leave

When you return from a leave of absence, you are required to notify the University. This is especially important if you are studying with a scholarship.

Return from leave