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 broader University COVID-19 FAQs frequently to ensure you are up to date with the latest developments.

New Victorian 'Circuit Breaker' lockdown

The Victorian Premier has announced that from 8 pm on Thursday 5 August, a seven-day ‘circuit breaker’ lockdown will apply across Victoria.

The key changes are that:

  • There are only five reasons to leave home:
    • authorised work
    • essential shopping – one person per household, once per day
    • exercise – up to two hours, with one other person or members of your household
    • caregiving or compassionate reasons
    • to get vaccinated against COVID-19, if eligible (see below)
  • If you can work/study from home, you must work/study from home.
  • Masks must be worn in all settings (indoors and outdoors) when outside your home, unless you have a medical exemption.
  • Private and public gatherings are not permitted.
  • No visitors are allowed in your home other than an intimate partner. People living alone can establish ‘a bubble’ with one other person.
  • Schools will move to remote learning but remain open for vulnerable children or the children of authorised workers.
  • Childcare and kindergartens will remain open as occurred in the last circuit breaker.
  • Essential retail will remain open (supermarket, pharmacy, petrol station etc); other retail will close but ‘click and collect’ is permitted.
  • Gyms, hairdressers, community facilities and entertainment venues will all close.

For more details of what is and is not permitted refer to the Victorian Government COVID website.

The University is currently working through the implications of the lockdown for research and support activities, we will update these FAQs as more information becomes available.

NSW and Sydney COVID restrictions

Please follow all the instructions provided by NSW Health and the NSW State Government.

Red zones

The Victorian Government has declared all of New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory a red zone. Visit the Victorian travel permit system page for more information on zones and specific information for cross-border communities.

Cross-border communities

  • From 11.59pm Tuesday 27 July, the City of Wagga Wagga, Hay Shire Council, Lockhart Shire Council and Murrumbidgee Council will no longer be included in the cross-border bubble. These local government areas will instead be part of the Extreme Risk Zone, as applies to the rest of New South Wales. Residents will need a Specified Worker Permit, Transit Permit, or an explicit exemption to enter Victoria. For more information see the Government’s information for cross-border communities
  • The Premier has indicated that further border changes are likely to be announced in coming days

Reminders for those needing to attend campus

Please follow general COVID safe measures:

  • Monitor COVID exposure sites and follow the public health directions
  • Wear a face mask in all settings outside your home, unless a medical exemption applies. See the Government rules about masks here
  • Practice good hand hygiene and cough etiquette
  • Maintain appropriate physical distancing
  • If you feel even slightly unwell with respiratory symptoms, immediately self-isolate and call the Department of Health COVID hotline (1800 675 398) to find out how to get tested; then self-isolate and stay home until you receive the result. This applies regardless of your vaccination status. Even if you have been fully vaccinated, there is a risk you can still transmit the virus to other people
  • If you are attending campus, sign-in to each building as you move around using the QR code system.

Notify the University

  • Please remember that under the workplace directions issued under the Public Health and Wellbeing Act 2008 (Vic), staff and students must notify their tertiary education provider if they have been diagnosed with COVID-19 and may have attended while infectious. If you have been diagnosed or have been informed you are a primary or secondary contact of someone who has, please contact Spomenka Krizmanic the University’s Manager, Health Safety and Environment (0447 323 256). This will ensure that actions can be appropriately coordinated within the University and with Government health authorities
  • If you become aware of a suspected or confirmed COVID-19 case amongst students, staff or a campus visitor, or are contacted by placement providers about possible exposures please immediately inform Spomenka Krizmanic.

Research and supervision

Can I travel for my research?

Intrastate travel is now permitted within Victoria. No-one should attend campus or travel between campuses if unwell.

If you wish to travel interstate, please check the restrictions that apply to your destination. Travellers needing to travel between border communities should check the Victorian Government Cross border community website for the latest information. Travellers looking to enter Victoria from another state should check the Victorian Government Travel Updates page for the latest information on restrictions and permit requirements.

International travel continues to be restricted and we anticipate disruption to international borders for some time. International travel will not be approved. Essential domestic travel, such as fieldwork, will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

If you wish to travel domestically for your research, you need to submit the online Study Away form. New applications for travel must be supported by your supervisor and Graduate Research Coordinator 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 undertake fieldwork or attend a third-party site to conduct research?

Research conducted in third party locations must be approved by the relevant Dean or Head of School and must also have written approval from the relevant third-party site. An appropriate risk assessment will also need to be conducted. Please talk to your supervisor if you need advice or assistance.

If you wish to travel domestically for your research, you need to submit the online Study Away form. New applications for travel must be supported by your supervisor and Graduate Research Coordinator and approved by the Pro Vice-Chancellor (Global and Graduate Research). International travel continues to be restricted and we anticipate disruption to international borders for some time. International travel will not be approved.

Any research activity conducted during this time must be in line with physical distancing requirements. If you are unwell, or have any kind of respiratory symptoms, or have been instructed by the DHHS to self-isolate please refrain from coming to campus, and self-isolate as necessary.

What if I’m conducting research involving human participants?

Please refer to the staff FAQs [intranet] for information relating to research with human ethics approval. You may 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.

For more information on submitting a request to the Human Ethics Committee, please also see the human ethics website.

My personal circumstances make it difficult for me to return to research on campus. What should I do?

We understand that everyone has different personal circumstances which may affect when it is safe and appropriate for them 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 or Graduate Research Coordinator about your concerns.

Candidature lifecycle

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 Postponement of Milestone form available on the forms page of our website – 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 have been 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?

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

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 should also consider holding 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 are 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, if you are a domestic candidate, you will not be charged tuition fees if you are granted an extension beyond your 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. 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 duration 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.

Seeking urgent or additional help

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

The La Trobe Student Association offers financial counselling to all students and has helpful factsheets and links to emergency resources on their website.

If you are an international student and need more time to pay your fees, please get in touch with the International Student Services Team 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 to submit your thesis yet then normally your candidature will be lapsed for 12 months; you can still submit your thesis during this period, 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.

My 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.

Working off campus - Technology and resources

I don’t have access to the right software off campus – what options are available?

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.