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 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 while working from home you aim to keep working on elements of your research, such as reviewing the literature, analysis, publication and thesis writing.

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.

Can I travel for my research?

International travel continues to be restricted and we anticipate disruption to international borders for some time. International travel will not be approved and existing approval for international travel has been rescinded.

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 essential and cannot be deferred.

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.

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

The Government directions for all universities are still that staff and students should work/study from home where they can across all campuses.

As previously 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 approved research projects, to access a University campus or third party site as required. For researchers who require access to a third-party site for research purposes, we recommend that you contact your host at the third-party site to confirm the access arrangements that apply.

If you are been conducting research from home, but believe you need to access campus facilities, you can apply to return to campus for your research project. If you are looking to apply, please speak to your supervisor in the first instance.

Please be aware that any application to conduct research on campus must be approved by the relevant Dean or Head of School, and a member of the University’s Senior Executive Group. An appropriate risk assessment will also need to be conducted. Fieldwork and research taking place at a third-party site must also have written approval from the relevant third-party site.

Consideration of an individual graduate researcher’s stage in candidature will be taken into account in the approval process for 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.

Please be aware that if your application for on-campus research or relevant fieldwork is approved, 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.

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.

What if I’m conducting research involving human participants?

The Government directions for all universities are still that staff and students should work/study from home where they can across all campuses.

If your research involves human participants and cannot be achieved remotely, you will need to submit a modification request or a new application to the Human Ethics Committee and complete a COVID-19 risk assessment for approval. Please discuss this with your supervisor in the first instance.

Once approved, you can resume work on your project in a COVID-safe fashion.

For more information on submitting a request to the Human Ethics Committee, please see the human ethics website and the staff FAQs [intranet].

Do I still need a Worker Permit?

Permitted worker permits are no longer required and the 25-kilometre travel limit has been lifted in metro Melbourne. However, if you are travelling to campus, you will still need to have permission from La Trobe University.

My research is part of an approved research project conducted on campus, does this mean I have to return to campus too?

For research activities approved to be conducted on campus, 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.

While candidates cannot talk to GRS representatives in person at the moment, we’re happy to talk over 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. For forms, you can submit any form to the GRS either online or via email.

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 are overseas and haven’t already commenced your graduate research degree, we recommend that you talk to your supervisor about options that may be available.

Can I postpone my milestone due date because of coronavirus, and do I still need to give an oral presentation?

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.

The oral presentation is still a requirement of each progress milestone and we encourage you to share your oral presentation using Zoom or a webinar. 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.

My research project 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 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.

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 your study rate, 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.

While international research degree candidates on a student visa must normally be enrolled full-time, you can apply to study part-time where you can demonstrate compassionate and compelling grounds, which could include disruptions due to COVID-19. You need to provide evidence of the specific delays you are experiencing, such as a written statement from you and your supervisor outlining the circumstances which prevent you studying full-time. We encourage you to contact La Trobe International Student Services to discuss your situation with a staff member before submitting your application.

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.

I’m an international student on a student visa, can I take Leave of Absence?

International students on a student visa can apply to take Leave of Absence where there are compassionate and compelling circumstances – such as serious illness, or where you are unable to do any research due to the COVID-19 restrictions.

If your research plans have been disrupted due to COVID-19, it’s important that you work together with your supervisors to identify ways you can mitigate delays as much as possible. You may also wish to hold an ad hoc meeting with your progress committee to discuss your options. You may be able to adapt your research plans, for example changing the order of tasks, or altering the focus of your research to activities more easily undertaken remotely. Where you unable to identify ways to continue your research due to the disruptions, you may be able to take a Leave of Absence.

If applying for LOA due to COVID-19 disruptions, you’ll need to include a statement from you and your supervisors outlining the impact of the disruptions on your research and what steps you have taken to try to find ways to continue your research.  We also encourage you to contact La Trobe International Student Services to discuss your situation with a staff member before submitting your application. You can also access our confidential and free counselling services to support your wellbeing.

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 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 2020, we have extended your lapsed period by six months in case you need additional time.

Can I still graduate?

The University has planned a physically distanced, two-stage celebration, called GradsFest. The event is set to go ahead in December this year and will allow students to celebrate their graduation in a COVIDSafe manner. More information on GradsFest 2020 can be found on the corresponding event page. We are encouraging graduate research supervisors also to attend, to celebrate your graduation with you.

Unfortunately, traditional 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.

The University is continually monitoring and following the guidelines of the Victorian Government . Traditional graduation ceremonies will resume when it is deemed safe.

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 has been 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.
  • All on-campus parking fees have also been waived and refunds processed for those who had already purchased a permit for 2020.
  • 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, please get in touch with the International Student Services Team in the first instance to discuss your situation.

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, printing facilities, or the right software at home – am I expected to keep working?

We recognise that some students have difficulty accessing technology at home. Staff and Students currently have limited access to select services at library buildings across campuses (except City - Collins St campus). For more information about detailed opening hours and which library services are available on each campus, please refer to the Library website. Please keep in mind that social distancing rules still apply if you access library rooms or services.

If you need to access La Trobe University software, you can use ICT’s MyApps service, 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 and Click and Collect requests are available depending on the campus you are currently based at. For more information check the library page on COVIDSafe borrowing.