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.

COVIDSafe reopening of our campuses – update 6 January 2022

Victoria is experiencing large increases in case numbers and the state government has responded by changing its approach to managing the pandemic. Your health and safety continue to be our first priority, and we will need to be cautious about our return to campus over the next couple of weeks. Therefore, we encourage you to work from home if possible, and to consult with your supervisor regarding your need to be on campus. Previously approved on-campus activity can still proceed with appropriate COVID-Safe control measures in place. Permits are not currently required for students or staff coming on to campus. However, all those attending campus are required to check in using the Victorian government QR code.

Requirements for campus access

Vaccination is mandatory to come on to any La Trobe campus and all graduate researchers are required to provide proof of full vaccination (or a valid medical exemption) via MyHR (instructions below) before attending any of our campuses.

This requirement is outlined in our new Health and Safety Procedure – COVID-19 vaccination. This also includes a set of maps for each campus, clearly indicating designated zones in which full vaccination is a requirement. Designated zones also apply to third party clinical teaching and research spaces.

While the TGA’s recommended dosage criteria for ‘fully vaccinated’ does not currently include a booster shot, more information on obtaining your third dose can be found here. The Austin Health vaccination clinic on our Melbourne Campus is open for bookings.

If you have already submitted proof of vaccination to the University under the Authorised Worker Permit scheme for essential research purposes you will need to resubmit this information via MyHR.

We ask you to complete the following steps to prepare for your next visit to campus or a third party site.

Get ready to come back to campus

  • Provide proof of your vaccination status (or valid medical exemption):
    • Log in to MyHR [intranet link] and click on the COVID-19 Vaccine Status tile on your MyHR home page (see detailed instructions [intranet link] on the process to access and upload your PDF vaccination record or international vaccination certificate). If there are any issues with the process of validation of your uploaded certificate the University will contact you.
    • If you are logged into your computer (or other university systems in your browser) using your student account, you will need to use one of the methods outlined on our institutional account page to login to MyHR and avoid single sign-on errors.
    • If you had previously advised the University of your vaccination status via the Authorised Worker Permit scheme you are still required to submit your documentation via MyHR.
  • Get your phone ready to check-in: add your vaccination certificate to the Service Victoria app to check into building using QR codes. COVID Marshals will also be on campus to validate vaccination status.
  • Face masks are currently mandatory in all indoor settings. Details on where face masks are required, where they are recommended, and the exceptions are outlined here.
  • Discuss your return to campus plans with your supervisor
  • Bring your La Trobe ID card as you will need it to access certain buildings or to confirm your identity.

Once you have completed the steps above, you are welcome to access research and study spaces on campus. Permits and Head of School authorisation are no longer required.

Requirements for fieldwork and research at third-party sites

You must be fully vaccinated (or have a valid medical exemption) and have approval from your Dean or Head of School to be allowed to conduct research in third party locations. This includes attending partner sites such as healthcare agencies. Speak to your supervisor in the first instance to make arrangements.

Before visiting a third-party site you need to provide proof of your vaccination status via MyHR as outlined above. The University will not share your certificate or vaccination details with third parties; however, the third party may require you to present your certificate to them when you visit their site.

When visiting another site, you must comply with the University COVIDSafe Plan, and any requirements of the third party site. Your Dean or Head of School will be able to advise you further.

If you wish to travel domestically for your research, you need to submit the online Study Away form. See the travel FAQ below.

What’s open on campus? (and free parking)

Many face-to-face services are open on our campuses including food vendors, cafes and retail stores. The libraries are open, as are student Health and Wellbeing and ASK La Trobe.

If your role requires you to come onto campus, please note that scheduled air conditioning works are in-progress. If the air conditioning is not operating in your specific location, please seek alternative spaces on campus.

On-campus parking is free of charge until the end of January 2022.

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 where required. 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.
  • Recent changes to the definition of a close contact, the requirement to isolate for seven days (reduced from 10 days), and when to take a PCR test vs a Rapid Antigen Test (RAT) are outlined in detail here.
  • 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?

COVID-19 has introduced new risks that must be managed to keep you safe and to be able to respond to unexpected events. Only essential travel is permitted and, except for inter-campus travel, must be formally approved via the Study Away form available on the forms page of our website.  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.

Travel settings are frequently changing, often with minimal notice.  If you are seeking to travel for University purposes you must familiarise yourself with the rules that apply at the time (and continue to monitor those rules whilst on-trip) for your destination and home location.  Be aware that travel may be disrupted at any time.  We are continuing to monitor the impacts of the Omicron variant, and, depending on how the situation develops, we may need to make further changes so please continue to refer to the latest travel advice and any updates from the University.

In particular, if you are planning international travel, you need to think carefully about the status of the pandemic in the destination country, the availability of health care locally and potential disruptions to travel that would delay your return home.

You should not feel compelled to travel for the purposes of undertaking your research project if you are not comfortable doing so.

Process for inter-campus travel:

  • Seek approval from your supervisor prior to booking travel.  You do not need to complete the Study Away form for inter-campus travel.
  • Staff and students driving for University purposes are required to follow and implement the requirements in the University's safe driving procedure.
  • Ensure you have agreed with your supervisor how any travel expenses are being funded.  If you have not received travel approval from your supervisor, then you may not be reimbursed for any travel expenses you incur.

Process for all other travel:

  • Prior to travel, you must seek approval  by completing the Study Away form.  Your request must include an explanation why the travel is essential, including why a face-to-face experience is preferred when online participation in activities may be available.
  • Carefully consider the risks of travel and what contingency plans you need, should your trip be disrupted as a result of COVID-19 exposure or border closures. Talk with your supervisor and school about how any additional costs that may be incurred if you need to activate your contingency plans will be funded.  If funding for this purpose is available through your school, make sure this is approved, including any limits to the amount available and attach this to your study away application.
  • If you are planning personal travel  overseas attached to a university trip, then ensure you are aware of the insurance coverage and your liability for any additional expenses.
  • Domestic travel must be booked by your school admin team through the Travel Hub.
  • International flights and accommodation must be booked directly through FCM Travel.
  • Before planning international travel, check the local destination information via Sherpa which provides important local information including health warnings, mandatory COVID-19 requirements and necessary forms and documents to be completed prior to departure.

Will I be insured to travel for University related business?

Only approved University travel is covered by the University Travel Insurance Policy.  COVID-19 related claims are excluded from this policy, except when:

  • the person insured under the policy contracts COVID-19 whilst on approved travel; or
  • the person insured under the policy, or their close relative, close colleague or travelling companion is directed by a health authority to quarantine; or
  • a close relative, close colleague or travelling companion of the person insured under the policy contracts COVID-19.

If your travel is disrupted by COVID-19, including sudden border closures, and you have not contracted COVID-19 nor received a health authority order to quarantine, you will not be covered by the University's travel insurance and funding for any additional expenses will be based on what contingency funding may have been agreed with your supervisor or school prior to travel.

Please refer to the Travel Office or Insurance Office for further information.

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

You must be fully vaccinated (or have a valid medical exemption) and have approval from your Dean or Head of School to be allowed to conduct research in third party locations. This includes attending partner sites such as healthcare agencies. Speak to your supervisor in the first instance to make arrangements.

Before visiting a third-party site you need to provide evidence to the University that you are fully vaccinated or have a valid medical exemption and have that verified (see above). The University will not share your certificate or vaccination details with third parties; however, the third party may require you to present your certificate to them when you visit their site.

When visiting another site, you must comply with the University COVIDSafe Plan, and any requirements of the third party site. Your Dean or Head of School will be able to advise you further.

If you wish to travel for your research, you need to submit the online Study Away form. See the travel FAQ above.

What if I’m conducting research involving human participants?

Please refer to the researcher FAQs [intranet] for information relating to research involving human participants. 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.

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?

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.

With the disruptions due to COVID-19, we have suspended the requirement to submit a postponement request form for postponements of up to 3 months, as long as you have agreement of your principal supervisor. This will be a temporary measure, in place until 1 July 2022 in the first instance. Keep in mind that if you postpone a milestone in this way the dates of any subsequent milestones or your expected work submission date (EWSD) will not change.

Please note:

  • If your progress has been marked at-risk and you are on a Progress Support Plan, you must still hold your attempt at the milestone by the planned date; this cannot be postponed.
  • If you wish to postpone a milestone or your EWSD by more than three calendar months you must obtain approval by submitting an Extension to candidature or expected work submission date form.
  • This new provision does not apply to extensions to scholarship or the maximum candidature date. These must still be requested and approved via the Extension to candidature or expected work submission date form.
  • The three-month window is calendar time, i.e. it is the same for full-time and part-time candidates.

We recommend that if there are unresolved issues affecting your progress, or if you need additional support, you proceed with your Progress Committee milestone meeting as planned or hold an adhoc progress review meeting to address any problems (you can request an adhoc review form by emailing GRS@latrobe.edu.au with the date you wish to hold it) . It is important not to defer the resolution of any issues! Candidates or their supervisors who wish to still meet the set milestone dates can of course still do so.

If you have any questions and or wish to postpone your progress dates as outlined above please discuss this with your Principal Supervisor or Progress Committee Chair. You can view your dates via MyOverview.

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.