FAQs for Graduate Research Students

Please note that the Graduate Research School FAQs are a subset of the broader University COVID-19 FAQs. Please make sure to refer to the broarder University COVID-19 FAQs frequently to ensure you are up to date with the latest developments.

Research and supervision

Can I continue with my project?

In most cases, yes. Depending on the nature and stage of your research project, some research activity you planned may be disrupted. As a consequence, for example, you may need to defer field work or planned experimental work and seek modifications to projects with ethics approval.

Please speak with your supervisors as soon as possible to review project plans, to identify activities that can be deferred as well as opportunities to continue or commence other activities to maintain progress of your project. We recommend that you aim to keep working on elements of your research, such as reviewing the literature, analysis, publication and thesis writing, from home.

Further advice for researchers, including detailed information relating to research involving approval by the human ethics, animal ethics or institutional biosafety committees, is available on the staff intranet.

Graduate researchers will need to login using their institutional account or activate their institutional account to access the staff intranet.

How can I meet my supervisor, candidate or collaborator?

You should continue to meet with your supervisors and other collaborators remotely using applications like Zoom, Skype, Microsoft Teams or WhatsApp. Keep each other updated and try to maintain a regular meeting schedule.

I can’t get in touch with my supervisor – what should I do?

We’re sorry to hear that you haven’t been able to make contact with one of your supervisors. We know this is a challenging time for many people in the University community and that staff and students may be unwell or have less availability than they usually would.

If you haven’t already made contact, we suggest you get in touch with your co-supervisor (or co-supervisors) to discuss your research and let them know that a member of the supervisory team hasn’t been in contact or is unavailable. You can also talk with your Graduate Research Coordinator and Progress Committee Chair about what you can do during this interruption.

If your supervisor isn’t available to support an application for a variation to your candidature, please let us know once you submitted a form and we can make sure it’s routed to a co-supervisor or another appropriate contact for approval.

Can I travel for my research?

The Federal Government has asked everyone in Australia to reconsider their need to travel, several airlines have cancelled or reduced the number of international and domestic flights available, and there are increased levels of disruption to international borders.

The University has made the decision that all international travel is to cease immediately and existing approval for international travel has been rescinded.

Non-essential domestic travel, including conference travel, will also not be approved. Essential domestic travel, such as fieldwork, will be considered on a case by case basis and approved only where the candidate can demonstrate that the travel is absolutely essential and cannot be deferred. However, at this stage we recommend you reconsider the need for any travel given the likelihood of further disruption to domestic travel.

New applications for travel must be supported by your supervisor and approved by the Pro Vice-Chancellor (Global and Graduate Research).

Note that confirmation of available funding doesn’t guarantee that a Study Away application will be approved. Likewise, the withdrawal or unavailability of funding doesn’t affect the Study Away application and approval process.

We’re sorry if your plans for Study Away have been interrupted by the new travel restrictions and encourage you to speak with your supervisor about plans for research activities which may as a result need to be deferred.

Can I return to campus, undertake fieldwork or attend a third-party site to conduct research?

Due to the sharp increase in COVID-19 cases recently, the Victorian Government has introduced stage four restrictions to the entire area of metropolitan Melbourne, while stage three ‘Stay at Home’ restrictions are in force across the State.

As outlined ‘Step B’ in the Principles for Increased Access to On Campus Research Infrastructure during COVID-19 Restrictions [intranet], the University currently allows researchers and graduate researchers working on priority projects to access a University campus or third party site as required. These arrangements can continue under the stage four restrictions, except if the research involves face-to-face contact with human participants. Please note that human participants will not be able to come onto campus.

If you’re currently working on a priority research project that requires you to be on campus you can continue to travel to and from work. You will, however, be required to carry a Permitted Worker Permit issued by the University to illustrate that your work falls under an approved category if you’re working outside your home.

For researchers who have been accessing a third-party site in Metropolitan Melbourne for research purposes under Step B, a Permitted Worker Permit may include an approved off-campus work location. However, we recommend that you contact your host at the third-party site to confirm whether modified access arrangements apply.

Travel between Metropolitan Melbourne and regional Victoria is limited to essential research. In all cases, researchers must perform their work on campus in the minimum time possible, and travel home before curfew.

Graduate researchers can apply to return to campus for specific priority research projects. Consideration of an individual graduate researcher’s stage in candidature will be taken into account in the determination of priority projects permitted to return to campus. However, every researcher who is able to conduct their research from home is still required to do so, and only individuals who have approval to return to campus for specific activities such as accessing research infrastructure may do so.

If you believe that your project should be considered as a priority research project, please speak to your supervisor. They will be able to advise you further. Please be aware that priority research projects must be approved by the relevant Dean or Head of School, and a member of the University’s Senior Executive Group. Fieldwork and research taking place at a third-party site must also have written approval from the relevant third-party site.

If your research or relevant fieldwork is part of an approved priority research project, any research activity conducted on campus during this time must be in line with physical distancing requirements. Individuals on campus will see increased hygiene measures, workspace cleaning, and access will be restricted to specific approved areas. Offices, meeting rooms and common areas such as staff kitchens should not be accessed unless approved. Any on-campus research activity must also be completed in the minimum time possible and individuals should continue working from home at other times. You must also make sure to travel home before curfew.

Further advice for researchers on returning to campus, including information on what you can do to protect yourself and others, is available on the staff intranet.

Do I need a Worker Permit and if so, how can I access one?

The University will issue worker permits to all relevant staff and graduate researchers approved to work outside of their homes on priority research projects under the Step B provisions. Permits are issued to individuals via email. Only staff conducting research in metropolitan Melbourne currently need a permit.

If you have been issued a permit, please make sure to:

  • carry this document with you at all times when travelling to and from campus;
  • carry a copy of your approved priority research application;
  • carry photo identification;
  • leave and return home within the curfew time.

For researchers who have been accessing a third-party site in Metropolitan Melbourne for research purposes under Step B, a Permitted Worker Permit may include an approved off-campus work location. However, we recommend that you contact your host at the third-party site to confirm whether modified access arrangements apply.

It’s important to adhere to these rules as long as stage four restrictions are in force. Failing to produce a valid worker permit on request or travelling outside the curfew times can result in significant on-the-spot fines for individuals along with penalties for individuals and businesses in breach of the scheme requirements. This includes employers and employees who do not carry their worker permit when travelling to and from work.

My project has been designated a priority research project, does this mean I have to return to campus?

For approved research activities, the decision to return to campus is still up to the individual, as we understand that everyone has different personal circumstances which may affect when it is safe and appropriate for them to return to campus. Graduate researchers and University staff cannot be compelled to return to campus.

If you have concerns about returning to campus, we encourage you to raise these with your supervisors so you can work out an appropriate solution. You can also speak to your Progress Committee Chair, Graduate Research Coordinator or the Graduate Research School about your concerns.

GRS enquiries and support

Is the GRS open?

The Graduate Research School is open and all members of our team are working from home. We’ll respond to emails, phone calls and will continue to process applications, candidature forms, examinations and we’ll run workshops and research initiatives for candidates remotely.

Can I talk with the Graduate Research School in person?

We’re very happy to talk with you and many staff across the University are also working from home and able to talk with you on the phone or via Zoom. If you have a webcam or audio, we can send you a link to an online meeting which you can join without needing to download any software.

Are RED programs still taking place?

Absolutely. The Research Education and Development team runs a comprehensive suite of online programs and the majority of face-to-face RED offerings are being transitioned to online. You can check to see whether your program is identified already as available online.

Can I submit a paper form to the GRS?

You can submit any form to the GRS either online or via email. If you need to, you can also take a photo of a paper form you’ve filled out and email that to us. If you are having trouble accessing our online forms from home, let us know and we may be able to provide an alternative format for you to use.

Will I still be paid my graduate research scholarship?

Absolutely. The graduate research and payroll functions of the university are operating and graduate research scholarships will continue to be paid throughout this time.

Candidature lifecycle

Can I still apply for and commence a new graduate research degree?

Yes. Our researchers and graduate researchers continue to carry out world-class research across a wide range of fields and we are taking applications for PhD, Masters by research and professional doctorate degrees at any time. If you haven’t already, please check the entry requirements for your course or visit our how to apply pages.

Specific scholarships may have their own opening and closing dates – see the individual scholarship advertisement for details.

If you have received an offer of enrolment but haven’t already commenced your graduate research degree, we recommend that you consider deferring commencement for up to 6 months. Please discuss this with your supervisor in the first instance.

Can I postpone my milestone due date because of coronavirus?

Yes, if your progress has been delayed or if you need to wait for an opportunity to give an oral presentation of your work, you can apply to postpone your milestone due date. Note that you can submit your milestone report to the GRS within 20 days of your milestone due date without applying formally. If you need longer than that, use the form available online – you will not be penalised.

If you had a progress milestone due in April or May, we have automatically postponed the due date by two months. You can still complete your milestone sooner, but do not need to advise us if you wish to delay it during this period.

My research project projects is significantly disrupted by COVID-19 – what can I do?

For candidates working on projects which are expected to be significantly disrupted by COVID-19, we recommend that you hold an ‘ad hoc’ progress committee review meeting during July/August if you haven’t already done so. You can request an ad hoc review form by emailing grs@latrobe.edu.au. This meeting will not serve as a progress milestone but will be an opportunity to review plans for progressing your project and strategies to mitigate delays, and to document the possible need for future variations to your candidature. This will also help us to plan ahead to support you in the future.

Do I still need to give an oral presentation as part of my progress milestone if on campus activities are limited or cancelled?

Developing skills in presenting research to an audience of peers and learning from their feedback is still an essential part of the graduate research experience and so the oral presentation is still a requirement of each progress milestone.

While departmental forums and large research retreats will not be taking place, we encourage researchers to be innovative in their approach to sharing research with one another during these unusual times – you may wish to share your oral presentation using Zoom or a webinar.

Can I go part-time due to the interruption to my research?

We encourage you to speak with your supervisors about what aspects of your research, including desk-based research, you can continue on a part-time basis during this period.

If you aren’t able to work full-time on your research, you can apply to change your study rate to part-time using the online forms. If you change from full-time to part-time candidature your expected work submission and progress milestone due dates will be adjusted accordingly.

If your ability to study full-time is limited because of illness or new caring responsibilities you may be able to receive your stipend at a part-time rate under our normal provisions for La Trobe (Post)Graduate Research Scholarships or a Research Training Program (RTP) Stipends. We will also consider requests to receive your stipend at a part-time rate for up to 6 months if, as a result of disruptions due to COVID-19, you are unable to work full-time on your research for a period of at least 10 days. Keep in mind that scholarships received for part-time studies are taxable under ATO regulations.

My children’s school or childcare is closed or I have new caring responsibilities. Am I expected to keep working?

If you aren’t able to work full-time on your research, you can apply to change your study rate to part-time using the online forms. If your ability to study full-time is limited because of illness or new caring responsibilities you may be able to receive your stipend at a part-time rate. Keep in mind that scholarships received for part-time studies are taxable under ATO regulations. If you change from full-time to part-time candidature your expected work submission and progress milestone due dates will be adjusted accordingly.

Normal recreation and personal leave provisions also still apply. If the interruption to your research is brief, the easiest approach may be to take recreation or personal leave. You can take up to 10 days personal leave a year and up to 20 days of recreation leave without needing to register anything with the Graduate Research School – please let your supervisor know. You will still be paid your stipend throughout any period of personal or recreation leave and your expected work submission and progress milestone dates won’t change.

See also the FAQ relating to leave of absence, including eligibility for paid leave if you or a family member is unwell or required to self-isolate.

I need leave of absence – will I be paid?

Normal recreation and personal leave provisions still apply. If the interruption to your research is brief, the easiest approach may be to take recreation or personal leave. You can take up to 10 days personal leave a year and up to 20 days of recreation leave without needing to register anything with the Graduate Research School – please let your supervisor know. You will still be paid your stipend throughout any period of personal or recreation leave and your expected work submission and progress milestone dates won’t change.

If you’re unable to do any research for a period longer than 10 days, you can apply for Leave of Absence. Most leave is unpaid, but if you’re receiving a La Trobe (Post)Graduate Research Scholarship or a Research Training Program (RTP) Stipend, you are eligible for up to twelve weeks’ paid leave for medically substantiated periods of illness for the scholarship holder or a family member, or if you or a family member in your care are required to self-isolate as a result of COVID-19. Paid sick leave provisions may also be used to cover leave for candidates with family caring responsibilities. If you take paid or unpaid Leave of Absence, your expected work submission and progress milestone due dates will be adjusted accordingly.

Can I extend my candidature and will I need to pay tuition fees?

As a result of COVID-19, some candidates will face disruption to their project through interruption to travel, fieldwork and clinical studies, access to facilities and potentially also supervision, as well as individual working arrangements. It is important that candidates and supervisors work together as soon as possible to modify current project plans where necessary and identify opportunities to maintain progress during the period of COVID-19 disruption in order to mitigate future delays.

We understand that some candidates may need additional support through an extension to candidature. The level of disruption will depend upon the research discipline and nature of the research project, the stage in candidature lifecycle, and the longevity of the COVID-19 crisis.

If as a result of disruption to your research due to COVID-19 you will need more time to complete your project then please speak with your supervisors in the first instance and let us know your circumstances using the Extension to Candidature or EWSD online form. In this case, for requests to extend candidature by up to 3 months beyond your maximum completion date, you need only add a brief statement relating to the impact of COVID where the form asks for a statement outlining the reasons for the request. International sponsored candidates will need to seek approval by their sponsor in the normal way before submitting an Extension to Candidature form to the GRS.

We recommend that you consider submitting an Extension to Candidature form when you are approaching the final six months of your candidature, once you are aware of the additional time you will need. If you are at an earlier stage in your candidature there is no need to do this immediately; access to additional time due to the impacts of COVID-19 will remain available throughout your degree.

For international candidates with an approved extension to candidature as a consequence of project disruption due to COVID-19, we will support you with a La Trobe University Full Fee Research Scholarship to cover your tuition fees during the extended period. Similarly, domestic candidates will not be charged tuition fees if they are granted an extension beyond their maximum completion date.

If your approved extension is likely to affect your student visa then please contact LTICompliance@latrobe.edu.au for assistance.

Can I extend my scholarship?

La Trobe’s 3.5 year graduate research scholarships include an extension up-front to account for potential disruptions to their studies. Some candidates will face significant new disruptions to their project as a result of COVID-19, particularly through interruption to essential fieldwork and clinical studies and access to facilities. We understand that candidates who face further disruption may need additional support through an extension to a stipend scholarship. The level of disruption will depend upon the research discipline and nature of the research project, the stage in candidature lifecycle, and the longevity of the COVID-19 crisis.

If you hold a La Trobe (Post)Graduate Research Scholarship or a Research Training Program (RTP) Stipend and, as a result of disruption to your research due to COVID-19, wish to apply for additional stipend support then please let us know of your circumstances using the Extension to Candidature or EWSD online form. Make sure you include a detailed explanation of how the disruption you have experienced has caused your progress to be delayed by the amount of time you are requesting a stipend extension for.

Can I still submit my thesis?

Absolutely! The procedures for submitting your thesis are exactly the same and examinations will continue during this period, although we anticipate there might some delays as staff across the University and examiners may also be impacted by COVID-19. You can read about the submission and examination process on the GRS website. Good luck with the final stages of your thesis writing.

If your candidature has lapsed then you can still submit your thesis. For candidates lapsed prior to 1 April, we have extended your lapsed period by six months in case you need additional time.

Can I still graduate?

Unfortunately, on-campus graduation services are currently not taking place in respect of the public health and safety and mass gathering and physical distancing measures introduced by the Victorian and Federal governments.

If you had already paid graduation fees you will soon receive a refund. REED graduations will be able to assist you if you have any queries regarding the refund process and may be contacted on 1300361806 or email hello@reedgraduations.com.au.

The University is continually monitoring and following the guidelines of the Victorian Government. Graduations will resume when it is deemed safe and, until then, in-absentia conferral of degrees will continue to be organised.

Will the announcement about Research Training Program conditions made by the Federal Government on 1 May affect my candidature and scholarship?

For La Trobe candidates, the provisions noted in the new RTP announcement are already facilitated through our scholarship conditions and COVID FAQs – candidates can seek extensions to candidature and scholarships, and the new RTP sick leave provisions are the same as those we have in place for all scholarship holders.

Seeking urgent or additional help

I’m facing financial hardship – what support is available?

We understand that many people are facing financial hardship due to the impact of COVID-19 and the following support is being implemented.

The requirement for students to pay the Student Services and Amenities Fee (SSAF) for Semester 1, 2020, has been waived and any candidates who have already made their payment have received a full reimbursement. The SSAF for Semester 2 has been reduced. If you have already paid your SSAF for Semester 2, you should have received an email to your student account with instructions for processing a refund. Due to the high number of refund requests, please allow up to 8 weeks for your refund to be processed. Overall, SSAF has been reduced by 75% in 2020.

All on-campus parking fees have also been waived and refunds processed for those who had already purchased a permit for this year.

The La Trobe student emergency relief fund has now closed. For information on other emergency financial support, the La Trobe Student Union also offers Financial Counselling and legal services to all students and has a helpful list of La Trobe Student Union Financial Counselling Emergency Resources.

If you are an international student and need more time to pay your fees we are pleased to advise that the fee payment deadline for Semester 1, 2020 fees has been extended to 18 June. You are also welcome to discuss your situation with the International Student Services Team.

We understand that this is a difficult time for many and that you may need additional wellbeing support. As a graduate researcher, you can now request the University's counselling services to call you directly, either by Zoom or over the phone via their webpage. Once your request has been processed, a team member will get in touch with you directly.

I'm approaching the end of my enrolment – what should I do?

If you are about to reach your maximum completion date and you are not in a position yet to submit your thesis then normally your candidature will be lapsed for 12 months; you can still submit your thesis, but you are not formally enrolled. If your research progress has been disrupted due to COVID-19, you may wish to consider applying for an extension to candidature using the online forms. Discuss your circumstances with your supervisors in the first instance.

At this stage we are encouraging candidates whose enrolment ends in the next few months to get in touch with us at grs@latrobe.edu.au to discuss your circumstances. If unsure of your dates, please get in touch and we will be happy to help.

My student visa is due to expire – what should I do?

If your student visa is due to expire then you may be able to apply to the Department of Home Affairs for a bridging visa if you need to remain in the country after your student visa expires. Visit https://immi.homeaffairs.gov.au/ for more information.  If you require a letter confirming that your thesis is still under examination then please contact grs@latrobe.edu.au.

My circumstances and support needs have changed – what should I do?

Our aim is to support all graduate researchers to keep working on elements of their research from home for as long as possible. We recognise that there is significant diversity both in the level of disruption that COVID-19 will cause and in the circumstances of candidates. This is why we have established a range of provisions that can be tailored to particular projects and individual circumstances.

We also don’t know the likely longevity of the COVID-19 crisis, so project and individual priorities may change in the coming months. If your circumstances and support needs change or if your immediate needs are not addressed amongst these FAQs then please don’t hesitate to get in touch via grs@latrobe.edu.au. We will do everything we can to assist in what we know is a challenging environment.

Working from home - Technology and resources

I don’t have access to a computer, internet, or printing facilities at home – am I expected to keep working?

We recognise that some students have difficulty accessing technology at home. Unfortunately, the COVID-Safe study spaces that were available at the Melbourne Campus in Bundoora have now closed in line with Stage 4 restrictions.

At regional campuses, provision has been made for study hub access for a limited number of students who do not otherwise have access to computers. The study hubs have facilities for printing. Individuals remaining to work on campus are required to follow the strict rules around physical distancing and other health and safety protocols.

You will need to contact your School with any queries about using University equipment at home.

My device doesn’t have the right software or isn’t up to the task. Am I expected to keep working?

Information services have recently launched a new tool called MyApps which provides a La Trobe virtual desktop that allows you to login from a personal computer and access software and systems as if you are using a La Trobe machine. Information on how to access this service is available on the MyApps Virtual Desktop page on the University website.

Graduate researchers can access the licensed software that is available to staff via the Kivuto store (https://latrobe.onthehub.com/) using your institutional account. This is a larger list of software than what is available using your student account and includes SPSS.

More information on how to access La Trobe systems on your own computer can be found on the ASK ICT website.

You may also be able to arrange through your School to take University equipment home to use during the shut down. Please contact your School with any queries about using University equipment at home.

Can I access material from the physical collection in the University library?

Click and Send requests are available for students and staff in Stage 4 restricted areas. You can order up to five items to be posted to your home if and when they are available. Library users in level 4 restricted areas are not required to return items while the restrictions remain in place. For more information about the Click and Send library service, you can check the library page on COVIDSafe borrowing.

Staff and students at regional campuses can access library collections through a click and collect service.

If you want to request a book or resource through click and send or click and collect, use the Library Search to find and request your item. From there, either select your collection point, or postage address (if you’re in a level 4 restricted area). Please allow around 5 business days for your item to be retrieved. You can find out more about the service and how to use it on the library website.

Both Mildura and Albury-Wodonga libraries will continue to operate as usual with strict physical distancing rules and safety protocols in place.