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 restrictions

Last updated, Friday 15 October

Lockdowns are in place across metropolitan Melbourne and Mildura. Lockdown has lifted for the rest of regional Victoria, however higher education and training remains closed.

Graduate researchers leaving home for permitted higher education, which includes research activities, will need to carry permits issued by the University. Graduate researchers who have previously submitted a ServiceNow request will be contacted by their faculty and emailed a permit where appropriate.  Please note: graduate researchers in metropolitan Melbourne and Mildura who previously undertook research activity under Criterion 0 (listed below) will not receive a permit, as Criterion 0 does not currently apply in metropolitan Melbourne and Mildura.

Graduate researchers who have been undertaking research activity, but have not submitted a ServiceNow request must do so before returning to campus. You can do this here.

You may attend University locations for research purposes during the restrictions if it is essential that you do so. Staff and graduate researchers should self-assess against the below criteria and notify their supervisor of planned attendance using this form. You must also carry a permit when you leave home in metropolitan Melbourne and Mildura. Research requiring in-person attendance at University locations during the restrictions must meet one of the following criteria.

  • Criterion 0: Small research group meetings that are essential for the progress of the research activity (within density constraints);
  • Criterion 1: in-flight experiments or studies where neglect or premature termination would lead to substantial damage or loss, or would be prohibitive to restart
  • Criterion 2: management and care of living resources, and the equipment and materials they depend upon
  • Criterion 3: the management of existing material or infrastructure that is temperature or environmentally sensitive and research infrastructure requiring operational continuity for OHS purposes
  • Criterion 4: research addressing the impact of COVID-19 and research in support of the hospital and broader health system
  • Criterion 5: research activities of graduate researchers who do not have alternative options to complete their study by the end of the year

Visit the Virtual Library for advice on accessing materials and online services.

Please note it is mandatory to wear a face mask indoors at all times, and to scan the QR code to check in to each space you enter on campus. If you haven’t already, please download the Service Victoria app.

If your research is located at non-University premises you must adhere to the requirements of that workplace. All activities must be undertaken in line with government requirements.

Stipend extension applications are now open for doctoral candidates directly impacted by COVID-19 and whose stipend expires up to 31 December 2021. Information on eligibility criteria and how to apply can be found on the Scholarships page.

For further updates and advice about COVID-19 for graduate researchers, please see the FAQs below.

Manage your candidature

  • I am continuing my research from outside of Australia. How can I access University systems and data safely?

    If you are studying online outside Australia, local laws or regulations may restrict, or in some cases prohibit the use of a Virtual Private Network (VPN). Before connecting to any University systems with a VPN you must check the regulations that apply in your location.

    Information on research data management and remotely accessing VPN and University software is available.

    If you are in a location where VPN access is restricted and need advice on accessing and managing your research data, contact the Research Computing Services team here.

    There may also be local laws and regulations prohibiting the use of social media or communication platforms. You should abide by all local laws when accessing information or communicating with University staff and students.

  • 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 leave. If you wish to take leave for other reasons (such as parental leave, if you are unwell, or pursuing employment opportunities) this is also an option for you. See Taking leave and financial support for more information.

    If you are enrolled full time but are 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.

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

    If you are not taking a leave of absence (whether for COVID-19 or other reasons), confirmation and progress reviews should continue as scheduled, with the meetings to be held virtually. Even if you have not progressed as much as hoped, it is important to meet with your advisory committee to discuss your circumstances and seek advice on how best to proceed given those circumstances. If you need an extension to confirmation, 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 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.
    • 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.

    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.

  • Am I able to conduct field work if I am based overseas?

    If you need to conduct fieldwork while overseas, you must ensure that you have the relevant ethics approval first and must comply with any local laws and COVID-19 related restrictions. If you need to travel from your current location to conduct your fieldwork, please submit a new Study Away application with your new location details for approval at least one month prior to the start of your fieldwork.

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 for stipends expiring on or before 15 July 2021 and up to 16 weeks for stipends expiring after 15 July 2021 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 2021) 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 12 weeks stipend extension, depending on your stipend expiry date.

    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 2023. Applications are currently open for those candidates whose stipends expire up to 31 December 2021.

    We are continuing to stagger application dates, to ensure that the most urgent cases are considered first.

    Visit our COVID-19 Stipend Extension page for details on how to apply.

Taking leave and financial support

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

    We have broadened the criteria for COVID-19 leave and reopened our paid COVID-19 leave scheme to eligible graduate researchers. We have also increased paid COVID-19 leave from 12 to 16 weeks, with a maximum of 12 weeks in any calendar year.

    COVID-19 leave is currently available if you cannot continue your studies at more than 20% of your usual rate (1 day/week for full time candidates or 0.5 day/week for part-time candidates) due to one or more of the following reasons:

    1. Insurmountable research restrictions or valid personal reasons directly related to COVID-19
    2. You, or someone for whom you are the primary carer, is required to self-isolate for COVID-19 for 14 days or more
    3. You, or someone for whom you are the primary carer, has contracted and is recovering from a COVID-19 infection.

    Retrospective applications from 16 July 2021 onwards will be considered for reason 1 above.

    Paid COVID-19 leave is available to domestic scholarship holders and onshore international scholarship holders with compelling and compassionate reasons. This is a continuation of the scheme offered in 2020. The maximum cumulative scholarship leave payment for COVID-19 reasons is 80 working days (full -time equivalent), with a maximum of 60 working days taken in any calendar year. This leave is calculated pro rata (up to 160 working days) if you are studying part time.

    This means if you have already exhausted 30 days leave (full-time equivalent), you now have access to  50 more days.

    If you have exhausted your paid COVID-19 leave and cannot progress your studies due to caring responsibilities, you may also be able to access any available standard scholarship leave.

    Paid COVID-19 leave is not available to candidates in receipt of a COVID-19 stipend extension.

    There is no limit on the amount of unpaid COVID-19 leave that candidates can take but it must be justified by impacts of the COVID-19 crisis. Candidates taking leave to undertake COVID-19 healthcare employment are also eligible for unpaid COVID-19 leave.

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

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

    You can apply for COVID-19 leave via the Leave of Absence (Graduate Research) form and select the reason COVID-19. If you are taking leave to undertake COVID-19 healthcare employment, please also use the reason COVID-19. If you are undertaking other work, please use one of the Employment reason codes.

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

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

Libraries, services and support

  • Can I access the library?

    Our virtual library service continues with comprehensive library support and resources available online. If you can't find what you are looking for, you can find out how to source online materials for your teaching, learning and research.

  • 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. Visit the Health and wellbeing page for more 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 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.

  • 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.

  • I wish to travel to Australia to continue my studies

    For the latest advice on Australia’s borders, please visit the Australian Home Affairs website.

    Current international PhD candidates may be eligible to apply for a travel exemption to enter Australia.  With your application, you will need to provide supporting documents including your confirmation of enrolment, your scholarship offer letter, and a supporting letter from your supervisors. For further information, please contact your faculty GR coordinator.

  • Is there travel support available?

    Graduate researchers enrolled in an international fee place who travel to Australia to continue their studies in 2021, will be eligible to apply for a $4,000 Student Travel Grant towards the cost of travel, quarantine and adjustment to study and life in Melbourne.

    In 2022 graduate researchers enrolled in an international fee place who are travelling to Australia will be able to apply for a $4,000 Melbourne Welcome Grant.

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 from outside Victoria 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 in Australia, 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 six months
    • You understand that some processes such as induction may be deferred until you can be present on campus.

    If you are a domestic candidate outside Australia you can commence your course provided that all of the conditions for domestic candidates in Australia are met; and you:

    • Are approved to Study Away; and
    • You understand that limitations may apply to University travel insurance; and
    • You relocate to campus within six months of commencement, unless residency exemptions have been provided.

    If you are an international candidate in Australia 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 six 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* outside Australia you can commence your course on a part-time  basis provided that you:

    • Have a visa that allows you to study as a graduate researcher; and
    • Are approved to Study Away; and
    • Understand that limitations may apply to University travel insurance; and
    • Are aware that while COVID-19 restrictions are in place the supervision may be undertaken by virtual means; and
    • 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 12 months equivalent candidature; and
    • You and your supervisors understand that some processes such as induction may be deferred until the candidate can be present on campus.

    Commencement on a full-time basis while outside Australia will only be permitted in exceptional circumstances.

    *If you are an international candidate commencing an international joint PhD, you can commence  full time and 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 may be commenced outside Australia if you have an existing Australian bank account or can activate an online multicurrency account with an authorised deposit-taking institution. Further conditions may apply to the total amount of stipend that can be paid while 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.

    You must inform yourself of all financial and taxation implications of receiving a stipend scholarship offshore in choosing how to proceed with stipend payments. Tax will not be withheld when paying part-time stipends to candidates who are outside Australia.